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We are brainstorming and collaborating with chambers all over the nation to find out their successes

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kim DanielsWe have all felt a loss of control over the past year. Whether it was the pandemic, politics or societal issues, there is very little we have been able to do as individuals or businesses to stop what was thrown at us.

And as we are starting a new year, we have a choice to make. Do we continue to sit shell-shocked at all that has happened and is still happening around us, or do we make steps to move forward and find a way to progress in what many are calling the "new norm"?

Here at the Chamber, we found ourselves putting a halt to our regular plans last year. When looking back at our 2020 Community Calendar, the months of March and April are riddled with the word "canceled." Next came the regular use of the phrase "on hold." As we rounded the bend to 2021, we started a new approach. Rather than focus on what we cannot do, and events we are unable to hold, we are now putting our energy into what we can do. What can we do for our community and our businesses? How can we support, promote and be active when the past year was full of cancellations and shutdowns?

We have found ourselves planning according to the current restrictions and safety guidelines, coming up with a whole new set of events and programs. We are brainstorming and collaborating with chambers all over the nation to find out their successes amidst COVID-19. Asking, "How have you been a community champion? What was the best way you supported your local businesses?" And out of those questions came some new and exciting ventures.

It has not been easy. It has been an exhausting year. Employers and businesses that serve the public have one of the hardest jobs. Keeping their workforce motivated and engaged is important under any circumstances, but it is a very difficult task when the employees only hear about what has been taken away or is no longer doable amidst the pandemic.

One way to grow motivation and engagement is with constant and consistent communication. Involve your employees in coming up with ideas and strategies to help your business succeed and overcome the hurdles of COVID-19. By engaging your staff, you give them ownership in the success of your company, and you have multiple minds at work creating new and exciting concepts never thought of before.

Another tool is to reach out to businesses and organizations outside of your community that seem to be thriving and see how they have adapted and shifted during this time. At the Chamber we do this often, researching and meeting with like organizations near and far to learn from their successes. Virtual networking is alive and well, thanks to the internet, and ideas are often shared freely along with friendships being made.

It would be ignorant to not recognize the strength of technology at this time. Social media was made for this challenge! Update your Facebook, create an Instagram and be sure your Google listings are accurate. This is where society is now going for information, and the more platforms you use, the better chance you have of gaining a customer. But do not forget to keep all of your listings updated and accurate.

Another new concept that took the world by storm this year was the world of video calls. Web conferencing was something many of us had zero experience in prior to 2020. Now the word "Zoom" is common language in the work world and is used not only for online seminars and meetings, but regular check ins and a great way to keep some face-to-face interaction. Even family reunions are being held with the new video tools available since COVID-19 hit.

Whether you are an employee or one leading a business, try to take the time to look forward and begin putting your energy into what you CAN do in this pandemic world versus what you can't. Reach out to others and learn what has worked for them and put it to work for yourself or your own organization. Use your own staff to gather ideas and encourage creativity. Let's make 2021 the year we moved forward rather than the year we continued to let ourselves be shut down.


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