Three simple strategies to be more ‘inclusive’ as a business owner

COVID-19 has disrupted businesses and strained the economy while simultaneously putting pressure on business owners to be more inclusive. 

In a world once consumed with maximising profit, organisations around the globe are now adopting more thoughtful business practices.

Debates rage in corporate circles (particularly in the USA) around stakeholder capitalism and the rejection of maximising shareholder returns at any cost.

What does this mean for us as small business owners?

Financial performance is an integral business metric, but you can’t have performance without people.

By shifting focus to the people behind your business, you open up the possibilities of greater inclusion, allowing you to support and embrace the vulnerable and disadvantaged, and in the process becoming a more sustainable business in the long term.

So, how can you support your people (and your business) throughout COVID-19 and the repercussive economic impacts?

1. Demonstrate compassionate awareness 

The global pandemic seems to have brought out the ‘fight or flight’ response in many businesses across Australia. Some have scrambled to survive, while others have had to bear the burden and close their doors. 

Especially for those in Melbourne, COVID has made us abruptly aware that we are part of a community of people and that the businesses within these communities can easily be broken apart.

Shutdowns and social restrictions may be out of your control as a business owner, but how you react and treat your people is always within your control. Regardless of whether your business has thrived or been challenged in 2020, it’s time to open up your perspective beyond facts and figures, sales and costs.

It’s time to look at the people behind all this data and take note of how you’re reacting to the onslaught of change.

It’s easy to turn insular and angry. But what if you looked outward? What if you tried to help others who are suffering as well? What if you brought a sense of togetherness to your business strategy instead of making it one of sole survival?

If you have to make some tough decisions and stand down staff, think about how you can support their transition. If you have to reduce hours for your staff, offer your support and flexibility. Even if your business has remained unaffected, remember that this pandemic has impacted us on a deeply human level – so keep your people in your thoughts every step of the way.

2. It’s not all about work

People often put on a brave face in the name of professionalism. 

But beneath the surface, they could be struggling. 

Maybe they’re at risk of losing their house or struggling to pay rent. 

Or perhaps the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health and they are finding it difficult to stay present and productive at work. 

Working from home arrangements have become the norm, intertwining our personal and professional lives. It is your duty as a leader to support your people on all fronts. And now, more than ever, that includes their personal wellbeing.

Consider your supply chain and wider business network, too. Your clients may be doing it just as tough as your employees. Rather than chasing payments in a flurry or sticking to the same old payment terms, be flexible and understanding. Instead of dumping smaller suppliers who may not have access to funds, can you reframe your contracts to be a win-win for both sides? 

View this as an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your clients and important suppliers. They will reward you when they can. 

So, whether it’s a strategic review of your supply chain or a simple check-in with your team, always keep an eye on what’s going on behind the scenes. 

3. Community care

Once you have taken care of the people who support your business, try supporting the wider community. 

How visible is your business in the local community? 

Is there a way that you can get more involved?

Local sporting clubs are the lifeblood of a community, but restrictions have meant many are struggling to survive, especially as summer draws near.

Can you help sponsor a team or a facility upgrade? 

Or maybe act as a mentor on a local council program to help startup businesses? 

Contributing to the community isn’t just good for your soul, it’s also good for your business. Offering your generosity to the wider community is affordable, raises the visibility of your brand and enriches your business network.

COVID-19 has kicked many of us to the canvas. But maybe this gives us a new way of looking at our relationships with our employees, customers, suppliers and our general community. 

By looking outwards, you can genuinely support your people and embrace the new frontier of inclusiveness.