I smiled and filed it away for future reference, when just a couple of days later this very issue came back to bite me in the gluteus maximus.
I lead a great Leadership Weekend event last weekend for a local network marketing company. It was a lot of fun, but I was somewhat apprehensive before the event, not really knowing the people that would be there. I usually have at least a short personal conversation with each participant before hand, this time it did not take place because it was a team leader that convened the group of 11 participants at very short notice (one week). Oh well, trust in the process, I told myself!
The short timeline between the offer and the delivery made me decide to allow registration on site just before starting the event. I thought it would simplify the payment process by reducing the before-event paperwork. I sent out registration forms with the amount clearly indicated, and a pre-event welcome e-mail to those e-mail addresses I received before the event. Each person was to bring their registration form and payment to me during the check-in (30 minutes before the event).
The team leader verbally asked me about two participants who wanted a further discount, and two couples who wanted to attend each by paying only one registration per business centre. Wanting to be nice, and not really thinking it through, I sort of waved, smiled and said uh-huh (an unconscious yes) and quickly forgot about it. Unfortunately I had no complete list of names nor a list of who was paying how much and how, so I had no idea of who I said yes to.
My program requires a significant investment of time and money, and I could feel the tension of each person as they checked-in. On one hand they were not sure what they were getting into (my courses are not like regular network marketing training sessions).
As I counted the registrations coming in, I was realizing that I was receiving about 20% less income than expected, my tension level started to rise (not a good thing minutes before starting an intensive coaching weekend!)…
Then two people showed up with the form amounts crossed out and lower amounts written in. I thought it was an error, so I asked that they fill out a new form with the requested amounts. One person did so without comment, the other hummed and hawed and insisted that she pay the discounted amount. I wanted to coach her on the importance of commitment, but time was ticking and my tension put me in a bad place to ask coachly questions, so I accepted her offer.
There were less than 10 minutes before the scheduled start. The 20% less income, plus another third of the payments were post-dated cheques, that I do not usually accept in these types of short-term programs, made so that I ended up with about 1/2 of the amount in-hand that I expected. I was letting this monkey-mind thinking momentarily put me in a regret-resent cycle. I had to ground myself to let this go, and fast!
I did that, and the rest of the weekend was powerful and successful for all.
Afterwards, I heard through the team leader that the two people who had asked for additional discounts still had some bitterness towards me – which brought up that resentment in me again! So to counteract it I moved into action and ended up setting a meeting with the team leader and the president of the company, and then more time with the two people to make sure everyone was satisfied.
Hmm. It’s too bad that this experience tarnished an otherwise great experience. Now I understand what Seth was saying about separating the “pain” of paying and paperwork from the “pleasure” of the experience they signed up for.
Lessons learned for those of us who provide services, especially coaches or speakers or trainers:
1. Make the fee clear up-front, on paper. Have any special discounts or payment plan agreed clearly by both parties, with your signature or initials on the order form.
2. Avoid middle-men negotiating a fee on your behalf. When the team leader came to me with requests for further reductions off the already reduced fee that I agreed to, I should have taken the names of each person and spoke directly with them.
3. Separate “pain from pleasure”: Make sure the payment process is complete before the people wake up the day of the event. I used to be really strong on this but have allowed myself to erode my discipline in this area. I think that charging a premium for same-day registration is warranted, because of the additional paperwork.
4. Make sure each participant in a coaching or training program is qualified to be there! Although I made sure each person got great value, I was not clear on the competence level of each person before the event and made some assumptions in my approach that I had to change on the spot. I could see that some people were somewhat out of their element. The main issues around the event fee were with people who were not really properly qualified to be there in the first place (i.e. if people are fussy about your fee, they are not ready for you!)
5. When you have a system, use it! Normally, like I said, I have a pre-event interview or at least a participant information form that I get my public clients to complete before the event starts, so I can ensure they are at the right place to fully benefit. I allowed the time pressure to make me short-circuit my process for this closed group, and am now paying the real price in time, money and trust.
It’s too bad that a couple of relatively minor issues stained what was otherwise a powerfully positive experience for all. It cost me time and trust to repair the fences with the team leader, the individual participants, and the president of the network marketing company.
Lessons learned, and to be incorporated as I update my systems, policies and forms!