The Golden Rule Vs The Platinum Rule


If someone refers you a profitable piece of business, should you reward them? And if so, how do you best and appropriately go about it? 

I believe that we don’t always have to automatically give a gift when someone does us a business favour.  But when we do, we need to get it right.

What’s Their Motivation?

How you should respond to a referral, depends on the motivation of the person referring you the business.  If, for example, you are old friends or long-standing business colleagues you may like to help each other out and refer business to each other with no expectations of a reward – other than the deepening of that relationship.

On the other hand, some business owners have specific referral partners for whom they actively seek business. They may have agreed a rewards-system for when business is passed between them.

What’s Your Method?

Many business owners have some methodology for rewarding people who refer them business.  Some pay a sales commission, while others give a gift of some sort.  While yet others do nothing more than say a heartfelt “thank you!”.

What you should do heavily depends on who gives you the referral and what kind of relationship you have with them.

Rewards & Recognition: Gold vs. Platinum 

When you are close business allies you may simply believe in Givers Gain™, i.e. “what goes around comes around”:  If you refer me business, and I refer business to you in return, we both win.

However, not all business works this way and sometimes it is easier for one person to send another a lot of business, while it is harder for the receiver to return the favour.  If this is the case, it may be prudent to have an arrangement where the recipient of the business referral rewards the sender for their generosity.

If this is the case, then I recommend that you apply the Platinum Rule.

We all know The Golden Rule that goes something like this:  “Do unto others, as you would like done to you”.

The Platinum Rule, as created by Dr Tony Alessandra in 1996, takes it one step further, and states:  “Do unto others, as they would like done unto them”.

The Platinum Rule – Works for Them, and Works for You

The difference between The Golden Rule and The Platinum Rule is that when we apply the latter, we are focusing on what the other person likes or wants – rather than what we prefer or like.

Let me explain:

Let’s say that, for example, a business colleague refers a nice piece of business to you worth $10,000.  You want to say thank you plus encourage them to repeat this kind of generous referral over and over again.

How do then you best reward them – and encourage repetition?

One client I introduced to The Platinum Rule came to me after a Golden Rule “thank you” gift gone wrong. He was a real-estate sales professional and known in the marketplace as the guy who wore the “outrageous” ties: bright, quirky, never conservative and always loud.  His signature look was a dark suit with a very bright tie always featuring yellow as the main colour.

When my soon-to-be client landed his nice piece of business from a recent business associate, he wanted to acknowledge the received opportunity and reward his colleague for the referral.  Not only did the real-estate sales expert want to acknowledge the kind referral, but also encourage his referrer to send business his way repeatedly .  So he went straight out and bought a present: an expensive yellow silk tie from his favourite tie retailer.  He had it gift wrapped and proudly presented it to his business colleague.

Some weeks later, he noticed that his colleague had not yet worn the tie. The problem was, of course, that his colleague didn’t like yellow ties.  In fact, he was a very conservative dresser, always impeccably presented, and never seen in a bright tie or any clothing that could possibly be described as “out there”.  He was simply uncomfortable with the gift and would never use it.

If the real estate guy had done some research – or simply stopped to notice the kind of ties his colleague wore – he would have realised that such a gift as his was never going to work.

He had applied The Golden Rule, and bought a gift based on what he liked. Instead, he should have applied The Platinum Rule – and bought something in line with his business colleague’s taste.

How simple would it have been if he had taken that little bit of extra time to think about his colleague’s tastes, personality and preferences first!

Give a Premium Rule Reward & Get Premium Returns

It’s easy to do the right thing for your kind referrer – and therefore strong relationships and your own business’s success. Next time you get a referral, what will you do to show your appreciation?

Hopefully, now you will apply The Platinum Rule and do a little research to find out what your generous referrer likes – rather than rush off to buy something you might prefer instead.

Of course, it also is the thought that counts. But a truly thoughtful gift will be remembered – and your efforts appreciated – long after the reason you gave it.  That “thank you” will carry far more weight and memories than any other will.

Remember: think, care – and only then shop.

Article written by the Lindsay Adams National Director of the Referral Institue

Lindsay Adams National Director, Referral Institute The Referral Institute is a training and consulting company that specializes in working with business owners and sales people to help them develop referral their marketing vision, plans and goals, before they go to BNI to take action.  Find out more at or email Lindsay directly at 

Categories : Education


  1. Mandy Cann says:

    Great article Lindsay, I had the same type of situation where I took a referer for a seafood lunch to say thankyou only to find out that they were allergic to seafood (before we ate)………

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