I was ruined by freeze pops.
Do you remember freeze pops?
They’re the plastic tubes of ice that come in all sorts of colors and flavors. Kids love them. I loved them. My favorite flavor (and color, as it turns out) was orange.
They were cheap fun, and I remember how excited we used to get when someone’s mom told us she got freeze pops.
We’d run over each other to get to the freezer first. We’d open the door, and it was like there was a light from Heaven beaming from the freezer. Blinding light! We’d eventually come to, and there they were: a huge value pack of freeze pops.
The value packs had 50-100 freeze pops in them.
Freeze pops couldn’t compare to fancier ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s. Haagen Daz. Drumsticks. No, we weren’t willing to spend money on stuff like that.
Instead, we went cheap. Who could beat a 50 pack of frozen sugar syrup?
Since then, “value” reminds me of cheap freeze pops.
And that’s how they ruined my view of value.
Entrepreneurs talk a lot about value. We talk about providing value, being of value, and giving value. It’s a solid concept. A popular concept. A correct concept.
But the talk about value is cheap.
And all I can think about when someone says that word are those cheap ass freeze pops!
I admit, that’s a personal problem. I’m dealing with it the best I can, ok?
But really, what is value?
Value is anything you do that makes someone else’s life happier, easier, or more profitable.
Almost every product or service that has found any sort of success has met at least one of those criteria.
Most of us brush our teeth, so let’s use brushing teeth as an example.
Let’s say you eat a freeze pop. Unless you want holes in your teeth, then it’s time to brush your teeth. Grab that toothbrush!
A toothbrush makes brushing your teeth easier. We don’t need to use our fingers or tree branches anymore. I don’t know if that’s what people did, but it’s fun to imagine.
Brushing should leave us with a healthy mouth, and a happy mouth can make us happier.
And maybe your white smile helped you win the deal or something. You can thank your toothbrush for your deal-winning abilities.
It seems pretty easy to see how a toothbrush provides value.
But I’ve got beef with providing value.
Actually, let me rephrase what I just said.
I’ve got beef with only providing value.
Yes, that’s more accurate. And this applies to almost every other way we can fit a phrase around the word “value.”
I’ve got beef with only giving value. I’ve got beef with only being of value.
Being only doesn’t work. It comes up short. It doesn’t move the world forward.
The ideas and products and services that are worth anything at all don’t stop at only.
Providing/giving/being of value VS. creating value.
There’s a distinction between providing value and creating value.
Think about shoulder rubs.
When I was in high school, I would almost always give the person sitting in front of me in class a quick shoulder rub. I don’t know. It was just something I did, and I think I still do it. Moving on.
That type of shoulder rub is different than a spa experience.
For one high school spring break, I went with my best friend to Florida. We somehow convinced his parents that we needed a professional massage at the spa down the street. We’re spoiled.
At the spa he and I cleaned up, got in our robes, and pretended to read Golf Magazine and enjoy drinking herbal water as we waited for our massage therapists. We joked about who would get the most attractive massage therapist.
He did. His was a petite, pretty brunette lady with a wonderful smile. Mine was a little larger, and I don’t remember if she smiled.
But man, did she dish out a great massage.
(It was so good that at some point during the massage I said, “Do you have magic in your fingers?” She responded by driving her elbow into a knot in my back. That convinced me that “deep tissue massage” is simply an excuse to beat up the poor chump laying face down on the massage table.)
We left feeling beat up and refreshed.
And we came away with a story.
In the massage example, who provided value and who created value?
The person who only provided value was, well, yours truly.
Those in-class shoulder rubs lasted for a few seconds, which isn’t even long enough to get relaxed with someone touching your shoulders in front of a class full of students. What I do know is that people usually enjoyed sitting in front of me.
Maybe it was because I’d help them study for tests, but I think the shoulder rubs had more to do with it.
I only provided value. They enjoyed it. It produced goodwill and comradery, but that’s all.
The ladies who delivered punishing massages during spring break created value. They made us much happier than I made the sucker who sat in front of me in class. We felt fantastic afterwards. They provided an experience and a story.
And they worked hard to create that value.
Creating value is more valuable than providing value.
Think about your projects.
Are you only providing value?
Are you only giving value?
Are you only being of value?
Or are you actually becoming valuable because you’re creating value?
Work to create value as if you’ve got a 50-pack of freeze pops riding on it.
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Photo: Flickr/Andrew Malone