As entrepreneurs, we move quickly in business. We make decisions with breakneck speed. We implement in the blink of an eye. We innovate. We execute. We tend to be nimble, spontaneous, and mission driven. As entrepreneurs, it’s part of who we are—and we have the technology at our fingertips to assist us even further.
But there are times in life and business, when we need to take a step back, breathe, slow down—and think it through more carefully than usual—especially during those rare times of national, even global crisis. For us, that has happened twice in just the last two months with two national tragedies that hit very close to home here in Connecticut, where Client Attraction.com is headquartered.
Both times—first during Hurricane Sandy (one of the most severe storms to ever hit the East Coast) then again during the Newtown shootings (one of the deadliest school shootings in history), our nation experienced deep heartbreak as we watched our fellow citizens endure pain and severe loss. And both times over that short span of two months, we as a small company with clients to serve, employees to support and year-end goals to meet, were in the middle of a major business launch.
Did we do everything right in response to the tragedies? No. But we’re learning and applying what we’ve learned to our Best Practices so that as a company we can continue to get better at what we do, continue to improve our service to our customers and clients, and to always, always put people first.
The high tech environment in which we do business today—with real-time tools involving email and social media—allows us to communicate and interact with millions of people in an instant with the simple click of a button, automate and pre-schedule just about anything we want to say, and carry out entire campaigns almost single handedly. These tools allow us to accomplish so much with so little—yet they can also desensitize us in a way that puts our businesses—and more importantly our humanity—at risk unless we start to pay closer attention.
What follows are my 7 new guidelines to doing business with dignity, integrity and respect during times of tragedy. Like I said, this is a work in progress.
1. Be adaptable – it’s one of the benefits of entrepreneurship
As I mentioned above, during each separate crisis that hit, we were in the middle of a major product or program launch. Here at Client Attraction.com, we take a No Excuses Approach to all that we do and in all honesty when Hurricane Sandy hit, even though each member of my team was without power, internet capability and couldn’t even physically get to work, we didn’t skip a beat! We’re a resourceful bunch. But being resourceful has its place and time. As the news of the devastation unfolded we regrouped and with the same flexibility that would have allowed us to pull off a major launch despite challenging conditions, we instead tweaked the whole plan to allow for a postponement. By being flexible and rolling with the punches a bit, we were able to demonstrate respect for those affected by the storm and we were also able to give our team the time that they needed to be with their own families as well.
2. Turn off pre-scheduled online activity
During times of tragedy, it’s important to be aware of any online activity—automated email promotions, tweets, facebook posts, blog updates, etc. that you’ve pre-scheduled. Allowing business-as-usual posts for your latest product or service to be sent out during a time when serious news is unfolding, can certainly appear disrespectful and insensitive. My advice is to cease all scheduled updates for the time being. It’s just not relevant.
We learned the hard way with this. We had a pre-scheduled email promoting a new program set to go out on the Saturday after the horrific Newtown shootings. It was a regrettable oversight. It’s ok to make a mistake though—but apologize to your followers and put systems in place to prevent it from happening again, as we did.
3. Use your platform instead to provide support and much-needed resources
For any entrepreneur with a list of followers—large or small—and a social media presence, realize that you do have a platform. When you speak, people listen so it’s ok to lead with your heart and intuition. Communicate your condolences, support—whatever is appropriate. Your voice of empathy may help others to feel better. Then offer resources. Perhaps it’s a link to make a donation to the Red Cross (that’s what we did during Hurricane Sandy) but let people know in a humble way what you’re doing to help the situation so you can inspire and lead others to do the same.
4. Be mindful of customers and clients in the affected areas
Determine if you have any customers or clients who are personally affected by the crisis. Then reach out. Is there a way you can help them? Help those who support you as a business. Loyalty goes a long way—and it works both ways.
5. Avoid newsjacking
Newsjacking is the practice of capitalizing on breaking news to promote your company’s products or services. (Think “Hurricane Sandy Sale”…) Unless your company offers real-time relevant products or services that directly benefit those affected by the crisis, this is just not a good practice, and frankly it’s out of integrity.
6. Always err on the side of love, authenticity and compassion
In business, we’re often focused on marketing strategy, competition and increased revenues. After all, we’re in business to earn a profit, right? But when faced with a decision on what the “right” thing to do is, allow your heart to be your compass. The time is now, more than ever to bring our hearts and souls into our businesses. To put people first, profits second. When you come from a place of love, authenticity and compassion you can’t do the wrong thing—it’s just not possible.
7. Create a crisis plan with your team
Use these guidelines to create your own company crisis plan and incorporate it into your operations manual. Let’s face it, when disaster strikes we’re not always thinking clearly. Having a plan with a full checklist of the many things to consider ensures that business is carried out appropriately—and with humanity. It makes good sense for our companies, our employees and our customers and clients. And in the long term, your prospects and customers will choose you over others, because you have heart and you cared.
My team and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to our neighbors in Newtown, Ct. Our hearts are with you. To help the families affected by this tragedy, please visit the Sandy Hook School Support Fund through the United Way.
© Copyright 2012 Fabienne Fredrickson