The Day the Lights Went Out

It’s 10am, I’m in the Philippines and I’m sitting in the dark. Typhoon Glenda is raging outside. There’s an eerie glow around me along with the murmur of a thousand voices. While I’m not in a church, there is a sort of worship going on. I’m inside a giant casino. Earlier I was having my breakfast when the lights flickered and we were plunged into darkness.

Over the last few days I’ve been conducting a Franchise Relationships Masterclass for a 100 or so franchise executives. Today I was to also deliver a keynote address to the Philippine Franchise Association conference. However the organisers texted me early this morning to say, because of Glenda, they’ve had to postpone the conference. I now can’t give my talk as I’m leaving tomorrow morning.

So here I sit in the glow of my trusty iPad writing my 100th Healthy Franchise Relationships Tip. While the lights, lifts, food service equipment and air conditioning have all shut down (glad I wasn’t in the lift), hundreds of slot machines adjacent to the breakfast bar continue to blink and bing, powered by emergency generators. I can also see faces of people eerily lit by flashlights held by casino staff who are standing next to the gaming tables. The casino might promote its brand as a place of entertainment, relaxation and opportunity, but what I see is a miserly disregard for the wellbeing of customers and staff, and an obsession with keeping the gaming machines and tables going at all costs. 

Culture and character

If you want to know what’s important in an organisation, just look around you. How are resources allocated? Where are people focusing their time and attention? The word we could use to describe this is culture, or “How we do things around here”. Culture is like character. It’s what a person or an organisation stands for when the chips, or in this case the power lines, are down. Do we fall back on greedy, convenient solutions, or do we do what we know to be the right thing. 

I have just had a call on my mobile from the conference organisers. They want to know if I’m okay. Despite the chaos they face in contacting over 400 delegates and reorganising the conference program, the Chairman is personally coming over to get me and take me back to his hotel where the power is being used to ensure the comfort of guests. I say I’m fine here but they insist because, as they say, “Greg, you are our guest and we want to look after you.” That’s also culture.

Moving forward to 6pm, Typhoon Glenda has blown out to sea and I’m back in my room at the casino. I’ve spent the last few hours reorganising my flights so I can stay an extra day and deliver my talk to the conference. I’ve done this, not because I have to or feel obliged to, but because I want to. A good culture does that. It makes you want to give that little bit extra to help make things better for everyone.

At some stage our personal lights are going to go out for good. I sometimes wonder what I’ll be thinking when mine start to flicker. Will I be satisfied I did the right thing or will I be filled with regrets that I too often took the easy path?

Thanks for reading these Tips. I hope you’ve been finding them useful.

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