The Business of Generosity

Real estate is experiencing an evolution where traditional marketing may no longer be effective. REALTOR® and first-time author Michael J. Maher sums up an emerging entrepreneurial philosophy as a move from the “ego era” to the “generosity generation.” Maher lays out this business and life strategy in (7L) The Seven Levels of Communication (AuthorHouse, 2010), a narrative-style novel telling the story of Rick Masters, a fictional salesperson who learns the transforming lessons of selflessness.

Maher spoke with the Weekly Book Scan to talk about 7L, the generosity generation, and the power of word-of-mouth.

Your book starts out with a very intense moment – your own cardiac arrest. How did that event motivate you to write this book?

Maher: Well there’s “motivation,” and then there’s “MOTIVATION” in all caps, bold letters, underlined and italics. There’s never a moment where you really see or think about your legacy more than when your mortality is in front of you.

My father passed away from cancer in 1992. I had the opportunity to hang out with him during the final three years of his life. I learned more in those three years than I had in the previous 19. He was the father of five, and also a coach and a teacher, so he was busy all of the time when I was younger. But at the end of those last three years, he said his one regret was that he had not written his memoirs. They would’ve been very powerful memoirs because he was a very influential and highly respected man in our community.  I can just imagine reading those memoirs to my son Max. That thought crossed my mind as they were wheeling me to the surgery room to put in a temporary pace maker — that night in ICU I started writing. I just thought, I’ve got this information in my head, I’ve got this system that is producing business for me, and I need to share it.

Can you describe the main character, Rick Masters?

Maher: Rick is your typical agent in today’s world. He has seen the better times and he was waylaid by a change in the market. He doesn’t know which way to turn. Rick Masters is like many people in today’s world who feel like there’s a better way to do business. The old way was the “ego era” way, which was built on more ads—bigger, bolder, better, more dollars. And then there was this other way —the generosity generation way.

This book at its pure essence is ego vs. selflessness. It is my battle and it’s everyone’s battle. It’s the battle between the ego of wanting to see our picture everywhere, of wanting to be known, and getting attention, versus the side of selflessness and wanting to do what is right and wanting to serve others, which we have engrained in us as well.

What is the generosity generation?

Maher: The generosity generation is all about helping others and using the power of reciprocity.  It’s really quality vs. quantity. For years real estate has been a numbers game, but that’s no longer the case. More than ever we’re recognizing that it’s a people game. So with that in mind, if you take care of the people, the numbers will take care of themselves. The joy of the generosity generation is that you can become well known for your selflessness. And now because of social media, word-of-mouth spreads incredibly fast. The first thing is stop worrying about doing 36, 66, 699, or however many transactions per year. Worry about delivering the ultimate experience for each and every individual you are working with.

How can real estate agents become part of the generosity generation and cultivate relationships with the folks they know and care about? What tools can they use?

Maher: Do what you want written on your tombstone. What is your core message to the world? For instance, I am here to help others build business through generosity. Social media is a tool, but it’s not the whole toolbox. Start with those closest to you. Meet with four people you know back-to-back. Get to know them and what their biggest challenges are, and ask what you can do to help.

How has this book changed your life?

Maher: This year has been incredible. I’ve really seen the power of word-of-mouth. It started out as a self-published book with no marketing budget, but I said, “I’m going to grow this the exact same way that I grew my business.”  An example of that was when somebody bought the book, whether it was through Amazon or my site, I would call them up and thank them.  I called thousands of people who bought this book and just said, “Thank you so much. I really appreciate you buying this book. How did you hear about it?” And they would tell me. And if they were referred to the book by someone else, I would also call that person and say, “The reason for my call is that I just want to say thank you for passing along my book. How did you hear about it?” Sometimes I’m doing these calls and I’ll get 11, 12, 13 people deep where somebody is referred to another, and another, and another. I’ve heard brakes screech in the background and they say, “What? Who is this? Who’s pranking? Who’s pranking me on this?” And I’m like, “Listen, no pranking! It’s just me calling and saying thanks.”

Tip from the book:

Write POWER Notes! Personal, Optimistic, Written, Effective, and Relational notes that build trust and get responses.

The 7 Steps to a POWER Note:

  1. Use unbranded, but representative cards.
  2. Use blue ink.
  3. Use the word, “You” as much as possible and avoid words “I, My, Me, and We” (except in terms of you and the person you are writing).
  4. Be specific with praise.
  5. The power of positive projection.
  6. Upwards and onwards: Write rightly.
  7. The plus of the P.S. in handwritten notes: Call-to-action.

About the author: Real estate expert and author Michael J. Maher of Kansas City, Mo., designed the 7L System, based around a philosophy of generosity. He, and those who have implemented the system, found that a business based on generosity leads to reciprocity in the form of referrals, help, and good will far beyond anything they could ever imagine. As Michael says, “It’s a living worth living. It’s a living worth loving.” After sharing this philosophy and system in the International Bestseller (7L) The Seven Levels of Communication: Go from Relationships to Referrals, Michael with no plans for speaking, coaching, or training was instantly inundated with requests to teach the system. Now thousands upon thousands of professionals see him speak, attend his events, and go through trainings every year. To learn more, visit or

Erica Christoffer

Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing writer and editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at

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  1. Sounds like a great read. I will have to check it out. While I am not a realtor, I am a big believer if driving the best customer experiences as possible. I am guessing much of what the author talks about in this book and the same concepts behind building customer relationships and improving customer satisfaction.

    Doing something while asking for nothing in return is a great way to build customer loyalty.

  2. Sorry…you CAN’T train generosity anymore than you can train honesty and integrity. I have been selling real estate for 34 years and I can train good writing skills, math skills, computer skills…but they HAVE TO BE HONEST, GENEROUS AND HAVE INTEGITY when they walk in the door. I had a new agent at one of my open houses this last weekend and he stood around for about two hours. I was very busy and spent time with the prospective purchasers and finally when I had a break I asked him if he had any questions and he said, “I’m new at real estate and I want to learn your tricks”. I told him THERE ARE NO TRICKS. There is caring, professionalism and always, always, always doing what is best for your client (you dont have to second guess what is right for them).

  3. Phenominal!!!