The Leonardo is a nonprofit, community-powered museum that fuses science, technology and art in experiences that celebrate and inspire creativity and innovation. Founded in 2011, The Leonardo is best known for the world class exhibits it has brought to Utah, such as The Dead Sea Scrolls, Mummies of the World, and now Pompeii: The Exhibition. But with more than 60,000 sq. ft. of event and exhibit space, a team of educators that work in middle schools across the state, and a robust calendar of programming, The Leonardo is much more than a museum. The impact of COVID-19 has limited many businesses ability to reopen, and The Leonardo has also experienced a temporary closure, compounded by the complexity of its business model. As state and city guidelines have changed, The Leonardo has eased into the process of reopening with limited summer camps and has plans to open additional parts of the museum to the general public by the beginning of July.

The Leonardo reopening strategy is being led by their CFO/Director of Operations, Chris Goehner. Remaining adaptive and responding to changing circumstancing is nothing new to Goehner, who is a US Navy veteran. Goehner served as a US Navy Corpsman (paramedic) and made two-deployments to Iraq with US Marines in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Operating a business in the current environment is a lot like being a paramedic in combat: you have to remain agile and constantly evaluate the information that you have in front of you to make the best decision” says Goehner.

While evaluating the different resources and programs available to businesses, Goehner came across the Veteran Business Resource Center (VBRC) at the Miller Business Resource Center. After finding the VBRC resource online, Goehner immediately jumped on the free one-on-one consulting from the VBRC. “As I continue to grow in my career, having a sounding board and business mentor is important to fully flush out ideas and ensure the best path forward. With the VBRC, I have both a great sounding board and business mentor with the VBRC manager, Rick Brown,” said Goehner. Also an executive MBA candidate at the University of Utah, Goehner added that the VBRC has helped strengthen the connections between classroom learning and real-world applications.

From Rick Brown’s perspective, “the VBRC is designed to assist all businesses. In the case of The Leonardo, we could bring to the fore the VBRC’s 25 years of experience in international negotiations to assist in this time of crisis due to COVID 19. It is our job and privilege to work with veteran & military owned small businesses no matter the type of issue they are facing in start-up, growth, or sustainability mode.”  

Goehner and Brown have been meeting virtually since April of this year, discussing business strategies and determining ways in which The Leonardo can have the greatest impact in the community with the restrictions necessary to adhere to during the pandemic. During their bi-weekly meetings, Goehner and Brown are able to adapt and change strategies while also reviewing other important topics like negotiation strategies, steps to keep employees engaged, and working through different funding resources. “The VBCR provides me with a solid, reliable resource in Rick (Brown),” says Goehner. “Speaking with him gives me the confidence that my thought process and decisions have been fully vetted before proposing solutions at The Leonardo.” With the help and support from the VBCR, The Leonardo has developed a strong strategy and plan to insure its ability to continue serving the community in a post-COVID-19 world.