Why Showing Kindness In Business Pays Off


Sam Mizrahi is the founder and president of Mizrahi Developments, an award-winning luxury real estate developer.

More than two decades ago, I started a luxury dry-cleaning business. One day, a customer came in with a beautiful and intricate Christmas tablecloth that belonged to his wife. It needed to be cleaned carefully.

Well, we ruined it by mistake. It was unsalvageable.

The standard procedure in that business is to issue the customer credit. We decided to do something different. Without consulting the customer, we found a replacement. We took the time to research where to buy a tablecloth of the same quality and design, which we then presented to the customer free of charge.

He was delighted.

Twenty-two years later, I was involved in another business—high-end real estate. There was a project we were developing that required zoning approvals. Sometimes, zoning issues can be contentious, as some in a community or municipality might have doubts about what a developer plans to do. It’s a question of trust. How do you really know what someone will do?

Surprisingly, among the group of people who were deliberating the issue was my former customer. I had no idea he was involved. Without prompting, he immediately turned to his colleagues and cast away any doubts by saying: “This guy will do the right thing. He will do what he says.”

That tablecloth cost roughly $1,200 to replace. It was an investment that paid millions years later.

The lesson? Kindness is often misunderstood as a weakness in business. The cultural script is that leaders, whether corporate or political, need to be hard-nosed and tough. There’s no question those qualities are important. But it’s worth considering a few insights on the power and nature of kindness.

1. Kindness has to be provided without any thought of reward. It has to be authentic, not deployed as a strategy for getting something you want. If it is genuine, it is sustainable.

2. Kindness takes less energy than being unkind. It’s easier to be kind. Why? I believe it’s the right thing to do. When you’re doing the wrong thing, you will hit roadblocks.

3. A culture of kindness in a corporation builds trust that goes beyond what many people understand as loyalty. Someone once told me that there are two types of employees: those who will take a bullet for the cause or those who will duck.

Leaders want the former, not the latter, of course. But you’re not going to build that loyalty through fear. Fear of being rejected won’t keep your team around for long. A culture of kindness will. And that comes from understanding people’s needs, the obvious ones and the hidden; building a strong relationship in which they feel they can express their feelings; and giving them permission to make mistakes.

4. Don’t let kindness be misunderstood. Some people might think a kind person is a pushover, someone who is always willing to grant every wish, a Mr. or Mrs. Santa Claus. But kindness is about being just and merciful. Every single person, good or bad, who comes into contact with you should feel that you were just and merciful. You did the right thing even if that action doesn’t seem fair.

5. No one remembers what you say. They remember how you made them feel, as was the case with my former dry-cleaning customer all those years ago.

Remember: Companies lose customers not necessarily because of price or product quality. They lose them because of indifference in attitude.