Money

Pricing Strategies Through a Lens of Justice With Kate Strathmann

Kate spends a lot of time exploring new techniques and strategies to create more equitable businesses and works with business owners to start thinking about how to implement them in their own business.

Susan Boles
December 1, 2020
44
 MIN
Podcast
Quote: "Part of creative financing and looking at pricing through a lens of justice is about understanding ways that we might be replicating structural inequality." - Kate Strathmann

What kinds of changes are you thinking about for next year?

Are you making a pivot? Focusing on taking a break? Diving deep into improving at your craft? Maybe you're thinking about raising your prices?

One of the changes that you might be considering is a shift in your business model, or how you package your services—or even how you price them.

The decision about how to price, package, or accept payment for your services can be a bit of a challenge, especially in a service business where the choices are limitless. Those decisions say a lot about your business: who you want to work with, how you want to engage with them, and what your values as a company are.

The strategies and psychology behind pricing your services can affect the behavior of your potential clients. It can serve as a filter to make sure you're bringing in the RIGHT clients or customers. Low prices aren't going to attract enterprise clients. Likewise, super high prices are going to be a barrier to entry for small businesses or individuals looking to work with you.

You can use your pricing to create exclusivity—BUT, you can also use your pricing to create access and to start moving towards using your business to create more social and economic justice.

My guest today is Kate Strathmann.

Kate is the owner and director of Wanderwell, a consulting and bookkeeping practice that grows thriving small businesses while investigating new models for being in business. Wanderwell integrates financial expertise with an empathic, vision-forward approach, and leads with the belief that businesses can help create a new paradigm that centers people, community, and the environment.

Kate spends a lot of time exploring new techniques and strategies to create more equitable businesses and works with business owners to start thinking about how to implement them in their own business.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • The different pricing strategies you might consider using, like sliding scale or pay what you wish pricing models
  • When these strategies make sense, and when a different strategy might be a better option
  • Some of the pitfalls that Kate's seen come up as folks start to implement some of these strategies (and how to avoid them)

Links

Episode Transcript

Kate Strathmann (00:00):

It's not just about making things cheaper. I think that's where folks go first, and it makes a lot of sense because it's concrete, and it's really easy to be like oh, okay. Money is the barrier. I'll just make my thing cheaper, and that'll solve the access issue. And sometimes that is the right strategy, but sometimes the price is actually an important indicator of readiness for investment, and it indicates that the person, their business, is at a point at where it makes sense for them to invest in a certain service or advisement. So lowering the price does everybody a disservice because that might be an integral part of being ready.

Susan Boles (00:43):

What kinds of changes are you thinking about for next year? Are you making a pivot, focusing on taking a break, diving into improving at your craft? Maybe you're thinking about raising your prices. I'm Susan Boles, and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit and increase your operational capacity.

Susan Boles (01:07):

We just finished a month where we've been talking a lot about how to manage change, and we've been seeing a lot of change happening in the world. We're also coming up on a new year, and I know I'm thinking a lot about change, and the changes that I want to implement both in my life and in my business for the upcoming year. You might be thinking about that too, and one of those changes that you might be considering is a shift in your business model or how you package your services, or even how you price them.

Susan Boles (01:36):

So as you're thinking about that, I wanted to give you some food for thought, and talk to some of my friends who have implemented some pretty cool and creative pricing or business model strategies in their own businesses, so that's what we're going to geek out on this month. As always, the goal isn't to convince you to change up everything you're doing, but just to expose you to some cool stuff other business owners are doing to help get your creative juices flowing. The decision about how to price, package or accept payment for your services can be a bit of a challenge, especially in a service business where the choices are limitless.

Susan Boles (02:11):

Those decisions say a lot about your business, who you want to work with, how you want to engage with them, and what your values as a company are. The strategies and psychology behind pricing your services can affect the behavior of your potential clients. It can serve as a filter to make sure you're bringing in the right clients or customers. Low prices aren't going to attract enterprise clients and likewise, super high prices are going to be a barrier to entry for small businesses or individuals looking to work with you.

