Last night at a few minutes after 6:00 my wife and I left our house for our usual evening walk. Not long after, we reached Nicollet Ave, a primary north south street in our city. As we turned around we stopped to watch a police car heading north on Nicollet. It was moving fast with full lights and sirens going.
What struck me as odd was that this squad car was a Minnesota State Trooper, not a local black and white. It’s rare to see a trooper screaming at high speed through our city, since their jurisdiction is the highway system.
Later that night we discovered why. And so did the rest of the nation.
This morning Minnesota is in shock. A major bridge in Minneapolis collapsed. No warning. Nothing unusual. It just dropped 64 feet into the Mississippi River. At least 50 cars fell into the river. As many as 60 people were injured. Nine people have reportedly died.
Our governor rightly called it a “catastrophe of historic proportions”.
I don’t write about this today to solicit sympathy or to simply spread the news. Part of this is therapeutic. (Call me selfish.) When something like this happens, we all deal with it differently. I write. So I write it out of my system.
But the main reason I write about this tragedy today is that it shows us something important about who we are and how we’re designed.
When catastrophes happen, people respond.
They respond by helping however they can. They call 911 on their cell phones. They dive into the Mississippi River to help people get out. They help a disabled man out of his van that had become stranded on part of the bridge. They help rescue workers carry injured people up the 60 foot river banks to waiting ambulances. They stand in line to donate blood.
Within minutes both banks of the river were teeming with nurses, national guard personnel and others who wanted to help.
Then the pros started arriving. First came responders from the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Then Bloomington, Roseville, and just about every suburb and city around the metro area. Police, paramedics, more nurses. Anyone who was trained to respond to trauma got in their car and headed downtown to do their part.
That’s why we saw a Minnesota State Trooper tearing through the streets of Burnsville at a little after 6:00 last night. He was responding to the call for help.
When I see this I’m always impressed. But I’m never surprised.
One thing that ties all of us imperfect humans together is our willingness, our desire to help others. It’s hard-coded into us. I don’t think it’s something you can train or motivate a person to do. And in situations like this, we just do it without thinking.
I write a lot (and talk a lot) about growing our businesses. I write about getting more customers and treating them well and developing and implementing effective marketing activities. I talk about different ways to attract new customers and keep them coming back. I help my clients find ways to make their businesses the best they can be.
But, at the end of the day, there is one lesson, one rule that dwarfs every other. It’s the reason we’re in business. It’s the reason people do business with us. It’s the single most important thing to remember about your business.
We are here to help each other.
If you forget everything else you’ve ever learned or heard about how to manage a business, you can still do just fine if you remember this. If you run your business with this as your foundation, you can overcome just about anything.
If every aspect of your organization lives and breathes this ideal, you will have customers lined up for miles. You will have employees who never leave. You’ll find things just work better when everyone is focused on helping others.
It’s not easy to make this happen. It’s not common. Too often it takes a tragedy for us to remember our true nature.
But it can be done. Because we really do want to help others. So, today, take a moment and ask yourself how you could make this happen in your organization. Or, start a conversation with your colleagues about it. Ask the question and create some answers. Then put some action into your answers and see what happens.
I think you’ll like the results.