Serve people well — and you’ll be served well yourself

Add positively to the lives of those you meet, whether directly through your products or services, or by improving their lives in other ways, and they will feel good about you.

by Bob Burg and John David Mann — 

In the wee hours of a freezing winter morning, a furnace repairman was awakened out of a cozy, restful sleep by a family whose furnace had suddenly stopped working.

A half-hour later he was in the family’s basement with the family huddled around him watching, shivering and feeling miserable. The man studied the heater intently for about two minutes, then took a wrench in hand, positioned it carefully over a spot down low and near the back of the furnace, and tapped twice. Immediately, the basement was flooded with wonderful, warming heat.

“That’ll be a hundred dollars,” said the repairman.

“What!” the man of the house demanded angrily. “A hundred bucks?! Just for tapping twice on the furnace? That’s outrageous!”

“Actually,” replied the repairman, “the tapping was free of charge. The hundred dollars is for the years it took to learn exactly where to tap.”

As a businessperson, you bring your expertise and the expertise embodied in your product or service to the marketplace. As such, you are paid — and deserve to be paid — a fee. You never need to justify a healthy fee, provided that you are giving an equal or greater value than the fee you are receiving.

Years ago, when I was just starting out in sales, a wise old man nearing the end of his career told me: “Burg, if you want to make a lot of money, don’t make money your goal. Make serving a lot of people your goal. If you hit that target enough times, you’ll get your reward. That reward will be money, and you can do whatever you choose with that money. But remember that money is only the reward for hitting your target — it’s not the target itself. Always keep your priorities straight.”

I thought this was extremely cool advice then, and experience has only proven it to be cooler over time.

In his 1910 classic, The Science of Getting Rich, Wallace D. Wattles writes: “Give every person more in use value than the cash value you take from them. This way, you’re adding to the life of the world with every business transaction.”

If someone pays you $50 for the product or service, but they get hundreds or even thousands of dollars of value from it, you’ve served them very well, while also benefiting yourself.

I bought my copy of The Science of Getting Rich many years ago, for $12.95. Having now read it more than 25 times, I have implemented many of the principles that Wattles shared, and in the process, I’ve earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. The publisher made a profit by selling me the book; I have prospered from it many times over.

Wattles also writes: “No matter what your profession, if you can give ‘increase of life’ to others and make them [aware] of that gift, they will be attracted to you.” The result? Not only do you enrich their lives, but they enrich yours as well.

Add positively to the lives of those you meet, whether directly through your products or services, or by improving their lives in other ways, and they will feel good about you. They will want to be a part of your life, a part of your network. You’ll plant so many seeds of goodwill that abundance will come back to you many times over, through referrals and other connections that will enter your life.

So many people seem almost ashamed of the money they make. This attitude is bound to hold a person back, and when that happens, not only do they hurt themselves, they also hurt the people they might have otherwise served, had their own shame not held them back.

Money is simply a concept, a means of exchanging value. You have a right to make money and take pleasure in the money you are making, when you provide a product or service that enhances the life of another.

Many of us live with the assumption that there is a fundamental contradiction between self-interest and altruism, between helping ourselves and helping others. You may be acting for others’ benefit or for your own — but not both at once. Letting go of that sense of conflict is an important step on the path to accomplishing great things in the world — because it is only by embracing the fact that good deeds enrich the doer that you will be able to create the kind of success you seek.

Of course, money in and of itself won’t make you happy. I love what prosperity expert Bob Proctor says: “I’m always amused when people say, ‘But money will not make you happy.’ Of course it won’t. It was never intended to do that. It was only meant to give you choices.”

In a free-enterprise-based economy, the amount of money you make is directly proportional to the number of people you serve. So if you want to make a lot of money, find more people to serve — and serve them well.


Bob Burg is an author and speaker who seeks to empower others to thrive by working within their principles. John David Mann has been writing about business, leadership and the laws of success for 20 years. They are the authors of The Go-Giver., and

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 4, August/September 2008.

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