Business and the biggest brands are facing one of the toughest moments in modern life.
This is uncharted and unprecedented territory despite all the planning and preparation we may have done. Companies and organisations are facing pressure like they have never seen. I think it is safe to say have never seen because of the widespread impact and the restrictions that have now been put in place.
Difficult decisions are being made. Some people will have lost their jobs or will have had their income reduced as they are isolated at home. Many people are going to be under pressure because of gaps with those in isolation or dealing with the illness in the family. Income is being severely restricted both for the large business and the independent operator. There is no simple way to make this easier or to make those challenges go away.
But the decisions that are made now will impact on the future of the business and its ability to recover. If you do the right thing and ensure that you are protecting people as well as being honest about the business decisions that are being made it will go a long way to helping you in the future. Saving lives is the single most important thing now.
Sports Direct have shown what can happen when you focus on business rather than the people. At the start of today they were claiming they were an essential service and so staff would have to go to work to keep stores open. Following the outpouring of views and comments from senior politicians they are now closing the stores. At a time when we are trying to unite and show that we are all dealing with this crisis together, decisions that are made that appear to go against that will be lodged in people’s views of that business and organisation. And then there is the boss of Wetherspoons, and I don’t really know what to say about what happened today.
We all have stories about people who are being told they must go into work even when it is not a critical or essential business. It is the actions of those companies that will be remembered long after this emergency has disappeared.
This is not about anyone building the business or trying to enhance their reputation. What matters is where people can contribute to the national effort whether that is to boost people’s spirits, provide ways to support those educating at home, or redesign their services. It is a fine line between what is seen as a service change to help and what may be seen to be ‘cashing in’.
For me there is one simple test: does it help people in this moment of crisis?
If it doesn’t then why is it taking place now? Overnight, so much of what we thought was critical, essential and urgent within work or our daily lives has been shown to be irrelevant.
This is an international crisis, a national crisis and a local tragedy. Getting through this needs us all to come together no matter who we are, where we are or what we do. Difficult days are ahead, with difficult decisions that must be made.
If we keep focused on what matters – saving lives – we will do the right thing and be able to walk positively into the future.