The Australian bushfires have affected everyone, consumed our attention, and ignited despair, anger, hopelessness, alongside outrageous political missteps. These fires have attracted the world’s attention and led to a massive outpouring of charitable action and donations from Australia and beyond.

I want to share what I believe about businesses getting involved with politics, charity and public affairs: in short, I believe there’s not nearly enough of it.

You can’t be a leader if you’re only here for the good times

For 12 years now, I’ve been teaching business people how to build their reputations as experts, leaders and authorities in their field. But this is just empty words if you’re only here for the good times. When difficulties, tragedies or challenges arise – this is where leaders are made.

Our lack of real political leadership has highlighted, yet again, the need for ethical, selfless, critical-thinking, future-focused leaders. And for those who would protest that they aren’t ‘experts’ in bushfires: what if Australian comedian Celeste Barber had concluded that comedians have no role to play in fundraising $50 million (and rising)? Or if Leonardo di Caprio had believed that actors had no relevance to environmental action? Or if Bill Gates believed he should stick with technology and not bother with philanthropy?

The state of the environment is everybody’s responsibility and has a direct impact on economics and business. We have demonstrated that capitalism doesn’t need to be at the expense of the environment or workers’ rights anymore. Businesses don’t just have a moral obligation to the planet – environmentalism is also an economic imperative.

Your marketing demonstrates your values and makes up our collective culture

Marketing isn’t just about selling stuff. Marketing is communications, which is part of our culture which we’re all participating in. It breaks my heart – over and over again – when I see a lack of acknowledgment or response by businesses to issues that directly impact a particular sector, or that impacts the people that make up the community that a business is servicing. Your silence is deafening.

And please, I know how intimidating and scary it can be to join a debate on current affairs as a business owner. I am also guilty of staying silent to avoid risking inadvertently causing offense or provoking misunderstandings.

But ALL communications are innately challenging: communication is not what you say, it’s what other people hear – which is outside our control and can be fraught. But yet! We must stand up and stand for something. Or risk becoming irrelevant, ineffective, out-of-touch.

Values-based business are the way of the future. We are all media companies. We have far more power to influence culture than at any other point in history. We have the ability to decentralise power through creating our own work, to make a far greater impact in our local communities and to provide an alternative to the mainstream that is inclusive, loving, encouraging and empowering. This is within your power and remit, but only if you recognise it.

The personal and professional are not two separate spheres

Many people continue to believe that the public sphere and professional spheres should be kept separate. This is the increasing privilege of a minority who live without hardship, without physical or mental difficulties, who can afford to have their homelife taken care of by others so that they can access great swathes of unbounded time to dedicate to work.

For women, this has always been far harder to do and this continues to be reality as we enter a new decade.

These bushfires have been all-consuming – apart from the obvious limitations of clients of mine who’ve been affected by defending their homes, and getting access to electricity and internet connection once fires have swept through – but also to our ability to focus, to continue “business as usual” and to continue undeterred. It’s been incredibly difficult for many of us to continue to work at this time, despite needing to.

Work is not the domain of robots and software. Businesses are composed of people and we bring ourselves to work – in all our complicated, emotional, awe-inspiring and outrageous glory. This is especially the case for the self-employed but is equally applicable to big business, where the frailties of a single human at the top can have far more devastating consequences.

Revolutions are impossible until they are inevitable

This final line from Jess Hills’ monumental book, See what you made me do, borrowed from freedom fighter Albie Sachs, struck me in the heart this morning. In my experience, we are far more motivated to change by the need to move from the negative than by pursuing the positive.

These bushfires were just the push I need towards a dawning realisation that I need to do more. Not in future, when I have everything mapped out, thoroughly researched and prepped, but now. Imperfect action towards a common goal.

These are my beliefs and values. I’m hoping they’re yours, too.

  • That financially successful, emotionally sustainable, and personally rewarding work, of our own sweat and smarts, is not only possible but the way of the future.
  • That self-insight, self-confidence and self-advocacy are necessary to this.
  • That enterprise and entrepreneurism are vehicles towards social change and social good, particularly among marginalised communities, and to stimulate growth in isolated areas (Australia is a great country for this).
  • That self-expression, communication and story-telling is power! Especially stories that challenge the status quo, stimulate critical thinking, and provoke diversity and inclusiveness.

To this end, Hustle & Heart is:

  • Contributing a minimum 1% of all annual profits to a select few charities that promote environmentalism, literacy and numeracy, and ethics.
  • Offering a 15% discount off all courses, programs and memberships to people working at charities. You will need a registered charity number to access this.
  • Launching a scholarship program in March for my flagship program, Hustle & Heart, with further scholarships planned for other key courses later in the year.

A lot of these have been in the pipeline for some time. There were always details I hadn’t figured out yet, something to worry about or ponder over. But these bushfires have highlighted that there’s no time like now.

Now is all we’ve got.