Chamber Corner

Romeo Cruz ProfileSilver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce Director Romeo Cruz will provide a weekly column to the Beat, featuring items and announcements of interest to the community.

Hello friends! It’s been such a fun time for me, over the last 20 months to share my stories and opinions about business and entrepreneurship. The column I’m writing today will be my last to be written on behalf of the Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce. I have accepted a new role as the Executive Director of the newly formed Grant County Workforce Economic Development Alliance. I’m excited for this new role and I’m thankful that I’m able to stay here in Grant County and continue my work to help improve the economic development of our area.

It is difficult for me to leave my job at the Chamber of Commerce because I have truly enjoyed the work I have been able to do here. I knew, when I first applied for the job, in October of 2019 that I was going to enjoy working in my hometown. I knew that I was coming to work in a community with a rich history and ancestral knowledge of my own family. I knew that, somehow, when my Grandfather Jesus Galvan opened his tienditas in Fierro and Santa Clara, it was predestined for me to work as a champion for the small business owner. Small business has always been my passion and SUCCESS has always been my driving force. Since January 6, 2020 I have been totally immersed in small business and many issues affecting Grant County, New Mexico, thanks to the Board of Directors of the Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

It is now the third quarter of the year, and, in many ways, we are still in the grip of COVID-19. We are carefully watching the delta variant and we are doing everything we can to keep our citizens safe and our businesses open and operational. I always wondered what the "new normal" was going to look like and now we know. Some people are wearing masks while others are not. More than 65% of Grant County residents, older than 12 years old, have been completely vaccinated and many more are getting vaccinated every day. Many businesses are asking you to mask up while others aren't. You, and your neighbors, are doing everything you can to be safe and you are to be commended for your diligence.

I've always said that the recovery of our county is not only based on what we do now. Our overall recovery is based on what we are doing now that will come to fruition in the next two to three years. Now is the time to be thinking about recovery!

If you've ever thought about starting a business, then now might be the time to take the leap and get that business off the ground. If you have a hobby that could logically be transformed into a business now might be the time to explore the possibility of getting that business started. If you have a great recipe, that you share with others which they love, then now might be the time to take your food to the marketplace.

Is it just me, or are you finding that customer service is not as strong as it should be now that we're in a post COVID environment? As a business owner, are you finding that your patrons are not as patient or understanding as they could be? No matter where you stand in this equation, I have to say that you're exactly right!

In the past few weeks, I've heard horror stories about people having a less than ideal experience in their human interactions in the marketplace. I've heard about someone who ventured into the "Happiest Place on Earth," Disneyworld and was astounded at the level of customer service they encountered there. The quality of customer service ranged, in their opinion, from ambivalence to indifference. Best Selling Author Simon T. Bailey (SHIFT your Brilliance), who spent time working in "Guest Experience" at Disney World tells about the training that their cast members go through to ensure that "WE" enjoy our time at the Magic Kingdom, since it's usually a once-in-a-lifetime trip for most of us. Indifference is unacceptable because the customer with whom we are interacting has chosen this day to make a lifelong memory. If your attitude overshadows their expectations, then you, unfortunately, will be part of their lifelong memory.

The purpose of this column is to always be supportive and motivational in my comments to small business owners. I feel a kindred spirit with small business owners because we think alike. It's been said that entrepreneurs march to the beat of a different drum and I whole-heartedly agree. Some of us hear the rat-a-tat-tat of a marching band's snare drum keeping us in step and methodically moving forward, while others hear the free-spirited, totally syncopated and mostly improvised, "in-a-gadda-da-vida-esque" drum beat that stirs the soul while reinforcing the psychedelic sky under which we find our inspiration. Whether we run our business like a military-like field commander or like an avant garde, go-with-the-flow bohemian, we all want the same thing: to learn from our mistakes and create a successful business. Today I'm going to talk about the little missteps that cannot be corrected.

I'm a seasoned Business Coach, which simply means that I've been around for a very long time. Business coaches don't ever offer advice to their clients. Business Coaches take the experience they have gained over years of trial and error and use it for learning opportunities to anybody who will listen. Most of the experience shared comes from the standpoint that, "I've made mistakes and I don't want you to make the same mistakes as me!" If you will allow me, this week's article will be a bit of a tribute to an extraordinary woman we lost recently and a bit of me sharing with you in such a way that helps you avoid a lifetime of grief.

Our first major event for 2021, and first since March of 2020, is now in the history books! I'm talking about the Independence Day Parade and Freedom Festival in Gough Park. This event was sponsored by Public Service Company of New Mexico and Hatch Toyota. I hope you went, and I hope you had a great time!

At the outset of our planning for the event we knew that this event was going to be difficult to execute because we were still under the Public Health Order which restricted large events and mass gatherings. The residents of our county had been doing a great job of maintaining the restrictions of the mandate so, when we were given the date of June 30 for the all clear, we felt reasonably certain that we would be given a green light. However, we didn't want to take any chances so we altered the "traditional" plan for the parade and the event in the park.

