APHA members received a note from us this week with some expectation management. That is… we’re prepared, and are hunkering down, for Hurricane Irma. Our offices, located in Central Florida, will likely lose power over the next few days as Irma makes her way through; meaning, of course, that office communication may come to a standstill until power is restored.
Honestly – it’s like knowing you’re about to get a tooth pulled. There’s pain before, you know there will be pain after, and you’re just waiting for it to be over with so you can get on with life, but with that additional dread of not knowing exactly what kind of pain you’ll be dealing with in the aftermath.
What?? Like getting a tooth pulled? Yes – metaphorically – that’s exactly what waiting for a hurricane is like. Take it from me!
Long-time readers of this blog know my frustration over newly-minted private, independent advocates volunteering their time as a way to prepare to be professional advocates.
Newbie advocates cite two major reasons for doing their advocacy work for free:
- They are afraid / reluctant / don’t have enough confidence to talk about money and ask for payment.
- They feel sorry for the prospective client, and figure it won’t take too much time to help them.
- … both of the above.
The problem is, doing volunteer advocacy as a way to start an independent practice is the very best way to put yourself out of business. Growing a business is all about making sure your income is more than your outgo. You can start your business – no problem! But if you can’t ask for money, and you don’t learn how to, then it won’t be long before you lose your business.
(Can you imagine a lawyer not expecting to be paid? Or your tax guy? Or even your hairdresser?)
The consequences are dire for both you and others: if you only ever do the work for free, then not only have you lost all that time, effort, and money you invested in getting your practice started, but you also fail all those (hundreds? thousands of?) people you might have helped in the future if you had been successful.
Yes – it’s entirely possible you’ve crossed the line and had no idea you did so. In fact, you may be crossing it every day and be totally unaware. Further, except that I’m going to illustrate some line crossing, you might never realize it until you are sued, or arrested, or a client loses out on something important, or you lose your license for crossing the line, regardless of the fact that you had no idea that’s what you were doing.
What line? you might ask…
Actually, there are several – and you may be crossing more than one.
If we have learned anything about ourselves in the past 10 days, it’s that there are some people in this world we will never be able to understand or condone. Between the skirmishes in Charlottesville, VA, and the killings in Barcelona and elsewhere; I am reminded that I will NEVER understand hate. I will NEVER condone racism, or neo-nazi-ism, or jihad, or white supremacy – or killing. Period.
As I watched it all unfold through the news, I asked myself, What would I do if one of those people whose attitudes and opinions I find so repugnant asked me to be their advocate?
The answer came easily. I would say no.
I’m guessing that most of you would want to say NO, too – but would not know how to do so. So I am providing you here with justification and tactics to effectively, legally, and ethically draw a line between who we will, and who we won’t, provide advocacy services to.
Who we WILL work with – is fairly easy. We’ll serve almost anyone who needs our skill set, in a geography we can serve, who is willing to sign our contract, who can afford to pay us to do that work.
Who we WON’T or DON’T WANT to work with – is more complex, in particular because of our Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, and possibly because of the law.
We were all there at one time; that point in early adulthood when we realized we needed someone to guide us as we saved money for our futures and retirement. We didn’t understand much (if anything at all) about investing, or 401Ks or IRAs or REITs or annuities. We were confused. We thought we would miss something important.
We needed an expert – an investment advisor! Someone who truly understood all this investing and saving stuff, terminology, possibilities, to help make it happen…. Someone who could hold our hands over time as needed….
Someone we could trust with our money. Someone we would trust to hold our futures in their hands.
A VERY tall order!
So how did we find that right person? We asked friends and others we trusted if they could recommend someone. We might have interviewed a few advisors. These days, many people go to the Internet to try to figure it out. But most of us didn’t have that tool when we started saving, so we relied on recommendations, and sometimes on credentials they had earned, or bonds they held.
For most of us it probably worked out just fine. If the first one or two didn’t work out as we liked, we had the liberty of making a change. Many variables including our working track records, our ability to set money aside, and the knowledge and abilities of that person we eventually trusted to recommend investments have affected our savings as time has gone on. For most of us, it remains to be seen whether we made the right choices for the long haul.
But clearly – our entire financial futures have been predicated on our abilities to find the right person to TRUST with our money.