What COVID-19 & Business Have in Common

City Life Church Articles

Written by: Joel Black
The email notification chimed as a customer reached out to let me know his business had been hard hit by the response to the COVID-19 virus. Events had been canceled, subscribers weren’t renewing and revenue was sinking. He was looking for any way to cut costs. Given that I provide a necessary service and he had signed an agreement, I was well within my rights to gently, but firmly, remind him of this.
He was a valued customer of no small standing in the local community and someone I considered a friend. So I sharpened my pencil, found some ways to save him money and worked out a reduction in price in exchange for renewing his agreement with us. It was good public relations, didn’t hurt our revenue too much and kept a happy customer for the long term. Mutually beneficial, this was an example of Jesus’ exhortation to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In addition to a nice discount, and mostly due to the relative stability of my business, I was calm and was able to pass that calm onto him.
But there is a bigger calling as a business person than maximizing profit and minimizing costs. What if this had not been a mutually beneficial arrangement? What if this was someone who would or could not benefit my business at all?
The ancient Israelis had a code called the Torah, given to them by God, to live by in their everyday life. It gave them guidance for activities from the mundane, such as washing their hands, to the extraordinary, like talking with God. Buried in its pages is an instruction for farmers to leave the grain in the corners of their fields for the poor. This was a small amount, but it gave hope and something to eat to those that were down and out. It also taught the farmer to allow for margins and practice in getting by on less or – in modern-day terms – living on a budget.
I confess I haven’t always planned for extra. In fact, I have from time to time been paranoid and tight-fisted. But I found through experience that even when things are tight – especially when things are tight – just a little bit of generosity offered in quiet humility to another business person or just another human being puts me in a completely different frame of mind. I feel less stressed and more optimistic. And wouldn’t you rather do business with a stress-free optimist?!
Part of lowering the risk of infection in an epidemic is putting margin between yourself and other people. The same concept applies to our money and our time in our everyday life, but especially in business. Planning for margin allows us to flex during times of common stress and pressure from circumstances. It also gives us a little extra to bless others in a better way than they expect. This brings to mind what has come to be called “The Platinum Rule” – Treat others as they wish to be treated – which is of course how we all want to be treated!
The happy ending is that a few days after I helped out my struggling customer, one of my vendors gave me a discount on my roof repair that equaled the discount I gave my customer. That doesn’t always happen, but it seems to happen more when I look for ways to have and give away margin.