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January 21, 2013 The Rainmaker

In Business, It Isn't Always About What You Get


After 46 years, Joe Lueken is getting out of the grocery business in a very big way. In an ultimate act of generosity and thankfulness, Joe is giving his business to his employees.

Village Foods is a family business with two stores in upstate Minnesota and one in North Dakota. The business provided livelihoods for the Lueken family and the families of 400 employees. And Joe is thanking those employees because he knows that without them, the business doesn't exist.

Through an employee stock-ownership program and no down payment, the employees are becoming the collective owners of the company. The Lueken family is expected to be paid back over three to five years.

As Lueken told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "My employees are largely responsible for any success I've had, and they deserve to get some of the benefits of that. You can't always take. You also have to give back."

Be honest. Doesn't Joe's generosity bring a smile to your face?

There is an innate sense of well-being and pride when you can help someone. People like to help. People want to help.

When it comes to your relationships, generosity is the fuel that powers them. When you help someone, you enhance your connection with that person. You enhance and strengthen the relationship.

Generosity comes in many forms. On a simple level, it could be a compliment or a remembrance. It could be a connection to a resource you know. It could be a referral.

You never know when the opportunity to be generous will arise. You just need to frame your thinking to recognize the opportunities and channel your actions to deliver.

To help frame your thinking, consider opportunities to be generous in two contexts:

Business opportunities can be in any area of the company, be it personnel, marketing, sales, finance, operations, etc. If a client expresses a business problem or challenge and you have a solution, offer it. Be generous.

In a business context, rainmakers have a distinct advantage. They have a wide spectrum of relationships that enable them to think well beyond their own products and services in order to deliver solutions. The generous thing for a rainmaker to do is to make connections between challenges and solutions, regardless of who provides the solution.

Personal opportunities may also arise, showing us ways we can help on more intimate level. For example, the day you can help the teenage son or daughter of a friend find a job is a memorable day for them. Generosity enables you to touch a person in a way that's important to them, and is often something they won't forget. Be it business or personal challenges, if you can help, do so.

Don't Expect Payback

And don't keep score; generosity is not something to be measured. If you help someone, you should not expect reciprocation. There are no scores to keep. There are only opportunities to help and deliver value.

Generosity is not unlimited. It's important to keep yourself intact. Don't be generous to the point of sacrificing time and resources you need, and don't repeat generosities where they are not appreciated.

Also, filter your generosity in business. For example, don't be generous with competitors if it helps them compete with you. However, if a competitor's child has a health crisis and you can help, you shouldn't hesitate to do so.

Generosity strengthens the connection between people. Be generous when you can and when appropriate. Your relationships will be better for it.


Ken Cook is founder of Peer to Peer Advisors and developer of The Rainmaker System. Learn more about this relationship-based business development program at

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