March 2020 – March 2023: A CEO’s reflection

Every so often, my marketing team asks that I provide content for EMR’s outward facing channels. I communicate, share my heart and soul, internally all the time – company-wide emails, meetings, events, Microsoft Teams messages, etc. Less often do I find myself in this position. And because this topic is of the utmost importance to me, EMR, our families, our customers, the world, here I am bearing all for the external channels per my team’s request, and I hope you’ll follow along and maybe get something of value out of it.


With utmost gratitude, Caroline, EMR president and CEO.



Caroline Kauffman-KirschnickAs I look back on past three years, back to March 2020, I am flooded with feelings. Feelings of instability, which are teaching me to be more flexible and agile as shifts occur. Feelings of frustration, which are teaching me compassion and forgiveness for others and for myself. Pressure and uncertainty, which lead me to seek more grace and serenity in the present moment, bringing my focus back to just the next step. Stress, which sometimes simply just makes me take deep breaths and take a walk.


So, while the past three years have been some of the hardest for many of us, as I sit and reflect, I realize that what it also was, was maybe the best teacher that we didn’t know we needed. We gained powerful and positive tools, learned important lessons, and gained critical coping mechanisms. And maybe without those things I would not be as compassionate, forgiving, flexible or understanding. Maybe I would breathe shallower and take less walks. Maybe I would offer less grace. So maybe, just maybe there is a lot of good hidden just below the surface of what has felt, well…awful.



There is a parable called The Taoist Farmer. When I read it, it realigns me and reminds me that things are not always as they may seem.


There was once a farmer in ancient China who owned a horse. “You are so lucky!” his neighbors told him, “to have a horse to pull the cart for you.” “Maybe,” the farmer replied. One day he didn’t latch the gate properly and the horse ran away. “Oh no! That is terrible news!” his neighbors cried. “Such bad luck!” “Maybe,” the farmer replied. A few days later the horse returned, bringing with it six wild horses. “How fantastic! You are so lucky,” his neighbors told him. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The following week the farmer’s son was breaking-in one of the wild horses when it threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. “Oh no!” the neighbors cried. “Such bad luck, all over again!” “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next day soldiers came and took away all the young men to fight in the army. The farmer’s son was left behind. “You are so lucky!” his neighbors cried. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.


With all of the chaos, uncertainty; changes, instability; systems breakdowns and supply chain issues; the trades skills gap seeming to worsen, and general undertone of mistrust among humans that the past three years seem to have brought, we are looking into the future saying how do we regain some balance? How do we bring some fun and lightheartedness back into the mix? How do we find our footing again in what feels like a world that has been turned upside down? How do we find some relief of what feels like a relentless sense of overwhelm?


We do what we always do. We pull together. We talk about hard things. We talk about real feelings and experiences. We brainstorm. We troubleshoot. We figure out ways to do things differently to help each other dig out of the rubble. I realize how much I appreciated pre-pandemic times. I may not have that same level of appreciation or respect for the importance of many of these things without having lived through the experience itself, the awfulness. The word gratitude comes to mind.


Speaking of gratitude…2022 gave us positive stuff too! We came back to some of our core values. We had summer picnics and events. We celebrated National Tradesperson Day in a big way, laying the groundwork for the larger affect we plan to have on the industry. We went out to dinners to celebrate our long-tenured employee’s years of service. We started new initiatives internally, like the Stellar Truck Inventory Awards, to encourage, support and inspire common goals. We’ve created new positions that will help take some stress and pressure off of overburdened positions and departments. We had joyous holiday breakfasts and lunches. We hired 15 new techs and 8 new staff. We attended 64 events and conferences and built deeper relationships with those industry partners. Our thought-leadership was featured in 22 publications. We celebrated births and birthdays. We rocked our sales and marketing efforts and adapted to new technologies. We attended 21 outside training events and rolled through another successful series of in-house training semesters. We have branches that we thought had reached their potential that have exploded through those assumed barriers and limits. We have seen incredible financial success. We continue to hold onto an intense sense of pride in quality. We continue to focus on customer service, caring about other people’s businesses and having a HOW CAN WE attitude. When I look around, the faces of EMR have refused to give up. This team is tenacious and has a relentless will to keep our heads high.


Looking forward, I say let’s do more of that. Let’s keep the momentum moving. Let’s celebrate and support each other. Let’s grow personally and professionally together. Let’s try new things, get creative, be innovative. Let’s continue to be compassionate and understanding. Let’s keep offering each other grace, assuming good intent and remembering that the whole damn world is upside down and everyone is doing the very best that they can. Let’s remember to breathe deeply and take walks. Let’s remember what fun feels like and figure out how to fit that in again.


And let’s remember that if we think something is great or terrible, good luck or bad luck, we can sit in it with a sense of calm and say “maybe”.