"Service To Others Is The Rent You Pay For Your Room Here On Earth." -Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali said, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." I’m a strong believer in this idea.
This week brought some troubling realities. I personally know of businesses who could have continued to serve their customers, but instead chose to suspend operations and lay off their people. Families have lost their entire income stream in a week and customers are without essential services they rely on. This is unconscionable.
A business exists to serve it’s customers. Those services are likely needed more than ever in difficult times to maintain their health, property and personal comfort. Our job as business owners is to provide our customers the service they rely on unless and until that is no longer possible.
A businesses close second responsibility is to their employees. Employees show up in service of their companies and the customers they serve. Most of the time employees don’t participate in the upside of ownership. To immediately subject them to the ultimate downside by sending them to the unemployment line within the first weeks of trouble is irresponsible and equally unconscionable.
Starbucks, An Example of Leadership
While often demonized, Starbucks offers a striking paradox to this poor behavior. You can listen to the March 24th interview with their CEO Kevin Johnson or read his letter to employees and customers by clicking on the links below.
For those pressed for time here are the high points:
Starbucks decided to pay their employees for 30 days whether they showed up or not….and they showed up.
He recognized, “Partners are the heartbeat of our company.”
When municipalities made declarations that impacted their ordinary operations, rather than shut down, they shifted to drive through only following his belief that, “The human experience is all about overcoming adversity through resilience.”
He went on to say, “Not every decision is a financial one. This is a time to prioritize people over profit.”
Starbucks is prioritizing the right things meaning the health and wellbeing of their employees, customers and officials working to mitigate the impact of the virus. More importantly they and their employees are showing up to work in service of their communities.
What Starbucks Learned From China
The other benefit of this interview is Kevin’s unique insight on the likely timeline of the virus impacts by applying their experience in China.
Here are those high points:
COVID 19 is now 9 weeks old in China and their economy is on the uptick.
When the virus hit Starbucks closed roughly 80% of stores (China is not the US) with a focus on the most heavily hit areas.
Within 45-60 days stores were back open.
Now, 9 weeks in, 95% of stores are open with the final stores in the hardest hit areas opening daily. They are currently tracking ahead of the projected two quarter recovery process back toward pre-shutdown levels.
From what they are observing, the US is following a similar pattern to China and they are tracking and applying the protocols learned there. This gives great hope to those concerned that we will be dealing with the current outbreak through the summer or perhaps longer.
Please don’t take this as a recommendation to purchase Starbucks stock, but rather an example of a responsible corporation modeling good leadership. I’m sure there are many others out there large and small who are doing the right things for their employees and customers and not getting the publicity.
At this time the House and Senate have a handshake deal on a relief package. Likely more on that later, but the critical aspect of the new bill as it relates to this topic is the Federal Government is going to give loans to businesses. There are rules, but for those who retain their employees, the loan will turn into a grant effectively meaning the Federal Government will pay the payroll of business who do the right thing and keep their employees on staff through this downturn. Apparently even those who have laid people off that rehire them will be eligible.