Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Los Angeles on business, and having breakfast outside at my favorite beachfront restaurant in Hermosa Beach.
A homeless man approached me, and asked if I'd watch his satchel while he went into the restroom to wash up.
He told me he had a lot of valuable items in his satchel.
I had no idea how right he was.
When he returned, he reminded me of something about how to run a business that I've known all along, but sometimes have chosen to forget.
His name is Guthrie, and he said to me:
"I can tell the difference between a good client and a bad client in less than 15 seconds."
Then he started to tell me his life's story, and how he lives his life.
You see, Guthrie made his living as an auto-detailer to wealthy clients in this Southern California beach community.
He was also an alcoholic, and had difficulty managing his life (and his finances).
"I don't blame anyone else for my predicament, but myself" he said.
"I don't beat myself up about the tough spots I've gotten myself into, and I particularly don't blame anyone else for my misfortunes."
His latest misfortune was being arrested (once again) for pubic drunkenness.
"But I do steer away from people who treat me not as they would treat themselves. There are clients I meet who offer good money to detail their cars. But, they treat me as if I wasn't a professional...as if I wasn't an emotional being. Then there are those guys who think they can cheat me because of my situation. I always say, thanks but no thanks. Their offer is always lower than my self-worth. And will end up costing me too much of it. "
"Over the years I've learned to spot these guys withing seconds of meeting them. I've learned that if I work for them, I give up a little bit of my self worth. And self-worth is worth a lot more than food money. That I know."
"So I discriminate."
"Yep, no bad clients. I can't afford them."
Yes, I knew that too, but sometimes the need for food-money can overtake the need for self-worth.
But should it?
You see, the "bad" client that Guthrie was talking about is a client who refuses to acknowledge the value that you are providing them. Typically, this negative treatment is due to a lack of self-worth within them.
So why let their negative self-worth rub off on you?
I know that every time I work for someone who diminishes my abilities for the benefit of beefing up their own ego, or treats me as less of a person than I am by asking me to provide services for less than my worth, I lower my feeling of self-worth.
And, by letting someone else lower my self-worth, I lose something far greater than the value of the client's business.
It is an old lesson, but one too easily forgotten.
So, this is what Guthrie gave me that day--a reminder of how valuable I am. I'm going to try not to forget that.
And, remember to be discriminating when it comes to my client list.