Blackstone Valley shifts gears in post-pandemic business drive

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At a recent meeting with Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce colleagues we discussed how we were addressing the needs of our members during the re-opening period after COVID.

There was no one solution any of us found in common. The only aspect we could agree on was that there had to be a complete reorganization. Over the past year we all had to leave our comfort zone and become very well-schooled in the cliché of “ever changing world.”

The terrain of the area is distinctly different. Look around, downtown business zones have been reworked. It is survival of the fittest, or the most creative, or the most flexible. If the business did not meet any of that criteria, chances are it is no longer in existence.

And the same goes for chambers of commerce. Those that were stuck in the same old, same old, looking for easy answers and quick fixes, declined and closed their doors. We needed new tools in the toolbox to equip us to go above and beyond usual and customary. We had to develop a guidebook for learning to lead in areas we were not yet prepared for.

Adaptation is everything, and just about everything is challenging. Adaptive challenges require learning to negotiate the gaps in actions taken to reach productive solutions. In some ways it is exciting to start fresh, come up with new ideas and plans to meet the needs of businesses we would never have even thought we would have to address. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Listening, really listening, to what the business owners or managers are experiencing is a big first step. 

To find out what tools are available to help you help your clients means exposing yourself to as much information as possible to discover how you can develop a plan to achieve the goal. Reaching out to partners for advice, guidance and expertise, enables you to offer real opportunities for long-term solutions businesses can live and grow with.

Taking advantage of seminars, webinars and listening sessions with organizations who offer funding, grants, lending, counseling and a myriad of tools you can pass along or institute for your members in need, is essential to successfully creating a pipeline of assistance. This is adaptive learning. It leads us to find new, innovative ways to develop answers to unique challenges.

Be there as a resource.

It is great to take all this in, but if you aren’t accessible, it is all for naught. What appears logical to you may not be so much so for the business owner, manager or entrepreneur. Offer to walk them through the process, help them understand processes, timelines, deadlines, applications and reports. Don’t just forward information, personally make introductions, assist in filling out forms and applications, offer letters of support. Do research to find suitable presenters for educational seminars, roundtables dedicated to specific industries, and peer groups that foster sharing ideas and proven best practices.

Leadership for uncharted territory creates trust that your clients can rely on you in a crisis or to just answer a question. And that you will always act in their best interests. The result is success in building a process for the community to thrive even when the outside environment is evolving. Remember the key leadership principle for uncharted territory is to start with conviction, stay calm, stay connected, and stay the course.

Here are some of the partners we work with and regular programs offered at the BVCC:

• Mass Growth Capital Corp. empowering small businesses and offering funding sources including grants for women, minority and veteran owned businesses: www.empoweringsmallbusiness.org

• Mass. Office of Business Development central point of contact for business in the state: www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-office-of-business-development

• MassDevelopment offering financing and real estate solutions to support companies and nonprofits: www.massdevelopment.com

• Central MA Regional Planning Commission brings regional perspective to planning and development: www.cmrpc.org

• Small Business Administration connects small business with lenders and funding: www.sba.gov

• MassMEP (MA Manufacturing Extension Partnership) can be an extension of your team to implement manufacturing best practices to solve operational issues and transform your business: www.massmep.org.  

• Executive Roundtable meets monthly, open to businesses in Central Massachusetts, fosters critical thinking through peer discussion and review of white papers and case studies

• Women’s Success Network unites women to achieve their vision of success by creating a community of support and inspiration in their personal and professional lives.

• Food, Beverage and Hospitality Network meets monthly industry specific peer group to share ideas and best practices for growth and support.

• Valley Business Network the referral group of the BVCC.

• HR Roundtable meets monthly human resource discussion group to address issues and find solutions through peer support and expert advisement.

To learn how you can particate in BVCC programs to help your business, visit www.blackstonevalley.org or reach out to Jeannie Hebert at jhebert@blackstonevalley.org

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