Susan Boles (02:40):

You can use your pricing to create exclusivity, but you can also use your pricing to create access and to start moving towards using your business to create more social and economic justice. My guest today is Kate Strathmann. She is the owner and director of Wanderwell, which is a consulting and bookkeeping practice that grows thriving small businesses while investigating new models for being in business. Kate spends a lot of time exploring new techniques and strategies to create more equitable businesses and she works with business owners to start thinking about how to implement them in their own business.

Susan Boles (03:15):

Kate and I are going to talk about some of the different pricing strategies you might consider using, like sliding scale pricing or pay what you wish pricing models. We'll talk about when these strategies make sense, and when a different strategy might be a better option, and we'll talk about some of the pitfalls that Kate has seen come up as folks start to implement some of these strategies, and how to avoid them. Hey, Kate. Thanks for coming back to the show.

Kate Strathmann (03:40):

Hey Susan. I'm happy to be here.

Susan Boles (03:42):

So you are a self-identified anti-capitalist business owner. Can you explain what that means a little bit more?

Kate Strathmann (03:50):

Yeah.

Susan Boles (03:51):

It's a big question.

Kate Strathmann (03:53):

It is a big question, and it's an interesting one because it's something that I've been asking folks a lot this year in particular, of can you be an anti-capitalist business owner. Is that contradictory? And I've discovered is that different people view what capitalism is and how it intersects with our businesses differently. And I was hearing a lot of just making income period makes you a capitalist, which I'm not sure if I'm on board with, but I guess to back up. We're in an economic system where most of needs meeting is happening through a marketplace. And capitalism in particular is a system that has inequality baked into its core design.

Kate Strathmann (04:43):

So when I talk about being an anti-capitalism business owner I think one of the things I'm signaling there is that I am critical of the sort of fundamentals of the economics that we're in. That we need to take inequality as a given, and then as a business owner, the question that I've been sort of I guess redirecting people to in some ways is just to say that we're all living and working under capitalism. That's the economics that we live and breathe, and that our businesses are functioning in.

Kate Strathmann (05:22):

And so, what I understand and I'm seeing a lot more people understand, particularly this year in all the upheaval is that we're operating within economics that has harm built into its core DNA. We see like one of my favorite or most heinous examples this year is just seeing the amount of wealth accumulated by billionaires since the pandemic started, while there are legions of people struggling with basics of health care and housing. And I think more and more people are understanding that that's the economy functioning as its designed over the last 30 years or so, and that there is something wrong at the core.

Kate Strathmann (06:07):

So all of that is kind of a long winded way of saying that what that means for me is I'm critical of business ownership as a means to individual wealth accumulation, and around businesses that reinforce the kind of inequality and hierarchies that are at the core of capitalism. And I'm involved in working with cooperative business development in communities like that that I would say are explicitly working in an anti-capitalism vein. My business is in a cooperative, and I do have employees, even though we do a lot of power sharing and systems and things to kind of work differently.

Kate Strathmann (06:49):

So in a technical sense, I certainly am a capitalist in that I have labor that's not mine, that is generating income in the business, but at the same time, I'm interested in how do we things differently, how can we use the tiny ecosystem that we create and operate within it to model change and experiment with ways that are less harmful and do push back about inequality and inequity.

Susan Boles (07:20):

Perfect. I think that's a really solid explanation, and it's definitely how I think of you. For me, you're the one I'm like, Kate is the one that is going to push me to think about this in different ways, and think about how the systems that we take as a given could be producing harmful effects.

Kate Strathmann (07:43):

Yeah. Yep. Yep.

Susan Boles (07:44):

And so, the strategy behind how business owners price their services can be used really powerfully to change behaviors, so things like offering discounts for paying upfront can be used to improve cash flow, but it can also perpetuate some of those systemic disadvantages that you were talking about. So talk to me a little bit about why we should be thinking about our pricing through the lens of economic justice.

