July 13, 2009 | last updated May 26, 2012 7:59 am
OTHER VOICES

Taking Time To Reconnect

Katherine H. Emery

When the recent Friday storm hit, our power at home went out, sucking the energy out of our weekend routine. And while I was deliriously happy to see the electricity come back on 72 hours later, the weekend brought our family back in touch with our core values. We talked more. We went to bed early. We played outside. And when the power came back on I had a funny mix of emotions. I don't want to lose touch with the slowness and stillness we had only just became reacquainted with.

In much the same way, as a small business owner, the recent economic collapse brought business life as I've known it for over 20 years, to its knees, and at the same time in some ways it is helping us get back in touch with and relearn an appreciation for our core values.

Over the weekend, by candle light, I wrote down some things that we, as business owners can do to reconnect with what we care about. Here are 17 ideas to think about:

1. Get in touch with your values — we've learned it the hard way … Ethics count.

2. Give staff time to local charities rather than dollars. When budgets were flush your business could afford to give more. Now you may not have the cash, but if you have excess staff time, consider volunteering as a team at a food bank or soup kitchen. Check out other volunteer opportunities at this United Way site: http://volunteer.united-e-way.org/uwcact/agency/

3. Sublet excess office space to a social entrepreneur. (A social entrepreneur is someone who starts a business with the idea of using market forces to accomplish social good, rather than to make a profit). 4. Remember the value of quality — The temptation is to go for the cheap, when what we need in today's world more than ever is value.

5. Choose vendors that share your values. Don't like predatory lenders? Don't bank with them.

6. Support local vendors! Shortening the supply chain is green and good for return business.

7. Join a sustainable business network. Get out from under the bed. Hiding doesn't help and getting out to meet other business owners will give you solace (we're all dealing with this disaster in one form or another). Check out svn.org for businesses that share your vision and values.

8. Try barter.

9. Look into allowing your staff to telecommute — it's green and good for morale.

10. Recycle old stuff you're paying to keep in storage. Check out http://www.freecycle.org/ . You can list stuff for free that you're willing to give away and you can choose who you want to give it to.

11. Get involved in politics. Pick an issue you care about… Health care reform … minimum wage … something bigger than your bottom line, and make your voice heard.

12. Encourage an upcoming social entrepreneur. There may be one on your payroll. Find out who's volunteering on their own time and help them with support from your business.

13. Become a Stakeholder Business — Commit to transparency, ethical behavior, social responsibility and profit sharing. We've done this with my company and would be happy to share our experience and ideas. KEmery@WalkerSytemsSupport.com.

14. Get out and really talk to your clients. Now's the time to reconnect with the people behind the contracts, titles, and emails. Find out what's on their mind and see how you can evolve your business to meet those needs.

15. Give lots of appreciation to your staff! Everyone is stressed and a little heartfelt gratitude goes a long way. It costs nothing, but feels wonderful … . To both parties involved.

16. Work toward becoming a paperless office. Make sure that anything you print has smaller margins and be printed front to back.

Remember — it's not just about the money… in the end we're human beings. Life as we know it can change in a heartbeat… whether by an act of nature, or a financial tsunami of our own collective making. Nothing is promised and nothing stays the same forever. If we use these challenges to recalibrate our core values it takes some of the sting out of an otherwise painful event and may even leave you grateful for the wakeup call.

Katherine H. Emery is president and CEO of Walker Systems Support

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