7 Ways to Bring Unity, Charity & Hope during COVID-19

I originally formulated this message and dispersed it throughout the solar community. The goal was to be a voice of unity, charity and hope during these times. However, I realized that it’s not just the solar professionals that need hope, it’s everyone, so we have revised it for a broader audience. This message was especially designed to go to leaders and people in positions of authority. But we also think it can be a ray of light to anyone, regardless of your situation. So please read and please – be encouraged. 😁

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I write this letter as an urgent plea. My plea is that we take the higher ground during this crisis. This is a time when we need unity, forgiveness and in many cases, charity. I have heard feedback from my friends and colleagues and it is clear, COVID-19 is dramatically affecting them. In such a time, we can respond with fear and isolation, or with unity and charity. I urge us to choose the latter. 

After 911, Victorinox (the Swiss Army Knife company) was disproportionately impacted because a large portion of their sales were small pocket knives used during travel. When these pocket knives were banned, the company could have issued mass layoffs, restricted travel expenses and done other measures to cut costs. They did none of those. Instead, they were honest about the problem with their employees, and asked everyone for help, and said they would go about the crisis together. Victorinox reduced salaries of all employees (including upper management) and saw something that surprised everyone: travel expenses plummeted as now cost-conscious employees limited spending or used personal money for expenses. In general, the company bore the burden together. 

Backpack from Victorinox the company the helped to find ways to bring unity during the pandemic.

Victorinox did not lay down and play dead either. They didn’t trim the fat. And they didn’t panic. They instead, allowed the crisis to spur opportunity! They diversified and launched their new apparel division that set the company on a new trajectory. If you traveled in the years following 911, you probably remember the black backpack with the swiss army insignia. This backpack and similar apparel have been the cornerstone of post 911 Victorinox. In other words, a severe crisis caused a wonderful transformation!

So what can we do? Let’s start with things under our control. Here are 7 ways to bring unity, charity and hope:

  1. Provide informational updates to our family, friends, staff, customers and networks. These don’t have to be sugar coated. It is important to be honest and let people know what is going on. Also, make sure that your networks are aware of PPP, unemployment benefits, food programs and other programs that may be helpful. 
  2. Ask for Help: If you need to help, please ask! Lots of people are having a tough time, some financially and some emotionally. You are not alone. Here’s a suggestion. If you are having a tough time, you can say something like, “I’m having a tough time.” As in the case of Victorinox, you may be surprised at the incredible kindness people can display when they are given the opportunity.
  3. Be the Help: It is possible that on one hand you may need to help, but on the other hand, you are the one helping another. We are dynamic in that way. Many people will not ask you for help, but if you simply ask them, “is there anything I can do to help?” you may be surprised at the response. Sometimes, they may not directly say what they need, but they may drop hints. I’ve found sometimes, all someone needs is a listening ear. There is an old saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” My answer to that is: I hope so.
  4. Patience & Trust: This is a tough one to swallow, but we need to be patient with each other. We’ve had customers with installed projects with funds stuck with Mass Solar Loan lenders. Yes, we want the money, but we need to be considerate of their comfort levels too. They may not feel comfortable going to that lending institution. Also, I’ve recently seen some distributors tighten their credit terms, asking for more money upfront on projects. I understand this approach, companies want to protect themselves, but I urge you, if you are in that position, choose trust and faith over fear. We need to help each other right now, so let’s be there for each other. 
  5. Comfort Level: We need to be empathetic to the comfort levels of those around us. If one of your employees says he/she does not feel comfortable working during COVID-19, we need to respect that. I have a friend that is a plumber and his wife is pregnant. He has decided not to work during this time to mitigate the risk of contaminating his wife. Similarly, even if your business is allowed to conduct work, that does not mean people are okay with you in their homes or businesses (this is meant for contractors, but I believe it can be applied broadly). No one wants to delay projects, but if we have to, let us take the higher ground. Likewise, be understanding with your friends and family. Some of them may not want any contact right now. Just because you are “not sick” doesn’t mean they are quite ready to break social distancing. 
  6. Charity & Sacrifice: Managers and owners, would you be willing to reduce or even cut your salary for the sake of your employees? This is not all or nothing. The idea here is to do what you can, even if it hurts you a little – that is sacrifice. I’ve heard heartwarming stories of landlords waiving their tenants’ rent during these hard times. And we do not do it so we can get something in return, we do it because it is right and we are in a position to help. 
  7. From Crisis to Opportunity: As with 911 and the case of Victorinox, crisis begets opportunity. Sometimes great changes require dramatic circumstances. Folks, these are dramatic circumstances! What opportunities lie beneath the surface? Business owners and managers, encourage your staff to seek different creative roles and ways to refine business practices and systems. For everyone else, perhaps it’s time to consider a change in job, career, or location. Perhaps it’s a time of greater self actualization; a time to rekindle old relationships, a time to focus on the things that are truly meaningful in your life… This is an opportunity to listen to the still quiet voice inside you. This may be the Opportunity you’ve been waiting for – a major turning point in your life?!

Again, I urge us all to be there for each other. We are better when we are collectively strong. Let this be a time of unity, a time of charity, and a time of hope.

With hope and sincerity,

Brad Stoler 

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