This is a unique time. Main Streeters are faced with some new challenges as the world faces the COVID-19 Pandemic. It seems as though the landscape is changing almost daily, and while we know there is light at the end of the tunnel, we don’t yet know when we will reach it.
Having some time on your hands could be a very valuable thing. Time is the one commodity we can’t get back, and yet we seem to have been given an abundance of it. In the midst of all this social distancing, we put together a list of things that you can do to not only keep yourself occupied on your self-quarantine, but that will make your organization stronger and make you more productive when we can all gather together again.
This is a great time to make sure you are following your businesses through your social media. Get on twitter, facebook, instagram and ensure you are promoting what your businesses have going on. If they are having a sale, let people know. Encourage the community to purchase gift certificates or order online so that they continue to have some income during this slow-down.
In troubling times, people want to be informed. They crave information because it makes them feel like they have more control. Help provide that information. Reach out to your local health officials and city leaders, get updates, and pass that information along to your constituents.
Too often, we can pass up opportunities to lead without even realizing it, and this is a good example. During these times when they are limiting group meetings, push to be the representative for all your businesses. It will likely get you a seat at the table and you can then be the source of information, and it will make you be seen as the leader that you are.
This is an important, yet often overlooked, step for organizations. Email is still one of the most effective communication tools at our disposal, but how often are you cleaning your lists? Use this slowdown to go through your emails. Segment your lists to get lists of volunteers, business owners, property owners, etc. Remove emails that hard bounce (invalid or undeliverable emails). This will increase your sender ratings, and as a bonus you might even be recognized for your efforts through things such as the Constant Contact All-Star Awards.
Having an accurate business and property directory is important, but we always hear that finding the time to put it together is a challenge. Use this down time to walk the street and update your directory.
If weather, quarantine or other circumstances don’t make walking the street an option, do it virtually. Use Google Maps and a phone. Call your businesses and talk to them. Ask how they’re doing, get their story (chances are they’ve got more time to talk) and learn why they got into the business in the first place.
If there is one thing Main Streeters do very well, it’s plan. We know that when we do reach that light at the end of this tunnel, people will be craving events and a return to normalcy. Make sure that downtown is the place they find it. Work ahead, get your planning done, and ensure that when we all come back outside that we have something awesome to come to.
Maybe think about a new event, a quarantine-end party? What would that look like in your community? Who would benefit? What are you doing with your time now to set yourself and your organization up for success in the coming months?
Been meaning to update your website, create a new email template, or catch up on all those emails? This is the time to make sure that happens. Spend a day (or a week) working on your communication. Really evaluate what you have and ask yourself if there is something you can do to make it better? Then get to it.
If you aren’t sure, or need help, reach out to a local agency. Chances are they’d welcome the opportunity to do something new during this time when people may not be walking through their doors.
I have been in Main Street Offices all across the country and they all look surprisingly similar. If the office is big enough, there is a front area with some desks, information about the organization, calendar of upcoming events, etc. If they don’t have a front section, then everything looks like the back.
In back, it is piles of stuff. Usually piles for each event that the organization handles. Don’t mind that stack, we just had that event this weekend and I haven’t put that away yet, and this is all the materials for the event next week. I understand, and I am not here to criticize. Remember, I am a former director, I had my own piles of stuff and I understand how it happens.
However, this is a great time to clean the office, lessen the piles, restock the shelves and make the back look closer to the front, or the way we always wished it could be!
We are fortunate enough to live in a time where virtual meetings aren’t uncommon. No longer are we forced into conference calls that drone on with faceless voices talking at us instead of to us. There are great tools such as Zoom or GoToMeeting that allow you and your teams to stay in touch, see each other’s happy faces, and collaborate in ways that weren’t possible before.
Take advantage of these tools. If your organization is on a budget, pick one that has a free week or month and start there. But get your teams together just like you would in person. This will help with your planning, keep your momentum and camaraderie up, and even boost morale for those stuck at home.
Ask the big question. Wonder about “what if”. Then figure out if those things can really be done. Having down time is a blessing for the next big idea. Use this period to set aside time to really think about your organization and your community. What do you need to take the next step? What’s getting in your way? How can you and your organization change that?
With no events to run, no meetings to hold (unless virtual), this is a great time to allow yourself to dream. Take advantage of that and keep an open mind. Don’t say no. Don’t use excuses. There will be plenty of reasons why something can’t happen later, this is your time to dream about possibilities without limits. You may be surprised what you find.
We’ve all heard about burnout. Whether we admit it or not, we’ve probably all experienced it. Main Street can be an extremely rewarding career, but there’s no denying that it can take a toll on you as well. There are long hours, hard beats, difficult situations, and sometimes just bad days. That doesn’t mean we give up, but especially now when times are slow, it does mean that you can take some time for yourself.
Most Main Street managers I know work themselves beyond the point of exhaustion far too often. We sacrifice, sometimes when no one is asking you to, and sometimes when people are asking us not to. We want to do whatever we can to not let our community and our team down, and we do really love it.
However, this is a great time to recharge your batteries. Put work down for a while, especially now that it won’t pile up while you’re gone. Read a book, go for a walk, take a nap, whatever you need to do to put you first for a while. You’ll find it will make not only the other nine things on this list, but the thousands of others you have to do much easier and enjoyable. Sometimes it takes someone else giving you permission. If that’s you, then we give you full permission to take time for yourself.