Do Givers Gain?

The Go-Giver Book by Bob Burg and John David Mann

The Go-Giver Book by Bob Burg and John David MannA couple of years ago, I read an awesome book co-written by two authors, Bob Burg and John David Mann. It was entitled Go-Giver, The: A Suprising Way of Getting More Than You Expect   and was an unusual book in that it is published primarily for a business audience, yet it is written in a fictional story – almost parable style.

If you’ve not read the book, then I highly encourage you to do so – it’s an easy read and inspirational too.

The Go-Giver Philosophies

I won’t spoil the story for you, but there were five key values that you can come away with:-

  • Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  • Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  • Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  • The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  • The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

This book really struck a chord for me. For many years I’d believed in striving to deliver great service not only to clients, but to anyone I came into contact with – hoping to leave a great positive impression upon them that they’d remember me by – remarkable, you might say.

Be The Connector

Additionally, I’d always looked to be a connector – introducing people to one another, even when (or especially when!) it would be unlikely I’d do business with either of those people directly.

Plus, of course, I’m a believer in the power of social media – writing blog articles, using Twitter and LinkedIn – providing information that I hope will be of value to others. Or as one person, another IT provider locally to us who didn’t “get it” told me – “Giving away all your trade secrets!” :-).

Reading “The Go-Giver” book validated to me that thankfully I wasn’t crazy, that living your life in this way does have a genuine purpose that can be understood – and that is, whilst you don’t undertake these activities looking for a direct return, that in the grand scheme of things human beings naturally look to help others who help them.

Don’t keep count

It’s not as obvious as simply “returning a favour”. For instance, I know I’ve made many more connections and referrals for people than I’ve ever received back directly (or even been thanked-for), and I’ve written many more LinkedIn Recommendations than I’ve ever had given to me, but that I’ve been fortunate enough to be provided with some amazing and often huge opportunities over the past few years, many times from people I’ve never helped out directly or that I don’t know well, but who have read my blog for a long time, or have connected with me thanks to an introduction from someone else.

In a nutshell, I love the fact that a system based on human good nature really does work!


Of course, this isn’t for everyone – for me, it’s the lifestyle that I find a most naturally comfortable and rewarding fit for me – but for many other individuals I’ve heard the question “What is the Return on Investment (ROI)” of all this?

The best examples of answers to this difficult question can be given by my friend Jeremy Epstein over at his blog “Never Stop Marketing” – where he talks about Community Driven Marketing and how in the modern world it trumps “old school” marketing – and my favourite analogy, that of “Santa Math” from Seth Godin – (go and read it, I’ll wait here).

BNI says Givers Gain

That said – I have recently become involved in BNI – a breakfast business networking group – which works on the motto “Givers Gain”. Admittedly it’s a bit more of an artificial environment for creating relationships and passing referrals, but the theory is still somewhat similar – that if you spend time looking to provide great value for other people, that value will find you too – albeit in this case, through business referrals from other members of your group.

I’ve heard truly polar opposite opinions on BNI, for some people it works incredibly well, and they receive lots of referrals, but for other people, they simply don’t “get it” and therefore don’t get involved.

For my own part, the BNI groups here in Birmingham that I’ve been a part of have struggled to grow, as we couldn’t find enough people who “get it”. The reasons for not getting involved I’ve heard from people range from “It’s all American clap-trap” (great to see that the US-UK “Special Relationship” is as strong as ever!) and “It feels forced”.

Smaller is better?

I know that a smaller group of focussed “Go-Givers” can work – BNI has many successful established groups that I’ve visited and the IT peer-group HTG is essentially a group of “Go-Givers” in the form of IT providers helping one another out on a very close level. I think the answer may be closer to the fact that people who think predominantly in a “Go-Giver” way perhaps aren’t in the majority amongst us on a day-to-day basis, and so it can be difficult to organise groups of such individuals on a local level.

Social Media

And that’s why I love the Internet and Social Media. The world is a huge place, and people of a like-mind tend to seek out one another, so the ‘net makes it much easier to connect with people who share the same values as you. Even your chances of finding like-minded individuals locally increase, as thanks to the exposure of the Internet, the chances of finding somebody who both shares your values *and* lives locally to you are increased.


I’ll continue to try to be a “Go-Giver” and after reading Go-Giver, The: A Suprising Way of Getting More Than You Expect  will continue to recommend the Go-Giver way, as it’s just what I feel comfortable doing, but I’d be fascinated to hear people’s opinions on why local groups such as BNI often don’t work. Is it because it’s difficult to find like-minded people locally, that Brits don’t like “American” concepts, or something else?

Do leave a comment below, drop me an e-mail, or reach out to me via Twitter!


  • Richard Tubb2020-08-13 09:51:13

    Wonderful advice, Anas. Thanks for sharing those quotes!

  • Anas Khan2020-08-12 21:22:02

    "Enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn." "Most of us don't listen with the intent to understand-- we listen with the intent to reply." "Be interested in other people." "Be prepared to be amazed."

  • Chris2010-06-02 18:05:10

    Rich.. Once again a fantastic blog. Personally I think BNI is a great organization and works really well, but this does depend on the dynamics and make-up of the group. I have been involved in 2 different BNI groups over the last few years and the first one, I gave and received loads of referrals (In fact 2 of my biggest cllients are as a result of BNI). The more recent group I was in, was not so successful for me. I think this was down to the dynamics of the group i.e most people had the "WIFM- Whats in it for me" mentality and the attitudes were mainly about how can I make the best from my investment and get as much work as I can. I have subsequently left the group and joined something similar in the area (an independant breakaway). The people in that group have a much more Go Giver mentality and are always more willing to give and receive.

