Pep Talk RVA V: Managing and morale boosting in the time of coronavirus

Dave Perno

Dave Perno, Chairman, Virginia Automobile Dealers Association and President, Loyalty Automotive

“Never in the history of the automobile has there been a challenge like the one our industry faces. As car and truck dealers, we recognize a vehicle is a major purchase, and to be sure, we’re well aware most people aren’t buying at this time. Dealers remain open and provide an essential service, maintaining vehicles for frontline workers — be it the grocery store cashier’s sedan or a fleet of healthcare provider vehicles. We can also get customers who may need lower payments into more affordable vehicles, or help with a refinancing.

“For any industry, business owner, or employee, you need to look at this moment as a time to adapt and innovate. You can’t sit there and wonder what’s next — you have to keep moving and turn challenge into opportunity. For our industry, which admittedly could use some shaking up, this is a time to figure out new ways to support customers. That’s why you’re seeing more home delivery and pickup options for both sales and service, or even at-home paperwork. I hope these trends continue once this is over.

“Business aside, as leaders it is important to show your people they matter. If you have a rainy day fund, maybe it’s time to dig into it and express your loyalty and appreciation to your employees. Do what you can to keep them, because it is very likely some good people will be looking for jobs in coming months. Earn your reputation as an advocate for your workers. These are difficult times, but together we’ll get through it.”

Jayme Swain

Jayme Swain, CEO, Virginia Foundation for Public Media, and President, VPM

“While much of our team is working from home, we are a public media company serving nearly 2 million Virginians, so we have a number of essential employees keeping us on the air and reporting the important news of the day. Our remote team has adapted incredibly well and is innovating with new ways to serve the community with content that matters. Just in the last month, we’ve launched two podcasts, shifted the programming on one of our broadcast channels to focus solely on pre-K-12 learning, hosted a virtual Seder and produced a series of video messages with the First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam and characters from PBS KIDS’ ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ to help children understand complex topics like social distancing and spreading germs.

“To stay connected with each other, we’re leveraging virtual tools like Zoom, Google Hangout and Slack. Slack has been an invaluable channel to keep up the daily ‘water cooler conversations.’ We recently held our VPM All Staff meeting via Zoom, and we even hosted a virtual Happy Hour, which we capped off with a singalong to the Sesame Street theme song.

“I believe we should overcommunicate and be empathetic in our outreach since people are dealing with a range of issues. I send weekly all-staff emails or video messages and do regular one-on-one outreach. We’ve also been checking in on our donors, members and partners to let them know that we’re all in this together. Their notes of support remind us to stay focused on our mission to educate, entertain and inspire.”

John Cario

John Cario, general manager, Hilton Richmond Downtown

“A week ago, one of our musicians that sings with us in our lounge, Josh Lief, suggested we do a GoFundMe page for our furloughed associates, so we did that and put that out there. We had him do a little session from his basement on Facebook Live in light of the GoFundMe page and the event.

“We’re just trying to keep things going as normal, just in that skeletal fashion. We just had our morning daily scoop meeting; that was only four key managers. We’re going to have our weekly staff meeting and we’ll conference call-in some folks. Certainly as we hear of job availabilities outside the industry, we’re sharing those with our furloughed associates. Certainly our goal is getting them back working as quickly as possible, but we also want to make sure they’re being taken care of.

“Just trying to keep the positive as best possible and not lose faith or hope. Certainly stressing getting out and exercising. We’re fortunate in this town to have the Capital Trail. I’ve hit the trail a few times myself, of course with social distancing. But just trying to keep the spirits up. My bosses are touching in often as well, but I try to do the reverse and make sure our leaders are staying sane during this time, because it’s something most of us have never seen in our lifetimes.”

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