Kate Strathmann (08:13):

Well, I think we should look at all of our businesses through the lens of economic justice or justice period, but in regards to pricing, I think what that means is understanding that or the viewpoint that access to services and what we offer should not come down just to access to money and resources and that's because our economic system, as I was saying, is structured to oppress and disadvantage a lot of people to the benefit of others. So structurally who has access to resources tracks along lines of power, and the kinds of systemic forms of oppression that are built into the system.

Kate Strathmann (08:53):

So to take that further, capitalism is inherently racial, and I would say works hand in hand with white supremacist culture, so that means structurally, black, brown, indigenous people, women, queers, have been and are structurally are prevented from access to resources, and that's by design, go back to the billionaires. And so, part of creative financing and looking at pricing through a lens of justice is about just understanding ways that we might be replicating structural inequality or at a really basic level, like I said, just questioning the idea that money needs to be the sole thing or mechanism for access.

Kate Strathmann (09:45):

And I think, again, back to if our businesses are tiny ecosystems and tiny economies within a larger one, it's just about asking a different set of questions and saying what kind of repair might we need to do or are there a rationale in the business to kind of shift the dynamic of power and access within what we offer and how it operates. And so, pricing is a major mechanism for that obviously, what things cost.

Kate Strathmann (10:18):

And I guess the other thing I would say is I think most folks understand that pricing is about much more than a straightforward articulation of value, and that's because value is hugely subjective, and our relationship is hugely subjective. And so and particularly if we look at the online business world where prices are often pushed really high and kind of artificially in sort of a bubble of high pricing, which is something that often happens. And there is this rather extreme kind of charge what you're worth culture that often shows up.

Kate Strathmann (10:56):

It's a space where a lot control and shady practices can show up, and you can see how pricing is often both a barrier to access, but that's intentional because that's also spun around worth and have you made it to be able to afford this thing and things like that, so there is a lot of manipulation that shows up that I also think causes a lot of harm and kind of reinforces a lot of the toxic stuff that I'm calling out here.

Susan Boles (11:24):

So if we are operating on the premise that we can use our pricing to start to kind of counteract some of these disadvantages, some of this harm that is happening, what are some of the strategies or techniques that business owners could be thinking about to use to start taking steps towards using their business and their pricing for justice?

Kate Strathmann (11:47):

Yeah. I usually talk about these strategies under the kind of umbrella term of creative financing, and I would say that the first, and I'll get into some of the sort specific structures and what they're called, but I think one of the first things, and this is something I've been thinking a lot about this year, is to really understand and look at the underlying intent of the business, like is the underlying logic of the business about individual wealth creation, and are you tactics moving you in that direction. Are you using a lot of high pressure sales tactics, things like that. Is your pricing designed to kind of control people's choices and outcome.

Kate Strathmann (12:41):

I think those things need to be kind of considered first because then you can do all that and have high pressured sales and slap a sliding scale on it, but I don't know that if the core intent of your business isn't something that you've considered yet, that there will probably some structural integrity that shows up, and I know that we'll talk about that in a bit, of what does that look like when you're approaching pitfalls and things like that. But I would just say that first, is these kind of strategies, these band aids don't work very well. When they are integrated with this full rationale of the business, and what is the mission, and what are you actually trying to do, they work a bit better, and they may make more sense.

Kate Strathmann (13:30):

And maybe that's a segue way to say a lot of the places where I see a lot of innovation and where I've looked historically is from healers and holistic health care practitioners. There's a lot of really good examples and writing about sliding scales and pay it forward models in those spaces, and those are practices, sliding-scale and pay-it-forward, where different prices are... You can choose a different price based on access to resources or repair different kinds of parameters. Pay what you wish is another one like that, which is a more open model. Sliding scale is generally there will be an actual scale that will be defined, and so, you pay based on that scale or kind of within that scale. Pay what you wish models tend to be open, so you, customer, would be more likely to name the price.

