#CXandLOVE, Covid-19, and community.

We’re seeing some really beautiful things in these scary times. 

I’ve got a thread that has been running (and trending) on LinkedIn for about two weeks now. I’ve been focusing on big companies that are doing the right thing for their employees, their customers, and their communities. It is amazing how many companies jumped in to sign the No Layoff Pledge that Mark Benioff of Salesforce started. It also has been amazing watching airlines and hotels figure out how to the right thing for their employees and their customers. In my opinion, first movers #Delta and #Hilton totally won. 

But I’m going to deviate a little from that track and head towards small business. I currently live in St. Petersburg, Florida. We are the land of small businesses. We are known for not supporting chains. We are known for our independent owners and our entrepreneurs. 

And I have to tell you, what our small businesses are doing is nothing short of amazing. Definitely inspiring.

Let me tell you about a few:

Gratzzi Italian Grille

Gratzzi has been around since I started coming to St. Pete in 2006, when I took the CMO job at Ceridian. Gratzzi’s chef (and one of the owners), Tony Mangiafico, shuttered his restaurant when St. Pete issued it’s safer-at-home order over three weeks ago. Although he wasn’t selling his fabulous Italian cuisine — or pouring his outstanding dirty martinis — he knew he had food and a kitchen. So he started making free meals for out-of-work service employees. He’s been feeding our service folks, every day except Sundays, for over three weeks. 

Seven days ago, he brought his restaurant back online and started offering delivery and take out — but he hasn’t stopped feeding the unemployed service family of St. Pete.

St. Pete Rising

These guys run a blog about urban development in our not-so-sleepy little town of St. Pete. They break news about new builds, new businesses, and our ever-changing skyline. When the lockdown started, the founders pulled the team together and brainstormed. They came up with a great idea: raise money to feed front line workers with food from local establishments. As I’m writing this, they have raised over $60,000 and have fed hundreds of workers. Their work is keeping local restaurants in business and keeping our essential employees — from hospital staff to nursing home staff to cleaning crews — fed. 

I had the chance to ask co-founder Brian Zucker what the best part of this whole thing has been. His answer:

“This is such a stressful time for everyone, but especially those that are tasked with keeping us safe. Receiving photos from the hospitals and healthcare facilities that we’ve provided meals to has been incredible. They are so appreciative. Although you cannot see them, you can tell there are big smiles beneath their masks.“

I’ll admit it, I got a little teary. 

Urban Brew & BBQ

Andy Salyards opened up one of my favorite local joints in 2013. He serves fabulous BBQ and local craft beer and does it with style and grace. When this all started, Andy, like many local restauranteurs, went into planning mode to move business online. What he realized pretty rapidly was that people were having a hard time getting basic necessities — so he added grocery ordering to his offerings. 

He uses his existing supply chain to get products into the hands of the people of St. Pete. His price list clearly shows what his cost is, and then what he is charging. He is solving a ton of problems for a ton of people. And then last week he launched his Sharing Easter campaign. He’s delivering meals this Easter Sunday to people who are in need and/or live alone. 

We’ve got so many more examples, from (one of my favorite local breweries) 3 Daughters and Nardo’s Naturals making hand sanitizer, to local pizza joint Tour de Pizza offering free food to first responders. And this is just one city out of many stepping up.

To me, at the end of the day, this is exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about #CXandLOVE. This is about pivoting on a dime, figuring out how to save your business during insane times — but most of all, doing it all with some love and some connection. 

I’d love to hear your stories of your local heroes. This time we’re living through now is the epitome of the saying, “Not all heroes wear capes.” 

It appears that a whole bunch of them wear aprons.

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