• Susanne Birgersdotter

Reciprocity is an efficient, sensible, and noble way of socializing within your business network. It is not something that is taught in business schools or discussed in business books. It is something that might be imparted to you by a mentor, learned through experience, or developed by instinct. This ambiguous business concept is a very delicate yet strong aspect of the business world.

Not many entrepreneurs are aware of the reciprocity concept of doing business. I wasn’t aware of it myself when I was just starting off. To me, business was a clear-cut process of exchanging assets, goods, or services. Quid pro quo – give and take, this for that, a favor for a favor. I was oblivious of the unofficial and often unspoken exchanges of favors and deals.

What we don’t know is the whole gamut of undercurrents of doing business. Not everything is on the table or spoken of openly. Sometimes, deals are done with mutual understanding among friends, associates, or even competitors. In a world where agreements are put into writing, a favor is just as sacred, sealed with an exchanged promise, a handshake, or a nod of the head.

Favors are commonplace in the business world. Everyone is doing or asking for a favor. It’s a healthy means of cementing personal relationships in the industry. It is also a great way of getting the help you need from the right people. It is sharing and giving value to the intrinsic assets that you have – connections, knowledge, expertise.

You have to understand that going into business means joining a community. And if you are to succeed, you have to stay in that community. Thus, it is important to forge relationships and establish good standing within that circle. Favors – giving or taking, are how businessmen and businesswomen develop friendships and do equally beneficial deals.

The Business Code of Favors

While I highly encouraged everyone to participate in the barter of favors, I must also remind you of your responsibilities in doing so. A favor is freely and gladly given. The giver might even tell you not to worry about it, to forget about it. It could be true, and it could be just lip service. One thing is sure, once a favor is taken, a favor is expected to be returned.

The giver of the favor might sincerely mean to give it for nothing in return. But, as the recipient, you are indebted to that person. Do not forget any favors taken. It is honorable and ethical to offer something in return. If the giver graciously declined, always be on the lookout for a chance to pay back the favor.

Sometimes, givers will come asking for payback. They could be in dire situations and the only option for them is to call in some favors. This is totally acceptable. The recipients are duty-bound to return the favor. However, it is highly unethical to expect a payback that might be too steep for the recipient to give. Remember, it is still a favor, just in an inverse direction.

Give when you can, do not expect a return, but do not hesitate to ask for one.

A small act of kindness can mean the world to someone. This is also true in the business world. Everyone, especially those who are just starting, will appreciate a little boost and show of support. A favor can be anything from a business recommendation, a direction to the right path, a creative suggestion, or a purchase. It could be a quick share of their products or services in social media, a great review on their website, or an extended due date.

Every favor has value – to you and the giver. It is impossible to assign a monetary value to it for it will differ from one person to another. It might cost nothing to the giver but could mean the survival of your company. Values also change over time. While the giver tells you not to worry about it, he or she could be asking for a big one in the future.

So, while it is perfectly fine to ask for favors, be mindful of your obligations to return it.

When you’re operating a business, you are also engaging a community that will have a direct effect on your company. The suppliers, the middlemen, the contractors, the advertisers, the creditors, the delivery people – all have an impact on your daily business operations. Doing favors whenever you can, could mean doors to more opportunities, faster deliveries, approved loans, preferable rates, and friendships.

If you haven’t asked for a favor from anyone in your community yet, you will, sooner or later. And when the time comes that you need to, it won’t hurt if you have a few favors to call in.