Right now, when people and businesses need help on a scale that is unprecedented, I find myself asking, “What does real help from a business look like?”
Does it look like the banks who are deferring peoples’ mortgages, while still charging interest on those deferred payments? Does it look like a car company that says they’re doing their part by giving you 3 months interest-free, if you finance your purchase? Or like an auto repair business that is “keeping cars on the road” by continuing to service them? In my book, all of these examples are “business as usual”, not “helping”.
In this time, when everyday heroes like healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, and long-haul truck drivers are pushing themselves to the limits, risking their health and working long shifts to ensure that people get the help they need, there are businesses jumping on the “we’re here to help” bandwagon whose “caring” offer is really just a repackaged sales pitch.
So what does real help look like? Right now, I think it looks like putting people first – doing your job in a way that offers real value and real solutions for the people in your circle. Generally, unless you’re a company that has switched up its production line to produce masks, respirators, or hand sanitizer it’s not the kind of work that rates trumpet fanfare. It’s good old-fashioned, authentic service, of the kind that many of us have been delivering all along.
As the owner of a small business that is considered an essential service, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s no simple task at the moment. There are a lot of people and needs to juggle: clients, staff and, of course, our own family and friends. Never have we been challenged on so many fronts at once, and we don’t have large HR departments or deep bank accounts to help us. Generally, we have a single owner, or a small, dedicated leadership team, who are already working overtime.
Sound familiar? Let’s start with the needs of our clients. (In my next blog, I’ll talk about the flood of messages small businesses are receiving that urges them to “do more” and “be more”, when many are just trying to stay afloat.)
During this pandemic, things have moved quickly, and lip service has shown itself to be a waste of time that people can’t afford. Real results and real effort are what matters – and the value of experience is showing up like never before (thank you, Dr. Bonnie Henry). At our company, being able to offer not just business and industry experience – but also the depth that comes with life experience – has been a plus.
What’s happening now is shaking people and businesses to the core. They need us to be smart, practical, creative, empathetic and reassuring. They need our detailed assessment of their situation, but they also need the “big picture” thinking that comes with having been in business for a while. Above all, they need to know that we’re not just providing a service, but that we care enough – not just for the purposes of marketing – to help them get through. They need us to be human.
Much of what I’m doing is what I’ve always done: listening, getting an understanding of my clients’ needs, and creating solutions that they can use right now – the process is the same, it’s just amplified. And by “just” – I don’t mean that it’s simple or easy. Our hours are longer and the stress is higher. I’m on the phone to clients and tenants most of the day. We’re doing more for our clients, while bringing in less income. But at the end of the day, it’s our job to offer this kind of help. It’s our job to care about our clients. We’re trying to serve them as best we can, and not package it as “how we’re helping in these extreme times”.
We’ll leave that for the companies that are truly going above and beyond. For the rest of us, I think that real help from a business looks like this: be there for the people in your circle in ways that are authentic, attentive, and caring – and offer service that truly helps people right now, instead of giving them a sales pitch disguised as help.