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Open for Business

Our City's Leadership, Local Experts, and Agile Business Owners Have and Will Continue to Meet Challenges

Article by Michelle W. Parnell

Photography by Photo compliments of Columbia County

Originally published in Evans City Lifestyle

 Page 2 Side Bar

Catalyst Business Tips

C- Communicate – Clear and consistent sharing of information regarding updates and changes are critical

A- Adapt- Innovation is your friend

S- Sustain- Don’t abandon your past practices – modify them 

T- Touch- Staying connected, even virtually, is vital during these times

The COVID-19 pandemic that swept the nation this spring posed extraordinary challenges to businesses. Local business owners, like so many of you, have been stretched to grow beyond the conventional ways of doing daily tasks. Remarkably, many business owners in multiple industries have found improvements that they will be carrying into the new business as usual.

Wendy Perry of Catalyst Human Performance Experts says, “During this unprecedented time in our history, we have all been challenged to be creative and innovative. The pandemic has forced all of us to reimagine our workspace and quickly adapt to virtual interaction.” 

Wendy and her husband, Clinical Psychologist and Human Performance & Behavior Expert Dr. Michael Perry, have coached business owners to take important steps, easily remembered as CAST: communicate, adapt, sustain, touch.

  • Communicate. Clear and consistent sharing of information regarding updates and changes to the vision, mission, the timeline or the team are critical. 
  • Adapt...daily! The ability to roll with the tide is essential to being able to withstand the unexpected, whatever the circumstance may be. Innovation is your friend! 
  • Sustain. Don’t abandon your past practices; modify them! Solicit and tap into the historical perspectives and ideas of the entire team and find innovative ways to adopt them in order to get through today and prepare for what’s next.
  • Touch: Staying connected, even virtually, is vital during these times. In organizations where face-to-face contact was the norm, the transition to virtual can be devastating. Continue to encourage collaboration. Be intentional about reaching out and connecting via whatever platform is available for a quick chat between meetings. Be sure to check in on your team to see how they are coping. Never underestimate the power of human contact…even if it is through a screen.

Wendy adds, “Leaders who have been decisive, adaptive, and accessible have been able to navigate this shift and are continuing to thrive amidst the crisis. Business owners who made early decisions to pivot and modify their processes versus eliminate them have been able to sustain their practices and retain their teams.”

Kimberly Oberkirsch, owner of Pinot’s Palette, has done just that. She says, “Our business is all about socializing and getting together and having a good time, and we can’t do that right now.” Pinot’s Palette began offering take-home kits for adults and kids that include everything to create your masterpiece at home. With over 60 paintings to choose from and curbside pick-up of supplies, it’s easy to have fun outside of the studio.

“We also have virtual live classes,” shares Kimberly. “Those are offered from four studios across the United States. You register for the classes, have curbside pick-up for the supplies, and do the virtual class at home. Registrants get access the day of class plus an additional four days, so if you miss something or if you want to go back, you have a few days to do that.” There is also an option for customers to use their own supplies and simply pay for the online instruction. 

Businesses who have been able to pivot have not only created solutions for themselves but for others as well. For those still craving the interaction of painting with friends, Pinot’s Palette is offering private virtual classes. “It’s great for events when you want to be together, but you can’t,” says Kimberly. “You can see everybody and share the experience from the safety of your home.”

Businesses that require services to be rendered inside the home have also adjusted. Dyer Vent Wizard owner Orin Jackson says, “Usually, I would come to the customer’s house, greet them, then go inside and check the dryer connection to see how the dryer is functioning. I’d also ask them if the dryer is taking a long time to dry or if it is getting hot in order to help identify the problem.”

With the new social distancing guidelines in place, Orin has adapted his approach. He explains, “Now, I wear personal protective equipment like gloves and a mask. I try not to go in the house if I don’t have to. The dryer has to be on for me to clean the vent, so now I have the customer turn the dryer on, and I try to have as little contact with the customer as possible.”

In the midst of the crisis, the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce took steps to support local businesses. “When this all started in mid-March,” says Chamber Director Tammy Shepherd, “the first thing the Chamber did was create a COVID-19 page on our website that we keep updated with the latest information. It has links to resources like the Economic Recovery Disaster Loan, the Payroll Protection Program, and links for local, state, and federal government.” The website also included an Open For Business tab and Take Out Blitz page to keep locals up to date on businesses. 

For now, Chamber networking and professional development opportunities have moved online through virtual engagement sessions and virtual Chamber After Hours & Happy Hours. 

Additionally, the Chamber continues to be supportive of business owners by calling members, checking in with them, and staying steadfast in their role as advocate for businesses. 

As the community looks towards transition out of the economic shut-down, the Chamber began establishing a Recovery Taskforce. Tammy explains, “We’re bringing together a group of community stakeholders to lead the efforts of a recovery…because we have to have the right players at the table, while making sure a lot of industries are represented.” 

The Evans community has proved to be full of innovative, resilient businesses and citizens who have supported and encouraged one another through the crisis and will continue to do so as we walk the road of recovery together. As we move forward, let us find encouragement in the plans already in place, be on the lookout for ways we can support community growth and recovery, and step into the coming days with hope for what is to come: a stronger, adaptive, and more resourceful community than ever before.

The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Recovery Taskforce focus points:

1.       Rehiring and Retraining the workforce

2.       Advocating to ensure governmental regulations do not hinder recovery efforts

3.       Educating and leading the business community on the new business climate