PROGRESS 2021 – Community Viewpoint: Kerri Green President & CEO Commerce Chenango

PROGRESS 2021 – Community Viewpoint: Kerri Green President & CEO Commerce Chenango Kerri Green President & CEO Commerce Chenango

By Kerri Green

There are some similarities between the military and the Girl Scouts. I can attest to this, because I am an Army veteran, and once upon a time I was a proud girl scout – at least through middle school. The first obvious similarity is that there’s a uniform. In fact, they both were green and both were covered in patches, buttons and markings to note your status, rank and achievements.

Another similarity? Both institutions trained you to always be prepared. It was at the heart of everything we did. When I was a kid it was easier to be prepared … was it my week for snack? Did my mom sign my permission slip? Where’s my sash? In the Army, being prepared took on a completely new meaning. You were prepared to fight at the first sign of trouble. You were prepared to pack a bag at a moment’s notice – part of why they teach you to roll your clothes so nicely – still a handy tool when you travel. You were prepared to don a gas mask very quickly, hence the bivouac trainings and “attacks” in the middle of the night. If you happened to fall asleep and roll over on top of your mask, you would regret it later; which is probably why I never slept during these excursions. I am not really sure why a quarter had to bounce off of our freshly made bed – no idea what we were preparing for with that trick, but I am ready regardless.

Being prepared is something I think most of us strive to be, and our businesses do that too. That’s why they create business plans, marketing plans, staffing plans, budgets and schedules, and policies.

If 2020 showed us anything, it was that even the best of plans are meaningless when a pandemic literally stops the world in its tracks. Too often, when we talk about the pandemic or 2020 in general, negative comments and opposition usually follow it. Not only did Commerce Chenango grow, thrive and achieve some amazing things this past year, but our businesses did as well.

Creating their own playbook, many businesses thought outside the box on how to provide services to their customers, despite the regulations and executive orders coming down from the state. Many provided curbside service and pickups, even delivery services when they had not previously done so. Those who had traditionally not utilized the web found ways to promote their products and services digitally. Many, for the first time, moved to social media platforms to promote their work.

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In addition to these marketing and promotion innovations from our small business owners, I would be remiss not to provide an equal round of applause to our large businesses.

Manufacturing, healthcare, finance and agriculture make up a large portion of our business demographics here in Chenango County. Many people in and around the county depend on them for employment. These large employers quickly pivoted their employment model to meet the needs of their customers and their organizations. From providing remote learning and working options, to flexible schedules and shifting of staff, they were able to keep their companies running, while keeping the safety of their employees at the forefront. Every business owner, manager or human resource professional I spoke to always said “our employees’ health and safety need to come first.” They did what had to be done, and allowed for their employees to work in a new way to meet the needs of their customers in a safe way.

Think about how the pandemic has forever changed the face of our businesses. While many are slowly crawling back to the way they ran pre-pandemic, others are taking what they learned to pave the way for a new future. What an opportunity this was! Listen, I am not saying that the pandemic was great. It was a horrible year, full of fear, anxiety and stress that we are all still dealing with. However, we were given a unique opportunity to rethink our business model, mission, and operations from the bottom up, and had no other option but to change.

I’ll bet there is someone right now reading this that thought, “I would never let my staff work from home – no way.” Well, guess what? You just did! You may have been forced to, but you did it and it was okay. Think about what a model like this could do for workforce retention and attraction for your company. Especially for a generation that we know is looking for quality of life in their job, not simply climbing a corporate ladder.

Maybe you thought “I don’t see how a website or social media can affect my bottom line. Who has time for that?” Now look back to the likes, tweets, shares, and comments that some of your posts generated. How have you integrated this into your marketing plan, and what can you bring forward into this new year?

There was no way to plan for 2020. We all did the best we could with the tools and resources we had. We leaned on each other, supported each other, cried or yelled at each other. We made donations, masks, signs and food. Many of us juggled work with our children learning remotely, and then we cried about how we were failing as a parent because, despite how amazing we think we are, we just can’t be two places at once.

This is a shout out to those businesses, small and large, that did what needed to be done in 2020. It is through your determination, innovation and creativity that we now hold a playbook for the future. It may be beaten up, lots of cross outs, inserted pages and big scribbles, but we have it nonetheless. Thank you for believing in yourself, each other, and continuing to believe that you can succeed in Chenango County.

Forever a Girl Scout,

~ Kerri


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