November 30, 2015

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First Mediaworks

05/05/08 Giver Or Taker?

“Did you get paid for that?” asked a former CFO of my company. I heard the question a lot, and the answer usually was no. Noticing that I continuously doled out advice without thought of compensation, he admonished me: “You’re walking away from a tremendous amount of money here. You need to charge a consulting fee.”
We did not see eye to eye on this matter.

Perhaps it was a matter of family history. I recall my grandparents taking in a neighbor whose family was killed in an auto accident. She lived with them rent free for 35 years. My other grandparents fed those in need when they could barely afford to feed themselves. I watched my parents provide money or advice to others, never asking for anything in return. My dad still offers business or career advice to others simply for the joy of watching them blossom.

I, too, have been the beneficiary of such unrequited counsel.

When I met Roy Williams, who has written for Radio Ink for many years, he continually offered business advice and never once asked for anything in return. When my career benefited significantly from advice I once received, I offered to pay the benefactor for his time; his response was “the only thing I ask is that you do the same thing for others down the road.”

So when my CFO pushed me to request payment for every little thing I do, I rejected the premise.

I’m a big believer in the Law of Reciprocity, which suggests that others will return tenfold what you have given them. Though this is often the case, the spirit of giving is about doing so with no expectation of return. The Bible refers to returns received for the gift of time or money, but I believe giving is heart-motivated, not return-motivated. As I glance back at my career in radio, the best advice I ever received was free from others who wanted to help. There is tremendous gratification when someone reminds you that your words of encouragement made a difference.

What about you? Do you expect a return on every investment?

Though we all have to make a living — and those of us in sales need to sell things — I think we ultimately form stronger long-term relationships if we offer our largesse freely. For instance, when I work with my advertisers on strategic plans to help grow their businesses, I usually don’t charge them for that advice. People notice when you’ve been generous, and perhaps you’ll receive a return for your good deeds. But if not, remember that you’re doing it with the spirit of generosity. Nothing more.

It also pays to sometimes be a taker: Take all the advice others are willing to offer. Take every educational opportunity you can, whether from people you meet or opportunities before you. My father always told me, “An education is a bargain at any price.”

When tough times strike, people remember those who have been the most giving and expected the least in return. If I have to choose a product or service, I’ll do business with the person who has been the most helpful, the most giving. Is that you? Sometimes it’s good business, sometimes not. But, its always the right thing to do.

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