Minding Your Business Manners During a Crisis

On June 19th, 2013 (and days that followed) our city, and the outlying communities where many of my friends and families live, were dealt a devastating blow by mother nature in the form of the epic “100 year flood” My family and home were unfathomly untouched. In fact, if not for news and social media, the few raindrops that fell would not have alerted us. We are in utopia with beautiful green grass, blooming lilac bushes, a dry house with all of our possessions safe and most importantly, our children are protected from the cruelty impacting so many.

Being in utopia however, does not leave us unaffected. We hurt very much for our friends and family devastated and are seeking, like most of my friends and business colleagues not affected, for appropriate ways to help. With orders to stay away to stay safe in many cases, what can we do?

Well one thing I know for sure is that we are the ones who get to champion normalcy. We are the ones who get to tell those impacted, those who’ve lost everything, it WILL be okay. Because you see, we are still rationale and level-headed and can see how overwhelming the work is ahead, but we also see from our eagle’s eye view how much is already being done… and that it WILL be okay. We will continue to collect donations, bring cleaning supplies, drop off muffins and do what the City tells us to help until there is no more help required. This may take years and we will not forget.

Another thing I know for sure is small business MUST go on. Our job right now is to do our little part to keep the economy going. Because in a city where oil & gas is the big league, when your downtown is wiped out even for a few days, the impacts to our economy will be great. Even if my dent is a little one, the fact that I can work, and participate in commerce in anyway, is essential to both normalcy and economy.

So, let’s get back to work! But let’s do it appropriately and with sensitivity.

9 Ways to Work With Manners During a Crisis

  1. Take care of clients first. Behind the scenes, on the down low, get your work for your clients and customers done. Be available to them. They may need YOU to help them keep going. Work with clients is private. This is not a time to publicize your successes in helping someone with their business. This is just a time to get work done.
  2. Muscle down and do your heartfelt work. If you have projects that take an extra ounce of energy or heart, now is the time. You never know when you will be needed and drawn away from your work to help with the crisis or help with a client. If you are sitting there, like me, with much of your client work done and mindlessly looking at pictures of the horror, perhaps writing some blogs or planning a business strategy for the fall would be a better use of your time and more beneficial.
  3. Avoid celebrations and success stories for awhile – unless they are directly related to the crisis. Then by all means, share excessively. Business survival and human survival stories in crisis are what we need. How long is up to you, but certainly, when the level of devastation is huge, all your events and programs are probably cancelled anyway. Your business cannot grow if nobody cares about your message, or even if they do, can’t take time to read it or show up. So, out of sensitivity for others who have bigger things to worry about and out of common sense that you should market when you have an eager audience, give it a brek for at least a week. From there, see what fits for appropriateness for your audience. It may take more time depending on who they are and where they live and how much they are impacted. Note: this applies even if ALL your customers are out of the crisis zone because celebrating during a crisis always reflects back on you and what you stand for.
  4. Pause selling-focused promotions. This is NOT a time to sell anything. Unless you are fundraising or donation collecting or sending a portion of your profits to Red Cross for a previously planned event or program you choose not to cancel, stop promoting. Again, give it about a week, perhaps longer. But one full week is sensitive and gives people in your universe a chance to catch their breath. I’m sad to say businesses I’ve admired shared promotions this week already that were “too happy, too soon” and it has left me with some distaste. Even if it didn’t, it has left me thinking their good news fell on uncaring eyes… because truthfully, nobody really cares… not yet. You cannot share news more than once and get the impact you expect. So save it!
  5. Continue or create inspirational promotions, programs and conversations. Be helpful. If all you can do is start a good conversation, or create a space and place to let people be themselves, this is enough. Make it related to your business… this is fine (see next point)… but dig deep into your humanity and your brand values and commit to sharing the gift of gab to help – conversation creates connections. Connections will keep those not ready to rejoin the life of the small business hopeful and know you are there.
  6. Be open for business! If you were not affected by the crisis, it is totally fine to get back to work. In fact, as I said, the economy requires you to. And so do your friends and family. Just do it how you can, when you can in the best way you can. There are no rules to how to feel and how to act in crisis, just be sensitive. And be kind to yourself.
  7. Promote others who are doing good and what you cannot. If you know of businesses who are doing great things to help with the crisis, and it benefits both their business and the community, then use your social influence to champion them. The sooner they get back up and running, along with other businesses, the sooner we all get back to some kind of normal.
  8. Feel your feelings. Express them loudly. The hardest thing for those of us unaffected is to let you know how much we care, but it’s also hard to share how guilty we feel and how ready to help, but helpless we truly feel. There is NO harm in your business in saying this out loud. It reinforces your brand, to be frank, to be human and show what you stand for. And standing for telling the truth is never a bad thing for small business. So, let it out. It’s cathartic too. I know. I spilled it on Facebook last night. 😉
  9. If you have leverage, influence or street cred, do something to help. Big or small. Do something to benefit the crisis relief. This is what social media and your best talents were meant for.

Call to action: if you have a program that benefits The 100 Year Flood in Calgary in any big or small way, please share it below. I’m very happy to use my time and networks to share your efforts to my communities, as will others if you tell us what you are doing below.

Sending prayers and wishes for fastest recovery possible to all affected in Alberta. We, the unaffected; we, the small business owner with a tiny footprint on the economy but big cowboy spirit; we, the helpless who want to help, are here for the long haul. We will continue to be here helping when the news has faded, the Greatest Show on Earth is over, and the personal devastations continue.

In the short term, follow these links to discover how to help. @yychelps, Alberta Red Cross

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