Source: USA TODAY
Hi Gladys, What is the deal with the “get-as-you-give” idea? I have owned a plumbing and heating business for 15 years, and it has been a struggle, but yet it’s a success. My brother-in-law who just started his business a couple years ago tells me that I don’t give enough to charity. He claims that if I give more money I will get more business and my business will run more smoothly. I don’t have a lot of money to give to charity. Don’t get me wrong — I have empathy for the less fortunate and I put money into the church offering each week. But I also have three kids in college and a wife to look out for. And yet he claims I need to do more and business will increase and flow better. — Dan
There are people who believe that making monetary gifts will guarantee them a seat in heaven and it will afford them a nice tax deduction at the same time. Having money to give to charity is usually the result of success; it is not necessarily the way to success.
On the other hand: I agree that you get back what you give. But let’s take a closer look at this getting and giving thing.
There was a woman who used to clean our offices. She was extremely detailed in her cleaning. To make certain that she didn’t miss any dirt or hidden dust, she would use a small brush to get into corners and even polish doorknobs. One day she was ill and couldn’t come in to pick up her paycheck. So I told her that I would drop it off on my way home.
As I walked up to her porch the smell of cigarette smoke was overwhelming. Her teenage son answered the door and invited me in. I was shocked to see that her home had dirty dishes in various places in the living room. The floor rugs were covered in stains. I discovered that both she and her husband were heavy smokers — habits that left a light cloud of smoke in the air. Her home seemed to be in desperate need of cleaning.
That’s one story to keep in mind; another involves my 6-year-old niece.
One day she shared some of her candy with one of her playmates, but refused to share with her 4-year-old sister. My sister-in-law attempted to get the child to understand the meaning of the old saying, “Charity begins at home.” This could be the missing link in that discussion between you and your brother-in-law.
One of the first places that entrepreneurs should extend their generosity is at home. If you have been in business for 15 years and your business is supporting your family, then I would say that you are doing something right where your customers are concerned.
When we do more than is expected in most cases rewards will follow. For example, I had some carpentry work done. The workmen did an excellent job, and they cleaned up so completely that they left the area cleaner than when they started. That was more than 15 years ago, and still to this day I am referring people them.
On the other hand, I had a handyman to come in and seal up open spaces around my home. He managed to spill sealant on the floor, kitchen cabinets and even the light switch. None of which he cleaned up. Needless to say I will not recommend him to anyone.
I think it’s a wonderful thing to give to a charity both your time and money, and I agree that we should participate as much as we can. But I also think. like I said, our generosity should begin at home.
If your relative is giving extra of himself, and his work is good, he will find his customers raving about his company, and they will give him a return on his giving, in the form of repeat business and customer referrals.
What do the rest of his business tactics look like? Are his prices fair and competitive? Fair prices will reap a nice return from referral business. How does he deal with his employees? This is an important area. There are rewards when employees know they are appreciated. They will go the extra mile for both boss and company.
You are certainly correct that you give, and you get, and that it goes both ways. If you give well, you get well; and if you give poorly, you can expect a poor return. The most important thing to consider is that charity does start at home and it should be with your employees and the customers and clients you already have. If you treat them properly, it is reasonable to expect to get something in return.
A man can give millions of dollars to charity, but if his home base is not supported properly all of those millions will reap minimal benefits.
Most likely your generosity started with giving the best of yourself to your company, customers and most of all your family. My best guess is, that’s where charity should begin.
Gladys Edmunds, founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh, is an author and coach/consultant in business development. Her column appears Wednesdays. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of her columns is here. Her website is gladysedmunds.com.