A new normal: A time for innovation, empathy and connection

Embracing adversity and the opportunities it creates leads us to being better people and better business leaders.

These are unusual times (wouldn’t we all love a dollar for every time we have heard that over the past few months). While no one wants to underplay the serious nature of what is happening now and the impact that this is having on businesses and individuals, there are opportunities to take micro steps forward for each of us that can lead to positive momentum and confidence.

As a leader, now is a time to inspire others to take control of what they can and not be paralysed by the pandemic and fear. Rather, extra effort should be put into finding ways to demonstrate value and show genuine care for the connections and people in their lives and community.  

As individuals we have a need for connection and feeling part of a community. As business owners we need to find ways to keep the connection up with our customers, teams and suppliers. We also need to keep revenue at a level where we can pay our bills and retain our staff, so that when things change – which they will we are in a position to prosper and have developed enhanced capabilities. I can already envision a future where some of the changes we have moved to now become part of our normal way of operating.

I would like to share some of the positives that I have observed over the last month as I think it highlights that even in these testing times, each of us has an opportunity to step up rather than switch off. It doesn’t matter whether we are doing this remotely or in the office.

  1. I have been touched by the genuine care and interest in our team’s wellbeing by customers and business partners. Times like these really do bring out the best of people as they put forward concerns for others' wellbeing and make the extra effort – the phone call, the personal note, the book in the mail. They may not be big gestures but the impact they have is huge! They also come from a place that is very genuine.

  2. There is less focus on differences and more focus on getting through it together.

  3. I have seen and heard of numerous examples where people have made extra effort to connect and assist those that are more vulnerable. In my case, the pick-up of groceries for some elder members of our community. These are great examples and hopefully these extend beyond the current event.

  4. Many of us interact daily with a range of small businesses, which are led in many cases by people just trying to get ahead. They have seen a significant impact in reduction of customers so it is great to see regulars still supporting these businesses, be it take away rather than sitting in at the local café or restaurant, or hiring out equipment from your local gym in exchange for continued membership payments. For those that have been stopped from trading all together, it is incredibly difficult to a point where businesses need to be moth balled. My wife runs a thriving beauty business with my daughter in Paddington, which unfortunately has had to cease trading due to restrictions. The emotional sledgehammer has been confronting but what I have seen in the days following is an incredible resilience and growing confidence and action over what they can control. With each day that passes I see more determination to get through this patch by them which is inspiring and makes me very proud.

  5. I love to hear the stories about businesses adjusting to the conditions – the previous processes of 90 per cent of business being done face to face and 10 per cent remotely is quickly changing with the use of take-away and online tools. More likely for the foreseeable future 90 per cent of business will be enabled by technology.  Even in businesses such as mine, we have done a seismic shift in making video meetings the norm and offered as the default. Our business and our customers don’t have the luxury to sit at home and wait for this to pass, as there are significant changes and impacts on their financial situations with investment markets. A great showcase of how technology provides us with a quality experience. The accelerated learning that is going on with myself and my team now is fantastic. We are grateful for the fact we can still look after our clients.

  6. Increasingly I have seen providers offering a bit of space for those experiencing genuine hardship.

Now is a perfect time to reflect on the things and people in our lives that we should be grateful for. For me personally it is that I am surrounded by people that love me, that I love and that I enjoy being around. I am grateful for being respected as a leader and a mentor and working with a passionate team of great human beings. I am grateful for a home that I have and can now work from if needed. I am grateful that I am in a position to help my family and others get through these times. Overall, I am grateful that I have choices and times like this to encourage me to do more of the smaller things like walking the dogs, going fishing with my son, helping my daughter out as she studies, making the extra phone calls and reaching out to let people know I will assist where I can.


I value the opportunity to share knowledge on how to better manage money through the work our team does with a variety of businesses in the area of financial wellness. This will be so important for employers to support their team members during this period, but also as we transition back to the other side.

I encourage others to reach out and connect, support others and look for the opportunities to grow. In particular, show support for a small business in your area either by using their services, thanking them for being there or promoting what you value about them on social media.

Darren Smith, managing director, Financial Advice Matters

A new normal: A time for innovation, empathy and connection
Darren Smith
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