Late last year I started sharing some of my “ten lessons from ten years in business” here on the blog the past couple weeks.  So far it’s included Putting Values FirstPutting Yourself FirstTwo Types of FocusPower of Thank You, Strategy is Choosing and Plans aren’t as important as Adjustments.

Today I want to talk about the importance of giving freely without keeping score.

For ten years we’ve declined referral agreements from partners, vendors and other tech providers. We work with dozens of companies across the B2B landscape but rarely sign up for formal partner programs and never take a referral fee.

I justify this for a couple reasons. One, we’re a services company. Our revenue should come from our service work, not whatever product recommendations we make.

And two, I believe in giving freely. Our participation in a partner program, or not, doesn’t change now often I’ll talk about a company I believe in, nor will it necessarily change how many leads I send over to them.

I just don’t believe in keeping score or worrying about who’s “even” in those situations.

This applies to partner relationships as well as individual relationships but it’s less about keeping score and more about giving freely.

Some may justify it based on karma, but in our values we believe it’s just the right thing to do. It’s part of building our reputation and brand.

Before you scoff, of course there’s a limit to this. It becomes clear when someone is taking advantage of your generosity. And you have to know your objectives and stay focused on the big projects that will help you exceed your number at the end of the month/quarter/year.

That said, responding to a random inbound email or LinkedIn note from someone I don’t know (yet) is worth my time. Finding content for someone who asks for help on Twitter is worth my time.

Getting on the phone with a partner’s customer to share insights or ideas without worrying about getting paid for every single minute is worth my time.

If I had to cost-justify every one of those instances on their own I would have a hard time doing it. But I truly believe that, together, that body of work and investment has helped us build the business, reputation, pipeline and opportunity we have today.