Captain Tom Moore is now Captain Sir Tom Moore, because he walked in his garden. 100 laps, or so.
Those are the facts, but not the full story. You see, Tom Moore is 100 years old. The reason for this Brit’s epic garden-walk was to raise £1,000 for the National Health Service (NHS). He wanted to support medical and nursing staff that were frontline in the Covid19 pandemic. I am not getting into the technical detail of how he did his walk but stick to the story behind the facts. He wanted to do something that was bigger than Tom Moore the individual.
It is in front of you
A friend of mine owns an automotive repair shop and works extensively with long-haul transport companies. The nature of the business is such that call-outs for roadside repairs are a frequent part of the day. When the repairs are finished he checks the surrounds to ensure no tools or other materials are left behind. This formed a new habit of picking up litter at the same time. Yes, roadside litter; Yes, it’s our beloved South Africa and in places you will unfortunately find lots of rubbish at the side of the road. The result is that wherever they were on a call-out, it was left a lot cleaner than what it was before.
At The Alternative Board (TAB) SA I talk to business owners daily. Business owners that fight for survival, not only for themselves but for their employees; reducing their own drawings, sometimes taking no income, to push off on letting people go; those that have set up in-office space to let mothers work alone with their kids that can’t attend school; those that have provided company vehicles to prevent their employees from using public transport and keep them healthy for longer. A key theme at TAB is “How do you want to be remembered six months from now?” That is the simple realisation that decisions we take today – crisis or no crisis – become our legacy.
Years ago, the company I led supported a West African enterprise to improve operations by improving processes. This also meant doing training on hygiene and cleanliness at the workplace. To cut a long story short, not only did the business’ production & efficiency improve, but after a while the headmistress of the village school came to enquire if some of the training could be rolled out to the broader community, because the absenteeism of children whose parents worked at the factory has reduced significantly and they were less sick. An unintended consequence of a business imperative.
Why these stories? We are in a global business crisis and it’s easy to look at those immediate challenges in front of us – just making it to tomorrow, serving customers and saving jobs where we can. Hillary Clinton famously said “Never let a good crisis go to waste” – which was actually by Winston Churchill. This means that if things around you are bad you should find an opportunity to achieve something great from it.
In the middle of our lockdown, I read about a supermarket that removed prepared meals from their shelves and directed customers to the family-owned restaurants and mom & pop takeaways in the neighbourhood to support them. Another similarly cleared some shelves and asked those neighbouring restaurants, takeaways and bakeries to place their products on the supermarket shelves. There was no additional markup or fee levied by the supermarket. It enabled these businesses to also generate lock-down income and thus save jobs within the community. Is this not a great legacy to leave? A damn-size better than to end up on the front page of the Business Day for a fine on inflated prices.
Take a walk
Back to Captain Sir Tom – More people heard of his mission and started contributing, soon passing £1m. People heard of him on the news and read about his story. Last count? He raised £32.5m, or almost ZAR700m. If this were a stock-market IPO, he would have been 32 times over-subscribed, a huge “listing success” in anyone’s book. He has long since stopped his garden-walk, but his story continues. Money is still being contributed. And in addition to the fundraising success, it created significant awareness for the plight of front-line people in healthcare. As for the roadside repairs – the owner is less involved in callouts but his employees continue what he started. Their vehicles regularly return with bags of roadside litter that are disposed of in the correct manner. And the school, well they got some training done with kids and parents.
You see, that is the thing of a legacy – it is most often an unintended consequence of another good decision for the right reason. Neither the garbage bags nor the school will make headline news, but they are changing lives.
The question is then, business owner, where is the litter around you or where is the school that needs a hand? Proverbially speaking of course. Why don’t you take a walk in the garden and think about making a difference? Do not wait till you turn 100.
By – Paul Malherbe
Paul is the Managing Partner of TAB SA. Although he has worked with large corporates most of his career, he has always had an entrepreneurial angle into life. Paul started TAB in South Africa at the end of 2018.