The Urgency of the Emergency – Prioritizing Current Customers During Periods of Growth

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Focus on the things that matter. Driving revenue and having a return on investment that is scalable and sustainable is the baseline.

For some of us, as society comes back out of hibernation, our business seemingly has grown at a faster pace than ever before. For many, this will just be getting back to a sense of normalcy. But, nonetheless, from where it was to where it is or will be may be the fastest ‘growth’ your company has experienced.

The topic of business growth is something that I end up navigating with a company as they grow. Typically, new websites and digital marketing are only considered during times of growth (if you know anything about business growth, this is backwards and yet still when most businesses deem it the appropriate time. While it is counterintuitive to invest in growth when a company isn’t in a growth phase… well, I’ll stop there because that’s a great subject for another day).

In our businesses, but certainly not limited to business, we tend to forget the important things in order to take care of the urgent things. Sometimes, the urgent things can seem really large in the moment and require us to take a step back from the urgency to recognize their priority.

When I was 9, I was staying up late and watching a movie in the den. This didn’t happen often as it was about 2am in the morning. It was February so we naturally had a fire in the living room fireplace. My mom had asked my brother to go and check on it a couple of times because she heard pops to make sure a coal hadn’t popped out and ended up seeing the floor. A few minutes later, we all got up to go check on it and as we walked through the living room, past the front door, when all of the sudden, someone started pounding on the door. Remember, it was 2 am.

“Your house is on fire, your HOUSE is on FIRE!!!” he was hollering.

From there, we went outside to peek at the roof and we could see flames soaring from the dry, cedar shake roof. At that moment, all of our lives changed.

Within minutes, everyone from our street was inside and carrying everything out they could carry. We only had a few minutes before it became dangerous to go back in.

One tragedy after another occurred.

The pipes were so cold, the water faucet broke off in the panic of pulling a hose up to the roof. This caused our water pressure to drop in every faucet and caused it to drizzle from the other hose. The nearest fire department had just had their trucks whisked away in an F5 tornado just weeks before. They said it was 1 mile wide. It left a swath of disaster that the National Guard and Red Cross had to help our area piece life back together.

My family didn’t know this at the time but the house wasn’t insured — although my parents had just purchased the home with a mortgage, I’m not sure the bank had realized it wasn’t insured. My father took risks and they didn’t often pay off. One of those was not carrying insurance on the house at the time to probably pay for something that seemed more urgent. I may never know the extent of this decision. Regardless, after the fire, this left us homeless and living with my grandparents for about a year as we attempted to get back on our feet with a looming mortgage but nothing to live in.

The only solution to get the fire out, since the pipes were busted, was to soak blankets in the water pouring on the ground from the broken faucet and attempt to snuff out the fire. The fire was small at that time — maybe 5’ x 10’ area on the roof. My dad had ripped the rug out from underneath a marble coffee table and the table top shattered all over the floor and I stopped to stare at it in shock that he broke the table so recklessly.

In that moment, I realized something,

“I’m in a house — that’s burning down. Everything that I have will be gone soon and I’m concerned about picking up a tipped over, broken table?”

It seemed like I stood there for hours but it probably only lasted a few seconds. The memory seared into my mined because a truth was uncovered. At the age of 9, I learned something that many 50 year olds still don’t.

The coffee table didn’t matter because the house was burning down: the house was going to burn down regardless of the coffee table.

After that, I discovered super-human clarity in crisis situations and that has carried me through all of life (more on that later).

Next, I called our pastor, “Terry, our house is burning down. I just thought you should know.”

Out of urgency, the fire department hadn’t been called yet!

So, I called the fire department, “Our house is burning down, we’re located at 144 Crestview Drive. Come quick.”

The fire department thought it as a joke because I was a kid. The pastor was confused. I didn’t wait to explain — a grown up can surely make the right decision.

Next, I grabbed my mom’s purse and my dad’s wallet — which contained their Driver’s Licenses and credit and debit cards — necessary things after a house fire where you can’t even prove your identity. Then I got my brother’s guitar — his favorite thing. After I hurried out with these items, that was the last time that people entered and not long later, flames were bursting out of the windows.

The fire department failed to extinguish the house and it burned to the ground. Our pastor was there to console and care for our family and rally the church the next day and proceeding months to provide support.

My feet were swelling now in excruciating pain. I had been walking across the yard barefoot several times and had broken off hundreds of sand burrs in my feet — if you’re not from a dry climate, you don’t know what these are. Every poke is the worst splinter you’ve ever had. I remember the first one I stepped on, but I pressed on and didn’t even stop to pull them out. I knew that my feet would eventually heal but the moments I had to carry things out would never come back.

Our neighbor was a Dr. and provided some surgical tweezers, ointment, gauze, and pain reliever and another neighbor spent a good hour trying to pull out as many splinters as possible. The feet heeled, it took a couple of weeks to be able to walk again without pain.

I know that’s a long story but I hope that this memory of mine can seer into your mind as well and help you to discover the important things in your life and ignore the unimportant urgent things. To also be able to distinguish when something is urgent if it is also important or just simply urgent like picking up the table that was tipped over and broken.

If you have to step back from the situation, take that time. It’s more important than anything else you can do.

During this time of rapid growth as people go back to work, shoppers get back to shopping, and families get out and enjoy each other, step back and make sure that you’re focused on the important.

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