I recently read the book “Meaningful Work” by Shawn and Lawren Askinosie. I would call it highly suggested reading for any small business owner OR anyone who feels they haven’t found their professional calling. At the heart of the story is the Askinosie chocolate bar (of different origins and flavors) which retails for around $10 and higher.
Throughout the book, Shawn explains how he became a chocolate maker, the life he chose to leave behind, and the lives he now chooses to change by profit sharing with the farmers who grow the cocoa beans, by providing meals back to the malnourished communities the beans grow in, and how he has justified charging $10 and more for his chocolate bars.
The story is fascinating.
I completely bought in and when I finished the book, I went online and ordered two of their award winning chocolate bars, which qualifies as the most money I have ever spent on a bar of chocolate in my life.
Shawn asks the reader (I’m paraphrasing) to consider: Rather than ask why would someone pay $10 for a bar of chocolate, start asking yourself what goes into the bar you pay $1 for.
I realize that in writing something like this, it comes from a position of privilege. Sometimes, $1 is what you can afford.
Allow me to pivot.
For most of my life, I have collected things: baseball cards and comics when I was much younger and then switching to all manner of music: cassettes, CDs, and (now) vinyl as well as bourbon and books. What we spend our money on has a direct correlation to how we value it in our lives.
We know, as consumers, that just because something is more expensive does not make it better in the same sense that something more economically friendly isn’t necessarily an inferior option (take for example the difference between generic and name brand over-the-counter medications which are often made in the same factories).
There can be a placebo effect to the belief that if you paid a lot of money for something, you’ll enjoy it more. I’ve seen this play out in the bourbon my wife and I buy and appreciate: if it was expensive, it usually tastes better; in the records I purchase, by noting the superior sound quality of a pressing, and even with the food we buy in restaurants, surely that expensive cut of filet is better than anything I could have made at home at a fraction of the price.
Those are just a few examples of value as it relates to the prices we pay for things, which of course you can extend towards the price of your home, your car, or personal services (not unlike personal training…more on this later).
Recently, a solicitor came to see me to quote me on credit card processing here at RevFit. He wanted to know what we pay in processing fees to see if he could save me money.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I have a longstanding relationship with a local bank that handles my processing. I plan to stick with their services.”
“You know, we typically can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in fees compared to what a bank can offer if you look at the numbers annually” He countered.
“No sir, I’m not sure you understand. It’s not just processing I do with this bank. This is years of personal banking, business banking and having several family members with this bank. Not to mention, I have a professional relationship with the branch manager and they’ve been instrumental in helping me with any issues I’ve had over the years. This is about more than money saved, it’s the value I place on that relationship.”
Needless to say, the solicitor hit a wall he couldn’t overcome.
In considering services, we will often shop for the most affordable rather than the best available option. I mentioned personal training because it’s my career and I know that being able to afford a personal trainer is a luxury service.
Since I got certified in 2007, I’ve watched as evolutions in technology have continued to change the face of how people choose to exercise. There are free apps that give you daily workouts as well as any cursory Google search which can give you a free workout plan for every day of the rest of your life.
However, what exactly do you get with a free workout? Do you get any individual tailoring? Is there a real, live person you can communicate with to correct your form? What happens if you get injured? Are there modifications to work around those injuries?
This isn’t to say that every person needs a personal trainer. They don’t. Some people need more accountability than others and some people don’t need one more thing to add onto an already full plate. They want someone else to handle the programming, the modifications and to manage personal preferences and goals.
We place value on the things that matter most.
You probably get my point.
Let’s go back to the chocolate.
Over the last couple of years, my wife Marissa’s lactose intolerance, which she has had for all of her life, has become so severe compared to what it was once before, that she can no longer consume any dairy (milk, yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, butter) without getting sick within minutes of doing so.
Most of the popular brands of chocolate are made with milk and, since chocolate is something we both like to enjoy from time to time, we had to start looking at dairy free options. Fortunately, many organic chocolate bars have dairy free options but you’ll pay a premium for those (often $3-5 per bar). Of note, is that many of them are made in factories where dairy is also used but, thus far, this has not been an issue for Marissa.
I made a choice based on how I value Marissa feeling sick or feeling well. Of course, when I read “Meaningful Work” I wanted to know: What does a $10 chocolate bar taste like?
And, if I’m willing to pay $5 for a dairy free chocolate bar, would I pay $10 if I knew that I’m buying more than chocolate?
The answer is yes. Maybe not always, but from time to time to have something special.
Which bears the question: Is it worth it? Well, from a manner of taste, yes. It was delicious. Marissa thought so too (before she knew the story or the cost).
So, whether you like chocolate or not, whether you would spend $10 on a chocolate bar or not, the real question is: What do you value and how do your actions align with your values?
When you’ve had some time to consider the question, make a list of what you came up with.
I’d love to hear your answers.