What Is Value?

True value cannot be quantified and is entirely subjective – yet it’s real

All words have multiple meanings, but often one stands out above the others as being clearly the most useful. That’s not the case with value, whose most useful meaning is hard to detect.

Look at the ways we use the word value in business:

value shopper
value
proposition
value-added
value
capture
value
selling
value creation
value chain
value conversation
valuable conversation
valuation

Price, profitability, and money run through these definitions to varying degrees. But behind them all is one constant: emotional experience. At least for an independent businessperson.

value is the emotional experience something creates and sustains

So while value is subjective and unquantifiable, it is not just a “perception” that our minds hold; it’s the way we felt during some chunk of life lived – including our business life. That’s what matters.

Of course, that emotional experience is often connected to money in some way. But it’s never 1-to-1 equivalent.

After all, money has only existed for 5,000 years. Was there no value prior – was there no price? Last time I checked, the price of God’s favor to Abraham was Isaac, not 50k. 

Note that you can also define value as the monetary price you buy/sell at or as the monetary profit it has the potential to create (ie valuation). These money-formulas for value are useful hacks. And sometimes it makes sense to stop at the useful hack meanings, and not dive deeper. But not when it comes to value.

Because if your emotional experience varies wildly, as these money-formulas of value stay the same, are they really accurate?

This is the thing: don’t let people force you to define, discuss, or price your work only as a number. Insist on holistic value and if you’re not getting it, sell something else, find a better customer, or create a more valuable conversation.

And have a great week ahead,
Rowan