Executives in the Tampa Bay area share their silver linings found during the COVID-19 pandemic

Crisis often acts as a crucible, compelling a reexamination of purpose. In his work as president of Sparxoo, a digital marketing agency in Tampa working with companies across a variety of industries, Rob Kane has observed a consistent, positive trend in reaction to the current situation.

“We’ve stopped glamorizing, or glorifying, being busy. Everyone was talking about how busy they were and it had become almost a status symbol within our business, or professional worlds,” Kane says. “But I’ve really appreciated how, as companies or individuals, we’ve refocused on what is important and now we’re asking, ‘how do we live and work with purpose?’ That’s been one of the biggest silver linings for me, as I feel many are deliberately looking back on their missions, and purpose, for being.”

Valeri Marks

For Val Marks, president and CEO of Medical Technology Associates in Pinellas Park, her employees are suddenly part of the front lines as their work became even more meaningful with the crisis. MTA offers testing, services and equipment to ensure hospitals and clinics comply with life safety codes and standards.

As an experienced leader, who’s faced down the dot.com collapse and the impacts of the real estate crash of 2008, Marks was ready for the challenge.

“I’m thankful to be in health care now, during this crisis,” Marks says, “To be part of something bigger as our employees are going into the hospitals, dealing with life safety compliance and doing their part to ensure standards are met. I’ve been so proud of the people who have emerged as heroes, within our company or other companies, and how the country has embraced these previously unsung heroes.”

Marks continues, “There has been a true warmth, and camaraderie, that has come out of this for other human beings as we’re watching so many put the life safety of their customers, and their patients, above their own health and well-being. Many are really trying to do the right thing for humankind — a bigger, higher goal from collective humanity that we haven’t always seen in the past.”

Another type of company, increasingly appreciated in the new normal, is shipping.  So we caught up with BlueGrace Logistics, a third party firm based in Tampa but serving the nation. With clients like Tyson Foods and Proctor & Gamble, ensuring increased shipments arrive safely and quickly has instilled a new sense of purpose in the company.

Bobby Harris

Founder, president and CEO, Bobby Harris, says, “It just feels more meaningful when you’re doing something that’s helping society as well as the business itself. For me, I’ve enjoyed finding so many people up to the task of handling this crisis. It’s extremely scary as a business to go through this, on a personal and professional level,” Harris continues. “Being able to thrive and come together is very telling. It gives our business a lot more confidence; it makes us hopeful. If we can get through this, we can get through anything. Being tested is not always a bad thing from a business perspective and has actually become a benefit by putting more purpose into our business. It clearly lets us see the importance of what we do.”

As Marks points out, it’s also a time to double-down on philanthropic efforts. Marks’ husband, Tim Marks, is president and CEO of Metropolitan Ministries. “Tim is really dealing with the frontline of people affected by COVID,” Marks says. “It puts my work into perspective, compared to the people at Met or the first responders. My experiences are all to do with trying to support my employees, who are going out there every day to the hospitals. But that’s why giving during this time remains of vital importance, finding ways to continue to be philanthropic, helping out in our communities, supporting our local businesses, finding a way to donate.”

Sparxoo agrees, and their studio team created pro bono videos during the start of closures to help spread the word about take-out options for local restaurants. As Kane says, “the agility, and creativity, has been very inspiring to our teams finding new ways to work with purpose.”

Harris adds, “it’s been fantastic watching how non-profits, and the people who support them, are successfully navigating through this. Now is the time that tells who your true supporters are, who your best friends are and who will be with you until the end.” Harris included a special shout out to the Humane Society, how they are supporting the animals of Tampa bay with online fundraising and increased efforts for animals impacted by the situation.

Michael and Debbie Lundberg’s card created from the Humane Society’s drive-through photoshoot.

Including unique opportunities, like drive-by photoshoots, for people and their pets – to help raise money for the organization, which TBBW’s own contributor, and ambassador, Debbie Lundberg participated in.

Kane believes this new emphasis on purpose extends to the personal as well.

“I’ve seen a definite shift, with more people outside focusing on their health and wellness or reconnecting with nature or their families, focusing on others, and elders, in the community,” Kane says. “We’ve also had an increased focus on what is excess in our lives, what are we saying yes to that we didn’t really need in our lives. This focus gives us clarity and the breadth to concentrate on what is most important, as businesses or as individuals.”

Marks says she’s focusing on personal connections among family, employees or friends. “It’s important to let people know I’m here and I support them,” Marks says.

Harris stays positive by focusing on resilience: “It’s not how hard you can punch, it’s how hard you can be punched. And we’re finding out, we can take the punches.”


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