Petunia Lythe-Fox loved a good committee meeting for one of her charities.
She saw them as an opportunity to parade her newest frock, display her impossibly trim figure and provide her freshly baked buns. Of course, she never actually ate one of her buns! They were made purely to impress the committee and to outdo Ethel Forthard’s contribution.
Petunia was a solicitor and a very good one, so she thought. Suitably married to Bertie who was now a partner in her father’s law firm, Petunia had arrived. They lived in an expensive cottage in St Neots. She drove the Range Rover Monday to Friday and saved the Porsche for the weekend. These days, Petunia’s job was mainly a title and she rarely went in to the office. Petunia liked to lunch, shop, attend committee meetings, and bake buns. As a trustee of several charities, Petunia walked tall in the town. She considered herself to be highly respected.
One afternoon, her baking session was interrupted when the phone rang. So annoying! A man called Norman was talking about a local supermarket that wanted to donate food, clothes and sleeping bags to the Homeless Shelter in town. The buns just needed a few more minutes but she needed to keep an eye on them. Norman, so fired up with the good news, chatted on. Petunia made the right noises, thanked him, suggested he email her to arrange a meeting, blamed a bad signal and hung up. The buns came out – perfect. That would show Ethel Forthard!
You see, Norman was a go-getter. At just 25 he had made his first million creating apps. Norman got things done, threw out the rule book and made things happen. At 18, Norman turned his life around. Then, he was a drop out, living on the streets around drugs and drink, trawling through supermarket bins for his tea and finding a corner to sleep in. This was Norman’s existence. It only took one moment – the moment that changed everything. Norman’s moment came when he awoke to face another cold, miserable, hungry day. That was it for him. No huge story, no drama – just this one day – a Thursday. Norman recognised that things had to change. They did. He made sure of it.
Seven years later Norman’s success was awesome. His heart for the homeless was easy to comprehend. Alongside his business, he had been working tenaciously with a major High Street chain, encouraging them to support homeless people across the UK. The breakthrough came when they had at last said “YES” to a trial in St Neots ahead of a UK roll out if successful. What a fantastic result! Norman was thrilled and giddy as he called Petunia, a trustee of the local homeless charity. He spoke, she thanked him, and suggested an email and a meeting. She was missing the point by miles! This had to happen now! Not tomorrow – now! The food, the clothes, the sleeping bags were there now, right now!
Petunia’s charity never benefited from the donation and Petunia never received an email from Norman. However, she did delight the committee with her buns. Norman contacted another charity who recognised the support and generosity of the supermarket chain and immediately responded to their magnificent offer. The local press were keen to run the story, promoting both the store and the charity.
I wonder how well we listen and observe in business? How often do we recognise a new opportunity? Or do we prefer to keep the blinkers on and make more buns? Be a Norman, get giddy about new opportunities then go and make some happen! Petunia won’t even know you’re making a difference – but you will!
Sally Roberts 07432 545692