Kate Strathmann (14:29):

Other ones are doing scholarships and awards. There is a lot of folks that implementing stuff like that, and then I think on another end of the spectrum, which is more of an internal kind of thing is to do something, I usually call it Robin Hooding, which is taking on higher priced work maybe with a corporation or something like that, to able to subsidize internally within the business, work at a lower level or lower cost for a different population. Similar to pro bono work, but where you might be offsetting some of those costs within a small business, which is generally something that will need to happen, not in a law firm context, but in a solo service provider context. Things like that.

Susan Boles (15:19):

Okay. So let's talk about some of the pitfalls or issues that you've seen come up as folks think about implementing or moving towards implementing some of these strategies.

Kate Strathmann (15:33):

Yeah. So like I was saying, it's sort of the top of naming some of the models that... One of the things that I've been saying, and I think this is really... And I'll just say, I've seen an explosion in the last, I don't know, four or five months, of people really getting more interested in these questions of equity and accessibility and all of these things, and I think some of that is just being in crisis, and being in an unfolding economic crisis. It's something that's become much more present for people and that's a great thing.

Kate Strathmann (16:10):

And then it's also been uncovering a lot of, like I was saying, some of the underlying structural problems of implementing these models and ways to think about them, and I think a lot of it just depends on where folks are positioned and what their business is about, and it shows up in different ways for different partnership for sure, and I think the considerations are different depending on yourself, your social position, what your business does, who you serve, those kinds of things. So all this to say I don't have five-step protocols for people. That's not how this works.

Kate Strathmann (16:51):

And so, I think the first one I would say is it's not just about making things cheaper. I think that's where folks go first I'm seeing, and it makes a lot of sense because it's concrete, and it's really easy to be oh, okay. Money is the barrier. I'll just make my thing cheaper, and that'll solve the access issue. And sometimes that is the right strategy, but sometimes, and there is a couple of things that I think about a lot now, and have been considering and talking with folks about, and one is, this is particularly true in B2B advisement and consulting services, is that sometimes the price is actually an important indicator of readiness for investment, and it indicates that the person, their business is at a point where it makes sense for them to invest in a certain services or advisement or something like that. And so, lowering the price does everybody a disservice because that might an integral part of being ready if that makes sense?

Susan Boles (17:58):

Yeah, absolutely. There is a reason that my prices are not particularly low, and it's because I don't work with new entrepreneurs.

Kate Strathmann (18:07):

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Susan Boles (18:08):

I only work with people who are experienced and running bigger businesses, so making it cheaper doesn't necessarily... It means I'm going to be working with the wrong kinds of clients.

Kate Strathmann (18:18):

Exactly. And I think it's an important point, which is that your business doesn't need to be accessible to everyone for it to create more equity in the world, or to look at problems of accessibility and equity. There's also different levers outside of that. And I think it's similar if you look at a large development agency or design agency and they're starting prices are $50,000 an engagement, lowering their cost on some kind of sliding scale doesn't make any sense in that kind of model. It just doesn't fit. It's not going to solve the issue. I think those are places were re-distribution and where does that money go after it comes into the business are actually the levers that make more sense to look at in terms of having a team or does the profit just go to an owner or does it go out and is donated, is it profit shared with employees, things like that make more sense, so that's one.

Kate Strathmann (19:28):

And I think at a very small, like a lot of solo entrepreneur's levels, I more often see folks short changing themselves or they're really worried about access and making it possible for people to engage with them, and then they're not paying themselves as much as they should be, or they're not meeting their own basic needs through the business. And so, that's something that I think can happen too. And that's the like, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first principle of, I think this stuff. It's like make sure that the business works and is supporting you well, and that you're not putting yourself into a space, a scarcity and not having your needs met on a basic level in the service of accessibility and things like that. That's sort of one line of I think pitfall that can come up.

