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President's Message

February 2022

From the Business Perspective Newsletter

Month Two, 2022

Happy New Year! How are you doing so far?

Does it feel like 2021, but at a faster pace, and more expensive?

A few weeks ago, we held a small group bonus session with Mary Kelly, whom many of you met at our Annual Meeting. We talked about leadership success and what businesses can expect in 2022. There were few surprises, as it’s a little like “Groundhog Day.” What’s clear is that the end isn’t in sight, not for the competition for talent, including rising costs for retention and attraction as well as operational costs and supply chain issues.

Remote work is here to stay, even as surveys indicate employers are concerned with productivity and collaboration and employees desire more engagement, better collaboration, and work / life balance. These will drive the need for innovative solutions in management, office space and hybrid options.

The war on talent has ripple effects for everyone, creating stress in our organizations. Our people feel it and if we’re not careful, our customers and clients will, too. When someone can’t make a purchase because the line is too long or hours have been reduced or wait times to resolve a question on the phone are too lengthy, customer loyalty is at risk. Think about the interactions you have with businesses each week and how you feel. Energized? Appreciated? Or that you were just another in a long line of customers that day? For many people, loyalty is based on their most recent interaction, so that gives us perspective on how we might stack up on a given day and whether we need to redeploy resources or provide additional training.

While wages have been increasing, the net effect of rising costs and inflation will mean that disposable income decreases this year, so financial stresses for workers will remain an issue.

Successful employers will create opportunities for advancement and training, and will also develop partnerships with education, utilizing tools like internships to develop our talent pool.

Recently we cut the ribbon for the Real World Learning Virtual Store Front at Oak Park Mall. This is a truly innovative partnership that features young entrepreneurs from Shawnee Mission West. Inspired by their business instructor Tiffany Dixon, these students created business plans and opened businesses. They had a dream to bring them to market, and in stepped Karla Engel, Sr. General Manager of Oak Park Mall, offering a storefront. On display now on the lower level outside the JCPenney entrance, you can find a sampling of the students’ products. With a scan of the QR code or this website:, you enter the virtual store and access all the businesses.

I love ribbon cuttings. Meeting a new business owner, learning what they do and why. This one was uniquely inspiring. A teacher so passionate about showing her students everything they can be. Students jumping at the chance to work hard and dream beyond the classroom with projects that will hone talents that set them apart.

2022 has got its challenges for sure, but after seeing these young entrepreneurs, I know we’ve got a bright future ahead.

Tracey Osborne Oltjen

written by

Tracey Osborne Oltjen, CCE, IOM

President & CEO