I presented to my Board of Directors that we should look to hold our "street festival" along Bullard Street and throughout the Arts and Culture district and alter the parade route. We felt that an event in the park would create a "mass gathering' and a parade on Bullard Street would not allow for social distancing so this is what we prepared for the board's approval. After many discussions, and a wee bit of trepidation from some people, we made the decision to stay downtown but away from Bullard Street; That is until, due to public safety concerns, we were asked to host the event in the park. We also, once again, altered the parade route to what you saw on Saturday.

You don't know how much I wanted our event to be held directly in the downtown district. I truly love our Arts and Culture District and all that it does for tourism in Grant County. Moving our event so that it circumvented Bullard Street was extremely difficult but the decision, ultimately, was mine. Mainstreet had begun a Love Local promotion with the downtown merchants so moving away from them was a bit disconcerting. As disconcerting as it was, it was tough to see the criticism that was tossed around on Facebook.

When you cook for yourself, or your family, do you follow a recipe or do you "cook by feel" where you toss in a "pinch of this" and a "smidge of that" until the meal is done? What if I asked you to cook something that was "traditional," so it seemed easy, but I didn't have a recipe for you to follow. You would need to prepare this meal so that everyone in the community could see what you've created, and you will likely need to share the meal.

Because you will be cooking without a recipe you will just have to "wing it" and improvise your way to success. You may have to look back on your experience cooking other meals, but similar experience will help guide your way through the process. If I asked you to prepare traditional Red Enchiladas without a recipe. Could you do it?

The answer to this question will vary from person to person. Some people are logical, or methodical, thinkers and would tackle the project in a step-by-step fashion. They would create a list of ingredients and a process for combining those ingredients together in a way that creates the enchiladas they are trying to prepare.

Visual thinkers will tackle the process in a slightly different manner. These thinkers have an idea of how Red Enchiladas should look. They work by envisioning the result and working until the actual product "looks" like it does in their mind. Visual thinkers think about the process of making Red Enchiladas and start with a mental picture of how the enchiladas should look and work to make it a reality. They may follow a different plan to get them from "start" to "finish" but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

For a project such as cooking Red Enchiladas it really doesn't matter if you are a visual thinker or a logical thinker. When you put your mind toward your goal you will, more than likely, achieve that goal. Either way you will create a recipe that you can follow the next time you are asked to cook Red Enchiladas.

As I write this week's column Romeo, Kaylee and I are actively planning the 2021 Independence Day Parade and Freedom Festival in Gough Park. We have been working on this event for the past few months and this process has not been without controversy or delay. Although the process for planning this event began as the Public Health Order, which was imposed by the NM Department of Health, was winding down it was still in place at the beginning of this process.

I find strength in the unexpected ways that inspiration comes to me. I have been employed by the Silver City Grant County Chamber since January 6, 2020, and the number of times that inspiration has presented herself to me, since then, are plentiful. I have met so many people who are unwavering in their commitment to the people of Grant County, people who are dedicated to caring for the environment we live in and those who have served our country with pride and distinction.

Inspiration is defined as, "the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative." We live and work in a hectic, fast-paced, world with tremendous amounts of pressure on us. Right now, I and my staff are hard at work pulling together our Independence Day Parade and Freedom Festival which will happen on Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Gough Park. The pressure to hold this event is significant and we are doing everything we can to make it happen successfully.

Our days are filled with strategic planning and thinking about what we want to see happen in our community today, tomorrow, over the next couple of weeks, or even months. We are working to help businesses grow and develop and we are looking well into the future when necessary. Did you know we have already booked our first statewide conference for the summer of 2022? We are so excited to announce it at the appropriate time.

I feel like we're on the verge of being wide open again and, frankly, I'm pretty excited about that! The trials and tribulations we have all experienced over the previous 15 months have been stressful and life altering. We have been quarantined and cooped up in our homes for far too long! We have watched friends and family get infected by COVID and we have seen many of our neighbors and loved ones die from this horrible virus.

In the past 15 months we have watched our parents and elderly neighbors grow ever fearful of coming into contact with an infected person. It has been a challenge to serve them because they are so afraid. On the other end of the spectrum, we have our younger, school-aged children, who have had to adopt a whole new way of learning. They have had to figure out how to interact in a virtual classroom setting and their parents learned how to help their children be effective students in more than just the traditional way of "helping with homework!"

In many cases our elderly and student populations have had to do without the most important, and vital, factor in their lives, which is social interaction. Human beings are social creatures, and we thrive on social and physical contact, both tactilely and proximally, with our peers in order to function normally. Scientists have studied, for centuries, the adverse effect of the absence of social interaction on the human psyche. In 2020 the evidence of these effects became real, and not just something we read about in textbooks.

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