Should we be generous in business? I believe the answer is always, YES. During our workshop this past weekend there was a lot of talk with regards to generosity and business. It got me thinking. How can I continually be more generous with my time and my business? How can I influence those around me through encouragement, support and LOVING people with my photography and business? I've noticed that being generous, unfortunately, is NOT the norm. And I understand why. We are faced daily with competition, the fear of being taken advantage of, and a whole host of negativity. It's hard to be generous when your visceral gut reaction is to hold tight and keep all that negativity out.
But one of the greatest lessons that I have learned as a business owner (and continue to learn) is that generosity HAS to be at the heart of it all. And the more that I continue to give, the more I am filled and the more my business grows. Generosity has been a key component to the growth of not only my business, but my character as a business owner. Giving helps me to grow, helps me to serve and helps to encourage the community I am a part of. Just like that Liberty Mutual commercial, it spreads around and catches on.
In such a tough and cut throat environment, how can we be learn to stretch our generosity muscle? How can we take that first step? I believe it's truly in the little things where we can show the most generosity. It's the little things that mean the most. They don't take a lot of time but have a big impact. I've shared a few simple ways that you can begin to be generous in your own business, starting today. My top five are below.
If you're a photographer then you most likely follow the work of a lot of other photographers. If you see something that you like, comment. Share with that person WHY you like it. Comment on their work, tell them that it has had an impact on you. Creatives are deeply connected to what they create and their love bucket is filled when others take a few moments to acknowledge it. Now this isn't a cop for more comments here, I simply want to encourage you to get out there and COMMUNICATE with the people that you follow. Be generous with your words and you will immediately see people open up and thrive!!
2. Share your time.
For me time is one of my most valuable resources and as business owners we all seem to be in short supply. So generosity for me is felt most deeply when sharing my time. For you that could be in the form of taking a vendor out for coffee, sharing your knowledge with an up and coming photographer, donating your time to a organization. The list goes on. The point is that sharing your time with the world is a hard, BUT it's a beautiful way to show others that you care. People are deeply connected to time, and for many, feel most loved when others share their time with them. Is there someone that you could share your time with today that would be greatly impacted by this act of generosity?
3. Share your talent.
As artists our talent is our gift. Not only is it a gift to us, a way for us to express ourselves to the world, it is a gift that we can SHARE with the world. And I truly believe that we have an obligation to do so. Perhaps this means sharing your images with vendors or using your talent to photograph a special project. Whatever that looks like to you, use your talent to lift others up. Even better, sharing your talents in collaboration with others. There is nothing quite like building community over the gifts that we have to share!
4. Share your finances.
Like time, finances are difficult place to be generous. I think we could all use some help in learning to be more generous in this area. But just like acts of kindness that cause a ripple effect, being generous with our pocket books can often have a ripple effect that causes others to be generous as well. No you don't have to go and give away a million dollars just to be generous, that's not the point. Start small if you need. Little acts of financial generosity here and there will not only help those around you, but will strengthen your giving muscle, strengthen your character and teach you things you never knew before. (This is for a different post entirely, but having a strong business budget will allow you to a firm foundation in which to give from and to be generous with you finances when the unexpected happens.)
5. Be kind.
Generosity can be in the form of the words that flow from our mouth, or in this digital age, the words that flow from our fingers. We MUST learn to be kind and smear that kindness everywhere we go. It should be like a generous serving of your favorite Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Do you want to share that tasty goodness and give it away? Heck, no. Will the person you share it be changed, encouraged and left with happy taste buds? YES. Perhaps its a poor analogy but you get the point. Kindness rules. And if you ever think that being kind, forgiving, graceful or overly generous in your business will bring you down, try it. And then you can tell me different.
*Love is the Killer App is a great read on how to be unashamedly generous in your own business and life. Highly recommend!!
Bonus : Be generous with HUGS.
One of the favorite things my toddler son likes to do is give hugs. Even if he has never met you before, chances are he'll give you a hug. And let me tell you, that simple act of embrace will brighten up your day ten fold. There is something incredibly powerful in the human touch and a simple act of a hug could literally change the world for someone else. Hugs let you know that you are cared for, accepted and loved. I think the world needs a lot more hugs!!
I don't write this post as someone who has this all figured out. I certainly stumble and fall in areas of generosity and I am STILL learning. It can be incredibly hard to give and that is why I felt a pull to write this post. We can all learn to be a little more generous and it can start today. In small, baby steps, we can begin to stretch and strengthen our giving muscles. Whether that's with a simple note, a hug or a kind word. We can all do this. So should you be generous in business? I believe so. Can you be smart about your giving, absolutely. But at the heart of it all, I hope that we give, just to give. To make the world a more joy filled place.