The High Cost of Free

Once upon a time, there was a business owner (let’s call him Allen).  Now Allen  was sure that he was a smart operator.  He watched his costs very closely.  He never spent a penny if he could find a way to get the product or service for free.

He justified this by citing the poor economy and the fierceness of the competition.  He actually got excited when he was able to find another free service.

Allen only went to networking events that were free (or he went as someone else’s guest when they paid for it.)  He educated himself by taking advantage of the no-cost introductory seminars, or the free webinars and teleseminars.  He subscribed to newsletters (as long as they were free).

He would tag along when several colleagues were going out to lunch with a visiting expert and spend the time getting advice for his business.  If the expert offered a complimentary consultation, he jumped on it.  Of course, he never actually bought the expert’s products or services.  He didn’t think he needed to.  After all, he was a smart guy and he could figure out the rest of it on his own.  Besides, he really couldn’t afford to pay simply for information.

Allen would also surf the internet, read the free articles, and glean what advice he could from them.  He would read lots of different advice and piece them together to get more information than the authors intended to share.

Of course, lots of time the advice was contradictory.  And other times it didn’t apply to his business.  And still more times he was stymied because he knew what to do, but he couldn’t find out how to do it.

Over time, he grew more and more frustrated because his business was trending downward.  He kept trying to apply what he could learn from the internet, but it didn’t seem to help much.  And he discovered that he was growing resentful of his competition who seemed to be doing much better than he was.

Finally, he went to a free speech given at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting.  There, the speaker talked about the high cost of “free”.  He shared how the time and effort that was required to discover what worked and what didn’t for a particular business (usually by trial and error) cost more in time, wasted effort, frustration, and lost sales than if the owner had simply paid for knowledge and advice.

The speaker went on to give contrasting examples.  One example was as if the speaker had been shadowing Allen for two years and taking notes.  The contrasting example was Annie A. who realized that she could spend years trying to learn what she needed to know on her own, or she could pay people with expertise and have them share their own hard-earned wisdom (learned over the years from mistakes and effort) and short-cut the process.

Allen was astounded to learn that while Annie had been in business for herself the same amount of time as Allen, she was ten times more successful (and profitable.)

Allen had an epiphany during that talk.  As he listened, he quit listening for the “tidbits” and “nuggets” that he could glean from it.  He realized the speaker wasn’t going to give away all the secrets to business success in a 45 minute talk.  (And he thought, “how could he?  How do you distill a lifetime of learning and experience into 5 easy-to-implement steps that anyone can do?”)  And Allen realized that he had been going about it all wrong.

Allen had been spending his business life loading up on the appetizers and neglecting the main course.  No wonder his business was dying of malnutrition.

At that moment, Allen resolved to start being more like Annie and find experts who could help him turn his business around.  He would still take advantage of their free session… but this time he would use it to make sure the expert was a good fit for him to work with… instead of pumping for all he could get without paying.

And, true to his new understanding, Allen did just that.  And his results?  Well, they started to look more like Annie’s results.  But that’s a story for another day.
Have you experienced the High Cost of Free, yet?  When you are ready for someone to advise you on the next steps for YOUR business – whether in the area of marketing, operations, staff management, personal roadblocks to success, or overall business strategy – contact me.  We can set up a free strategy session and determine what’s best for you.

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