Building Your Business in Reciprocity - EP 004

pleasure & profits podcast Nov 22, 2023



Today we’re talking about reciprocity in business. If you haven’t listened to Episode 3 yet with Rochelle Scheick, I recommend you check it out. She has so much wisdom to share and we touch on the concept of reciprocity numerous times during the conversation. 

Today we’re digging deeper into reciprocity, especially in the context of our business and our relationship with ourselves as entrepreneurs. 

Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.

In this episode we explore: 

  • Giving forward and the idea of “today for you, tomorrow for me” 
  • True partnership as a mutually beneficial exchange of equals
  • Feminine leadership and how it differs with the way things are often done in business 

We also discuss right relationships with: 

  • Our customers - how more doesn’t always mean better and how finding balance in the exchange is key 
  • Our teams - what it means to treat them with the same respect as we do our customers and setting them up for success
  • Ourselves - how being in right relationship with yourself means not overgiving, or overextending, but doing just enough

I’m here to ask questions, to invite consideration and exploration of the nuance of this topic, because we can each only know for ourselves if we’re in right relationship—in reciprocity— and like all things, what that means to us will likely evolve over time.



  • Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.
  • Incorporating feminine principles into business and entrepreneurship is important.
  • Giving forward is an alternative to giving back, aligning with the idea of reciprocity.
  • True partnership is a union of equals, where each partner brings equal value to the table.
  • Mutually beneficial exchanges and clear expectations are essential in relationships with customers and teams.
  • Reciprocity with oneself involves doing the best one can without overextending or self-sacrificing. 


Episode Chapters

00:56 Exploring Reciprocity in Business and Entrepreneurship

02:49 Giving Forward: An Alternative to Giving Back

03:57 True Partnership: A Union of Equals

06:16 Mutually Beneficial Exchanges with Customers and Teams

09:33 Reciprocity with Oneself: Doing the Best You Can


Join me in this insightful episode!


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Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Pleasure and Profits. I'm your host, Rachel Anzalone. And in our last episode, I shared a conversation with you, with my friend, my mentor, and my client Rochelle Schieck, who was the Founder of Qoya Inspired Movement. So if you haven't listened to that episode, it's number three and I encourage you to go check it out. 

Rochelle has so much wisdom to share. Several times in our conversation, we touched on the concept of reciprocity or Ayni - of being in right relationship with nature. And today I wanna dig into that a little bit deeper, specifically in the context of our relationships in business and in the context of our relationship with ourselves as entrepreneurs.

So I don't have some grand manifesto about reciprocity. I'm not here to teach or preach about it. I'm really in an exploration of the topic myself. And mostly I have questions for consideration. I have points of nuance that I think are worth exploring and really an invitation to examine your own understanding and integration of reciprocity and what it means to you. So first, let's get clear on what we mean by reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. So that seems pretty simple and clear. And Ayni, a word we used as well, can refer to either the concept of reciprocity or mutualism specifically used among the people of the Andean mountain communities or the practice of these concepts. 

In particular, in my conversation with Rochelle, we were speaking about the Qero people and the teachings of this time, which are about nurturing the feminine and being in right relationship with nature through feminine principles. One of my values and one of my principles that I think is so important to share and part of my intention with this podcast is how we incorporate those feminine principles into business and entrepreneurship.

Another explanation of Ayni and reciprocity that I found included this statement, “Today for you, tomorrow for me.”

Which brings to mind a conversation I have recently with another mentor and teacher of mine, Giovanni Marsico of Archangel, where he presents the idea of giving forward as an alternative to giving back. And so what I heard when he said that and my interpretation of that idea is that if we're giving back, then the implication is that we have taken something, which in a colonizing culture like the one that we live in in America and most of the Western world is often the case. And so giving back or restoring or repairing is absolutely often do. And if we as entrepreneurs consider giving forward as well, it seems to be more in alignment with this idea of reciprocity, “Today for you, tomorrow for me.” And what I think underlies the idea of reciprocity, which is a culture of mutuality, of relationships that lift all parties involved, of partnership, of true partnership. 

And when I reference partnership, it's important to note that I believe a true partnership is a union of equals and a respect and an understanding that each partner brings equal, if different, value to the table. And so when we talk about leadership and organizations, often in these traditional capitalistic, patriarchal structures, there is a hierarchy.

