I just read a post by Alex Lawrence called Win-Win Is Not A Tired Buzzword – It Is An Important Business Concept .
Almost a year ago I posted to this blog my top ten list of things I had learned by being an entrepreneur, and Alex’s comments reminded of what I had written down as #1, that there are givers and takers and you had better know the difference, and you had better decide who you want to be.
This is something I’ve thought about frequently and I think it could bear having more written about it.
The quote “It is morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money” apparently was coined by the legendary 18th century card shark “Canada Bill” Jones. A related saying that has been used since the mid 1500s is “A fool and his money are soon parted.” The latter may be true, but anyone who adopts the first quote as their own perspective definitely has a short-term view. Just think about it, if you’re a sucker and someone takes your money, once you wise up would you ever do business with that person again?
I have a mentor who has been a successful entrepreneur. I think he’s pushing 70. He told me once that when it comes to doing business there are givers and takers, and that he only worked with givers. The experience he had involved a real estate deal. A long-time friend and sometimes business partner of his invited him to invest in some real estate with him. The transaction was attractive, and they both stood to make some good money on it. They were planning on investing equal amounts, and would have equal control over the investment.
Shortly before the transaction was to take place, the one investor contacted my mentor and told him that he wanted to take a majority stake in the investment. My mentor told him “That’s fine, but if that’s the case I’d rather not invest at all.”
The other investor was taken aback. “Why wouldn’t you want to invest? This is going to be a great deal for both of us.” My mentor explained to his friend that he had known him a long time, and he could see that he almost always looking out for himself first, and others second. If one person were the majority investor they would have more control over what happened with the real estate and any ensuing deals, and my mentor wasn’t interested in having to watch his back and make sure his interests were being protected.
As he put it, “I want to be in a partnership where I’m looking out for my partner more than I’m looking out for myself, and my partner is looking out for me more than he’s looking out for himself.”
I have some experience with takers, so this made sense to me and as I’ve gained more experience I’ve been able to see that almost every business person fits neatly into one of these two categories.
In thinking about those who are takers I am reminded of two excerpts from religious texts.
One was the philosophy of a man who believed that “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength.”
The other was spoken with reference to a group of people who believed in a higher power, yet “they supposed that whatsoever they did was right.”
Have you ever met someone who always assumes they are right, simply by the virtue that what they are thinking is coming from their head? Have you ever met someone who can rationalize almost any action that benefits themselves? This kind of person is a taker.
Although I’m obviously negative about takers, I believe you can take being a “giver” to an unhealthful extreme. Bear in mind, I’m talking about running a business, not your personal charitable contributions (although even then you shouldn’t run faster than you are able). But with regards to running a business or your professional career you can take being a giver too far by working 100-hour weeks, not taking a paycheck, and never thinking about your own welfare nor that of your family. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but I believe many entrepreneurs do more than they really have to, and the end results aren’t necessarily what they wanted or thought they would get.
Takers have a short-term perspective. Their actions might benefit them for a while, but ultimately no one will want to do business with them. The best option, even for the selfish invidividual, is to be a giver, but be wise. That is, be generous, give a lot, but also keep a long-term perspective and don’t give more than you are able to, nor so much that your generosity becomes a detriment to your business and those around you. There’s a balance to be struck here. Not between being a giver and a taker, but between giving some and giving all. I think finding that balance differs from situation to situation and from individual to individual.Liked it? Share it!