There is a silver lining to every cloud, and many challenges can indeed provide an opportunity to connect with your community and give something back, while generating exposure for your business and yourself at the same time. The recent floods where I live have demonstrated how this can be achieved, and many examples of individuals and businesses doing just that have shone through the dirty water and mud.
2011 has provided an extremely challenging and traumatic start to the year for those of us in many parts of Queensland, including Brisbane. A wet spring and summer brought about relentless rain that caused flooding, and caused our rivers, creeks and dams to fill to capacity and overflow. So many Queenslanders have lost their homes, possessions, and even, in some tragic cases, their loved ones.
Myself and my husband were among those who had to evacuate our home. We had very little time, before our road started to flood, to load our valuables, laptops, and some clothes into the back of the car. The hardest thing was working out what to save. After a few trips back and forth, from my brother’s home to ours, rising flood water meant we could no longer drive down our road. My husband made a last trip to the house on his own, in his bare feet walking through our home that was rapidly filling with water, to move some last things up high and save our wedding pictures.
We were certainly among the fortunate few.
When we returned to our home, after an anxious night knowing the water was coming in and not knowing what it would claim, we returned to find that it had only risen a few inches from the floor, and no higher, as we had feared. It was enough, however, to mean we had to rip up our carpets, and to destroy some of our furniture, including desks, couches, and our bed, among other things, as the water had seeped up through the wood and fabric.
After four tiring days of cleaning our home (thanks to the help of friends who arrived with buckets and mops to pitch in!), our home was empty, but clean.
We moved back in the following week, to try and piece back our life at home. Fortunately because the water had not reached our electrical sockets, they weren’t damaged and we didn’t need to remove walls either, like so many other families, including our neighbors.
Now, I sit in my make-shift office on bare concrete floors typing this article. Carpets and new office furniture are some time away, but I am able to work, and I am definitely counting my blessings.
Amongst all the general chaos, intense energy of the flood and what may/may not happen in our city, suburbs and homes, I watched with interest the opportunities created and taken by high profile figures and businesses in general.
For example, some of our politicians rose to the occasion, and it has been said that our state’s Premier, Anna Bligh, may have even resurrected her previously floundering reputation due to her excellent response to the crisis and the genuine emotion she didn’t try to hide – after all, her words and expression mirrored the disbelief and shock of every Queenslander during that time.
While Anna Bligh visited evacuation centers and desecrated suburbs offering support, our Governor General, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen or heard. She had probably evacuated interstate or even overseas!
Many businesses, both small and large, have taken this opportunity to show their support to their local community and customers during this time of crisis. From waiving overdue payments and fees during this time, to donating profits to the Premier’s Flood Appeal, holding fundraising BBQs and events, to simply turning up with a mop and bucket to pitch in with the clean-up and rebuild their local community – it is heart-warming to witness former profit centers and strangers coming together for a common cause.
It is my guess that these scenes have been duplicated around the world during times of natural crisis, and I sincerely hope that they continue to do so.
The thing is that while helping out those in need is the right thing to do anyway, consider what this says about your business and its values to the community and to your customers. They won’t forget the support and generosity you showed during hard times, and, in turn, will likely choose to do business with you in the future.
They say that “no man is an island,” but no business is either. You operate with your business community, and sometimes (depending on your business) within your geographical community. Even if your local community does not directly comprise of your customer base, consider what mutually beneficial alliances (for your personal or professional life) are possible.
Actively being a part of your community, on a regular basis, and especially during a crisis, pays dividends in increasing your reputation, your profile, and ultimately your bottom line. Because, when you give something positive, you can expect to receive more of the same. Its called the Law of Attraction.
Insurers who took a hard-line approach during this flood (try not to be surprised, but there were some!!) have only achieved a dirty name for themselves among our community and I personally know of many people (even those who weren’t directly affected by the flood) who are going to change their insurers as a result.
But the great news is you don’t have to wait for a crisis before you increase your profile and influence among your community. Search for possibilities now that will result in an enormous difference to your public exposure.
Note that you could also apply each of the above tips to the virtual “world.” Business, networking or community groups can also be found online, and if this is where you mainly operate your business, then raise your profile and exposure by getting actively involved in other online communities.
And learn how to build a better blog.