Is kindness a business currency? I would have found this idea strange if someone asked me this question a few years ago. After all, my idea of business then was that it was a game of survival — that it was vicious and full of sharks ready to eat you alive the moment they got the chance. It was a dog-eat-dog kind of world. You wouldn’t be working hard, providing highly skilled services and innovating a product if you didn’t stand to gain anything out of it, would you?

My view of business and how it’s supposed to be conducted change because of an unfortunate event that would change my life in ways I had never imagined.

The Accident

I had spent years heavily investing in my career as a speaker. I spent a lot of time and money networking and training to update and redesign my websites, presentations and promotional materials. My drive and passion to become the best at what I did was such that I invested in one-on-one coaching, which I consider one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

My work, focus and sacrifice were all paying off. I was enjoying the fruits of my labor, because my schedule was jammed with speaking engagements. New clients continued to come in as my profile and reach expanded, leading to more speaking engagements. One such event was a three-day business conference on an island off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia.

I was exhausted when I got there, perhaps because I was presenting all day. The nasty Canadian storm and the icy chill didn’t make things easier. As I greeted the driver of the town car and moved with my luggage toward the trunk, my feet suddenly flew out from under me, and everything went black.

I was in the hospital when I regained consciousness the next day. My brain was still foggy, and both my ankles were fractured in multiple places. I was immobilized, bedridden and unable to do things on my own.

Just like my ankles, all my plans were shattered. My income was sucked dry, and my flourishing reputation vanished. I became frustrated and depressed, and I felt like I had to put everything on hold until I could regain my focus. I just didn’t feel like I was in condition to continue, and since my business was running out of fuel, I couldn’t afford coaching anymore. I decided to tell my coach that we would have to stop our sessions.

The Turning Point

To my surprise, he wouldn’t have any of it. He told me that our sessions will continue and that I didn’t have to worry about the payments until I was back on my feet — literally and figuratively. Not only did he help me with his always-reliable business coaching, but he also helped me through my depression. He helped me maximize my downtime, minimize the losses and pick up the pieces.

His support was a total game-changer. His kindness taught me how to be kind, and his generosity lit a fire inside of me that pushed me to kick kindness into high gear. After I made it back on my feet, I prioritized being extra kind whenever possible. I was more patient, more compassionate and more understanding, and I became a better communicator.

My coach’s willingness to help without compensation became my inspiration. His example was the kind of business model I wanted to follow. I wanted people to feel about me what I felt about my coach, whom I considered admirable, trustworthy and well-rounded.

My coach’s graciousness planted seeds that blossomed into business success. It led to what I now call the profit of kindness, or no-strings-attached business transactions based in and focused on kindness.

The Return on Kindness

While kindness is considered more of a soft skill in business, I consider it a currency. It’s about treating others, including competitors, with dignity and respect — exactly as you would like them to treat you. More importantly, it’s about giving and expecting nothing in return and gaining substantially because of it.

How? Consider my coach as an example. He practically helped me for free, and in return, I gave him credit every chance I had. I recommended his services and sold copies of his books wherever I went. I’d like to think that the kindness currency he paid me during my most trying times paid off for him through referrals and book sales.

This model is the one I now implement in my business. I believe that by being compassionate and genuinely kind to my clients, customers and competitors, I will eventually see a return on that kindness (ROK), much like how a return on investment (ROI).

There are seven ROK pathways: compassion, flexibility, patience, positivity, generosity, gratitude and connection. These pathways are significant because they have a huge impact on profit, revenue, customers, connectivity and prospects, exactly what every business needs to succeed.

Kindness is essential both in business and our personal lives. More than profit and revenue, kindness helps us build meaningful relationships that, whether we expect them to or not, will benefit us in the long run.

Being kind and compassionate to people isn’t difficult, either. Following the golden rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) should put you on the right path.

Final Thoughts

It took kindness to get me back on my feet at a time when I thought everything was lost. The lessons I learned from that tragedy were critical to my success. Putting kindness at the center of my personal and business life has made a huge difference in my career as an author and speaker. If you want to accomplish your personal and business goals, get rid of the “me-first” attitude, and put others’ needs first. That’s what kindness is all about.