Tim Magner: My Pandemic PPP: Pivot, Partner and Persevere

For those of us in the business community, the acronym PPP has been inescapable.  PPP, or the Paycheck Protection Program, is the Small Business Administration forgivable loan program that is rightly credited with saving many businesses during this pandemic.  While the PPP loan program has been critical, in our work at the Chamber, we’ve utilized our own PPP approach to this pandemic: pivot, partner and persevere.

While the idea of pivoting, adapting your business model to the new circumstances, may be overused in business articles, the concept is worth considering, if only as a framework for evaluating your current activities.  At the Chamber, during the early days of the pandemic, we realized that there were two areas of need for our members: information and resources.  While we have routinely published information on a regular basis through our newsletter, the information was coming more quickly and changing more rapidly than could be captured in a weekly newsletter. Consequently, we moved to bi-weekly newsletters and weekly webinars as a way to make sure timely information was available. In other cases, we have seen Chamber members move to providing entirely new lines of business, such as hand sanitizer or branded PPE or takeout meals.  Whether the pivot is to accelerate or amplify what you already do, or identify a new niche where your skills and expertise are valuable, keeping the notion of pivoting as top of mind can help you adapt in the months ahead.

The second approach is partnership.  If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are stronger together.  We have been blessed to be able to partner with our colleagues at the Bossier and African American Chambers on our webinar series, with our cities, parishes, sheriffs, hospitals and other business groups to pull together the OpenSafeSBC campaign.  This awareness effort helped provide context and information for both businesses and customers during the transitions from the stay at home order through the current Phase 2 reopening.  By working together, we were able to benefit from everyone’s ideas and leverage everyone’s networks to get the word out.  As you look at your businesses, are there suppliers, customers or even competitors who can help you deliver more value or maintain your businesses viability during this critical time.

Which brings me to my last approach, perseverance.  My wife is fond of using the term hedonic adaptation.  That’s really a fancy way of saying that as humans we all tend to get used to a situation, regardless of how challenging or painful it is.  If you’ve ever exercised regularly or gotten used to wearing a tie or high heels, or made peace with a new work schedule, you’ve experienced hedonic adaptation. As we stick it out through the rough times, we gradually get used to the new thing and often we learn how to thrive in the new environment.  At the Chamber, we’re focusing on how to reclaim our fall and winter events so that we can recognize the leaders in our community, as the Chamber has been doing for more than a century: through wars, economic downturns, and even pandemics, the Chamber itself is a great example of perseverance, and we take our stewardship of that legacy seriously.   

As businesses and business leaders we need to realize that as long as this period seems, it’s really only been about 5 months since the stay at home order was issued. We are still in the midst of that rough patch, but as you look around, you will no doubt notice yourself and those around you adapting to this situation. Most of us remember, most of the time, to take our masks with us and put them on when we need to.  We’ve gotten used to Zoom meetings and takeout more than dine in. Your customers, partners and suppliers are also learning to adapt as well.  Ultimately, we will get through this because we will get used to it.  By taking time each day to focus on how we can pivot our business processes and exploring ways to expand our partnerships, we make the daily effort necessary to persevere, to push through until things settle back down. 

None of this is easy, but it’s not impossible either. We are a resilient people, in a resilient community in a resilient nation. By doing our part to pivot, partner and persevere, we can demonstrate that resilience.

TIMOTHY J. MAGNER, ED.D., President, Greater SHreveport Chamber of Commerce