With the economy in tatters and people feeling tense about spending their money, I’ve been pondering a few things lately — especially about how to best serve people who really need it.  Is my only criteria whether or not someone can pay?

Empty Pockets? Photo by redrex

The line between fee-for-service and pro bono has been about as wavy as a noodle lately, and while I think there is room for more clarity with most companies, I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.  What i do know, however, is that people who offer solid services and products that help — are always going to be in demand.

The way the buyer reaches her conclusion, however, depends on what we who offer those products and services do to make it easy and friendly for our prospects.  Sometimes this means more free, more easy-entry, and more ways to access everything.

Yeah, that DOES mean more work for us!  So what would I rather have?  More work and more loyal buyers?  Or less work and fewer buyers?   Gee, when that’s the new equation, it doesn’t look so bad after all 🙂

Personally speaking, I’ve always donated a portion of my time back to the community as a way to thank those who have made it possible for me to succeed.  Call it a tithe or a community service — either way, my generosity pays off long term.  Doesn’t hurt my reputation either.

So does that mean I now do more pro bono coaching?  Donate more products to charity?  Not necessarily.  My pro bono slots are usually full; but I weigh requests against the big picture; if I can help, I do.  I also advocate that those I am helping “pay it forward” themselves.  They don’t have to repay MY kindness — but they do have to offer a hand when they can.  I ask them explicitly to do this.  Kind of keeps things in balance somewhere, I figure.  It also keeps people who are receiving the benefits from feeling somehow “less than” — when they are empowered to be ready to help when their turn comes.

I’ve had several discussions lately about this pro bono thing.  A portion of one of my conversations was quoted in the Coaching Commons recently, in an article by Cyn Liggett.

Where’s the free line going in YOUR business?  How do you continue to help others, and run a thriving enterprise?  Let’s hear how we as a society can do well by doing good — that’s a premise I completely believe in.  How about you?