Imagine a year from now, the late summer of 2021. By most indications, we’ll have the COVID epidemic’s health issues–infection and treatment–under control. A vaccine will be widely available, and very few people will be dying from the virus. For years, the economic effects will be with us, but let’s imagine that the health issues are mostly behind us. People’s lives have basically returned to normal.
How will people remember your business (and you)? What lasting memories will you have created now that will last long into the future? What are you doing today to create those memories?
We often remember our leaders most during the time of crisis. When times are good, it’s easy, but when times are tough, our real character and humanity shine through. Here are a few things we were able to do at Kona Impact during the 2020 COVID epidemic. While we’re not looking for any thanks or congratulations–doing the right thing is its own reward–I write about them here as they might show some ways other businesses can do the same, in their own way.
Treating Employees Well
Right away, back in late March until mid-April, we knew that our incoming jobs had slowed, and we might not have enough productive work to justify keeping everyone’s hours the same. My employees are an essential part of Kona Impact, so I decided to maintain current schedules as long as possible.I figured we had six months of reserves, and I was willing to take that to zero if I had to. Fortunately, April turned to May, and with an investment in marketing and some in-house projects, we made it through the worst and now are as busy as ever.
Treating Suppliers Well
One of our biggest “suppliers” is our landlord. I grew up in a family with some properties, so I understand that property owners face the same cash flow and loan issues as everyone else. I decided to pay the next month’s rent two weeks early, the same day we’d receive the invoice. It doesn’t make much business sense: why not keep my money two more weeks and pay on the due day–the first? I, of course, am thinking the long game and want my landlord to know that I’m a reliable, no risk tenant.
Another thing we did was to place orders for supplies we may not need for three to six months with some of our suppliers in Hawaii and on the Mainland. Again, it doesn’t make great business sense to have money tied up in inventory. Our goal was to support those who are important to us. One supplier in Honolulu, if they closed, would create huge problems in the future, so we wanted to help them out today. We want them to be there.
Treating the Community Well
When things turned around quickly in May, we realized that we’d be able to help a bit in our community. We bought take out lunches for the staff for about 25 straight days at our favorite local restaurants. We provided some financial donations to our local community theater and a group working on food security. We bought a truckload of school supplies for local kids. To this day, we go out of our way to buy what we can from locally-owned businesses.
As an entrepreneur, I am always worried. I fret about just about everything, sometimes about things about which I have no control. I always try to remind myself, however, that there is a lot I can control. How I take care of my employees, my suppliers, and my community are choices that I can make every day. I know that someday COVID-19 will be behind us, and we’ll return to some level of normalcy. When that happens, I want to feel comfortable with what I did when times were not so good.