In the last seven months, I’ve attended over 230 Zoom meetings with local partners, board members, and national stakeholders, and facilitated an additional 80 meetings with the entire VtSBDC team. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30AM, we all refilled our coffee mugs and gathered to discuss how much had happened in just the last 48 hours. Prior to March 23, 2020 the VtSBDC staff met as a full team four times a year, for day-long in-person meetings.
Much like the businesses we support every day, VtSBDC quickly pivoted to meet the needs of the team and our clients. These recurring Zoom meetings have been a lifeline for us all; they allow us to stay connected, current, cohesive and most importantly, have clarity of purpose. Our team has spent hours interpreting and disseminating information, and providing sound advice to the thousands of Vermont small businesses in crisis due to the impact of COVID-19. Finally, after seven arduous months, we took a Zoom break.
As advisors, we always remind business owners about the importance of taking time to pause and reflect. So, we took our own advice and turned our focus internally, using the time to reflect, regroup, refresh, renew and prepare. Though our work feels different than it did in April, we know the crisis is far from over and true recovery for our clients and Vermont’s economy will be a much longer journey. I hope the following reflections will encourage you to take the time to pause, rest and regroup as well.
VtSBDC has been supporting over 1700 businesses during the last seven months. In that time, we were often reminded that this pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. While I may not be an ultramarathoner, I do know that a key component of training is the rest and recovery days. During our break, I asked the team to consider some questions: What are the benefits of these meetings? How were your days different without them? What did you do for yourself? What new elements should be included moving forward?
In an anonymous survey, everyone said they felt personally recharged from the Zoom break but also missed the human connection. The team agreed that the meetings are not only a great way to stay informed but also, “a reminder that we [VtSBDC] really all are in this together.” The staff shared that the Zooms provide a new structure for days no longer spent in our offices around the state and are a place to celebrate wins and to get to know one another a little better.
Moving forward, we plan to incorporate more intentional breaks as our team needs have changed since we started this journey in March. We have a renewed focus, scope and understanding of how to leverage our time together. Started by our amazing Summer interns, we plan to use Fun Fridays as an opportunity to invite guests to present, participate in professional development, learn new technologies and tools, teach each other and more.
After more than a week off, we’ve returned to our regularly scheduled meetings and the energy in the ‘room’ is palpable. The team is reengaged, realigned and recommitted. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and what it means to be a totally remote team over the last seven months, which will guide us as we prepare for the challenging months ahead.
The Zoom break gave us space to rest (mentally and physically), reflect and appreciate the strong support system we’ve built. Now more than ever, we are a connected, cohesive group that is able to stay current and has true clarity of purpose within a broader landscape. We have already accomplished so much but we know that even more businesses will be looking for guidance as the seasons change and uncertainty persists. I will continue to encourage rest and recovery, so our team can continue to help small businesses as they pivot, innovate and fight to remain resilient.
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