'Pay what you think it's worth' is Calgary businessman's new motto

Shayne Greer says he is tired of the same old way of doing business - lowering margins, and hurrying through jobs just to stay competitive in price. So from now on, he's going to let the customer set the price.

Shayne Greer knows he might get nothing, but says it's worth the risk

Shayne Greer runs a busy, profitable business. 

Focus 4 Development has several staff and dozens of subcontractors who do excavation work, landscaping, snow removal and cleaning services. But lately, Greer says he hasn't been feeling fulfilled.

"I've watched in this economy, my participating less with my customers, certainly not getting involved with community. And I'm at a stage in my personal growth, in my second half of life [where I know] there's a better way," said Greer.

In order to stay competitive, Greer was constantly finding ways to lower his prices, his margins, and in the end, his customer service.

But not anymore. He's now letting his customers set the price by determining the value of his work.

"It really catches them off guard because we're willing to let our contracts dissolve and go entirely with a pay-what-you-think-it's-worth service," said Greer.

He says it's pretty simple: once a service is rendered, an invoice will be issued without any price attached.

"If they choose to pay nothing, then that's absolutely what they'll pay. We believe that the fair-minded individual will appreciate the model. And a fair day's pay for a fair day's work will be the exchange," said Greer.

Risky venture?

Out on the street, people aren't sure whether this is the best way to create a profitable business.

"I think it's risky for the business owner, so I hope he's not making his entire living off of that," said Keri Barringer. 

"It might work, but I think lots of people are cheap, so it might not," said Gwen Hanes.

Others say it's a great idea. "That's fantastic! it gives people an opportunity to really exchange value," said Louisa Lawrence. "And then you are building a trust with people, a relationship, a friendship. That's kind of cool."

Successful test pilot

Greer says he set up a 'pay-what-you-think-it's-worth' car wash a few weeks ago. Afterwards, people gave anywhere from $5 to $100, with the average being about $22. He says that's about double the going rate.

"I don't feel at risk at all about offering this to the public," said Greer. "And it's really the first time in my life that I haven't been thinking about what the monetary gain would be as an entrepreneur."

Focus 4 Development also plans to donate 10 per cent of its sales to four charities, create a 'pay it forward' program and help support the city's Snow Angel program. 

Greer says he hopes other companies will adopt his new approach once they see the benefits it provides to both the business and the customers.


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