By Elise Bengtson
It’s a new year, and business is moving forward. We have been forced to adapt, innovate and grow as of late, learning a great deal about ourselves and our businesses. We can be thankful for resilience and a strong community that supports the business community, which together makes Falls Church the best Little City. This is how we are moving forward, set on a course for a great year in business.
Businesses have learned that they can thrive virtually, even the chamber. Employers have observed new skills and strengths in their employees and witnessed creativity at work in the midst of the pandemic. Companies rely more heavily than ever on highly networked teams and technology has made this transition possible. Body Dynamics and Mind Over Mat Pilates made the shift and are growing their clientele.
Businesses are meeting more customer orders than initially realized. E-commerce has been in place, and the pandemic pushed it to the next level – actually 10 years of growth in 18 months. In fact, the retail, transportation, and warehousing sectors have grown in large part due to the ability to reach customers online. But it’s not all ‘big box’. Try ordering a gift from your local shop to perk up a friend or send your daughter a Preservation Biscuit crepe to her dorm — I did. Who knew that was possible! Check the website of your favorite local store or ask about placing special orders on local products to support their growth.
Digital and analytic solutions have also accelerated to support growth and outsourcing which is increasing capacity building. A recent McKinsey and Company survey found that work from home respondents believed their productivity increased 29 percent. Businesses can also keep great employees on staff when they move across the county with these advancements, and I know at least three chamber members who are keeping valued staff this way.
New businesses have started up at record levels and work at home opportunities popped up everywhere. Aspiring entrepreneurs reassessed their work-life balance and are taking charge of their future by pursuing their dreams. Parents who faced working from home while teaching their children and finding childcare became skilled in juggling and managing various fronts are venturing into home-based businesses. This is an exciting time for them. They are invited to join the chamber, an organization of business peers ready to support, promote, and keep them engaged in the community. The chamber is here for you too!
Small businesses have found new ways to work on employees’ well-being. Some have instituted random ‘days off’ or “circuit Breaker” holidays to boost morale and mental health. I’m aware of a chamber member who has done something similar, and it’s no surprise that the retention rate is high. And kudos to Diener and Associates for taking staff to the chamber Family Fun Night for mini golf. Perhaps this says that the business that plays together, also stays together.
Restaurants are diversifying and curbside pickup has grown exponentially. One fine dining restaurant hesitantly turned to take-out service to survive and discovered that it would rival the prior indoor business success. Many have taken the opportunity to create new recipes and test new menus. This is growth, but they remain short-staffed. Here we need to grow our patience, be generous with tips, and recommend them to students looking for job opportunities. Think about the owners of Ellie Bird which is coming to Founders Row. Restauranteurs Yuan and Carey Tang got their start working at Applebee’s and Red Lobster in Falls Church. We need to continue to support our fabulous restaurants.
The Falls Church Chamber has been at the side of business throughout the pandemic, and we are steadfast in looking forward to a great year of business for all. Like so many, we’ve had to be creative, master virtual events (the beach networking mixer was fun) and find new ways to rally around our retailers and restaurants, while staying in business. We have a wonderful, diverse board of directors who represent various types of businesses and report on the business climate. Chamber membership lends visibility, credibility, and the support of peers. The networking opportunities, online and in-person, continue to foster collaboration on marketing and business strategy, and the development of partnerships to increase sales. We may have faced historic challenges but look at the ways that businesses have innovated and grown and come together. Business is moving forward.
Moving forward, our next step is to celebrate. Please join us for Bourbon, Brews and BBQ on March 24 at the State Theatre and recognize the top businesses and nonprofits. We will come together as one community, to celebrate the business community and nonprofits — for one doesn’t not exist without the other to have this high quality of life in the Little City. Let’s show our support and celebrate together!
Elise Bengtson is the Executive Director of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.