Reciprocity: it’s real, it works.

ID-10058192As a business owner, I have a constant internal debate: Profitability or service? Help people or concentrate on the bottom line? I’m certain that I’m not alone in that debate. As someone who really enjoys helping people, yet has a good business sense and the need and desire to run a successful business, it often feels like these two concepts can’t co-exist. They can.

I started North Forty Road because I love great design and its ability to teach and present information in cool ways. Eventually, I came to see my work as serving the world and helping other businesses better themselves, which I enjoy even more than the design itself. It is a service, and it is based on trust, and providing that service allows me to learn new and different things with my clients. I find that “learning together” very exciting to this day.

Recently, I got bogged down with financial goals for my firm. Last year, we set new goals that were a real stretch, and worked hard, and reached them. So, I set even higher goals for 2013, and kept those numbers at the forefront of my thinking for the last several months. Bad idea. Didn’t work! The phone stopped ringing, new clients were looking for projects that weren’t a good match, current clients stopped being responsive.

It took awhile, but I eventually realized that the problem was me, or rather my mindset. Once I shifted my focus back on helping people, everything shifted back into high gear: calls started coming in, and the money began flowing again. And the best part? I love helping! That’s not news, really – I always have. But, making the helping secondary to the financial goals is not only more fun and more meaningful, it also comes back in financial success.

So, yes: set goals, pay attention to your numbers. But, no: don’t make the numbers your priority. Love your work, love your clients, give, and help – the reward is great on so many levels!

(Photo courtesy Renjith Krishnan,

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