By Conni Ingallina
As an urban gardener, there are things that have to be done seasonally to keep the garden growing. Pruning, fertilizing, weeding, planting and designing are some of the main things I have to think about each season.
One of my prized plants is a blackberry bush. Yes, blackberries in Arizona! In a climate that is very inhospitable to blackberry bushes, I have managed to keep this one alive and growing for over 10 years. Each summer, I am sure it’s dead. As I pruned it this weekend, I had to clip and pull all the dead branches off of it. The few live branches, I wove into the trellis with a little prayer – GROW!
The thing is, that I’ve been doing this for over a decade, so I know that this hard work will yield a wonderful harvest in May. Blackberries grow well in cool weather and when it starts to get warm again, the fruit ripens and my grandchildren get to enjoy the beautiful fruit they get to pick themselves.
What does this have to do with Business and COVID?
All of us have ups and down in business. Seasons, if you will, of great ideas and growth, and other seasons that look like the business is stalled and needs fertilizer. No matter what season you were in when the pandemic struck, you had a decision to make - do I continue to believe in the growth of my business or do I give in to weeds and dead limbs?
As an AMC (Association Management Company) we support over 16 associations. One of our main areas of management support is Events. With the pandemic, we found ourselves with events that had to be cancelled, postponed or pivoted to virtual. A veritable tsunami of things beyond our control that threatened the “garden.”
Thankfully, I have great team of gardeners who jumped into high gear, working with each of our clients to find out what kind of “fertilizer” we needed for each client and their events. We had one client that was 2 weeks from their in-person event that was critical for CEUs. Working with the state credentialing office, and finding a virtual conference platform that could accommodate their conference needs, they were able to pivot to a virtual conference just in time to make sure everyone got their continuing education credits. And the bonus of that exercise, is that the content is now permanently recorded and available for others who might not have been able to make the conference.
Our Events Team stepped up to work with all of the contracted hotels to move the dates for many events as well as getting a quick education in virtual platforms. As they moved to help each client design the best solution for them, they were able to gain knowledge that will help the client for years to come.
Another “weed” that sprung up – how to keep member engagement going in the face of canceled events?
For associations, membership is the lifeblood of the organization and everyone wanted to find ways to keep members connected during the changing climate. Some of our associations got to work designing a new garden – creating member happy hours, doing webinars for education, creating virtual zoom programs with speakers across the country they might not normally be able to get, stepping up their member communication and spotlighting members so we didn’t forget who was actually IN our garden. Because of this swift pivot, overall, the hit to the membership numbers has been nominal and I think it’s because the members had already committed to the fruit from their association and were determined to put the time and effort into maintaining it, even during a down season.
Gardening has taught me to never give up. There is always a solution, which sometimes includes pulling that plant and starting over. COVID has taught us to take a look at what we are offering and how we can do it better in an ever-changing season. Gardening has also taught me how to stay positive. Although this season looks hot and dry, the next season has all the earmarks of a good harvest. Hang in there – the season WILL change.