Getting & Giving
My wife and I recently went bicycling and she lost her balance when traveling through a narrow, curvy pathway. Her feet stuck in the pedal stirrups and she fell. Her rib cage slammed against a steel handrail and she broke two ribs. She’s now in week four of healing; feeling better. Losing balance can be extremely painful.
To enjoy the ride of a healthy business, you must maintain balance between getting and giving. Focus too much on getting and not enough on giving, you’ll lose balance. Your company will become egocentric and arrogant, forgetting to listen to customer needs and concerns. Eventually, you’ll lose touch. Revenue and market share will decrease; profits will dwindle. Losing balance can be extremely painful.
Early in my career, a senior business executive lectured me that “the purpose of business is to make money.” I disagreed then and still do 30 years later. His myopic point-of-view proclaims the singular purpose of business is to get. It isn’t. The purpose of business is to both give and get.
Management is often brainwashed to believe the company’s “first priority and foremost responsibility is to get profits for shareholders.” Not true. To see the fallacy, imagine your employees telling customers, “My job is to get as much money as I can from you for my company’s shareholders or owners.” It’s absurd.
Selfishness destroys. When getting overpowers giving, unrestrained greed eventually destroys good.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not opposed to making money. I love profits. But, for me, profit is like oxygen; it’s a necessary ingredient for me or my business to survive. I want my personal life and my business life to have more meaning that just breathing oxygen or making money.
Selflessness also destroys. Remember the need for balance.
Recently, I had coffee with a friend who’s one of the most caring people I know. He pulled a small laminated card from his shirt pocket and handed it to me. It was entitled, “My Life Priorities.” They were listed in this order: 1-God, 2-Spouse, 3-Children, 4-Job, 5-Church, and 6-Me. I looked at it for a moment and said, “That’s nice. But, it’s absolutely wrong!”
If we’re to “love others as ourselves” it requires my love for others and my love for me to be equal – in balance. It means I don’t need to always be last on the priority list. If I don’t take care of me, I won’t have anything to give to you. There’s a reason why every commercial airplane flight begins with the safety training, “First secure your own oxygen mask before securing the mask of the person traveling with you.” You can’t help anyone if you’re out of oxygen (or money)!
Our challenge in business and in life is to maintain balance by getting and giving. Yes, there might be seasons when we give more than we get. In a startup business, you do a lot more giving than getting. Investing in new products or new markets initially requires more giving than getting. But, there’s hope that some day you’ll find balance once again in giving and getting.
So, my friend, the next time you go for a bike ride or go to work, keep your balance of giving and getting. You and your business will be healthier as a result and you’ll avoid the painful consequences of a lack of balance.