Don’t wait for the pandemic to end to plan your company’s next move.

“We all need to look two steps ahead and prepare ourselves for coming out of this,” Melissa Melonson, cofounder and CEO of the Lumi Agency, said during CBIA’s annual The Connecticut Economy conference Sept. 24.

The Connecticut Economy young leaders panel, William Bussey, Miranda Muro, Melissa Melonson, and Pete Sena
Next generation leaders: Triple Helix Corp's William Bussey, Foodshare's Miranda Muro, the Lumi Agency's Melissa Melonson, and Digital Surgeons' Pete Sena.

“We don’t want to sit back and wait until this is over,” said Melonson, one of three next generation business leaders on a panel that discussed COVID-19 strategies and tactics.

“There are so many things we can do right now to create connections, and create opportunities for people to get involved.”

Pete Sena, the CEO and chief creative officer of Digital Surgeons, hosted the panel that also featured Melonson, Miranda Muro, deputy chief operating officer of Foodshare and William Bussey, director of operations for Triple Helix Corp

The pandemic has forced many companies to change on the fly, including Lumi, a marketing agency serving the hospitality industry.

"What are we going to do moving forward? What are the solutions? What are the opportunities?"

Lumi Agency's Melissa Melonson

“It was quite a shock at the start of the pandemic at how business changed overnight but you've got to snap out of the shock and figure out, ‘OK, what are we going to do moving forward? What are the solutions? What are the opportunities?'” Melonson said.

Lumi worked with community partners to create Picnic in the Park, a weekly event that enabled restaurants to sell and people to gather.

“We created a ton of revenue for our restaurant partners through these events and also brought our community together in a safe way outdoors when everyone was feeling disconnected,” she said.

Digital Transformation

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation for many companies, Sena said.

“Some statistics are saying we went through five years of transformation in three months during the pandemic,” he said.

“Now is the time to lean into some of the technological resources that are available.”

"We went through five years of transformation in three months during the pandemic."

Digital Surgeons' Pete Sena

Triple Helix has been helping its clients with remote work by encouraging greater use of cloud-based services, Bussey said.

“If you find yourself doing a lot of manual work that is harder now that you’re working remotely, the best thing you can do is allow yourself to become a cloud-enabled type of company,” he said.

“Allow that transition to happen because it’s really where we’re going over the next couple of years.”

Customer Needs

Bussey said companies should use the pandemic to review procedures and processes.

“Now would be a good time to ask yourself, ‘Should I be working with all these spreadsheets or should I just automate this task?’" he said.

The pandemic forced Lumi to change because when their clients’ budgets ran dry, marketing was one of the first things to go.

"Now is a good time to ask yourself, ‘should I just automate this task?'"

Triple Helix Corp's William Bussey

“We looked at our service offerings and decided what is important right now, what do our clients need in this moment, and what will they need in the next six months to one year,” Melonson said.

“We relaunched our website, redid all our marketing materials to be able to speak to a lot of our new services, and how we’ve adjusted and changed to provide what our customer needs.”

Community Connections

One key to emerge successfully is to connect with the people in your community, Sena said.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to contribute where you can.”

Muro said she’s been inspired at how the community has stepped up to contribute in what has been a challenging time for many.

"I can’t stress enough how important it is to contribute where you can."

Foodshare's Miranda Muro

“The need for food assistance has skyrocketed during COVID,” she said.

"We’re seeing new faces and we’ve had to distribute more food than ever before.”

'Stay Positive'

Muro sees some hard cases—including the newly unemployed and previous Foodshare donors “who are now on the other end”—but said it’s important to stay hopeful.

“You have to stay positive through all this,” she said.

"As business leaders, we need to add to the energy and optimism that Connecticut needs to not just rebuild, but build it better."

Melonson

“Even though it’s been challenging for me personally and as a professional, Foodshare is an essential organization and our team has been coming to work every day, working longer hours than ever before.

“So for me it’s been a balance of how do I support my team on a personal level because we’re all facing changes.”

“I think we all, as business leaders, need to look at what we can do to add to the energy and optimism level that the state of Connecticut needs to have right now to not just rebuild but build it better,” Melonson added.