The most important tool you have right now

On October 17, 1989, my parents went to see the World Series game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. Just as the festivities were beginning, a giant earthquake hit the bay area, destroying freeways, toppling buildings, and throwing the region into chaos.

When my parents got home to their brick apartment building in San Francisco, their neighbors were all in the courtyard with their grills going. The power was out and would be for several days, so everyone rescued their best meat from the freezer and had a building-wide cookout. My dad said it was one of the best meals he can remember. Folks he had barely talked to before sharing good food and comfort. Strangers, and friends,  pulling together and connecting on a level they all have in common: their humanity.

Although this crisis isn’t likely to spawn spontaneous BBQ’s, I remember similar stories after all kinds of disasters, from 9/11 to snowpocalypse, Americans are resilient, and we pull together when times are tough. 

Right now is no different

Today we have a different kind of crisis with a lot of uncertainty about the future. Social Distancing measures are getting more and more extreme, and it seems like every day there’s a new challenge to overcome as a business owner, but also as a parent, a child of aging parents, and as a friend and neighbor. 

If you are on this list, you are a leader, not just in your business, but in your community and family. People are looking to you for guidance and comfort. Now is a time when you need to be available and be connected. 

Pick up the phone, make some calls, make some connections.

Take care of your team. Get them on the phone and settle whatever details there are about work. Answer questions. Let everyone know you don’t have your head in the sand. This isn’t going to be easy, but if we pull together, we’ll see our way through. Do a group call, but then also make the time to talk to each one personally over the next few days. They need to hear that, even if you don’t have answers, you care and are facing the future.

Start calling customers and past customers. Not trying to sell anything — just to touch base, hear what their challenges are, and share any solutions you might have. Everyone is anxious, fearful, and uncertain. Hearing a friendly voice could be crucial. Just listen.

Be there for your family and community too. With churches, schools, and offices shut down, cutting people off from many of the sources of support that they rely on.

Reach out. 

You can be the source of some things that we know will be in short supply. In a crisis, everyone needs calm, reassurance, and connection. You can give folks that. 

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