Over the last few weeks, I feel like I have been blessed with the opportunity to slow down, take a good look at the environment around me, and make some observations that apply not only to business, but also the world around us. During the first week, I was with my Entrepreneur Organization (EO) forum for our annual retreat. This is an organization I belong to that pairs a group of entrepreneurs together where you can confidentially discuss your personal challenges, wins, and plans in your business, personal, and family life. For the second week, I finally underwent a minor surgery for which seemed that I had been waiting for forever. I often forget about the value of pulling yourself out of your day-to-day business to surround yourself with others from completely different backgrounds or experience. It is amazing what lessons we can learn from these times of focusing on others around us versus the constant stirring cyclone of our own businesses.
So, what did I learn over the last couple of weeks that I am so anxious to share? Values drive everything in this world! I always knew they would be important to me when I started my company but taking a step outside of my business, I realize that these values transcend SONA or any business for that matter. I am talking about areas like humility, self-sacrifice, and personal responsibility. We are all trying to navigate the changes within daily life, dealing with one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen. We just witnessed an election with our neighbours to the south that highlighted the deep divisions that exist between a population of our closest allies. This divide has brought out many of the negative values that limit our potential as citizens. Politics, business, and life in general, are all governed by the same principles; we know what is right and wrong. We are faced with decisions and situations every day that make us think of what values are important to us and how we want to shape the environment we live in. Let me tell you how a personal challenge I had reinforced the kind of company I chose to build.
I mentioned that a couple of weeks ago I underwent surgery for a relatively minor problem called an umbilical hernia. It appeared in early 2019 and apparently this was something that ran in my family. When my Family Doctor advised me of the problem, he was quick to refer me to a specialist. I met with that specialist maybe six weeks after this initial appointment and I was scheduled for surgery six weeks after that. Queue human hitting cannonball number one. Three weeks after that first specialist meeting I was contacted by his secretary advising he was closing his practice. He had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and sadly passed a couple weeks later. Since then, I have thought about him often. Here was a man who had centred his professional life around helping others heal, and he had been taken from us so early. At the same time, we have countless examples of corporate cultures that reward others for ‘beating the other guy’. We have leaders who indoctrinate themselves in a fishbowl that celebrates individualistic dominance over selfless caring for others.
When I finally made it to that hospital for a routine surgery last week I was scared! I had not been put under anaesthetic before and I felt frightened and alone. Meanwhile, the business owner in me couldn’t help observing the culture in the medical wing of the hospital as I went through the various departments leading to an operating table. From the initial walk into the room to change, to being wheeled into that operating room, I found myself amazed at how the nurses worked together to focus on me. Making me feel comfortable though the process of going into the operation and the post-surgery recovery. It wasn’t just one or two of those nurses and Doctors, it was all of them! There was a common purpose or why for them behind those actions. That why, was obviously grounded in a genuine common goal of putting the patient’s needs before anything else. I don’t believe this was something taught or learned, but was most certainly fostered in a work environment that has established a strong culture.
After surgery and the days that have followed, I can’t stop thinking about how I could apply these lessons to our team. SONA’s culture is one that builds on a foundation of putting our customers first just like this hospital has. In no way would I ever be so foolish as to say that what we do through advising small, and medium businesses on payment processing is comparable to what our First Responders do every day, but I can say that both organizations are grounded in the same values. The actions we take in interacting with our customers, vendors, staff and partners are grounded in the same values that spread across many other organizations and businesses. They make our goals and dreams bigger than ourselves and tie us to achieving something more than a positive figure on our bottom line.
What’s the lesson that I have taken from this experience? For me, it is to take the time to listen more as a leader. I could be wrong, but I believe my customers, my partners and my team know what is important to me in the culture of SONA. Just like those Nurses and Doctors who took care of me, I need to take the time to listen more to those around me to take care of those we work with today.
CEO & Founder – SONA