The Power of Gratitude

Joel Igu
Joel Igu

Joel Igu is a first year GMBA student at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Previously, he studied Medicine at the University of Nigeria where he was the Medical Scrabble Champion two years in a row. Upon graduation from medical school, he practiced Clinical Medicine and Surgery in multiple urban and rural locations across Nigeria, engaged in community health practice, partnership building and extensive training of health workers. In one of his more recent roles, he ran primary health care in Obudu Local Govrnement Area of Cross River State, Nigeria (population: 220,000), where he supervised, trained, and managed over 200 health workers. He has collaborated with the Nigerian government as well as private and international organizations on multiple health goals. While working on a Masters in Global Health Sciences at the University of California San Francisco, he conducted research on the use of Misoprostol in the prevention and treatment of PPH and completed his thesis on PMTCT capacity delivery in southern Nigeria. He is currently setting up a Nonprofit in Nigeria that aims to reduce maternal mortality. In his spare time, Joel enjoys a tough game of Chess or Scrabble, both of which he plays competitively. He also loves to share stories with friends over home cooked meals.

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In 2009, a savvy hotel consultant in Nigeria told me a story that changed the way I saw business practiced. He was contracted to boost the flagging revenue of one of the top hotels in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. One of the things he did was keep a running log of customers, taking time to personally interact with the most frequent or high paying customers. He sent a birthday bouquet to Jibril, the son of one of his leading clients, Yila, as a recognition of Yila’s patronage. Even though Yila never showed up at my friend’s hotel again, first-degree referrals from him accounted for approximately $138,000 in added revenue over the year. The amount converts to approximately 50 million Naira—a tidy sum in that part of the world. Gratitude certainly seems profitable.

Thanksgiving and Business

Seven years later and 7,000 miles away, I am about to celebrate my third thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Thanksgiving has many connotations from different viewpoints, and is certainly a major event when analyzed from a financial lens. With almost 40 million families traveling and expenditures approaching $3 billion dollars annually by 2017 estimates, Thanksgiving is a blockbuster. $3 billion is more than the combined GDP of Belize and Grenada—definitely something to raise an eyebrow about. But what role does gratitude play today in the financial networks of our fast-paced world colored by the hard hues of calculated numbers and idolized bottom lines?

Business and Relationships

Relationships are an integral part of every business transaction. Indeed, it is impossible to conclude any transaction without some sort of relationship, albeit virtual. One of the key components of successful relationships is gratitude, especially in business. Businesses, their owners and employees would be nothing without customers, and they know it. That is why today, customer satisfaction is the name of the game. And no matter how successful businessmen and women are, they are customers too. Bill Gates has to choose where to eat, what car to buy, or what school his kids attend. Let’s face it, we all want to be appreciated. How often have we decided to stop going to a particular restaurant, start purchasing a particular product, or signed a contract because of how we were treated in one interaction?

The Best Thanksgiving Experience Ever

There are many things to be thankful for in 2017. Jeff Bezos, Apple, Bitcoin and I will all agree on this. For me, gratitude is a humbling experience because the deepest gratitude I have ever witnessed came from people I helped in my capacity as a rural physician. The tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces have motivated me toward my current aspirations. While I will never be able to replace the genuine feeling of appreciation I found in these people, I always carry with me the memory of the human capacity to need and acknowledge gratitude, and even react negatively when they do not receive it. With this, as every successful business practitioner should, I aspire to always remember gratitude in my business attitude—a culture of doing business with humanity in mind.

As the roles of human relationships in our high-tech, cyber-dominant and artificial-intelligence-driven business world become more important, we need to ask an important question: What mechanisms have I planted in my business or workplace to support genuine gratitude being shown to employees, customers, and even to myself?

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