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Is There A Difference Between Selling Out And Giving In?

Written by: Julie Traxler and Corey Harris, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


What’s the difference between selling out and giving in? It can sometimes be a very thin line, and they often look like the same thing. It’s hard to tell if what you’re doing goes against your core values, and it’s even harder to explain away any misconceptions your customers may have about your actions. So, let’s look at music bands as an easy example.

When it comes to music, most bands and musicians, those who are in it for the love of music, never want to be called a sellout. If you talk to young rockers, they have notions of fame and fortune AND being able to do it their way, but that often isn’t the case. If they’re lucky enough to make it to a level where they’re getting paid enough to live off their music, they’ve likely made some concessions to get there. Maybe it was following orders from their label and firing a member, possibly they rarely perform their new music because the fans only want the hits, or perhaps they had to play someone’s kid’s birthday party as a favor, but most have all made some sort of deal with the Devil to get where they are.

To be clear, we aren’t talking about bands and performers who got into the business with the intention of becoming famous and making money. Love them or hate them. They’re at least true to their mission statement. We’re talking about bands like the one you may have loved until they got one hit song and changed everything about how they sound on their third album. And the worst part is, you both lost a band you enjoyed, and now you sound snobbish because you say things like, “I was into them before….”

This is the same struggle many small business owners face when they’re trying to grow their brand and when they eventually make it (relatively), big entrepreneurs start out with the best of intentions. They have an idea, service, or product, and they want to share it with the world. They turn whatever it is into a business, and they set out to make some money. But at some point, they may face a challenge that questions what they’re selling. They may be presented with an opportunity that may go against what they believe. They may get an offer that is just too good to refuse. They’re now stuck with a decision of sticking with what they know, what their business is, or what they believe in and potentially jeopardizing all of that to make money. So, what are they to do?

When stuck in this position, the first thing any business should do is take the situation and stack it up against their business’s foundation. They should determine if it goes against the core values or if it deviates from a mission or value statement. They should consider the short and long-term effects it may take upon their business, and they need to know if something personal or emotional is driving the decision.

Back to the original question of what’s the difference between selling out and giving in? It can sometimes be a very thin line. On the surface, selling out is changing what you do in the name of money. On the other hand, giving in is changing what you do in the name of money.

Wait!? Isn’t that the same definition? Well, yes, but it all goes back to your business’s culture.

Selling out is going directly against what or who you are as a company in order to get a payday. It’s sacrificing what you believe in for cash. Now, you may be faced with the dilemma where you bend your principles because you need to make rent, but that’s a slippery slope, and you need to understand the downstream effects of your decision. Can you go home and face your loved ones knowing the decision you made? Even if you explain the need to your staff, will they trust you to do the right thing in the future? Will customers or clients learn of this and leave you because you’re no longer representing the same values? These are questions you want to be able to answer.

Giving in is making a concession that maybe your business model isn’t what the public wants, or maybe you just need to suck it up and do something that’s “beneath you” in order to keep moving forward. In this case, you are still doing something strictly for money, but you haven’t deviated from your core. What you thought people wanted may be different, but to you and your team, you’re still delivering a service or product that is in line with your brand.

Personal pride, ethics, and emotions play a big part in this internal and external debate. Some businesses may choose not to do business with certain customers for a variety of reasons. Aside from those scenarios that are illegal, we can’t say who is right or wrong in the business decision that’s made. One entertainer may not play any venue that’s less than a certain amount, while another may see value in any offer that comes their way. While we may all have an opinion, it’s a personal decision that we really have no say in.

Here at SB PACE, we are very different now from a business standpoint than we envisioned ourselves to be when we started. Regardless of what services we offer and the areas we focus on, we’re still true to providing value to small businesses, which is at the core of our business. Neither of us ever thought that we’d be working primarily with startups or building marketing plans, but we adjusted our focus based on what the consumer wanted. We didn’t change industries or sell out to a big company, and we didn’t let pride blind us to opportunities that fit into our brand’s culture.

With all that said, there’s nothing wrong with going into business simply to make money, assuming you’re doing everything legally. We have worked with plenty of entrepreneurs who started off by saying that they simply wanted to be their own boss, and because of that, they got into some line of work they never dreamed they would do. But what was important to them was being their own entity and controlling their career and financial future. Everyone, including ourselves, likes to use Amazon as the example of ultimate evil, but Jeff Bezos didn’t start out on some philanthropic journey deciding later that world domination made more sense. Amazon started off with the idea of selling books, and it grew from there. As he recognized what his customers wanted and challenged his team to push boundaries, Bezos evolved his model.

Back to that thin line between selling out and giving in and how to know the difference. You need to understand what the downstream effects are before you do either. The important part is understanding what you’re passionate about and that the core of your business matches that. Your customers and employees will see right through any charade that is contrary to that.

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Julie Traxler and Corey Harris, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Julie and Corey started their company, SB PACE, due to the 2020 pandemic to assist small businesses. Since then, they have expanded into helping start-ups, companies looking to improve, and small business mergers and acquisitions. They wrote the book on small business disaster preparedness and continued to help small businesses by leveraging their knowledge and experience working for Fortune 500 companies and Big Four consulting firms. Julie and Corey are the experts small business owners turn to when looking for sustainable, long-term success.



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