I started to post an entry a couple of weeks ago about the importance of having “everyone on the bus”, to borrow a concept from Jim Collins, but I got side tracked by the EF5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. And then I was going to get back on it last week just before central Oklahoma got hit again by a second EF5 tornado. And this got me thinking about… not the tornadoes themselves, but the response to these natural disasters.
When the first tornado struck, I was half a country away on business. Watching the storm first on my smart phone and then on television, I began to realize just how small the world has become. And, maybe even more importantly, just how connected the world is today. It seemed like the entire world was watching when Moore was hit.
The response to this event has been, and continues to this day to be overwhelming. Not only have Oklahomans shown the “Oklahoma Standard”, but the entire world seems to be displaying this same compassion. I flew from Seattle to Oklahoma City on the Saturday following the storm and many people in the Seattle-Tacoma airport commented about the storm and said they were praying for the people of Oklahoma. In Atlanta, the response became even bigger for me personally. More than a third of the passengers on the plane from Atlanta to Oklahoma City were coming to volunteer with the recovery efforts.
There have been donations and signs of support from throughout the U.S., as well as donations from all over the world. There have been more than 20 different aid organizations on the ground in Oklahoma working on the recovery. Their dedication and enthusiasm made it seem as though a return to normal would happen relatively quickly.
And then the unthinkable happened. Another EF5 tornado, the widest ever recorded in the United States at 2.6 miles across, struck El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31st. But this second killer storm did nothing but strengthen the resolve of those most affected. What could have become a reason to quit had the opposite effect. The human spirit that all of us want to see everywhere, all the time, came out. And the love and support just kept coming. Thank you America. Thank you world.
But why am I writing about this in a business blog you ask? Because, we are all in this together. Sure individuals and governments have offered financial aid and support. But, so have businesses. The National Basketball Association and the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder donated $1 million each after Kevin Durant donated the same amount. Companies from all over Oklahoma and the Southwest U.S. have sent teams in to feed the victims and volunteers free of charge. Love’s Country Stores, headquartered in Oklahoma City, underwrote to the tune of $1.5 million a benefit concert featuring many prominent country singers. Many Businesses are allowing their employees to volunteer with the relief efforts while receiving full pay and benefits. Businesses large and small are pitching in to help the City of Moore.
Why would a business do this? Isn’t the reason private sector businesses exist is to make money? How can you stay in business if your workforce is not at work? Is this all just a marketing expense; a way for businesses to get their name out there?
There are a few cynical people in the world that will hang their hats on these questions. The rest of us will see the response for what it is: Hope, love and compassion for our neighbors, friends and co-workers. We are all in this together, and but for the luck of where we live it could have been us. It could have been a hurricane, or an earthquake, or even a wildfire. But it wasn’t; not this time. And I can assure you, it won’t be the last. And for this reason alone I can say, we are all in this together.
For any organization, its employees or members want to be part of a family. They want to be part of something more than just a place to work, or a place to congregate. Humans crave for the personal interaction that makes them feel needed. All companies that respond to disasters such as the tornadoes in Oklahoma send a clear signal to employees that they do care about the community; that the company will be there for them if disaster strikes. Why? It appears that more companies have finally started to realize that community is an integral part of the business. And it may not be just because it makes good business sense.
Perhaps this is a sign that the era of the cold, heartless corporation with no sense of community or dedication to the workforce is over. Perhaps this is a sign that the new generation starting to run our companies have learned from the failures of the past. Perhaps this is a sign that the world is becoming a better place.
Or, perhaps this is simply what we all do when a disaster strikes. With all the communications technology that exists in the world today, perhaps we are finally hearing and seeing the entire picture. It really doesn’t matter what the reason is. What matters is that we are all in this together.
Thank you to every business, organization and individual that has responded to the needs in central Oklahoma. On behalf of all Oklahomans, I can say with great assurance to the entire world: If you need us in the future, we will be there for you. Why? Because we are all in this together.