Rajen’s thoughts about money and it’s value, ‘asking the right questions’ and ‘working while drinking coffee’
Last month we published an interview with an entrepreneur, Rajen from Bells Associates, where he told us about his company and his transition from doer to mentor: What makes a good entrepreneur? Here my final questions with his inspiring answers:
Can you say something about money?
Yes, money is very much a ‘means to an end’, an intermediary, and it is not the only way of getting from A to B.
For instance, if you want to go sailing, live on a boat and enjoy the water, you can buy a boat. You will need money to own it. However, there is maybe an alternative approach and this is to find a friend, who already has a boat, and say to him: “Hey, I’d like to be crew! I want to enjoy the boat with you.” That is a cash free way to reach the same goal.
It is really important that people get a clear idea of what they really want, what they really mean by “I want to make money!” There is this traditional attitute: “Oh, I want to make lots of money, so that I can … dot dot dot …” but actually, in my experience, many people who do make a lot of money don’t know what to do with it. They don’t need it. They haven’t thought through what they want it for, so it is not the most important thing.
What is very important is to have money flowing as an energy connection. When people book a holiday to swim with dolphins with Wild Quest, when people book a singing group with Deva and Miten they pay the right and fair amount to do it.
What I often see is that when people get things for free they don’t value it. It is ironic: we offer quite a few guest tickets at concerts and often the front row is not full because these guests do not show. They might be very pleased to be invited – but when something else crops up, they don’t come. “We haven’t paid money so we don’t lose anything if we don’t go…” An interesting outcome.
Money is very important in cementing relationships and moving energy, but in itself it has no absolute value. It is a means to an end and the end can often be achieved in other ways without money – and can be a lot more fun creatively.
I often get asked by people to do things for them for free or ‘cheap’ just because they are working in the holistic field. How should I go about this?
People don’t understand value. That is an issue to do with individual education around money. Money is a transactional element, and the adage: “you get what you pay for” is very true. Of course people can get ripped off by paying a lot of money for little benefit, but in the great order of things in the price you pay and what you get usually fit together.
When you buy a physical object. e.g. if you buy a computer for 500 euro you get what you pay for. It is not a 1000 euro computer but it is not a 200 euro computer either. There is a whole balance going on in the market. The same applies to services.
You can pay an awful lot for a photographer – I do sometimes get just one photograph done. But if that photograph is going to be used around the world to project an image and it really looks good on a poster then it is worth paying 2000 dollars for that one photograph (you probably get 50 to look at and to choose from). It is expensive because you get the eye and the expertise of that photographer. But if you are bound up with the fact that a photograph should not cost more than 10 euro, then you are never going to use those services, although that might be the very thing that catapults you out to a greater and wider audience that otherwise would not recognise you.
The understanding around money is very important and it is difficult for people that don’t have money and never have made money. It is difficult to justify that investing in something may move their business ahead and bring in money, because they don’t have the experience of ever having done that – it is scary! So, “please design my website for free” or “your rate is too high, therefore you don’t get the work,” results in them not getting the job done at the right level and consequently they cannot move on. So it is a real catch 22. It is important to own the value of what you offer.
People have to learn and understand the need to invest (of course you have to do it sensibly), but if you don’t do it you don’t move on and it is very hard to find completely cash-free solutions to move a business ahead.
It is easier if you want to go and live on a boat when someone else found the cash to buy the boat and you piggy-back on what they have done. So that is why your personal outcome is important but it also needs to be understood that money is very important as a transaction to move things along.
In your years as a ‘hands-on’ consultant as you have called yourself earlier (in part 1 of the interview), you will often need to ask your clients what they really want to do with their lives – and with their money.
As I said, to be a good consultant and entrepreneur you need to be able to ask the right questions. For me it is always about trying to get clear what the client wants and not to buy into ‘fame and fortune’ because that generally just ain’t true. All those glib statements such as “I want to make lots of money,” are unvariably invalid as a goal.
I need to dig deeper and say: “Well, what is your ideal right now?” Of course this will change, but I want to know what is their ideal way of living. I will ask them: “You want enough money to pay for food and travel, great! You want a nice place to live. Do you want to own it or do you want to rent it? Where do you want to be and what are the constraints?”
Then when you understand what somebody needs in that way, you can put a business plan together to help them get there.
Have you encountered difficulties working with clients?
As it is a two-way relationship it can happen. I can think of one client right now that I did some consultancy work for. I realised that they were ‘beyond my help’ because they could just not broaden their vision to rise to and embrace what I saw was needed to make their business florish. So the only way was to go in different directions. This may mean that they became successful in some other way or it may mean they failed. So it is not always possible to step in and help people.
Clients need to come with an open-mindedness and a willingness to learn. It may also be that through the process of getting to know each other we realise that neither of us are really interested in what the other has to offer… then it’s just good to split.
What do you love about your work?
All my clients, all the people I work with are a) friends, b) businesses I personally want to be involved in, c) businesses in the personal growth, holistic, alternative, spiritual area, d) of a size, turnover and profitability that it makes sense for them to hire me or my team to help them, and e) that they have the potential to grow. It is a great energy release when you can see potential and you can move it forward. That’s where I love to be involved in.
I love success for the sake of it, not necessarily for an outcome other than success.
Being around you I never feel like you are a ‘boss’. You have a way of being that feels very casual. Are you always like that?
Do you know that I get critisised for that? Some people don’t like it, they call me Mr Floaty. They say I leave too many options open, that I am not clear enough, not black and white enough. People want to be told, they want an almost authoritarian input. That conflicts with taking responsibility and what I am saying is: “I do not want you to bring me questions, I want you to bring me solutions. I am happy to run through your proposed solutions but I do not want you to come to me and ask what you should do!”
You are right, I do manifest this casualness, “Let’s have a coffee, let’s talk about it, let’s see where the land lies.” For sure, if need be, I can be ruthless in making decisions, but it is not my normal way of working. That’s why I don’t work in the ‘real’ corporate world anymore because there it can be very unpleasant sometimes, very aggressive.
To have responsibility to find my own solutions has always been my ideal way of working because I could come up with my own creative ideas. I could then ask you what you think about it because you have more experience.
Exactly, I agree. I like to be thought of as a sounding board. Not everybody has the capacity to grow this way but that’s what I nurture in the business. In fact, I do not have any employees: they are all associates, they are all self-employed. This to help crystallise that they are providing a service.
I enjoy to work with like-minded people who can own what they are doing – and I nurture that in them – and therefore I spend time with them in that way – drinking coffee together.
Osho on Money: Living Tao, Ch 6, Q 5
Interview by Punya