In 2003 I began managing a team of consultants that sold online marketing services to small law firms across the country. I was working with one of my consultants in a highly depressed rust belt city – an area that has been economically depressed for the last 25 years or so. During this time, we had occasion to meet with a client of ours who was THE local high-end divorce lawyer. Its one of those strange businesses that don’t seem to make sense. I mean I could see a bankruptcy lawyer in this economically depressed area, or a social security disability attorney….but a high end divorce lawyer? It seemed to defy logic. I just had to ask him:
So. How did you become the high-end divorce attorney in this town?
This man looks me straight in the eye. He laughs a hearty laugh. The kind of belly laugh you’d hope your local mall Santa Clause could muster up on demand for the kids of your town. Then he paused. And he said to me:
“You know it’s really simple. About ten years ago I was visiting with my accountant, reviewing the performance of the business as we were approaching the end of the year. My accountant looks at me, and he asks me this question
“What would happen if you doubled your rates?”
panicked, I looked him square in the eye and (practically yelling at him) said
“I’d lose half my clients!”
“SOLD!” he says. “You just described to me how you could make the same amount of money by working half as hard.”
Of course, I’d never thought about it that way. It was a hard decision, but we did double our hourly rates that next year, and we’ve never looked back. Of course, The working half as hard part never worked out, but we did double our revenue instead!”
I’ve never forgotten that moment, and probably never will.
I’m continually shocked at how some businesses continually undervalue their services. Service businesses and others that charge for an hour of their time are especially prone to undervalue that time in an effort to stay busy. It seems to me we’d all be better off working fewer billable hours at a higher rate and spending that free time networking, marketing, developing strategy and learning more about our customers and communities.
Wouldn’t you love to work half as much as you do now for the same income? What’s holding you back?
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