Richard Branson has been in the press this week for offering an unheard-of package that includes a year off with full pay for paternity leave. At first blush it makes you wonder how a company with as many employees as Virgin can afford such a benefit. If you’re a business owner you might just be saying to yourself, “That’s amazing. But he’s making the rest of us look bad.”
In this particular case, Branson’s good juju (and yes, I believe this is seriously good juju) doesn’t touch all of his employees. There are restrictions. In order to take advantage of the program, workers must live in London or Geneva, and must have worked for Virgin for at least four years. That works out to 0.2% of his employees. In other words, Branson provides added value for specific individuals committed to long-term relationships with Virgin.
We see this cycle in the media each day: 1. A good deed is reported. 2. The details behind that good deed are investigated and shared. 3. The good deed is torn down and labeled a public relations stunt. 4. The good deed becomes dirty. No good deed goes unpunished.
Enough already. Generosity is generosity. A thing can be good even if it’s not universal.
There are two elements to this story that apply, in particular, to branding your business with good juju. First, abundance is circular. Giving back as part of your business and branding strategies, whether it’s to a small group or to everyone, helps to improve the world. It also creates affluence.
“Isn’t this self-serving?” you ask.
It’s important to remember that Virgin is a for-profit company. Richard Branson does not run the Red Cross. And he shouldn’t be ashamed to make a profit. Nor should you. Adding an element of generosity to your branding efforts will serve both your customers (or whomever the recipients may be) and your business. Does this negate the sincerity of the offer? It does not.
Second, life is not always fair, and neither is business. Nor should they be. All customer and employee relationships are not created equally. We put time, energy and resources into relationships that enrich and enhance our businesses and our lives. So if you decide to give back to a certain segment, then do so with honest intentions and sound planning (ensuring you meet with all legal requirements and regulations).
As with most things in life, intent is critical to this issue. If your aim is public relations, then giving back may be just a manipulation. And manipulations rarely provide long-term payback. If your aim is to demonstrate how you value relationships, human lives or the planet, and giving is your method of choice, then your aim is true.
The world can be a cynical place. Good juju is about laying down the positive for others to pick up. If you lay it down and folks step on it (like some media outlets did with Sir Richard Branson’s juju today), don’t despair. A few footprints won’t stain real juju. They’ll wash right out.