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Remote Control

We didn’t rush for the doors at Greteman Group. Truth is, a lot of us are married to the place. It’s a real looker. Plus, there are plants to water. The company is good. The coffee ain’t bad. But things are moving fast. We have to stay in front of them.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading. Seems the best way to beat it is to not let it get close. The situation called for a calm, orderly exit.

We’ve done just that.

The Home Team

We packed our computers into our cars at the end of the day on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning our remote work plan was in action. Our management team was video conferencing. Our brand managers were working the home phones. Our creatives were creating at their kitchen tables.

An email alerting clients about our remote work plan went out first thing Wednesday morning — a message from the “home team.” We listed our cell numbers, and told them to call or text with questions.

It’s mostly business as usual, we explained. We may not be in the office, but we’re still on the job.

remote work plan toolbox

Leadership sent us off with a toolbox full of digital devices and programs aimed at making our home offices as connected as the open work environment we’re used to.

Communication We conducted internal meetings using Google Hangouts to keep our phone lines open for client calls and to see faces we’re already missing. Questions flew back and forth over Slack. Our teleconference lines were reserved for client communication.

Even Sonia, our fearless leader who would rather be in the action than at home, enjoyed her first Google Hangouts meeting — and that’s saying something.

Project Management Basecamp did the heavy lifting, with each task and to-do outlined in detail. All while our traffic manager green-lighted projects for brand managers, copywriters and designers across the city.

Productivity We didn’t fear we’d be lost at sea without the structure of the office. Brand managers alleviated any worries by ramping up scheduling for project check-ins. No more walking by desks. It’s all Google Drive and video chatting.

Security Working from home didn’t mean working from our home computers. Each of us took our laptops, desktops and tablets home as well as their protected security features. Designers coordinated VPN access for the files stored safely on our server.

safe computers and software during coronavirus remote work plan

The Need to Lead

Our management team put together a plan that allows us to serve our clients, our employees, and our community. Taking care of business means taking care of people first. We’re confident our ship will run more smoothly through this crisis because we plotted the course in advance, and then made the hard choice to take action.

Next Steps

None of us can know how this will all play out. But we can choose how we play it. We’re playing it safe. This pandemic demands action. We plan to go the distance. That means heading home for a spell.

There was no hugging when we left the office. No running, either. We’re not going to miss a step.

The Air Capital’s Story Airs This Week

The best stories only improve in the retelling. That’s true of the Air Capital. Last fall, Greteman Group published Wichita: Where Aviation Took Wing. Now our local Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member station, KPTS – Channel 8, has created the documentary Wichita: The Air Capital.

It premiered at the city’s historic Orpheum Theatre this past Friday, March 6. The Wichita Aero Club hosted a private event prior to the screening, which was opened to the public. More than 300 people attended. You could tell it was an in-the-know audience by attendees’ frequent laughter and applause.

the wichita orpheum

The vaudeville-era theater was an appropriate setting. The Orpheum opened its doors in 1922, during Wichita’s barnstorming heyday. Pilots would buzz communities to announce unscheduled exhibitions at nearby farms, and towns would shut down as everyone headed to out to watch. Death-defying daredevils wing-walked, swung from trapezes mounted on landing gear, changed planes in midair, shot fireworks from their fabric-and-wood planes, flew upside down and put their aircraft through gasp-inducing spins and dives.

The first plane built in Wichita rolled out of production in 1917, when Clyde Cessna assembled his Comet. Wichita’s first commercial aircraft, the Swallow, came from the E.M. Laird Airplane Co. in 1920. By 1928, Wichita was general aviation’s manufacturing grand central, producing 120 airplanes a week – a quarter of all U.S. output.

A Chamber of Commerce Air Capital logo contest celebrated the city’s 16 aircraft manufacturers, six aircraft engine factories, 11 airports and dozen flying schools.

“With Wichita’s rich aviation roots, it just made sense to explore the city’s history and what the future holds for the ‘Air Capital of the World,’” says Victor Hogstrom, KPTS president and CEO.

