In yesterday's edition of his always informative Next Draft email newsletter, Dave Pell wrote, "In times of crisis, people and organizations become more of what they truly are..."
I believe that's what we're seeing now in the middle of what seems to be a never-ending pandemic. Unemployment numbers skyrocket and no one knows anything.
After a tornado hit just north of our retail store and then barreled east, we saw an aftermath full of connection and caring in Nashville. Volunteers showed up in droves. Businesses, even those impacted by the storm, raised money and gave it away. Nashville, in that awful moment, showed more of who it already was: a city that is quick to welcome, help, comfort, and build.
At the time, I thought of an idea called a "citizen business." I've long believed that there's a core difference between citizens and residents. Citizens vote. They organize. They advocate. They're planting seeds that may not grow or be ready to be harvested for decades. They're building something for others. Residents, on the other hand, just live. They merely exist, worried only for themselves. They take up space.
After the tornado a month ago, we saw citizen businesses rise up. Restaurants gave away meals to the newly homeless and first responders. Companies waived rent payments and paid staff to go help clean up. These were businesses who have been and will be in Nashville for the long haul. They didn't care about March's income statement; they were more interested in the long-term balance sheet that would allow them to keep serving and selling to their neighbors for years to come, once everyone got back on their feet.
In that moment, those businesses became more of who they already were.
In a crisis, you can't pivot to be a generous or caring company if you haven't already been partnering with causes and caring for the least of these around you. A crisis, especially one like we're all in now, merely reveals the core of what was already at the heart of your business.
We've long had a policy of donating silent auction gift boxes to any 501(c)3 in our community. And even though charity events aren't happening right now, those still occurring digitally can request a donation from us. Yes, revenues are down, but we'll still honor this commitment.
And yesterday, we partnered with the Nashville Scene, a local staple when it comes to reporting, community happenings, and being a citizen business. Their revenue is taking a hit as the restaurants and concert venues who usually pay them for advertising are closed (or nearly there). Rather than cower behind dismal prospects they reached out to us and we now offer three relief boxes, all of which donate money to our neighbors in need via the COVID relief fund.
We're all just trying to be more of who we've always been deep inside.
We're not the only ones acting like this, of course. I continue to hear of restaurants, consultancies, medical companies, construction groups - all of whom are rising to the occasion, fighting to keep people working while also continuing their legacy of being a citizen business. My inbox is filled with notes of hope - vendors extending payment terms to us, purveyors willing to collaborate on promotions, clients offering to pre-pay. Generosity is here, now, if you want to look for it (and it always has been).
Conversely, airlines are begging for a bailout like they beg you for change and checked bag fees. And the Frank Recruitment Group, just two days ago under an email titled in part "working together" basically said, "Hey if you owe us money, it's still due. We don't care how hard things are right now." This is the only email like this I've gotten. And while they provide high quality financial consulting, rest assured we won't return and use their services beyond our current contract. I've just learned what is at the core of this company.
At the end of this quarantine, we'll all see who we and our companies really are. A stark look in the mirror is what a lot of us needed and this slowdown is affording us the time and attention to do so.
I'm excited to share more partnership ideas we're working on. We'll be announcing new products from new vendors, new work in new places, and new services to help more people. None of it will be easy but we've never been a company bent on taking it easy. At our core, from the start, we've just wanted to help you connect with the people that mean the most to you by connecting you with well made products from artisan makers. That won't change. This crisis is just allowing us to to be and do more of who we already are.
Generosity won't - can't - be cancelled.