Over the past few months as the movement for social justice has swept across our country and the world, a number of our peer groups have participated in honest, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversations about how we, as business owners, should respond.
I am so glad that these conversations are finally happening and encourage each of you to continue to reach out and talk to each other as we all try to navigate this terrain together. It will not always be easy, but it is important and critical work for all of us to do as engaged citizens and frankly, as decent human beings. Some of the harder questions that have come up in these discussions are:
- How can I handle clients who maybe haven’t quite embraced this new moment in the ways that we might have hoped?
- And what do I do about these clients? They may talk the talk, but they are not yet walking the walk?
Or plainly said:
- How do you tell a firm of old white guys that they are a firm of old white guys?
- How do you explain the numerous benefits of having a diverse team to people who have never considered that a problem before?
Here’s my answer.
There is no way to sugar coat it. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Depending on the role you are serving for your client, you need to help them see the problem and then solve the problem.
You can explain the challenge and solutions from an ops perspective, or a finance perspective, or a marketing perspective, whichever avenue relates to your area of expertise. But shying away from the conversation and pretending that the status quo is okay is no longer a viable option. If we want to see the change, we have to be part of the change.
If you worry that this may lose you business, I hear you. But I doubt that if the conversation is handled in the right way, this will be the result.
Remember: our goal is to be indispensable to our clients. If you tell your clients what they want to hear, not what they need to hear, they will eventually realize it and cut you loose.
Just like we appreciate when our best friend tells us we have food in our teeth, your clients will appreciate your willingness to have the uncomfortable conversation because you want what is best for them in the long run.