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  • Mark Olivito

Freedom Shots & Field Trips: Getting Back To Normal

It seems like everything in the world gets politicized, especially all things pandemic. Masks, vaccines, approaches to schools, business restrictions, government spending, etc. Social media amplifies the debates and Facebook at times feels like "Rage-book."


-Fortunately, PAVERART as a Manufacturing company in NJ was "spared" a government-mandated shutdown action. But restaurants, gyms, beauty salons and a host of other businesses deemed "unsafe" or not "essential" were burdened with numerous restrictions and too many business owners (and the employees that worked in the businesses) had their lives massively disrupted. I ache for people in these situations and I hope in the years to come there is a thoughtful review of these actions and an informed plan that readies us for the next pandemic.

It is WAY beyond my pay grade to answer the question "what would YOU have done?" to manage the pandemic. I have enough challenges in my own household to worry about!


As it relates to the pandemic, I am pretty damn proud of the PAVERART team and how we held it together, much of it on the fly. A few things come to mind.



  • The 5 of us talked frequently, and we discussed "risky" events that may have happened in our households. I attended a packed wake for a dear friend at the peak of the pandemic, slept in our attic for 2 weeks, told the team about it, and around the horn we went with everyone's situations.

  • We got on offense and stayed there. Zoom calls. Advertising. Engaging with our industry partners everywhere we could. New product initiatives. If anything, our problem was trying to do TOO much vs focusing on fewer ideas and executing flawlessly.

  • Vaccines: Of the 12 eligible adults in the PAVERART households, 9 have been fully vaccinated. 75%. We all discussed our individual decisions here as well.

Vaccines: A Freedom Shot? That Answer is Personal

I see the passionate arguments about the vaccine and I respect people that decide to wait. Here's MY story and how I approached it, and why it matters for PAVERART.


First and foremost. If I can avoid a doctor visit, I have a 47 year TERRIBLE track record of averaging MAYBE once a decade, irresponsible as that certainly is. I'm scared to death of needles. In the south I am what you refer to as a "hot mess" for all things medical. BUT.....


When my wife got me an appointment for the Covid-19 Vaccine I was elated and couldn't wait to get in line. Never before in my life did I look FORWARD to a shot until this one. I'll never forget the feeling of relief and gratitude as I sat for the required 15 minutes post vaccine.


Why the excitement?

HOPE



My wife and I were scared to death over my 16 year old daughter Hope, (who happens to have Down Syndrome) getting COVID and the horror stories we heard about parents not being able to go to a hospital with their kids. She has communication challenges and the thought of her being in the hospital alone was flat out paralyzing. The vaccine in our minds increased the odds of us not having to deal with this. In other words, it wasn't about ME getting COVID, it was someone else.

Pretty personal, I know. That's how decisions get made.

What else?

At some point, business can't survive on ONLY zoom. Getting on the road and seeing the real world matters. I call it Field Trips.


In business, Field Trips give you the opportunity to expose you too what the office can not.

An old friend of mine has a great expression:

"If you want to learn how the lion lives, don't go to the zoo. Go to the jungle!."


Going to the customer's location is pretty important. In our world of PAVERART, we cover municipal markets that go way beyond a job site, a location, and a beautiful PAVERART design. There are so many things that have to happen for us to be part of a job, to name a few:

  • A Landscape Architect has to discover us, learn about our capabilities and understand how that could add to a project vision.

  • A town leadership team (Mayor, Town Administrator, Town Council Members) need to develop a vision, tweak it, raise money (or allocate existing funds), debate ideas, garner community support, and countless other topics.

  • Contractors need to interface with PAVERART and all the needed parties to pull together the execution of the project.

  • Artists - Sometimes they are commissioned, sometimes they are in-house with design firms. They are often central to a project, SOMEWHERE along the lines.

Said differently, there are more things (and people) that can break away from us than for us.....so understanding each corner of the process is difficult, but needed.


As a small business, or any size business for that matter, understanding the various PEOPLE that influence a project's outcome is a top challenge of ours.

Since I came into PAVERART in August of 2018, I've had Leonardtown, Maryland on the top of my Field Trip List. If I were a Professor of Landscape Architecture, or editor of a Landscape Architecture or Town Redevelopment Journal, LEONARDTOWN is where I'd be headed for a great story, phenomenal leadership, and turning NOTHING into something. I wrote about it in the following blog post:

Creating a Town Destination: The Leonardtown Wharf Case Study


After Mike & I got fully vaccinated, this was first on the agenda.


I was massively impressed with Leonardtown BEFORE our field trip. That only INCREASED during and after after we spent some time touring the town, visiting the Compass Rose we were honored to manufacture, talking about the future goals of the town, etc.



What else matters with a field trip?

Whoever is riding shotgun or driving with you.

Mike & I can talk the paint off the walls. Put us in a car for a combined 7 hours and we'll cover some ground, do some business, have a few laughs and solve some of the worlds problems (at least in our own minds).


Last word on Field Trips....

  • It's not so much about WHAT you are trying to see.....

  • But the WHO you are seeing. People are the great unlock to a better future. Learning from them is the key.

  • It's also the WHY behind what you intend to see on your Field Trip. The Story.


A Slow Sunday.....New Discovery & New Entry Onto The Field Trip List!

Browsing Facebook last weekend I came across a press conference that caught my eye:

"Shot to Reunite....A Call to Artists."

https://www.shottoreunite.org/call-to-artists

"Calling on artists across Long Island to submit creative, culturally resonant works to be used in an island-wide marketing campaign to raise confidence in the COVID-19 vaccination, and address vaccine hesitancy within diverse ethnic, cultural, and BIPOC communities. Final selections will be presented in communities across Long Island in a COVID-19 vaccine confidence/awareness campaign."

One of the local arts council leaders spoke about not being able to hug her daughter or grandson for over a year. Like me, that's her reason for being involved in the Shot to Reunite.



ART teachers everyone should take notice of this campaign. I can't wait to see the artists participate and make their impact influencing and educating the community about vaccines.


Everyone has their own idea of the Freedom Shot. For some, that means no shot at all. Regardless of peoples personal decisions, I'm rooting for our great country to re-enter this world of ours, feel that freedom to live again, field trips or otherwise.









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