Definition of kindness
1: the quality or state of being kind treating people with kindness and respect
3archaic : AFFECTION
Definition of kind (Entry 2 of 2)
1a: of a sympathetic or helpful nature was helped by a kind neighbor They were very kind to us.
b: of a forbearing nature : GENTLE kind treatment of animals
c: arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance a kind act a kind smile
Seems like we all know what kind and kindness mean, but practical application seems to have different meanings for all of us. So, what does that have to do with kindness in business?
I would say everything! How we treat our customers and suppliers is a reflection of who we are. We all know the golden rule, Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
What we don’t discuss or even think about is how differently that verse can be interpreted. My wife and I were out for supper and eating on a patio. A panhandler came up and asked for money. We didn’t have cash to give so we gave him our “to-go” box. For her that was following the golden rule. For me that wasn’t the right time to implement the golden rule. Each of us believes in the golden rule, but when we choose to enact it may vary. My wife often follows the golden rule out of emotion and promptly to help someone in need, and I feel enacting the golden rule may take more careful thought and timing.
Does that mean I don’t care and she does? No, I think it means we see things from a different point of view and different sense of timing.
Kindness is something nearly every American wants to do and we all try to do it in a meaningful way. I have met very few Americans who I could say were not kind to others. It is in our national character. We are a kind and giving nation. Our businesses give and support so many worthwhile causes. It is just who we are.
As you run your business or if you are not an owner ask one, you will find that every day or week you will be asked to give to every charity around. Nearly all of them are worthwhile. All of them are seeking your time, efforts, or money.
As an owner, you have to limit what you can give, what/when you can support. Some owners feel guilty for telling someone no. Please, do not fall into this trap. As an owner, you have a responsibility to your family, your employees, your customers, and of course paying your taxes. Anything else is a special act of kindness. You can make a decision early on what you will support based on careful thought and priorities and with how much.
The greatest kindness you will do will be to offer someone employment at your business. Offering them a chance to earn a living is indeed a great kindness. A lot of people don’t see it that way, but I certainly do. I know that there were several times that my Grandpa and Dad were the least paid people in their family owned business. People don’t need to know that but you will.
So, to wrap it up. Be kind to the best of your ability. Choose who to give to and support and when to give. Don’t feel guilty for saying no. Give in alignment with your business goals. Let your customers know how much you appreciate their kindness for choosing you over your competitors and how you value that. Let your employees know how much you appreciate their work. Let your suppliers know how much you appreciate their partnership. Meet your own expectations and don’t worry about someone else’s expectation of you and/or your business.
Do your best to follow the golden rule on a daily basis and you will be fine. Start by doing one kind thing a day for someone and then increase it until it becomes a habit. Habitual kindness will do good for your soul and health.
Wishing you the greatest success.
By Todd Rausch
America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Iowa provides free, confidential, customized, professional business advice and consulting in all 99 Iowa counties to entrepreneurs.