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Fun, and feisty tid bits of information on Kings County residents…

For instance, Hanford Sentinel reporter Noe Garcia doesn't even play NBA2K video games. How is that even possible for a young sports reporter and fan?

— Submitted by Parker Bowman

Send your "Only in Kings County" tidbits to editor@hanfordsentinel.com or amy@gkcchamberorg.

If I have to hear the phrase “new normal” one more time, I may lose it! To be honest, I am not even sure that I can remember what the “old normal” was but I remember October 2019 vividly.

We had just wrapped up our annual board planning meeting and it was a full day of collaboration and strategic planning with former and current board members. We were convinced that we had a solid plan for 2020 and we all left feeling incredibly inspired to tackle 2020 head on.

How could we have known that we were just a few short months from a global pandemic? How could we have known that we would be thrust into one of the greatest economic crises of our lives? We did not know what was coming but then again, we never really do.

If you have ever visited my office, you will find that my chair faces a giant planning board. And if you know me, you know that I am a planner. I love setting goals and pushing the limits of possibilities. That board was my master list as it had every major event, goal and deadline laid out for the year. Of course, there was always room for variances but for the most part, the foundation was solid.

A few weeks into the pandemic that board became less inspiring and more draining. All I began to see when I looked at it was a list of all the things that we were not doing. The heaviness of what was lost was weighing on me. Until one day I decided that enough was enough and I erased the board. It was incredibly liberating to release the weight of the expectations and just breathe.

As I sat back down at my chair and looked at the empty board, I realized that I could mourn the loss, or I could focus on the future. So, on that board I wrote only one word.

The one word that the our Chamber holds most important and that is our “members.” In the three years that I have been at our Chamber that has been our primary focus. Everything that we do is serve our members and our community. We have consistently worked to be our best and it has shown dramatically in the growth of our Chamber. But writing that word alone shifted our focus. We could not control what was happening with the pandemic, but we could commit to being the absolute best for our members and bring them every single resource that we could to help them during this time. We could work to be a light even though things seemed dark. That simple shift in focus changed everything. We had let go of what we could not control and began working on what we could.

So how do you plan during a time like this, how do you plan for the next normal? For me, the first step is to ask myself what is one thing that I can do today to better serve my members, my customers? I have spoken with countless business owners over the years who are adamant that their products/services are solid. But life is ever changing, and just like this pandemic has shown us, we must be willing to pivot quickly when needed. Reminding myself that I am here to serve my customers opens my eyes to potential that I may not see if I am only looking at the way we have always done things. It also reminds me why I do what I do, and I find tremendous inspiration in that!

Another critical planning step for me is to ask the hard questions. What are we doing currently that is not working or what could be improved upon? These are questions that we are often too busy to really ask ourselves. But now more than ever we should be asking these questions. As a business leader this can be a challenge because we often have an emotional tie to our business and admitting that we may need to reevaluate parts of our operations can be a struggle. But when we honestly review our operations, we can identify the gaps and work to find real solutions.

For me, I frequently ask outside leaders that I trust to review operations with me. Those fresh eyes can sometimes identify the gaps much quicker than I can and can help me navigate potential solutions that I might not have considered on my own.

And finally, when planning for an unknown future, I look for ways to collaborate with those around me. Kings County may be a small county, but it is mighty. Over the last few months, I have seen people come together in ways that larger counties could only dream of. As a Chamber, we will always advocate for shopping locally and there is a reason for this. Supporting each other ensures that our hard-earned dollars stay here. Sure, shopping for products your business may need online may say a few pennies but the damage to our local economy can be devastating.

Finding ways to collaborate and support your fellow local businesses does not just help your business or their business but it helps our entire community. These local businesses are where our family, friends and neighbors work. These are the same businesses that donate to local charities, kid’s sports, and other important community projects.

Just like you, your fellow businesses invest directly into our local economy and now more than ever our goal should be to support each other. Finding creative ways to work together can often spark new ideas and is just one step you can take to ensure that we not only survive this economic crisis but continue to thrive into the next normal.

Today I want to encourage you, whether you are a business or a community member, to support your local businesses. Close that website shopping tab and choose to shop local. Share that social media post from your favorite business or take a minute to give a positive review to your favorite restaurant. Because even if the world is constantly changing, the one thing we do have is each other and we will remain #KingsCountyStrong.

Amy Ward is the President & CEO of the Greater Kings County Chamber of Commerce. Email her at amy@gkcchamber.org.

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