• Mark Topley

The most important things in life

As a teenager, I spent a summer working in the depths of the Black Forest, in what was then West Germany. I had family connections with the area. A distant second cousin once or twice removed had married a German theologian. They ran a Bible College for aspiring ministers in the midst of the most beautiful countryside imaginable. I went to work on a building renovation for the summer - converting an old mill on the site into accommodation for students.

Sadly my summer was cut short by an altercation with a planing machine (yes, ouch - I’ll never play the guitar), but one thing (in addition to my scars) sticks with me from that time - a single phrase in english.

Being a theological college, it was customary to attend chapel once a week and so I politely accepted the invitation. Although I didn’t speak a word of German, the people were kind (and there would be girls there). The only words in english I heard during that talk have stayed with me since that day.

"The most important thing in life, is that the most important things in life, stay the most important things in life."

I’ve long since forgotten the speaker's name, and I’ve no idea if they were originally his words or someone else’s. But the truth woven into that phrase has proved itself time and time again through the intervening 35 years (or so...)

Back to Work

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve started to get back to working face to face with people again. The long Covid-19 lockdown is starting to ease. With a level of freedom returning, there’s no doubt that most people are in a sprint to get back on top. There’s a big backlog to clear, and much needed turnover  to be generated. It needs to get busy for a while. And in these next few weeks, the balance will understandably shift more towards work. If we’re smart, we’ll recognise that it’s a sprint, and can only be maintained for so long before we must re-balance and return to a sustainable pace. The most important things will still be the most important things.

Through this period and into the future, I think there’s a one-off opportunity to rebuild our lives and our businesses in a different way. I think there are different foundations available, if we act now, and don’t miss the opportunity. Many of us have been reminded in the past 3 months of the really important things in life and what they are. 

The important things

On a personal level for me it was:

  • time to slow down

  • family & friends

  • rest & health

  • community

I don’t think I’m unique. These were the common threads that I read time and again in industry blogs and on social media posts across all sectors and all platforms. 

In business, it was 

  • keeping our teams safe, well informed and feeling cared for

  • looking after and communicating with our patients in whatever ways we could

  • doing what was possible to help our communities

The businesses that did this well have avoided a lot of the problems that those that didn’t are wading through right now.

The key to post-Covid recovery

I’m fortunate enough to be a contributor to Chris Barrow’s Extreme Business Regeneration Group - involving 140+ practices across the country who have gathered three times a week on Zoom (amongst other things) to navigate through lockdown and beyond. What I’ve seen in this group and on the 400-strong weekly public webinar on which I have been a panelist, is that the businesses that are doing the best in coming out of lockdown are those who have continued to do the right things. They’ve kept the most important things important. And they’re doing better because of it. 

There’s a reason for this. I believe that the future of successful business is holistic. Profit is a necessary result, but that’s all it is. It’s not our purpose. We are people, serving people. We are part of multiple communities, all of whom are looking for us to do the right thing. And businesses depend on people to both run them with their hard work, and fuel them with their custom. Paying close attention to the people we serve, the people we work with, and the communities we are a part of will be the keys to success. They will be ‘the most important things in life’ in the coming months and years. 

So what about you?

  1. What’s important for you?

  2. What’s important for your business (the place you spend a huge proportion of your time)?

  3. How can you make sure these things remain important?

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