Sorry… What IS a Complementary Business?

Interesting question… what really is the difference between a normal business and a complementary / alternative business?

That should be a straight forward question to answer… the old business paradigm is that a business is based on finding a problem, and then offering a product or service to fix that problem, at a reasonable price, and a price which the market can afford… and complementary / alternative businesses are very much all about fixing people’s problems.

So that definition should work… but it doesn’t… it’s not a precise fit.

Because with complementary / alternative businesses as a “business” there is an extra layer… another dimension to consider… an extra part of the equation which has to be factored in.

Let me explain with an example of “bad” business which has recently been making the news across the world.

Volkswagen, the German car maker, has recently been found to have manipulated the software in its cars so that when they were taken into a vehicle testing centre, to test the level of carbon emissions being generated by the engine, the car would “know” that it was being tested, and so the engine would switch to low emissions. However, when the car was being driven normally on the road, the engine would switch back to high carbon emissions.

Bottom line, Volkswagen were programming their cars to lie about their carbon emissions, so that they would appear “greener” and more environmentally friendly then they actually were… thus fooling their customers and government agencies across the planet. (Whether other big car makers were doing the same, we have yet to find out.)

This is a classic case of a business putting its own selfish interests, and its relentless pursuit of profits, ahead of everything and everyone else… its customers, the community, its legal and consumer responsibilities, and its duty of care to the planet we live on… and having been found out, Volkswagen are being rightly punished for their total disregard of business ethics, both by different government agencies… and by consumers themselves, who feel angry and let-down, because they fell for the slick advertising which now turns out to have been a lie.

But how does this relate to complementary / alternative businesses? Most complementary / alternative businesses aren’t running themselves as a huge multi-national business? So where is the link?

Well, I think it comes down to the question of “interests”… and how any business balances its own interests with the interests of their customers.

Volkswagen is an example of total, ruthless self-interest… while 99.9% of the time, complementary therapists are representative of the other extreme… they put 100% emphasis upon their clients… sometimes even at the expense of their own personal and business needs.

I don’t just mean that they satisfy their customers needs… i.e. the business concept of putting your customer first, so that they will be happy, satisfied and come back to do business with you again.

Many complementary / alternative businesses do this… but then they go one stage further.

There is a tendency for many complementary / alternative businesses to suppress their own needs, in order to actively support and nurture the needs of their clients… because they want their clients to heal, to get better, to prosper, to succeed.

And this is totally worthy aim… and it might earn gold stars in terms of positive karma… but in terms of running a here and now “business”, it can create lots of distortions and issues… especially when it comes to the process of “getting the money in”.

Volkswagen had no problem with getting the money in, it was prepared to lie to do so. But 99.9% of complimentary therapists say and other alternative business types are not like that… not only would they never lie about their products and services… they find it hard to “blow their own trumpet” and actively promote themselves, in case someone gets the wrong idea.

(And then there is the whole side question of what happens when your clients aren’t all nice people, and some start to take advantage of your better nature… I know that is a problem which many complementary / alternative businesses have to deal with from time to time… and so we will need to go there in future posts.)

So for complementary / alternative businesses, within their business model, to become successful on all levels, it is about finding a way to “balance” these two important needs… to support the needs and interest of the client (i.e. be selfless) while also earning a living, and meet your own personal interests and needs (i.e. be selfish… and in this context, this is definitely not a bad word).

We’ll be exploring more on this interesting subject in future posts.

This is something which the large and important Business Schools, such as Harvard or the London School of Economics don’t focus on… the business needs of smaller complementary therapists… because they are concerned with the large companies and corporations…

… But it is exactly the business needs of the complementary / alternative businesses, which are often different to the normal business model, which this Facebook page is going to explore and support… starting now.

In the meantime, be happy and prosperous out there. 🙂


(c) Brian Parsons, August 2017

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