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President's Message

June 2020

From the Business Perspective Newsletter

Lessons from my kitchen table

Images of leaders are often portrayed in a traditional motif such as Gen. Washington leading his troops across the icy Delaware.

My images of leaders during this pandemic look like the entrepreneur in a closed restaurant, creating a new plan for carry-out and delivery only; a manager leading her team to deliver a project on time via a Zoom screen reminiscent of the “Brady Bunch;” the CEO filling out PPP loan paperwork while creating a new work model for his or her business and homeschooling from a makeshift home office; and many individuals on the front lines who don’t have leadership titles, but who led by delivering care, products and services vital to our people and our communities despite known and unknown risks to themselves.

For the last ten weeks my vantage point to observe these leaders has mostly been my kitchen table. As restrictions are relaxed and our businesses are working to find their footing, I’ve reflected on the many lessons I’ve taken from their resilience. I’ve witnessed inspiring examples of creativity and innovation as organizations stretched their resources to not only stay afloat, but in many cases, reinvent themselves in this new economy. Restaurants pivoted first, some making the difficult choice to close in March while others ramped up carry-out, curbside and delivery options and new menus. The Mixx and Panera Bread adapted further still, adding grocery items to their menu. Speaking of groceries, how about the ramp-up of online shopping of essential items at our grocery stores? Russ Johnson, manager of the 95th & Antioch Hy-Vee, gave me a glimpse of the fulfillment process at his store and it was a well-oiled (very busy) machine, providing both needed items for those who didn’t want to shop the aisles and new jobs for many area residents.

Amidst the challenges have been incredible acts of kindness, including too many stories to enumerate of bankers working long into the night on the paperwork necessary to secure PPP loans for local businesses to stay afloat. Businesses, despite their own revenue shortfalls, reaching out to provide free meals to health care workers and first responders. Businesses like Staples reaching out to Jason’s Deli to print their new menus for free, and Jason’s responding with a nice card and delicious cookies. Sean Barnard at Bambou Salons & Spas, despite being closed for several months, is installing a bench in Downtown Overland Park to commemorate the work of our first responders in this pandemic.

Kindness. Respect. Creativity. Grit. Hope. Resilience. This is what I see in the leaders I encounter at my kitchen table on the phone, on Zoom, in emails. There’s no playbook for this. It’s different than any other recession, or 9/11. You’ve responded with ingenuity.

At the Chamber we’ve had to use the same kind of ingenuity to serve as a beacon for others in this storm as we carve out a smart, sustainable future for our own organization. As we return to the office in June, we’ve tightened our belts as many of you have. For example, our office will be operating on a full-time basis, though every member of our team, including me, will be working a reduced schedule. Our promise to you is that we’ll do our best to keep any delays to a minimum, but we wanted you to understand the reason in case there ever is a lag in communication.

The Overland Park Chamber has a long history of providing essential support to businesses and our member organizations. We plan to continue to serve that role for many years to come.

Thanks to your support we are on solid ground. Thanks to our amazing team, we will continue providing our members with resources needed to survive – and prosper – during these unprecedented times.


Continue Reading the June 2020 Newsletter

Tracey Osborne Oltjen

written by

Tracey Osborne Oltjen, CCE, IOM

President & CEO