The Paradox of Generosity: Being generous in business


Being Generous in Business

We’ve all heard people say things like ‘I can’t tell you my business idea, in case you steal it’, or ‘I can’t give you access to that information, it’s proprietary’, or ‘You have to pay to use this service.’ It makes logical sense to hold onto something you could charge for, and not give it away for free.

Then why is it that individuals and businesses with the opposite mindset survive and thrive in places like Silicon Valley? I think it’s a remnant of our toddler years that makes us want to hold onto things instead of giving them away freely. We want to make as much as we can as quickly as we can and somehow we think that by sharing or giving away without charge, we will miss out on potential revenue and growth.

From the time I’ve spent in Silicon Valley I’ve learned the exact opposite to be true. People in the ‘Valley’ subscribe to a very different ethic. They believe that they are all a part of a connected whole, and that by sharing with each other, and helping each other, it will come back to you in some shape or form. I think we should sit up and pay attention when nearly everyone in the most successful technological hub in the world says the same thing over and over again.

Here are my top take-aways from my time in the Valley:

Pay it Forward

Nearly every meeting in Silicon Valley ends with someone asking, ‘So how can I help you?’ People in the Valley don’t have a ‘me only win’ view on life, and so nearly all of them are more than happy to help you meet someone who can help you in some way. They are generous in business because they know it will come back to them. Share your time and your contacts and you’ll find the same will come back to you.

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Openness and Honesty

Nobody is going to steal your idea. Even saying that shows how little you know about how difficult it is to make a business succeed. Be open with other entrepreneurs, share your ideas and you might just meet someone with whom you can partner that will enable you to make a success of your business.

Be Humble, Be Nice

Make sure that you leave a good feeling behind in every room you leave, and after every meeting. Someone once said, people forget the content of the meeting but they remember the feeling they had during it.

Relax, be humble and drop the ego. One thing you’ll notice here is everyone’s lack of ego; from the biggest tech companies to the startups, nobody has anything to prove. Being relaxed rubs off on others, there’s no need to be uptight: it’s not the key to success.

Share your Knowledge

What do you know that you can share with your customers to enable them to succeed in their venture? Did you stumble across an article recently that pertained to a customer? Scan it and send it to them or email them the link. Do you have some proprietary knowledge that you can share a little of with your customers that will help them succeed? Offer a free training course or write a monthly blog. Mentor a handful of young entrepreneurs, just as you’ve been mentored along the way.

Give Financially

There’s a spiritual principle of giving away a tenth of your income to those less fortunate than you that many top individuals and organisations believe in. I think it helps you stay focused on things that really matter; which is helping others and not just helping yourself. It also helps to keep you grounded and grateful for your blessings and success, no matter how small they may be at this time.

Allow your Staff to Make Mistakes

Be gracious with your staff and allow them to learn their lessons and grow by making mistakes. Some people believe people should never make mistakes, but that’s how we learn. Even saying things like ‘don’t make the same mistake twice’ breeds a culture of fear, and there’s no greater antidote to innovation than fear. If you want your company to grow and succeed, allow your staff to explore and take risks without fear of losing their necks, Ned Starke style.

By letting go, you allow your staff, customers and business to breathe, by giving away you allow unexpected gifts and blessings to come your way. It may all sound very airy-fairy, but give it a try; I guarantee you, you will be amazed at the results.


Dylan Kohlstädt is the founder and Account Director of Shift ONE: outsource marketing for entrepreneurs. Dylan is an online and marketing expert who is passionate about growing her clients’ businesses without breaking the bank. Dylan has 18 years marketing management experience in online, insurance, financial, gaming and property industries involving web, mobile, SEO, CRM and Social Marketing and is considered a subject matter expert on all things digital. She has extensive local and international experience (South Africa, UK and Australia), has managed global and national brands and is experienced in managing multiple product ranges in multiple languages and countries. Dylan also has an MBA through UNISA SB

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