Kate Strathmann (20:24):

And I think there is another one along those lines where there's a lot of, especially in the business to business and online services where I'm seeing a lot of sliding scale implementation, and this is purely I don't have an answer to. It's just something I'm thinking about, which is 20, $50 one way or another is really doing all that much in that space. I think it's different if we talk about the healing space and sliding scales, where it's creating access for individuals for a more basic need, which is health and healing, and I think when we look at a lot online business, and I'm not saying that our work isn't valuable or necessary because it is, but it's also further up on Maslow's hierarchy of needs for sure in that business and companies are built and designed and generally can hold more and generate more income than individuals. But I don't always know the scale at which some of things are getting implemented, whether they're really doing all of that much.

Susan Boles (21:40):

And whether or not that's the best strategy for that business or that business owner to be implementing.

Kate Strathmann (21:48):

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Susan Boles (21:51):

It's that time of year. Time to set some new goals or consider your New Year's resolution, and if you're like a lot of business owners I know, you might be thinking that this is the year you're going to get your shit together when it comes to your money. You're going to start reviewing that PNL statement you get every month. You're going to be more intentional about how you spend, and closely tracking the ROI you're getting. You're going to get clear on exactly how you're making money, and how you can make more of it without working yourself into the ground.

Susan Boles (22:22):

Now, if you're both nodding your head and feeling the anxiety rise in your chest as I describe this financial goals, I see you. We all have the best of intentions about how we're going to manage our business finances, but few people actually follow through on learning how to manage their business's money, or execute the financial plans they create. You want to feel like you're on top of your money stuff, but it's tough to climb over all of the questions and reports and bank accounts and spreadsheets.

Susan Boles (22:54):

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Susan Boles (23:27):

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Susan Boles (23:57):

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Susan Boles (24:16):

I think a lot of this comes back to your values and your goals behind what your business is, but also, your goal for the impact that you're trying to create in the world, and I love your point that sliding scale isn't necessarily the best way to create change in the world-

Kate Strathmann (24:39):

Yep. Yep.

Susan Boles (24:39):

... Especially if you are a bigger business and I love the idea of Robin Hooding and being able to work with clients that can absolutely afford to pay premium prices to be able to give access to people that may not be able to.

Kate Strathmann (24:54):

Yep. Yeah. Definitely. There's another one that I've started calling monetizing good will, and this is... So we're closing in on three-quarters of the way through maybe of the equitable business incubator cohort that we're currently in and that I'm teaching. And this is something that's come up in one of our sessions, and one of the participants brought up an example of someone that they follow that has a popular newsletter, and was wanting to figure out equitable ways of making money from it while continuing to provide equal access.

Kate Strathmann (25:35):

So he asked those who could afford to pay to contribute, started to monetize the newsletter that, if I understand it, had been free previously, so that it could remain free for those that cannot. And I don't know that that's inherently a problem, but the way that she was describing that he had framed it I think was really interesting, which is that he had framed it as sort of pay for this to allow others to receive it for free.

Susan Boles (26:06):

How'd that go over?

Kate Strathmann (26:08):

Well, I actually have no idea because I don't-

Susan Boles (26:10):

I'm really intrigued by that.

Kate Strathmann (26:13):

But I think it creates... And I've seen this a lot in other spaces where there is something like the framing aligning who is benefiting and how the business mechanics work. So it would be one thing if he had support my creative work, and I'll be working to ensure that my work remains accessible, and I'm taking that responsibility on. And that makes a lot of sense because he's saying well, you're paying me for this newsletter that's benefiting me.

Susan Boles (26:42):

Right.

Kate Strathmann (26:43):

Versus I think this framing of you're paying for this allows others to receive it for free. There's a certain amount of... This is a popular newsletter. I think he has a large audience to be drawing from, where I think it's created a lot of fuzziness over actually who is benefiting and what's happening in that framework. Does that make sense?

Susan Boles (27:06):

Yes. And I also think there is a lot of your own issues and your own relationship with money that come up in this style.

Kate Strathmann (27:18):

Yeah.

Susan Boles (27:18):

So whether or not you believe you are on pre enough, you're at enough, or you're post enough.

Kate Strathmann (27:27):

Yep.

Susan Boles (27:28):

And how you view that is really relative and very personal.