Stories Told By Those Who Know

KPTS multimedia journalist Chris Frank recorded hours and hours of interviews of those who’ve lived and know Wichita’s aviation heritage. A partial listing includes:

  • Dave Franson, Wichita Aero Club president
  • Sonia Greteman, Greteman Group president and creative director
  • Don Grommesh, ret. Learjet chief engineer
  • Al Higdon, former Learjet marketing/Sullivan, Higdon & Sink cofounder
  • Clay Lacy, Clay Lacy Aviation founder
  • Russ Meyer, Cessna Chair emeritus
  • Tim Norton, Kansas Aviation Museum, Executive Director
  • John O’Leary, Airbus Americas Engineering VP
  • Mary Lynn Oliver, Walter and Olive Ann Beech’s daughter
  • Jack Pelton, Experimental Aircraft Association CEO/chair
  • Connie Palacioz, ret. Boeing WWII-era riveter
  • Edward H. Phillips, aviation author and historian
  • Ron Ryan, ret. Ryan Aviation founder
  • Dr. John Tomblin, National Institute for Aviation Research, Executive Director
  • Jeff Turner, ret. Spirit AeroSystems CEO
  • Dr. Sheree Utash, WSU Tech president

There is nothing like hearing firsthand accounts from people who lived this history. While I grew up in the Air Capital, I heard new anecdotes and learned a number of things about our community. It’s especially fun to see modern-day businesses existing in buildings that formerly held aviation trailblazers. Frank walks along the streets of Delano and points out former Travel Air locations. He even goes inside Salon 5 Thirty 5 and talks to a customer, Johnna Fussell, who recounts being a kid during WWII and playground games where instead of chanting, “A…B…C,” they’d say, “Beech…Boeing…Cessna.”

sonia greteman tells her chapter of the air capital's story

Of course, I loved seeing Sonia Greteman among those interviewed and her stories, learned from our deep dive into the Air Capital’s history when developing the aviation display at Eisenhower National Airport and our subsequent book.

Walter and Olive Ann Beech’s daughter Mary Lynn Oliver is especially touching in the documentary as she talks about her parents. She shows great emotion as she says Beech Aircraft wouldn’t have come to be without her father, but it wouldn’t have survived without her mother.

Missed Out? You Can Still Watch

Wichita: The Air Capital airs at 7 p.m., this Thursday, March 12 and Monday, March 16 during KPTS – Channel 8’s spring membership drive. Membership thank you gifts include both a DVD of the documentary and a copy of Greteman Group’s book. See the station’s website for membership levels and details:

If you care about the Air Capital’s history, I urge you to watch this documentary. I believe you’ll find it both touching and informative. I did.

Oh, my word. And my sentences, too.

When you write ad copy, sometimes your words come back from the designers in all caps STANDING AT ATTENTION LIKE SOLDIERS. You put your hand over your heart. So proud. Other times, those words are as pretty as a name on a cake and you want to squeal, clap and blow out the candles. There are times, though, when you tire of the sign making. Enough with all of the word treatments. You miss the way the little soldiers used to simply line up and march for you in long orderly columns of Times New Roman. You miss sentences. Period.

It happens like this: You close your eyes one day and try to remember how a line read. The rhythm of the thing. How it rolled along, babbling over the rocks and commas. You can’t. All that comes to mind is how it looked when it came back from the art department:

Centered, squared-off, or bulleted — words in a designer’s hands become design elements. Font delivery systems. Words as shapes. Ideas as images. In a design shop, the words you write often become other things. Some kind of button or badge, maybe.

It pays not to get too precious about any of that. Designers are doing their jobs. Ads live in small units in the margins, on billboards, in the social media stream as digital doo-dads with strict character-counts. There’s no room for sonnets. You’re doing well to squeeze in two words sometimes. Using the best two is the whole trick. It’s challenging fun for any copywriter, and good work if you can get it.

writing for design means less words and sentences

You find that you miss putting strings of words together in a long sequence, placed onto a kind of timeline that runs from left to right. You would prefer to be working more along those lines, and making fewer of the word sandwiches.

Rolling your eyes? Fair. Only writers think this way. Studies show people get information from photos many times faster than they do from text. Who does a writer think he’s kidding with all of this nonsense about “more sentences, please?” Who has the time to read them? It would alarm you to know the amount of time it takes to write them. A designer can fill a page in seconds with a single mouse click. It can take hours with a keyboard to fill a page with letters.

So, look, yes, we know. Sigh. A writer in a design shop is lucky to even have a desk. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.

It is also one good sentence.