COVID-19 has been all over the news. I’m sure you’ve heard – social distancing, remote working, gatherings & events stopping, restaurants closing, etc.

During this time, we’ve been given a chance to reflect on what matters most. With students returning home to their families and employees either out of a job or working from home, things are strangely (and wonderfully) re-connected. The family unit is being restored. Neighbors and communities are brought together again. Lives are slowed down to focus on and appreciate what’s important.

As we always say around here, businesses are ultimately about people. And as we’ve had a chance to reflect personally, we should also take some time to reflect professionally.

People Matter, Not Metrics

We all understand that family takes priority over work. If there’s a family emergency, we allow for an employee to take a few days off. But oftentimes our business models don’t.

We’ve experienced this struggle as employees transition to a work-from-home model. Sure, it’s important to meet our business initiatives for the year, but those goals have taken a back seat to ensuring the safety of our employees & customers. In other words, our truest priorities are centered on the wellbeing of people, not the wellbeing of “money making.”

Although that’s true, it’s easy to forget. We get so caught up in measuring results that we begin to call employees “resources” instead of people. We focus on turning a profit at the cost of investing in the lives of our “less profitable” customers.

So what does this teach us? People really matter most. Not money. Not metrics. Not profitability. But people.

This Changes Business

Let me take you on a brief journey through the field of 3D animation. In 1979, Pixar essentially began as an experimental computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, tasked with challenging what was possible in film technology. With an investment from Steve Jobs, they worked hard on innovation, slowly growing into what they are today.

Their first film, Toy Story, was the world’s first computer animated feature film. But – don’t miss this – it wasn’t made with the intention of making money. Sure, they had to turn a profit, but they made the film to test the limits – to create great art and push an entire industry forward.

Their vision pulled them, not their desire for profit. And without the goal of making money at its center, Toy Story grossed $363 million, worldwide.

Do you see what happened here? By putting something other than money first, Pixar made money as a result. Had they focused on getting the dollar instead, who knows if we’d have had something so unique? And – by the way – they’re not the only example: The Blair Witch Project did something similar and made $249 million worldwide.

The point: if we focus on people, we’re more profitable. If we focus on profit, we lose out on people. And we already know that people matter most.

Business Exists To Serve

In the wake of COVID-19, businesses are also doing what they can to support their communities, employees, and customers. And in that, they’re doing what businesses do best.

You sell a product or service for a reason: to help a specific kind of person solve a problem or improve upon something. Your very existence as a business is in the service of people.

Whether you’re handling insurance, building machines, or making music, you ultimately work to make something great of this place called Earth. Through your service, you help the human community flourish and accomplish bigger & better things that in turn create a better environment on Earth.

But what happens when we lose sight of that? When we focus on something other than service as our mission? We’ve all seen the dramatic and unfortunate fallout of those kinds of business decisions.

So what are we learning here? Businesses are about service; COVID-19 simply reveals their true nature. Don’t let this lesson from soon-to-be history pass you by.

What can a virus teach us about business? That people matter more than profit. And that businesses don’t exist to make money, but to serve and contribute to the betterment of the world.