Kate Strathmann (27:33):

Yep.

Susan Boles (27:33):

And so, when you frame it like pay for this so other people can benefit, other people can get this for free, well, am I one of the people who should be getting it for free, or am I one of the people who should be paying for it?

Kate Strathmann (27:49):

Right. Right. Right.

Susan Boles (27:49):

What's the framework around that?

Kate Strathmann (27:51):

Well, that's why I think monetizing good will is a really good name for this kind of thing, and I have another example. No. It's true. In that equitable business incubator which I had mentioned, the first session that we do is about our own relationships to money, and just getting into what beliefs do we have, where do we come from, what is our social positive and background, and how does that intersect with how we experience money and all of the stories because it's so subjective like you were saying. And we have all of the... Depending on how we are brought up and who we are in the world and our experiences of privilege and oppression, that really sets us up to interact with something like that in very different ways, not all of which can be helpful and it can be very complicated.

Kate Strathmann (28:39):

So I think it's a subtle thing. I don't know that asking folks to contribute to the newsletter is itself a problem. It's really more about clarifying about who is benefiting from that request. But another example that I was going to give that I saw was... It happened over the summer, and Sephora, the beauty emporium empire, sent out a whole thing calling on customers to donate their reward points, so they have a membership reward points system. You buy more products, you get rewards, then you can get more products.

Kate Strathmann (29:22):

And so, they sent something out that was asking folks to donate their reward points and then Sephora would donate that to movement organizations. And this one is so sneaky because really at a corporate level, they're moving something that would be a liability for them into a tax deductible-

Susan Boles (29:43):

Yeah. Into a tax deductible.

Kate Strathmann (29:46):

Exactly. But they're doing it in this sort of we're all going to collectively do good together, and create this big donation.

Susan Boles (29:56):

No. They're making it so that they get a tax write off from their clients.

Kate Strathmann (30:01):

Yep. And it's like-

Susan Boles (30:03):

And they don't have to do anything for it.

Kate Strathmann (30:04):

Yeah, exactly. So it's sneaky because they're using some of the similar language and calls to action, stuff like that, that I think folks that are genuinely involved in movement work and trying to think about these things at a genuine level are, but there's a really... It's fucked up for a lack of a better word. And that's at a larger scale and stuff like that, but I think it's just, again, who is benefiting. It's a really good thing to be transparent about.

Susan Boles (30:39):

Oh. That's so interesting. So if folks were thinking about trying to implement some of the either techniques, some of the strategies we've talked about, and they're going how do I start with this. That seems cool. I'm onboard. But what do I do? How do you recommend people start either researching this or thinking about this for their own business?

Kate Strathmann (31:06):

Yeah. I think step one is to really understand your own positionality and relationship to privilege. And this is like newsletter guy, it's like where do you actually sit? Do you need to shift the burden of generosity onto your customers or is that actually something that you should be doing yourself or through the mechanism of your business? So I think that's really one level is do our own work.

Kate Strathmann (31:35):

And then I think the second one is to really understand what the actual access issues are in your business and community. Are they financial or are they more about other structural aspects of the business or work? Are you trying to repair something? Is there a certain population that you know you're not serving that you should be that you need to work on? I think there is a contextual groundwork to lay before just implementing a sliding scale or a scholarship or an award or something like that. It's really who... And this is very specific to what you do, who you serve, who is in your community, who is missing from your community?

Susan Boles (32:16):

Yep. In terms of the access, one of the things that I heard at some point, and I can't remember where I was hearing it, but thinking about access, and there was a business owner who was having... They wanted to work with single moms, and the issue was not actually that the single moms who were business owners could not afford the program, it's that they could not get child care to be able to attend the program.

Kate Strathmann (32:45):

Yeah, exactly.

Susan Boles (32:45):

So one of the ways that they created access was to include child care as part of the program, so you could come with your kid.

Kate Strathmann (32:53):

Yeah. That might have been me.

Susan Boles (32:56):

It may have been you. I can't remember where it was.

