Does Your Word Have a Price?

At the 20th Anniversary of Dubai's Global Village, new permanent façades have risen in the desert

At the 20th Anniversary of Dubai’s Global Village, new permanent façades have risen in the desert.

A Woman Walks Into a Bar…

It’s a nice place, akin to The Algonquin or Sardi’s in NYC. Lighting is soft but not dim, piano playing in the background, dark wood details and an atmosphere of history and good living.

She sits at the bar and orders a martini. Quietly thoughtful, she listens to the music and sips…

A man approaches.

“May I sit here…?”

With a smile, she says, “…it’s a free country…”


“I’m Alice.”

They chat a bit. He makes her laugh. The place is about half full and their conversation is private; looks convivial. They are clearly comfortable with one another.

“So, Alice…” says John, “…you are enchanting. If I gave you a million dollars right now, would you spend the night with me?”

“Why John,” she quietly gasps; a little shocked, a little flattered, even a little excited. She looks down at her drink and plays with the olive for a moment. Her eyes rise to meet his and she says, demurely, “…yes.”

“Good.” He smiles.

A few moments pass in comfortable silence as they look each other in the eye and take a sip of their drinks.

John: “How about a blow job for a hundred bucks?”

She slams her drink onto the bar, “Just what do you think I am, John?!”

“That has already been established,” he replies, “Now, we’re just haggling over price and deliverables.”


Does your word have a price?

Business is personal. One’s personal integrity and reliability are essential components of Reputation: especially in theatre and show, destination entertainment, theme park contracting, creation of spectacle…frankly, pretty much any business where deals are made between one individual and another, between an individual and a company or group, between groups, between companies.

We spoke of this in the context of Leadership, just two posts ago…

Once your word is given, can s/he to whom you have given it depend on the commitment you have made? Will you meet that deadline, deliver that production, carry that weight as promised? Word given and hand shaken: are you stalwartly reliable such that concomitant decisions can be made with the concrete knowledge that you will see to it that the job to which you have committed will be done to spec and on budget or better…handling any and all eventualities with confidence and professionalism?



Good: as in fields where bespoke teams are built for specific projects and productions, one ultimately has only one’s reputation for dependability, for integrity and honor to keep one known as reliable.

When I know and recommend such people to other producers and directors; I describe the individual as, “…s/he will hold onto the rope, as would a mountaineer…if s/he says s/he’ll see to it, s/he’ll see to it. You can depend on that.”

Of course: there are certainly sudden, unique and extreme times where one finds one must relinquish the responsibilities one has accepted. These occasions generally involve death, deportation, incarceration or some physical damage rendering one incapable of delivering.

There is a way to handle that, and the way is this:

  • Replace Yourself… before you alert the client. Responsibility for the duties taken-on, weeks or months before, cannot with integrity be handed back to the client for resolution when these are responsibilities you have embraced.
  • When you inform your client, have your qualified and vetted replacement briefed and ready; your responsibility is smooth transition and seeing that your position is covered.

This is a function of Professionalism.

There are other, less unique times when A Better Offer Comes Along.

Now, it’s another question and context, entirely.

  • Are you one who will bail on the job to which you’ve guaranteed yourself, or
  • Do you keep your agreement and refer the new gig to someone else?
  • Do you hold onto the rope or do you bail?

This is a function of Integrity; of the value of your word.

At the end of the day, one must be complete with the reputation built for oneself by one’s own actions.

  • Do you want to be known as excellent at what you do, a solid leader and team member, reliable and honest?


  • Are you good with being known as good at what you do, but you might not see a project through if something better comes along?

There are plenty out there who have made careers without always seeing projects through. I believe there are more, better thought of, for whom their word is their bond.

Is short term financial gain more important than a reputation for reliability?

Your call. At the end of the day, it’s you and the mirror.



“IMHO: Creating Compelling Experience” is a free downloadable eBook on the tenets and methodologies we use to…create compelling experience. Find it in the iBooks app on any Apple device or in iTunes at this link. .

IMHO – Sharing What I’ve Learned is my regular blog; you’ll find plenty more opinions, there…!

6 thoughts on “Does Your Word Have a Price?

  1. I received this reply in a private email from a Respected Executive:

    “Agree 100%.

    A word is a word and even as a mercenary you have to stay even if you get a better offer from somebody else.

    Bur it’s a two-way street.

    If the client changes the rules of the game – schedule changes, smaller budget, reduced scope, disregard of recommendations – then you can no longer be held to the original handshake.

    IMHO ;-)”


  2. I’ve found that people (myself included) rarely bail for the better offer soley on money. Like you said, there is always going to be a qualifier to situations – the better offer is long term, it takes you back to where you want to be, maybe a city or a hometown, or it its simply more interesting than what you might be doing. I’ve found that when I contemplate leaving (not only for a better offer…just leaving) its because as you note, the rules have changed like school kids making up a game as they go along. Or you find that your work is not valued – revelations that only come with time. There is no great castle raising or IP lauding land that brings satisfaction if its at odds with your own core values. It’s not indentured servitude it’s a job.

    • Perhaps… Perhaps when working for a company in a large corporate environment, one can classify the position and responsibilities as “just a job.” We both know I’ve been there, myself. I would offer that the difference lies in the context of the Handshake, the nature of the agreement.

      When one has looked another in the eye and accepted responsibility for a scope of work or a position on a team – when the words, “I will honor this, see this through…” have been spoken; this is not “just a job.”

      No one who has ever worked for me has had “just a job.” Rather, each has joined a team and embraced responsibilities on which I, others and the entire project may depend, taken responsibility for the physical realization of a vision. Creating an Experience.

      So: Corporate versus Theatre, perhaps? There is no stark black-and-white…until one’s word is given and Integrity comes into play. Beyond that, it’s between the individual and the mirror.

  3. Thanks Kile, I couldn’t agree more with you. For me it’s never just a job and even when I am in a challenging or frustrating situation because some of the parameters or people involvement have changed, I stick to my commitment and do it to the best of my ability, just because I enjoy delivering quality and most of it, because I don’t want to disappoint myself or the project.
    It was great welcoming you and the group at Global Village!
    Looking forward to your next visit.

    • Thanks for publicly commenting, Viviane — agree completely. Sometimes, after a tough or negative situation; all one has is one’s word, one’s integrity. Both are things that, once lost, are virtually irretrievable…

Leave a Reply