July 18, 2010 | by Doug Stephens

Generosity: noun~ Willingness to give or share; unselfishness

All successful relationships are underpinned by generosity.

The willingness to give or share without expectation of repayment is central to healthy, human interaction.  It doesn’t matter what you give.  It can be your time, your praise or simply your attention but without generosity, relationships tend to vanish in a cloud of selfishness and resentment.

This is equally, if not more true with business relationships.  Long-term success in retail comes down to fundamental beliefs with respect to the whole concept of generosity.  Specifically, you either believe that generosity is almost always rewarded or almost alwaysabused.

You can easily spot businesses that believe the latter.  They’re the ones that have you deposit a quarter to use their shopping cart.  The ones that refuse refunds without a receipt. Those who link any charity work they do to a sales goal or promotion.  They cut the holiday employee turkey to save a few dollars. And you probably can’t use their restrooms either.  All because their belief system suggests that generosity is something that is abused and taken advantage of.  As the English poet Alexander Pope wrote “…all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.”

Rare businesses, however, take the contrary view.  These businesses believe that the simple act of giving – whether to customers, employees or the communities they operate in is simply the right thing to do –it’s just good karma.  They provide their employees with great places to work, their patrons with great places to shop and their communities with businesses that give back.  They regard customers as people – not mere transactions.  Employees are part of the team – not simply headcount.   They give based on the belief that people are basically good and that their generosity will indeed be repaid – if not today then tomorrow and if not tomorrow then someday.

The unfortunate thing is that generosity is no guarantee of success.  Indeed, some of the most successful businesses in the world are also the greediest.    The consolation, however,  is that only those businesses who give generously will leave a positive impression on the world.  And perhaps that’s the truest definition of success.

Topics: Assisted Selling , Consumer Behavior , CRM , Marketing , Retail - General , ROI , Shopper Marketing

Doug Stephens / Retail futurist, Doug Stephens is an in-demand speaker for private and public sector audiences across North America on the mega-trends shaping a new era of retailing and consumerism. His thinking has influenced many of North America's best-known brands. Doug is a regular guest expert on the CTV television series App Central TV and media contact on trends in the retail landscape.
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