Kate Strathmann (33:01):

It's harder to do now obviously.

Susan Boles (33:03):

Right. Yes.

Kate Strathmann (33:06):

Yeah. There has been a couple of programs that I've taught in person with partners and specifically, within the co-op community and things like that, and there was on in particular that we scheduled on a Saturday because folks had jobs. They didn't have the ability to just show up at 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday or they needed to be at their business. And so, we did it on a Saturday because that worked the best for everybody, but then we had a child care issue as well, so we actually had free child care and hired somebody to be onsite to take care of kids. And that made it so there were a few people that only were able to show up because we were able to do that. So yeah. Definitely. I think it's a really good point.

Kate Strathmann (33:53):

And then I think it's, again, what do people need? And what is your business really designed for at the end of the day. What is the mission behind it. And do you need to redistribute resources internally or externally. I think there is two ways to do it, and sometimes it's both. But I think it's really understanding the context in which you're working and who you're trying to serve and what those issues are.

Kate Strathmann (34:29):

And there is another thing that I keep saying to fellow white folks, which is this is not the way to get more people of color and diversify your business if that's the only way you're working on that problem. You've got to step back and do other work first too, and I think that's an important point to make to you in terms of, again, where are you? What's your own position? What's your own privileges and experiences of oppression and things like that. How do they intersect with your business? Who do you serve?

Kate Strathmann (34:59):

And then you start thinking about these different levers and how can we really understand power? How do I hold power? How do I want to share power? How does that work within the context of my particular business and the community that I'm operating within? And I think that sounds like, where do we start baby steps is a very simple question, and I just gave a very... Well, this is going to take some time.

Susan Boles (35:25):

I think that's true, though.

Kate Strathmann (35:27):

Yeah.

Susan Boles (35:27):

I mean, we're not going to solve systemic problems in a day or a week.

Kate Strathmann (35:36):

No. Yep.

Susan Boles (35:36):

And probably not in one person's business.

Kate Strathmann (35:41):

No.

Susan Boles (35:42):

It's something that you can implement on your own and at a greater scale, the more people that start implementing these kinds of things and thinking in this kind of way, the more change can happen.

Kate Strathmann (35:56):

Yeah. Yeah.

Susan Boles (35:56):

But it's slow. And we talked about this a little bit before, that a lot of it is experimental. When you start implementing some of these changes in your business, you've got to go through the lens of all right, I'm going to give this a shot and see what happens.

Kate Strathmann (36:12):

Yep.

Susan Boles (36:13):

What happens in a good frame and in a maybe not so great frame that you need to think about and change and I think one of the best examples, and maybe you can talk a little bit more about this, is when you start implementing pay what you wish kind of systems, and how your own mindset and your own approach to money as a business owner, can interact with that.

Kate Strathmann (36:39):

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. There was an example of somebody that's quite famous in the online business world of writing a whole post about implementing a pay what you wish thing for... It was like an online product or something like that. And this post, they had this whole thing, it was about how they were being generous, and it was sort of about their relationship to money and giving this thing away. And then embedded in the middle of it was this whole paragraph that was about putting people down and shaming people if they paid on the lowest end of the scale. So it was like well, I'm sure there a couple of bad unethical people that might only pay $1 and that's on you.

Kate Strathmann (37:27):

And it was like well, wait a minute. If you're going to offer the scale, you've got to be prepared for it being okay that people are doing whatever they want on it. And that was really about her, this person that was offering the scale in the pay what you wish, and that she really wasn't okay with that pricing and that she had a certain view of people that might only pay $1 for whatever the product was she was offering instead of... And I don't know what her threshold of acceptability was, but she clearly had one, and then was kind of like offloading that publicly on whoever might be interacting with this pay what you wish model.

Kate Strathmann (38:14):

And that was a really good example of just very starkly of somebody's own shit around money or just their own views of acceptability and affordability and all of these things can interact with one of these systems. But I think that that actually comes up for a lot of people, whether they talk about it publicly or not. I think most of us are self-aware. I'm self-aware enough not to do that publicly, but it doesn't mean it actually hasn't occurred to me or that I haven't felt a certain way when I've offered a model like that, and been like wait, you only think I'm worth $25. What?

