The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of change for consumers, businesses, and employees. We wanted to take a minute out of the craziness to talk with one of our leaders, Lana Champion, President of Sales for the Southeast Region, about her experience right now, words of wisdom she can share with business owners, and how she’s been entertaining herself while social distancing.

Lana has been working in the news and advertising space since 1996. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Florida (Go Gators, she says!), and started her career at The Florida Times-Union. She’s since been part of multiple news and advertising organizations and has led sales and marketing teams for much of her career.

Headshot of Lana Champion, President of Sales, Southeast RegionHi, Lana! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. We know it’s been busy! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in Jacksonville but spend most of my time traveling throughout the Southeast. I love my job, and I’m passionate about helping businesses connect buyers and sellers and thrive. During my downtime, I live for travel, exploring new countries and cultures with my husband, Richard of 22 years, and my 19-year-old son, Colton. For extra fun, I have been known to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and fly in an aerobatic plane during a Blue Angels airshow.

Wow! Needless to say, you’re not afraid of heights or flying, which works for your travels as well! Speaking of traveling, I’m sure you were doing a lot of that as president of sales for the southeast region. What’s that been like?

It’s an absolute honor to work with a team of creative, smart, and hardworking executives. I get the pleasure of working with some incredibly talented leaders and sales executives across the nine states and 44 markets that comprise the Southeast.

I’m looking forward to traveling again and spending more time in the field and on calls with our local partners. I enjoy solving problems and helping our clients solve pain points. There is no greater feeling than helping a business succeed.

And we know that local businesses need that support now more than ever. Why do you believe local businesses are so important to our communities and to LOCALiQ?

Economically speaking, they provide jobs and stimulus to our communities, but they also enrich our lives and bring communities together. Local businesses are often the ones who support local youth programs and non-profit programs, and most of them give back to their communities in meaningful ways.

I couldn’t imagine a weekend without a visit to one of my favorite breakfast spots or not having the local boutique right down the road, who knows my name, assist me in selecting gifts for friends and family. Local businesses form the character of our cities and towns — they are the fabric of America.

We’ve been experiencing a lot of change due to the pandemic how have you seen businesses adapting?

Virtual technology! Our clients are getting savvier around using conferencing technology and virtual tours to keep up with the business demand while everyone is at home.

In our Nashville market, one of our furniture stores asked to pause their digital campaign. After taking that action, the rep noticed more leads were continuing to flow into the business. So, the rep called the client and pointed out the demand for their products was still strong, and she helped them develop a plan to start a virtual appointment for home decorating. The client told her that she was the only partner who continued to look for solutions to help his business after he paused his marketing campaign. That’s powerful!

Our team specializes in assisting businesses to thrive, and their creativity is permeating throughout our company and our communities.

That is awesome! What suggestions do you have for business owners trying to navigate marketing in these uncertain times?

Now, more than ever, having a web presence is essential. The local businesses with websites, SEO, listing management tools to update business hours across the web, and robust social media audiences have a much better chance of sustaining their business and thriving as soon as the “shelter-in-place” orders are lifted.

I was so proud the day we launched supportlocal.usatoday.com across the country. Our company moved fast to develop and create a solution to bring buyers and sellers together when our local businesses need it most. The best part is the website is entirely free to the business with the marketing scale and reach of our national brand, USA TODAY.

Are there any examples of businesses in your community you’ve seen go above and beyond or address this crisis in an interesting way?

Yes, Bogey Grille in Ponte Vedra is delivering a roll of toilet paper with take-out orders.

VyStar Credit Union is providing food to employees, offering a 10% pay increase to branch employees, and paying employees who need to stay home either due to child-care issues or high-risk health issues. Also, they are deferring loans 60 to 90 days and waiving late fees for their customers.

Publix is covering the rent for local businesses in all of its company-owned shopping centers, and Aldi is giving its employees a 10% pay raise.

One of my favorite companies, Dyson, designed a new ventilator in 10 days that can be quickly manufactured to help solve the shortage issues.

I could go on and on. It’s remarkable how adversity strengthens us as individuals and collectively as an organization. We will emerge stronger than ever from this pandemic.

I completely agree. And, I know our employees have really been going above and beyond for our clients right now. How have your team members been modeling this?

In so many ways! First of all, they are talking to 20+ businesses a day. Checking in with them and trying to help every one of them. Many are working long hours, using every resource possible to pivot ad campaigns and shift ad messaging, which matters now more than ever for our clients.

Our reps have held virtual meetings for customers not set up on Google My Business to walk them through the steps so they can ultimately participate in our Support Local website and promote their brand. I have even heard stories about reps offering training on conferencing software like Zoom to help them establish a virtual environment for their business, especially in the real estate and financial planning spaces.

So, we’ve all been working from home a lot more — what are your best tips for working from home as well as managing a team remotely?

I am at my best when I exercise first thing in the morning. It’s critical to get ready and dressed just like you’re going to work each day. I set up a home office with all the tools needed during the day, and I try to change up the scenery in the afternoon by taking my laptop outside for afternoon calls. Getting some fresh air and a little nature is good for the soul.

Communication has never been better on our team. Although I miss traveling in markets, I am joining morning huddles and afternoon wrap-ups with the various groups in our regions. We have all come together in meaningful ways to solve customer challenges, and the idea of sharing has never been better.

What local businesses are you most excited to visit once we’re all leaving the house more?

Where do I start? Hair salon, Mexican and sushi restaurants, gym, nail salon, breakfast cafes, local concerts, and charitable events…oh, and I could definitely use a massage from sitting at my desk all day!

What have you been binging lately?

Wow, this could be embarrassing. I’ll get the worst out of the way first. Tiger King, Morning Show, Ozark, Safe, and Outlander.

Thanks to Lana for sharing her story and her insights for local business owners looking to navigate this pandemic. The team at LOCALiQ is here to support local businesses in whatever ways we can right now. Contact us to learn more.

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