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The Brand of Generosity

March 03, 20236 min read

As a child, one of the movies that had a bit of a scarring effect on me was Mommy Dearest. If you know of it, you understand how it’s a rather disturbing depiction of a well-known actress, Joan Crawford. I’m not sure how I came upon watching that movie, but the line about the wire hangers sure sticks with me. So, all these years later, it turns out Joan Crawford would teach me a positive thing about relationship building! 

When I decided it was time to interview the man I call “my Forbes guy”, Henry DeVries, I never imagined a shared story would lead back to her! No surprise to anyone, this Forbes columnist, book publisher, and multi-bestselling author, is a fantastic storyteller and he sure knows a thing or two about relationship building too.

Henry and I have been part of the same circles for a while now. We serve similar audiences and we have worked with some of the same agencies in the past. He is the CEO of Indie Books International and a columnist for Forbes.com. What I noticed from the moment I met Henry is that he is extremely generous in all ways – His time, his smarts, his introductions, and much more. He enjoys being a generous person and he understands that in some form or fashion, all that goodness naturally comes back to him. I wanted to learn more about what makes Henry who he is and how he has taught his community to leverage their books to build thriving communities of their own.

A Guiding Light for Generosity

From all our interactions and conversations, Henry and I have traded follow-ups, gifts, and introductions. We have opened doors for one another, and simply enjoy creating opportunities for each other. The first thing I wanted to learn when we spoke for this interview is – Where does this call come from? And that’s when he shared his first story! Henry shared that his guiding light came from one of his early marketing heroes – Henry Rogers of Rogers and Cowan.

Back in the 80s, Henry DeVries was just starting out in his career when he came across Rogers’ book about his own experiences in the agency world. In this book, Rogers talked about just starting out at a PR firm in Hollywood, serving celebrity clients. As a rookie in the business, he was given Joan Crawford as a client. And this was Joan Crawford in her later years, the high-maintenance one.  

After about ninety days in his role, Rogers’ VP came in to talk with him about Joan. The VP told Henry that they had actually been hazing him by assigning him to work with Joan, knowing how she acted. The memorable conversation went something like this:

VP: When you meet with her, does she remember the name of your wife and children and ask about them?  

Henry: Why, yes, she does. She’s very good at that.

VP: Does she send you little gifts in the mail? Little tokens?

Henry: As a matter of fact, she does that on a regular basis. 

VP: When you’re in public, with other people around, does she lavish praise on you and brag about you to them?

Henry: She does that too.

VP:  We should tell you; she’s just doing all those things so that you’ll like her and work harder for her. 

Henry: Oh, I know, and it’s working! 

For the last forty years, this story has guided how Henry DeVries has managed his relationships. It’s not done from a manipulative standpoint; it’s done because it gives him joy to give to others. In fact, it has become one of his company’s mottos - “Our brand is generosity”. And it just so happens that the recipients of his generosity would go out of their way to return some of that goodness. Why? Because they actually love working with him, not because they feel manipulated.  

A Funny Thing Happens When People Love You

Henry tells me he has used this guiding principle to build relationships with some of his heroes, like Ken Blanchard, one of the most successful business book authors of all time. Over time, Henry did some work for Ken, wrote about him in Forbes, and made sure to nurture that relationship. When it came time for Henry to throw his first event, he reached out to Ken’s team to see if they would be willing to send someone to speak during the event. Because he had no budget, he was simply hoping for an up and coming thought leader. Much to his surprise, Ken was the one who came to speak. When Henry told Ken’s team that he couldn’t afford Ken, they told him – “Ken loves you, Henry”.  

And that’s what it’s all about. In fact, Henry shared that over time, three of his heroes have used those exact words. We’ve often said – When you consistently nurture relationships over time, in a way that creates an emotional connection, you’re building an ecosystem of people who just love you. And they’ll tell anyone that listens! 

Henry tells me that, “In Proverbs it talks about the person who gives generously will receive generously. Other cultures and religions call it karma or kismet. Call it what you will, it’s reciprocation. The more you give, the more you’re going to receive – and that’s no quid pro quo.” And he has proof that can be found in the authors he publishes. 

Your Book Is A Gift

As part of Henry’s requirements for publishing a book with Indie Books International, you must gift a minimum of twenty books per month as you’re getting started. And when he says gift, he means, give away your book for free. According to Henry, “being an author is an act of generosity. You’re taking your best thinking, doing all this hard work to put it into an understandable package that people can buy for as low as twenty dollars. Books are the greatest educational deal in the world!” His perspective is the more you share and give it away, the more you’re helping people in general. And in the end, many more people will hire you for the specifics of what you do. 

Don’t believe it? Henry shared that Indie Publishing has measured this return on investment. Their strategy of giving away a minimum of twenty books each month has consistently brought a return ranging from 400 – 2000%. As a result, many of his authors gained an additional $120K - $600K, with some of them on record saying this strategy helped them make an extra billion dollars. Imagine what you might achieve this next year if you received a ROI ranging between four to twenty times your investment. How many doors and opportunities might you open because of that goodness and shared knowledge?

At The Expressory, we know it’s hard for business leaders to consistently manage this level of generosity on their own. Join us for one of our upcoming Q&As for more strategies and tactics to simplify your efforts. Or schedule some time to talk and we can discuss an approach that would fit your needs. Click here to set up a Marketing Strategy Session.


Jamie Shibley

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