Susan Boles (38:56):

Yeah. Absolutely. I think there is so much on both the person who is offering and on the person who is accepting that comes down what your relationship with money is.

Kate Strathmann (39:10):

Yep. Yep.

Susan Boles (39:10):

And that these strategies aren't necessarily the right choice for everyone just because you can offer a sliding scale doesn't mean that it's the right choice for you, and maybe there is a different strategy that you can implement that feels right to you as the business owner and still accomplishes doing good.

Kate Strathmann (39:33):

Well, and I would also say one of the things that I've been saying a lot lately is sometimes a lot of the core work of these experiments and trying different things is to hold up a mirror and teach us different ways of being and different ways of thinking and different perspectives. Like what skills do we need to approach business in a different way that's not about individual wealth building. And one of those might be I really need to understand my own framework and my own beliefs around my own worth and value and how I attach money to that, and what I think about other people that attach money to that.

Kate Strathmann (40:15):

So I think there is a lot of this stuff, whether it fails or you need to adjust and whatever, these methods, they do teach us and show us cracks in the system, and where we might need to just be more compassionate with ourselves or work on a different framework because we're steeped in a lot of messages that I think are really toxic and problematic and whether we're aware of them or not, are pushing us in a certain direction. And so, when we start do things and implement systems and practices that push back against that, there is a lot of stuff that gets turned up.

Kate Strathmann (40:59):

And so, I think a lot of the point for me of leading a lot of this kind of work and helping people with it is we learn different skills and we learn different ways of being in a relationship with people. And if that paying $1 for my product stirs up all sorts of feelings, and I want to offload them on other people, that's a really good place to develop some skills and what messaging have I internalized that's making me think that or have that impulse and making me feel not okay with this offering that I'm the one. I implemented it. I created it. But I'm ultimately not okay with it, and what's about that.

Susan Boles (41:48):

I love that. So where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more about what you do or about how you work around this. Tell us about the [crosstalk 00:41:58] incubator.

Kate Strathmann (42:00):

Yeah. There is two places that are the best places to stay informed and in touch and hear more. The first one is my radically scheduled newsletter that can be found at wanderwallconsulting.com, and I talk a lot about this kind of stuff and my views, and it's a good grounds for more questions that don't have simple answers. And then we're also on Instagram at _wanderwall_ and that's it.

Susan Boles (42:36):

Awesome. Thank you so much for being here.

Kate Strathmann (42:38):

Yeah. Thank you, Susan. This was a great conversation.

Susan Boles (42:41):

One of the points that Kate mentioned that I think is really critical to reinforce here is that every strategy we discussed isn't the right choice for every business. If you decide to start thinking about your services or offerings or your business as a whole with an eye towards justice, make sure it's a strategy that makes sense for your business. One of the threads you'll see as we move through the theme of pricing and business model strategy this month is that pretty much everyone talk to created products or services that reflected their values, that essentially builds those values into the DNA of their businesses. For some people like Kate, that means working to help business owners create more equitable businesses themselves. That means she creates offers like her equitable business incubator and her creative financing workshop.

Susan Boles (43:29):

For other people, it means creating a business that ensures they're able to pay their team members well and create a really amazing environment for them to work in. For others, it means implementing strategies like Robin Hooding, that one where they work with big clients who can pay the big bucks, and they use that to subsidize working with smaller businesses or those who can't afford to pay as much. The strategies that Kate and I talked about are just a few ideas, but as you're considering changes in your business, I'd encourage you to think about how you can use those changes to better reflect the values you hold as a business owner and to help build those values into the DNA of your business.

Susan Boles (44:09):

Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our executive producer is Sean McMullin. Our production coordinator is Lou Blazer. This episode was edited by Marty Siefeld with production assistance by Kristen Runvick.


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