Why 2020 Might Be Good For Your Business

On August 15, 2007, I was in a Toyota Hilux navigating a dried red clay “road” at around 10 miles an hour.  I had been visiting a native community in the low jungle near the city of Pucallpa, Peru where I lived.  While the single-lane dirt trail with grass growing between the tire tracks was normally bumpy and jarring, it seemed unusually so as we struggled to make it back to the paved road.  The ten-minute ride was customarily uncomfortable, but if you’re looking for comfort, you won’t find it in the jungle.

Upon arriving home, I realized the drive was extra bumpy due to the earthquake Peru had just experienced.  While the jungle was somewhat isolated from the effects due to its location in the eastern portion of the country, the nearly three minutes of shaking was far more than a typical earthquake even in one of the most seismically active countries in the world.

The epicenter of the 8.0 earthquake was off the southern coast of Peru near Ica, southwest of the capital and most populous city, Lima.  The impact of this shake was most acute in the cities of Ica, Paracas, and Chincha where 519 people perished, and an estimated 16,500 people were displaced from their homes.  Considering the impact of the shock, many residents opted to sleep outside rather than risk the same fate of those in their community when the houses and buildings collapsed on them.  This shake had moved them out of their routines and forced a different rhythm into their lives.

The relief and development organization I worked for, like many others, rushed to help people recover and rebuild after the tragedy.

A relief response is focused on the most urgent concern, sometimes to the detriment of long-term health.

Relief vs. Development

The organization I worked with didn’t start as a development organization.  It was started in the 1970s when someone was moved to action upon seeing Vietnamese refugees stranded in boats off the coast as they fled the country.  The founder started delivering water to refugees and unknowingly started a relief organization.

Relief addresses a temporary situation. One that is acute, painful and traumatic.

Almost as quickly as it begins it morphs into something else.  People accept a new routine.  They get used to sleeping outside and start asking how they can ever sleep inside again.

As a policy, offering relief long term is not healthy for the donor or the donee.  In a hospital, the emergency room beds are for true emergencies while treated patients are moved to inpatient and later to therapy as they recover from a crisis.

The relief period has a short lifespan.

Something mystical emerges in a crisis, almost a secret passageway or hidden room.  An area never known is opened by the jolt of a crisis.

The tools a relief organization offers are not suited to the next phase after the crises.  Handing out food for people living in tents after an earthquake is not helpful once people return to work, move in with family and settle into a new normal.

The appropriate next phase is creating sustainable futures with a longer-term collaboration.  Earthquake resistant homes that will not crumble in the next earthquake.  That phase is longer, more strategic and harder.  This is the development stage.

Development is focused on sowing the best seeds to reap long term results.

As a microfinance specialist working primarily in the jungle, I started savings groups and taught basic business management skills.  It was a grind, full of 95 degree days with clay dust stuck to every exposed inch of skin.

After the earthquake, our organization opened an office in Chincha, Peru.  I was invited to visit the community and take part in a listening session.  Having worked for a couple of years in a non-crisis area, I was not prepared for the response from the recovering earthquake zone.

The Chincha community spread the news of plans for a savings group prior to my arrival.  As I led a listening session to hear the desires of the community I was overwhelmed by the response.  I was accustomed to approximately a dozen community and family leaders showing up for meetings.  In Chincha, however, there were more than 75 people who arrived.  They brought signs, they started chanting for help and projects for their community.  They didn’t want to go back to the way things were.

There was a palpable hunger for change.

The 8.0 earthquake “shook” them awake to remind them they don’t have to do what they’ve been doing.

There is a different way.

A sense that they are simply not making enough progress, not getting where they need to go fast enough.

Never waste a crisis.

The pandemic has undeniably changed life around the globe seemingly overnight.  It is a major wake up call to families, governments and businesses.

You have adjusted to new routines, rhythms and rules.  The old ways to commute, transmit information and talk to people have suddenly changed.

COVID-19 is forcing you to level up your game.

The old way of business has been dying but business owners are clinging to it, comfortable in the routines they have established.  Timecards and paper checks have been unnecessary for years yet many owners are reluctant to give them up.

Receiving payments in a form other than cash or check makes some people cringe.  Integrated cloud software could provide massive efficiencies allowing your staff to perform higher-value work yet many business owners prefer their routine.  Keep. Things. The. Same.

The pandemic will be a major catalyst for incredible growth for those willing to view their situation in a new light.

Is it time to finally give up printing and signing checks?

Do you really need someone on staff to manually code payroll journal entries?

Does everything need to be submitted on paper?

Is it finally time to integrate your invoicing system to your accounting software?

There’s nothing like a little nudge to move you in a better direction.

Better still a worldwide pandemic.

It is time to adapt.

We’re six months into this pandemic and we’re through the relief stage.  In the early stages, people threw money at the problem hoping to keep businesses alive.  The situation to help businesses is quickly turning from “handing out food” to “building stronger houses”.

Business owners need to be focused on long-term, strategic changes in their businesses.  This pandemic is the “shake” many need to do that.

What changes have you made in your business that you think will be permanent?