by Ed Gandia
Wal-Mart is probably one of the most vilified corporations today.
The world's largest retailer has been widely criticized for putting
local merchants out of business, running suppliers to the ground and
employing questionable labor practices.
Which is why I was shocked when I saw Gary Hirshberg, the founder and
CEO of Stonyfield Farms--a producer of organic yogurt--in the
documentary "Food, Inc." talking about how he's now selling his
product to Wal-Mart.
Why would a well-known environmental activist and leader in the
organic movement agree to sell his product to what so many perceive
to be the world's most "evil" corporation?
I couldn't believe it. But then he finally explained his reasoning.
And I had to marvel at his genius.
Quite simply, Hirshberg sees Wal-Mart as a great vehicle to
furthering organic farming. He explained that by selling to the
world's largest retailer, he'll be able to move a TON more product.
And for every cup of organic yogurt Wal-Mart sells, that's one LESS
cup of yogurt sold that was produced through traditional methods.
Essentially, Hirshberg is using Wal-Mart to help replace
traditionally produced products with organic products made using
sustainable agricultural practices. Here's a guy who's committed to
helping the environment and actually has the means to do this in a
And in a very creative way.
Whether you agree with any of this or not (and whether you question
his motives), there's a lesson here for all freelancers, consultants
There will be times when we have to use unpopular methods to reach an
important business goal.
I'm not talking about being unethical or dishonest. I'm talking about
using approaches we'd rather not use in order to develop a new skill
or get some experience in an area we want to learn more about.
When you're just launching your solo business, that may mean doing
some work for almost nothing in order to create some samples or
success stories. Or offering to do a project for a discounted rate in
order to start building a track record in a new service area.
Or maybe even agreeing to take on a project for a good client when
you're booked solid...because you know it would probably go to a
competitor otherwise (and you don't want to take that chance).
It's certainly true that many of us make these sacrifices for
nothing. Had we stepped away from the situation and considered all
the options we would have found a better way.
Maybe the client would have paid full price. Or waited four weeks for
our schedule to clear up.
But every once in a while there's an opportunity we can't pass up.
The equivalent of the Wal-Mart thing.
And when it comes our way, we need to recognize it for what it is...and
do what's best for the long-term benefit of our business.