  • Steve2010-06-02 15:20:53

    It's the rule of a half of a half of a half... 800 letters sent out, 400 people say they'll come at the first follow up, 200 at the second follow up, 100 will actually show up, 50 will fill in an application form and 25 will put their money where their mouth is! Half of those won't get passed the leadership team's vetting process due to overlap of professions or just not suitable. In reality the drop out will be higher than this so if you get 10 new members from 800 letters your doing well.

  • Dave2010-06-02 15:06:54

    "It's all American clap-trap" and the derivatives are objections I have long heard from UK partners when talking about HTG, and with the existence and success of the HTG group in the UK, I think we can put that argument to bed. At the risk of being too bold, that's just being closed minded.Evolve participates in BNI in the states, and John Flaherty has been looking at this as a long term investment as well. The BNI group we're a member of has a very rigorous screening process, and their aggressive process helps ensure the right givers are involved. This is critical to success, in my mind. It's not for everyone, but it is for some.

  • Richard2010-06-02 14:46:27

    Steve - thanks for providing a great insight into how a successful BNI chapter works.Interesting to note the numbers you mentioned to attract new members were in the 40 letters each range. That's definitely a lot of work to attract new members, and re-inforces the phrase that it's clearly "not for everyone".Really appreciate the comments - this is an eye-opener for any BNI chapter trying to get off the ground!

  • Steve2010-06-02 14:40:41

    We love BNI! As you know I'm a great fan and we get 60-70% of our business from it. We are in fact in 3 different chapters now so invest around £3,000 per year in it including breakfasts. We know it's likely to take 12 months before we see a return on investment for each chapter we join. The reason for that is 2 fold:1. It takes time for people to understand what you do and feel comfortable referring you2. You have to practise “givers gain” before anyone is likely to work hard at getting you referralsNow I’m not saying ALL BNI chapters are equal. Our experience is that all chapters go through highs and lows of member numbers, referrals, visitors etc. This is a natural process particularly for chapters that tend to recruit new members through visitor days as renewals often fall due at the same time and therefore you have several members at the same time who will be analysing the previous 12 months and deciding whether to sign up again.The trick in my opinion is to stick with it for 24 months, if it isn’t working for you by then (and you may well have been given the opportunity to run the chapter yourself during that period) then move on to another chapter and try there.The most successful chapters are the ones that concentrate on building their power circles. These are groups of businesses that have a synergy – selling different services to the same kind of customers – the wedding mafia power circle is a good illustration of this that might include a photographer, event organiser, videographer, cake maker, travel agent etc. In terms of our profession it may be IT consultant, web designer, software company, telecoms etc. 67% of your BNI referrals come from your own power circle, so it makes sense to ensure yours is active by inviting visitors that fit that profile.I can’t speak for the other B’ham based groups but what I do know is the chapter I’m in have just completed a power team drive challenge and attracted 7 new members and won a £1,000 prize from BNI we intend to use to attract even more new members. I believe I’m correct in saying we are the only chapter who have achieved this in the B’ham region. This takes time, effort and co-ordination and has to be driven forward in a very direct fashion to get results. To attract 7 new members we had to send out 800 letters – 40 letters each, follow up calls and then organise the event itself. No mean feat but it’s what it takes to get the chapter working for you.I think some BNI chapters have members who have been there for ever and their jaded negativity can have a detrimental effect on new members. You need a strong leadership team to kick them out, get in some new and enthusiastic members and get things moving again. We’ve gone through a similar thing ourselves recently and although the member numbers took a hit initially we now have some excellent new members who are really helping to revitalise things and our referral rate has shot up.The other thing to remember is in our line of business you only really need one good referral a year out of BNI to make it worth your while. If you get one network install of an SBS server and a few workstations that might be worth £5,000- £7,000 turnover and a profit of £2,000+. You’ve just doubled your money! I’d call that a pretty good return on investment.Steve Wright

  • Richard2010-06-02 14:20:51

    Rob - thanks for the comments and glad you enjoyed the book - I secretly knew you would! :-)Love your comment about BNI being a long-term investment. Absolutely agree. Exactly the same as investing in social media.It might be argued that as we are so impatient as a society now, few people are prepared to invest in *anything* long-term in this way?Thanks for the feedback. I'll make sure I'm in Nottingham to take up your offer and visit your BNI Chapter sometime soon.

  • Rob2010-06-02 14:06:21

    I have recently read 'The Go-Giver', thanks to you for sending it me. I have to say that I was captivated by it, to say it had me on the edge of my seat would be an understatement!! As an existing BNI member for over 2 years now I get the whole 'Givers Gain' thing and I believe in it. I am also *lucky* enough to have been on the receiving end of you help, advice etc. In turn I am giving this back by helping others who are in the IT arena as well as other trades.The whole concept of giving, as the book explains, is quite a complex concept. As a child we are taught 'Its better to give than receive' but by the same token you have to be open to receive things back when they are offered to you. That is not to say that you expect it but I like to believe that we are all decent human beings that are not out there just looking after Numero Uno.I have recommended this book to fellow BNI members and when asked what it was about, I said "it's givers gain but stepped up a gear", maybe a controversial statement but it is how I see it. As for BNI, it works for me but I get more out of the chapter than referrals in term of support, advice etc. BNI is a long term investment and it really starts to pay off after the 1-2 yrs as a member, that I can see now but its hard for a lot of new people to see. If BNI is something that anyone is considering make sure that you realise that it is *not* a 'get rich quick' scheme, it takes a considerable investment in time to the other members building trust and rapport. When this is done then you will see it start to work.Richard, if you ever fancy visiting our chapter up in Nottingham then we meet on a Wednesday morning and there is a Travelodge right next're always welcome my friend.- Rob

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