A small freighter limps into a foreign port, far off the beaten track; the main engine is misfiring and the ship cannot continue. A local mechanic is called out and a small, wiry man with a brown leather satchel appears on the dock. "Can you fix my engine. Being here in port is costing me time and money". "Yes, I can" He boards the ship, descends to the engine room and inspects the machinery. After a few moments, he opens his satchel and takes out an old wooden hammer with a red-painted head. He leans towards the engine and gives it an almighty whack. The engine coughs twice and then settles into a steady rhythm - running perfectly.
The engineer present his bill - ' to fixing one engine - $1,000' The ship's engineer who has watched the whole process is aghast. " All you did was hit the engine once. Your bill is outrageous. Take it away and reconsider it."
And the local mechanic did as he was requested, representing his bill - "to hitting the engine with my hammer - $1. To knowing where to hit it - $999". His bill was duly paid.
An old story but one worth digging out and polishing to a shine every now and then. I have recently left Grant Thornton and I am now plying my trade as a NED, an executive coach and all round fixer of things that need fixing : I think the first lesson that I have had to properly relearn is value-billing : not being commoditised. A lot of what service professionals have been working on in a whole Game Changing programme is looking for the different relationship and approach to our clients and contacts that stops what we are doing being commoditised.
Perhaps that is a good strap line to the current training and facilitation programmes "Be a Game Changer, not a commodity".