We perceive that the people at the top are bringing a larger value than the people at the bottom of these structures. And so when we talk about feminine leadership, we often talk about a leader in every chair. We talk about the value of everyone’s contribution being equally important to the whole. And so when I talk about partnership, I mean in that context where we're really exploring mutual benefit and equal value regardless of what that particular contribution is, that the value is the same. It's also important to note that partnership, mutuality, reciprocity not only means not taking more than one gives, but also not giving more than one takes or that one receives, perhaps is a better way to say that. 

Reciprocity is not about self-sacrificing. It's giving what you have to give, it's sharing what you have to share, and not injuring yourself in the process. So it's not expecting a reward for what you've given, but it's trusting that you'll be cared for in return.

So what are the relationships that we're considering in the context of entrepreneurship when we talk about reciprocity? I think often the go-to as entrepreneurs is our customer. We work hard, hopefully, to be in right relationship with them, to share in a mutually beneficial exchange, which means to give value and also to receive value in return. Like many heart-centered entrepreneurs, I've had my own struggles with undercharging, with feeling undervalued, with overgiving and becoming resentful in response to that and trying to find the right balance where the value exchange feels mutually beneficial and respectful and like a true partnership. 

I realized along the way that these situations were often the result of the dynamic that I was setting up with my clients from the get-go, not having set clear expectations or choosing clients whose values in regard to mutually beneficial exchanges were not in alignment with my own. For me, it's been much easier to resolve my co-dependency issues in love and in friendships than it has been in client relationships. 

Of course you know, I could live without a boyfriend or a husband, I could live without a particular friendship, but, you know, living without income or living without clients is a little harder to tackle. And so the emotional connection to that need, I think, is different. And for me, it has been much harder to resolve. So it's been a process for me of peeling back layers, first getting past needing to be needed, and then getting over taking on clients who wanted me to prove something to them. I don't know, can you imagine? I'm sure many people can because I'm sure lots of people have been there. Imagine getting into a love relationship where the other person spent months saying, like, “People keep telling me this love thing works, but I've never seen it work before and I need you to prove it to me.” It's just like a total formula for disaster. 

I used to negotiate contracts with people approaching their business and their marketing this way that, well, “I've never seen this work before and I want you to prove it to me or I've hired all these people over the years to do this and they've never succeeded, but maybe you could do it. I have faith that you could do it.”  It's really a dysfunctional dynamic. 

And these are not the signs of a mutually beneficial exchange. But sadly, this is the dynamic that is built, comes with capitalism the way that it currently exists. And it's how most of us were taught to believe that business has to be, primarily by people who are benefiting from being in the power position in the circumstances of unequal partnership. So the beauty of entrepreneurship though, is that we as entrepreneurs get to choose how we build our own businesses and how we set up those dynamics for ourselves, for our customers, and for everyone else that we're in partnership with. 

So with our team, with service providers that we hire, with the teachers and the coaches that we hire, with the peers we choose to surround ourselves with, with the communities around us, large and small, with our families, and with the earth that we're such an integral part of.

And we get to consider also how we're in reciprocity with ourselves. And so there are some things to consider when it comes to your own entrepreneurial relationships. And we'll start with our customers. So when it comes to customers, there's obviously an exchange of money for value provided. And so the question I would ask is, does more content, more stuff, more time equal more value? Or can more content, more stuff, and more time sometimes have the opposite of the desired effect, diluting or overwhelming efforts? 

Learning to discern what is the right amount to serve for someone to get the most value out of the exchange is a big piece of this puzzle. Some people want as much as they can possibly get for as little investment as possible.

These are the people who want to gorge themselves at the buffet. And so I would ask, is that the relationship that you want to be in? Is that the customer that you want to be serving? I believe that a less but better or a less but more effective approach is much more desirable. I would rather have one delicious glass of Caymus than the three bottles of barefoot wine that you could get for the same price.

One time in a client relationship where I was way over giving and way over under charging, I encouraged a client to hire a consultant who then charged $50,000 to say what I had been saying over and over and over again for a tiny fraction of the price. I realized that the client couldn't hear me because the dollar amount I had attached to the value of my work didn't reflect my level of expertise or experience. They needed to make that investment in order to see the value of the information as information that was worth listening to and following. And I've heard coaches over the years express that there's value in allowing people to invest big in themselves.

It's an invitation to step into a bigger game, to expect something more from yourself and for yourself. I'm inclined to agree with that. I believe that we live in an unlimited universe and that abundance is available to us to the extent that we are able to receive it. While it might be uncomfortable to make that investment sometimes, it's learning how to find the ability to be comfortable. That is the growth experience for us. It's learning to trust. And it's been my experience that when I've invested big, I've up-leveled big along the way and the same is true for my clients.

