In business, positive cash flow is the basic concept of having a flow of money (income) that is higher than the outflow (expenses). Positive cash flow is, of course, necessary for a profitable and successful business.
In everyday living, though, the way we conduct “business” in terms of relationships, both personal and professional, is less black-and-white than positive cash flow. Say you have experience in marketing and a friend asks you for help with advertising an idea. Would you make time to help them? Or do you save all your expertise for paying clients?
There is another type of flow we should pay attention to as we find success—a reversed flow that comes from appreciating what is valuable in life. I call this “positive character flow,” and it is characterized by giving more than we take.
Successful entrepreneurs are guided in their decision-making by positive cash flow as well as positive character flow. The value an entrepreneur sees in others and others’ assets often strengthens cash flow and character flow.
Here are five gifts you can give, and appreciate in others, in order to promote both positive cash flow and positive character flow.
1. GIVING TIME
In business, a company’s assets reflect its cumulative financial holdings, including cash, inventory, land, etc. One of an entrepreneur’s assets is time. By appreciating others’ time—and sharing their own—entrepreneurs can recognize and develop significant character. For example, say a volunteer position requires a two-hundred-hour time commitment. The investment is valuable because it reveals one’s interests and willingness to give of their time. In return, the commitment itself develops the volunteer’s character, i.e., positive character flow.
2. SHARING CONNECTIONS
Connections often help us succeed in business and in life. Valuing connections is extremely important to junior entrepreneurs seeking to build a business. A great example is the show Shark Tank, in which the top prize is connection to a billionaire who has other strategic connections. When a successful entrepreneur gives from another of their assets, namely professional connections, character flow is built.
Sharing connections, whether with colleagues, family, or friends, can help shape meaningful relationships. At times, financial rewards are gained by giving or sharing one’s connections, like for the Sharks.
3. OFFERING EXPERTISE
Expertise is an asset developed both in business and in life (as wisdom). With success comes an opportunity to pay it forward, which certainly builds character flow. A published author, for example, might help a novice understand the process of publishing a book. Or perhaps an experienced family member helps you negotiate the terms of a professional contract. It’s critical to value others’ expertise to overcome bottlenecks along a business path.
4. A WILLINGNESS TO HELP
If you’re in search of a job, you’re likely looking for a desired monetary benefit and/or experience. You sell your education, job history, and skills on your résumé. Your competency is on display, but recruiters are looking for how hard you’re willing to work. They want to see your willingness to help with things big and small. A person who is willing to help understands the intangible satisfaction of giving back to others, which makes them a believer in positive character flow.
5. MAKING OTHERS FEEL GOOD
The biggest pillar, perhaps, in attaining positive character flow in life is rooted in how we make others feel. If we do not show we care, others may feel neglected and ignored, despite our intentions. As a volunteer crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, I understand the importance of allowing others to feel heard and valued. Such help lines exist to allow those in need to feel heard.
Helping others to feel supported, cared for, valued, and appreciated is tremendously vital to a life worth living. Positive character flow is achieved regularly through this last gift. The way we make others feel reflects our appreciation of humanity, decency and goodness. If you are a new or successful entrepreneur, giving back to others—whether personally or professionally—is particularly meaningful. Why? Relationships are strengthened when others are remembered, acknowledged, and valued. As psychologist and philosopher William James once said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
At the end of the day, both positive character flow and positive cash flow are ingredients to feeling content and satisfied. Learning to appreciate the five gifts above can help bring tangible and intangible rewards, and ultimately success in both business and in life.
(Entrepreneur Magazine, December 2020)