Good Guys Finish First: 3 Ways to Be Virtuous in Business and Life

November 20, 2014

I recently was struck by an article in The Harvard Business Review by Emma Seppala titled “The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss”. The article took aim at answering a polarizing question in the business world: As a leader, is it better to show positive affect towards your employees or should you be “tough” and demand their respect? According to Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy, her studies have shown that “that leaders who project warmth – even before establishing their competence – are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill”. 

I was inspired by Emma and Amy’s words because I couldn’t agree more. It’s a strategy that I strive to maintain everyday here at SquarePlanet. And so, I thought I’d offer up a few of my own strategies for how to simply be good both in and out of the office.

be-generousImagine you’re moving to a new home and a friend offers to help. Would it mean more to you if they offered their afternoon to help you climb stairs and move boxes or to pay for a half tank of gas for your rental truck? While still helpful, being handed a $20 bill doesn’t have the same feel to it as an honest time commitment, does it? Being generous doesn’t always mean offering your money. In many ways, time is what we value most. It’s the thing we always want more of, despite it being constant and never changing. To give someone your time and undivided attention can often hold much more value in the long term than cash ever can.

Guard-Llama-App-PreviewBe generous with your time. Be generous with your knowledge, and with your expertise. Whether it’s with a client, a friend, or even a stranger on the street, if you have something to offer someone, offer it. Sometimes it’s as simple as offering a beverage to someone stopping by your workplace. Anyone with SquarePlanet’s office on their regular delivery route knows that all they have to do is say “yes” for a hot cup of coffee on a cold Chicago day.

I recently had an experience where I felt being generous with my time was a no-brainer. I was contacted by a gentleman named Joe Parisi, the young CEO of a growing mobile tech company called Guard Llama. Guard Llama is a mobile emergency communication system that allows potential victims of sexual assault to instantly contact authorities for help at the push of a button without dialing 911. It is technology whose sole purpose is to prevent heinous crimes that so desperately need preventing. So, when Joe asked me if he could run a pitch by me that he was preparing for an upcoming conference, I jumped at the chance to lend my time, free of charge, to help Joe keep his mission moving forward.

I met with Joe, offered my insight and advice, and he was on his way. Now, for the cynical readers out there, could a favor like this help lead to business from either Guard Llama or others referred our way by Joe? Sure, however my point is that sometimes it’s important to make investments with your time that pay dividends to mankind, rather than to your bottom line.

Help those around you. Do so not because they’re going to turn around and write you a check, but because it’s the right thing to do. More often than not, in life and in business, what goes around comes around. If you spend your days building a fortress to protect your time and goodwill you’ll end up like Ebenezer Scrooge, bah-humbugging the world wondering where all your friends went. In the great bank of life, you have to make a deposit before you can take out a withdrawal. Those who share, give, and invite others into their workspaces and their homes, are much more likely to be on the receiving end of the same type of good nature.


‘Duh, right? I’m not claiming to have groundbreaking advice in telling you that your career is important. It most definitely is, but that’s not the point. The point is that work – both the process and the final product, really matter. Too often, people let deadlines trump the integrity of a project. Shortcuts and half-assed projects are akin to asking a woman if she’s pregnant – it’s truly never okay. If your name is attached to it, that should be more than enough reason to take incredible pride in your work.

IGA LogoAt SquarePlanet, some of our large scale event work is a perfect example of how we hold this philosophy close to our orange hearts. Our work developing the annual meeting for the Independent Grocers Alliance, or IGA, has become one of the most consistent and involved projects we take on every year. A client of mine for over 20 years, IGA has placed incredible trust and faith in us that we will consistently deliver our best work year in and year out. Each year we out do ourselves.  We hold ourselves to a tremendously high standard not because we know revenue is there, but because we’ve committed to a project and will do everything we can to make it an incredible one. It becomes much more about the quality of the work rather than the quantity of the profit. We don’t let anything leave our walls without the SquarePlanet Stamp of Awesomeness. In fact, we wouldn’t dream of it.

Those of us in creative industries have an incredible opportunity everyday. The final result of our work helps to shape perception and inspire minds. It helps people tell their story and take steps towards making a real impact in the world. Take it seriously!


Even with a strong final product, nothing taints a business relationship more than feeling like you’re pulling teeth to make progress and get things done. Be easy to get along with. Get people the answers they need when they need them, not when it’s convenient. Be transparent in your processes, costs, and deadlines. Have nothing to hide and be accountable for the promises you make.

All that is to say, just don’t be a jerk. Whether it’s with clients, colleagues, your mom or the mailman, be kind to those around you. In business and in life, I’ve found that those that rule with an iron fist will end up hitting themselves square in the face. Be flexible and understanding with people’s time. Be open and encouraging to insight into how you can improve your own decision making.

At SquarePlanet, we’ve recently implemented a Friday afternoon tradition with which we review our own personal “Highs and Lows” of the week to one another. Not only does this cause everyone to reflect on the good and poor aspects of their recent performance, but it naturally creates a very inviting platform to discuss issues within day-to-day operations that might otherwise go unaddressed.

Additionally, check your ego at the door and don’t try to represent yourself as someone you’re not. People have a natural ability to smell out a phony, so be authentic. Also shower, because people can smell you then too.

It’s the little things that make all the difference. Sometimes it can be the smallest of gestures or attitudes that simply say, “I’m human. You’re human. Let’s be civil, courteous, and hygienically sound humans together.”

Listen to our Podcast to learn more about Love and Being Kind: Maximizing Opportunity with Love

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