Are You Selling a Commodity or a Professional Service?

26 Jan

A mandatory part of your business plan includes deciding what you will sell. This will be either a commodity or a service. If you are selling a commodity, you will have competitors. If you are selling a professional service, you won’t.

The words “competitors” and “competition” imply you are selling a commodity that can be obtained elsewhere. For example, gasoline is a commodity. I know of some intersections in Sacramento that have three gas stations. I (and all the other drivers) can wait at a red light and see what the gas stations are charging for 87 octane gasoline. When I need 87 octane gasoline, I go to the cheapest provider. The name brand, the attendants’ uniforms, and the gas station decor do not matter. I have bought gasoline at gas stations that looked like dumps. I don’t care. I cannot justify going to the most expensive provider for a commodity when someone else has a lower price just across the street.

If you are not selling a commodity, you do not have competitors. Let me repeat that: if you are not selling a commodity, you do not have competitors. Read the next few pages and if you believe I’m living in Fantasyland, send your comments to author.

Here are some examples to illustrate my point.

My masseuse provides a professional service and not a commodity. I’ve been seeing her for more than four years. She understands where my muscles are tight and what areas deserve more of her time and attention. She also knows I do triathlons and practice yoga. She takes all that into account when deciding how to increase my flexibility and help me stay injury free. She must be doing something right—I’ve completed 24 triathlons and have incurred no back issues, injuries, or strains since becoming her customer. She probably isn’t the most expensive masseuse out there, but I know she isn’t the cheapest. The cheap masseuses are selling their services as a commodity. People who hire them are looking for the lowest price. I’m not. You shouldn’t get a cheap masseuse, as your professionally trained masseuse will be rubbing his or her hands on your body. This probably is not the time to be cheap.

My career coach provides a professional service and not a commodity. She isn’t the first coach or coaching service I’ve used, but she is the right coach for where my career is now and for how I want my career to grow. She is a public speaker, she is self-employed, and she provides advice and step-by-step plans on moving my career forward. Good things have happened since we started working together. She holds me accountable for the goals we set. She isn’t the most expensive coach out there, but she also isn’t the cheapest. I used a cheaper coaching service a few years back and lost interest in setting goals. Nobody encouraged me to set ambitious goals or held me accountable. I wrote goals on a piece of paper, reviewed it a month later, and awarded myself points until I became bored with the process. Cheap coaching services are selling their services as a commodity. People who hire them are looking for the lowest price. I’m not. Remember, the benefits you reap will far outweigh your costs. This is an important investment. The more you choose to invest, the greater your return.


Mark Anthony Germanos is the author of two books, Escape the Cubicle: How to leave your corporate or government job for something better and How to Make Computer Systems Work for You. He has faith in a slow but sure Sacramento business revival. Sacramento small business owners are leading the way. His second book, Escape the Cubicle, is for those who want to escape cubicle jobs and become successfully self-employed. Escape the Cubicle answers the questions: "How can I grow my business" and "How do I become my own boss."

Mark is the President of Cameron Park Computer Services. As a business owner and computer networking consultant, he has seen habits that successful Sacramento small business owners embrace. He helps Sacramento small business owners embrace those habits to increase their profits, efficiency and happiness. An advocate of Sacramento business revival, Mark believes everybody should run their lives like a small business, perform SWOT Analyses and use social media campaigns to improve business. He used to say “social media is stupid.” That was until he attended a conference and saw how Sacramento small business owners can use social media campaigns as a valuable tool. Since then, he has earned more than $40,000 in business via social media. His Sacramento small business clients also have five-figure returns. Sacramento small business owners that launch social media campaigns give themselves a comparative advantage over those who lag behind. Mark does not do everything, but his clients do receive great results and participate in the Sacramento business revival when they follow his advice.

Mark moved from Chicago and restarted his business in California with a cell phone and a Honda Civic. An active triathlete, he has a life, a dream wife and a dog. For additional details, visit Twitter: Facebook: LinkedIn:


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