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One trend we’ve begun to notice during this lockdown, and with the threat that COVID-19 exhibits over our socio-economic landscape, is that business owners are starting to look at how they do business differently in that they are asking themselves again: why do we do what we do.
The obvious questions to business continuity during and post-coronavirus are no doubt being asked. There are many practical measures that need to be put in place to ensure supply chains remain open and people are able to earn money. Some businesses have had to make some very difficult decisions about their future of operations. All of these are very real scenarios being faced. But another question has been at the back of business owners and leaders’ minds: why do we do what we do? The question of ‘why’ arises out of the stark reality that has us asking whether chasing profits at the expense of all else is really worth it. There seems to be an emerging shift in focus toward the people and environments that are connected to our businesses.
Recently, Bellevue Café adopted an initiative being driven around the world to implement a voucher system, by which members of the community can purchase a voucher towards their next menu item after the Lockdown, with 50% of the voucher’s cost going directly towards paying the salaries of staff members during the lockdown. Guy Cluver, owner of Bellevue Café in Kloof, describes his staff as nothing less than family. In fact, he spends more time with them than his own family! When his daughter Amy suggested the voucher system around their dinner table, he knew that this was the way they could ensure the Bellevue ‘family’ was well looked after during the lockdown period.
Alongside Bellevue Café, other cafés have also come aboard to implement this initiative to help look after staff and to foster community involvement. Craig Sampson from Coastal Coffee knew that this lockdown would disrupt the creativity of their baristas who have spent months perfecting their craft. Vouchers were sold to clients that they supply coffee & baristas to, with 50% of the selling price going directly towards shopping vouchers to ensure the baristas are well fed over time. Circus Circus’s Soti Sonitis also drove the initiative at their café, again citing the importance of looking after their people during the lockdown period. Many of their staff rely on the generous tips of patrons and would otherwise be severely affected by this lockdown through no fault of their own. The relationship with Guy at Bellevue enabled Soti to extend this initiative and fulfill that need to look after those in their care.
Guy points out that “As a society, we have seen a shift towards collaboration recently, specifically between the private sector and government… It is amazing to see how quickly solutions can be found to the challenges that we are facing, and I think that it shows that there is a huge benefit in working together.” Incredibly, it was through the business networks and community support that these three businesses were able to apply creative initiative that extended support to many individuals and families that not have ordinarily been reached.
There was no other reason to implement these ideas other than “people”. Money and profit are an important aspect of the lives of business owners and their employees, but it was a real sense for people that ensured that money and resources were made available to these people. Guy explains that it is all too easy for us to sit back and complain about the public and private sector not doing enough about social change, but ultimately we have the responsibility to worry about what we’re doing. It’s important to ask yourself as a business leader “What can I do?”, and measure ourselves against our own standards and values. If society and our economy are to thrive, then it’s those who have a certain responsibility for their spheres of life to contribute and give back.
Stories like this give us HOPE that we can change how Durban, and our nation, functions to address problems. Action by its people to alter the status quo of our socio-economic landscape is in fact possible through creativity and collaboration. Do you know a story of HOPE that is positively rewriting the culture & narrative of our City? Email your stories to us: email@example.com