Not to mention the incongruity of asking others to invest big in you and to see the value in what you provide when you're not willing to do the same. This isn't meant to be like a rah-rah session for continuously raising your prices. I don't endorse that. The invitation here is to examine the value that you provide, determine if it's the right value to best serve your customers. Determine who your customers are or who you want them to be and what the investment is that will feel to them and to you like a mutually beneficial exchange. It also doesn't mean that there's no value in something being given for free. In contrast, I think that having the ability to gift services can be a really powerful exercise in trusting that the financial energy exchange doesn't have to happen in the moment, but that in the grand scheme of things, you're putting things out in the world that are of value and of service will circle back to you and make not only you richer, not just in dollars, but in all ways, and will enrich all of those around you. And when those around you win, so do you.

It's easy to focus on the customer-client relationship, and that's where, as entrepreneurs, we probably go first. But what about the relationship between you and your team? Whether they're employees or contractors, they are your partners too, and there's an exchange of work or service or for an investment of money, the same as with our clients. And so I would ask these questions.

You provide the same level of value exchange for your team as you do for your customers. Just like reciprocity doesn't mean overgiving to your customers to the point of exhaustion, it also doesn't mean asking your team to overgive to you or to the company.

Are you not only allowing your team to take care of themselves, but actively encouraging them to do so and making sure that they have the resources necessary to do so? In this area, I've seen all sorts of actions and behaviors that are so absurdly out of integrity that sometimes it's hard to fathom that these things really happened.

One time as an employee at a company during a recession, I and every salaried manager was asked to start paying more for our health insurance because the company, “couldn't afford to keep paying.” They were paying 100% for all of us, which was a major part of our compensation package. During this recession, they came and said, “We can't keep doing that. We need you to start paying for part of your insurance.” Of course, we all agreed because we're all team players. Then when the paperwork came around to make this effective, what I realized I was signing was a payroll reduction form. So effectively, they've gotten the entire salaried management team to take a pay cut in order to pay for these health insurance expenses, which is fine if a company has to do that in order to stay afloat, to be profitable. I think we were all willing to do it as team players. 

But within a few days, I found myself talking with the owner and he was telling me how I needed to come to Florida sometime soon to check out his new yacht. And then it was a little harder to accept that payroll reduction as a necessity and to continue to be a team player. And so, you know, that's an example from a reasonably sized corporation, not massive, but pretty big. But also in the entrepreneurial space, I have seen business owners who claim to be thought leaders and the realm of feminine leadership and be teaching and preaching principles of care and love and treating contractors as if they're disposable, overworking them, underpaying them, having salaried employees who are working 70, 80, 90 hours a week, joining $100,000 masterminds while seeking out team that they can pay the absolute bottom dollar to do the work.

And you might say, “Well, if the employer or the contractor is willing to do the work for that pay or under those circumstances, that's just how things are done in the startup space. We all have to hustle and we all have to sacrifice.” And I would argue that that's a choice you make as a business owner and that if it's within your values or your stated values to be in right relationship, then perhaps you should consider other options. And I think there are plenty of examples out there if you look for them, and we'll be sharing more of them in future episodes of the podcast. So I would also point out that not intentionally harming is not the same as reciprocity. Reciprocity requires intentionality and cultivation of a mutually beneficial environment.

And so besides our customers and our teams, the other right relationship that I want to touch on today is the relationship we have with ourselves. Of course, there's community and there's family and the environment, and we certainly haven't covered them all. And perhaps we'll dig into some other areas of this in the future. 

But today I just want to leave you with this reminder. Reciprocity is not about over giving. It's not about overextending or self-sacrificing. It's about giving what you can, doing what you can, and trusting in the mutuality of the partnership. Somebody said, and please forgive me, because I don't remember who, “Do the best you can every day. No more, no less.” And I think this is the most important thing to remember when we're thinking about being in right relationship with ourselves.

And so I invite you to ask yourself, am I doing the best I can today? Am I pushing too hard? Am I overextending myself? Or am I avoiding something that I need to be doing in order to be in right relationship with myself? Only you can know the answer to those questions. As I said at the beginning, I'm not here to preach or to teach but really to ask questions, to invite consideration and exploration of the nuance of this topic because we can each only know for ourselves if we're in Ayni, if we're in right relationship. And like all things, what that means to us will evolve over time, for sure. 

And so until next time, I'm wishing you even more pleasure and profits, and I will see you soon.

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