When is ‘business as usual’ ok?
Like many business owners I’ve spoken to, business was not as usual in the aftermath of events in Manchester and it was difficult to know when to resume normality, particularly on social media and especially as it occurred on our doorstep. This was compounded further for me personally when at the end of that same week my father was involved in a road accident just as I’d planned to post this blog.
I usually only blog once a month (on small business and networking matters) but events in Manchester compelled me to put pen to paper earlier because of the indecision and deliberation by fellow business folk on when to continue posting online content.
I didn’t know any of the victims personally but I know friends who did and I have friends who endured that terrifying experience in person. I can’t recall a time when my working hours have been so consumed emotionally or I‘ve felt so pained as a parent seeing the unbearable troubles families have had to face. It got me wondering if, as unconnected strangers, we had the right to grieve and how that emotion might affect us doing business.
I’m sure any of my therapist and counselling contacts would have some answers. They’d be proficient in the language of grief and empathy and the appropriate time to return to ‘business as usual’. There’s probably a graph or even a flowchart explaining it all. I don’t really have an answer as a lay-person but I did draw a few simple conclusions.
- Our businesses are our livelihoods and contribute to the local economy. If we are able (and subject to how directly affected we are of course), we owe it to our own friends, family, customers, suppliers and associates to continue doing business as near to usual as possible to protect these livelihoods or else the perpetrators of crime hit us again. We can help others much more if we are stronger first.
- My business relations are stronger with those I interacted with during the last fortnight. I didn’t network as usual that week either in person or online but every single meeting or work encounter I had referenced Manchester and in so doing allowed a deeper connection to be forged. I didn’t set out to relationship-build yet it’s connected me to existing and new people on a different level. The media talks of solidarity; I’ve certainly seen this unity transcend work as well as personal circles.
- I’ve been a better parent, daughter, sibling, friend and more for all the wrong reasons. It shouldn’t take things like this to make you sit up and smell the coffee but it does. We’re all human and we all benchmark against the wrong markers sometimes.
- Everyone copes and reacts differently. We need to respect the choice others make. Give staff, colleagues, associates and clients space if it’s needed but be attentive if they want to continue doing ‘business as usual’. Some people cope by ploughing themselves into work and if you have products or services that may directly help, it may be appropriate to offer them rather than staying silent.
- I’ve been overwhelmed by the businesses donating supplies. Our society has stepped up in so many ways to do something to help or support – from tattooing bees and producing novelty mugs (with profits donated) to delivering food and toiletry parcels. So much solidarity and support everywhere. I’ve heard people say it was self-indulgent to promote during this period but if you had a product, service or even words that could help someone, who’s to say you shouldn’t if it’s done ethically and compassionately. For the small business owner deliberating how to help, it may simply be a case that doing ‘business as usual’ could be the small difference needed.
The question of when and how to return to ‘business as usual’ is one for which I have no definite answer. We may have taken a steer from others – awaited the minute’s silence, the return to election campaigning, the presence of other features in the news, the vigil a week later. Everyone judges differently and just because we post or do ‘business as usual’, does not mean we’ve forgotten what’s happened or no longer feel upset. It may just mean we have a different acceptance level or coping strategy. Everyone will read business material and actions differently and judge whether it was right or wrong to post. We just need to remember that every business is made up of humans and we’re entitled to that difference of opinion. Remember that and hopefully we’ll post appropriately – at all times and not just in the wake of recent events.
Caveat 1, added 31/5/17. This blog was written on 26/5/17, a few hours before my father was knocked off his bike in a road accident. The content and learning’s are ever more poignant for me as he begins a very slow road to recovery but he’d absolutely want me to do ‘business as usual’ and so I shall!
Caveat 2, added 4/6/17. When I wrote this blog, I couldn’t have ever imagined that a caveat, let alone two, would be needed. Thoughts are with those affected by events in London as well as Manchester which had originally prompted this blog.
Caveat 3, added 9/6/17. I could keep on adding caveats (but will stop here!), particularly since the UK election has thrown yet more uncertainty into the world. Yet, that’s possibly the point of the blog – if we can, we need to set aside the things we can’t control and focus on our business resilience and doing ‘business as usual’.
By Kirsty James, Owner, Colony Networking
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Kirsty James works one-to-one with small businesses on networking strategy, business development planning and signposting to suitable business support groups and local events. She also organises Colony’s mixed-gender and women’s networking and workshop events in the Warrington area and assists third parties to organise their own lead generation events.