Yesterday, I met with John Miles, the owner of Integritive, an Asheville web development company, to discuss partnering on a project. John's company has grown steadily over recent years, due to his team's professionalism, integrity, and dedication to generosity, value and service. Integritive has also received press coverage for the kindnesses they have performed in the community. Needless to say, I respect John immensely.
After we discussed the project, I asked John for some advice regarding my own business, which is in dire need of resuscitation. We discussed ways that I could stay ahead of current online trends to become more marketable.
During our conversation, I mentioned that I thought marketing was like sowing seeds in the corner of a field, but that you shouldn't necessarily expect plants to sprout in that same corner of the field. Instead, plants might sprout in another section of the field, where you least expect growth to occur. The important thing is that the marketing work is accomplished, that the intention has been sown. After that, it is best to trust that the effort will bear fruit.
With that, John walked over to a conference room shelf and handed me a book. John mentioned that he had met one of the authors of the book, who told him of the very same phenomenon I had just described.
The book John gave me is called The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. John said I could have the book under one condition - that I read it. I started reading the book last night, and though I have only covered a few chapters, I have discovered the basic tenet of the book:
The key to success is giving.
This got me thinking about my business, and the times it has prospered most.
Back in the 80s, I was an avid hang glider pilot. In addition to soaring above the mountains of California, I gave back to the hang gliding community by editing the local club's newsletter. Through the newsletter, I met a couple British hang glider pilots who worked for a software company. They introduced me to the Macintosh, which I knew would revolutionize the way I worked. Soon thereafter, Brits left the company they worked for to start their own venture, and gave me the job of creating all their marketing materials. That project allowed me to quit my 9 to 5 job and start my own graphic design business. Editing that newsletter lead to two gifts - my introduction to computer graphics, and the start of my graphic design business, which is now 23 years old!
When I started playing Appalachian fiddle, I created a website, OldTimeMusic.com, dedicated to my passion: Southern string band music that was popular over a century ago. The site contained no advertising; it was a labor of love. Before long, a popular fiddler contacted me to ask if I could do music CD package design for his upcoming album. "Of course!" I replied. That fiddler put me in touch with the record label that was producing his album. That was 1996. I have been working with that record label ever since. Other musicians and traditional music labels sought me out and also awarded me their projects. For the past dozen or so years, graphic design for the traditional music industry has accounted for at least half of my business.
When the Supreme Court decided the 2000 election, I realized that having political opinions was not enough - it was time to become politically active. As soon as I made that decision, opportunities arose. I lead a delegation to a then-Senator John Edwards' field office to protest the imminent Iraq war. I became involved in a local Peace Coalition. When the war began, our local police unjustly arrested many law-abiding protesters, and I joined a movement to hold our police force more accountable. Later, I helped found a group that prevented a private developer from building a hotel on public park land. I co-hosted a community radio show that focused on news and politics. For each of these causes, I donated my time and my graphic talent. I created logos, bumper stickers, posters, announcements to help market our causes. During this period, I was very happy. I felt connected and valuable, and my business thrived.
On the radio show, I began to focus on the economic downturn, the greedy corporations who were exploiting our government and our citizens for their own gain. I became emotionally invested in the downward financial trends. I became afraid. I saw the house I had just bought plummet in value. I watched my business wither.
As a consequence, my generosity waned. I curtailed pro-bono projects, and started worrying only about myself, and my own survival. I stopped participating in activist causes. Business shrunk even further, and I became more tight-fisted as a reaction, which lead to a bigger decrease in business. Fear turned to desperation, and now it seems like I barely have the resources to pay for essentials.
In short, I became so worried about my own welfare that I forgot to give, and that fed the downward spiral. I am ready to change direction.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of The Go-Giver. I need to remember how gratifying it is to give generously of myself without expecting anything in return. I want to get back in the practice of giving unconditionally. From past experience, I know that the rewards will come, and will exceed my wildest expectations.
Starting now, I will keep my eyes wide open for opportunities that allow me to share my talents with the world. I know those opportunities will practically land in my lap. And I will trust that through sharing of myself, prosperity will return - both for myself, and for all those around me.
Also read: "When Doing Good Helps A Company's Bottom Line" by John Miles.