Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Do as you would be done by"

One of my favourite childhood books was Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies which had a couple of memorably puzzling characters including Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid. I thought of them again as my own daughter is reading the book, and as I met a couple of business associates today:

  • In a local network of small businesses, redRockIT is typical in forming alliances and strengthening the company's offering by sub-contracting work and referring others. Mark Scarborough, the proprietor, explained to me how he'd brought in another company to recover a client's computer after a hard disk failure when the problem extended beyond his own company's capacity, for example. And how he's able to extend his geographical reach through alliances with other similar businesses who act under the same brand.

    It reminded me of a business model I used to be involved in where a dozen separately owned and managed businesses around the UK agreed to operate under the same branding and naming conventions, each with complementary specialities so that we could morph to meet client needs or scale to bring in additional staff to meet requirements.
  • At #LaptopFriday recently I mentioned that I'm looking for additional office space and quickly those present got to work, making suggestions of venues to consider and making personal recommendations.
  • Yesterday I was looking for a WiFi-equipped venue that offers food and seclusion within easy reach of certain junctions on the M4 motorway ... Within minutes of my appeal on Twitter I'd got some public and direct message responses with a list of places to consider.
  • In terms of my office space, there's a local business with excess capacity. They've got empty space sitting doing nothing but generate cost. I've been able to make an approach and suggest an arrangement that benefits both operations and spreads risk.
All of these are examples of what Wikipedia calls the ethic of reciprocity in action. The attitudes are those of a typical 'catalyst' (in the terms of The Starfish and the Spider) - someone who has the fundamental stance of 'How can I help you?' 

My experience is that those with this attitude experience success in life as well as in business, though not always when measured on the typical scale. But then most of us realise that 'whoever dies with the most toys' does not in fact win, even if day to day we forget that in our pursuit of materialism!
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