At the end of every year, we look back with reflection.
We evaluate where we've been, what we've done, and what the road looks like moving forward. We do this with the intent to learn from the past, so we can leverage those lessons as we work to improve. The year 2020 – to put mildly – was not our typical operating year. It was much like driving in the dark without headlights, and sometimes (if we were lucky) we were able to strap flashlights to the hood. It was hard to see and know what was coming, which made it even more difficult to plan. But even in the midst of limited visibility and what was a very challenging year as a company, our team has made progress.
We have some key takeaways we can hold onto with gratitude and apply them as we enter this new year.
Our hope is that you are encouraged by these takeaways, to be prompted to evaluate your year, and to – like us – list the things you've learned: the things you are grateful for and the hopes you have for the future. Let us not allow 2020's disappointments hold us back from achieving more and growing in 2021.
1. We survived as a business
In the midst of hardship, it is sometimes difficult to see the way out, or to picture what it will look like on the other side. But we survived. Looking back, the adversity we faced created opportunities for growth. And if – like us – your business survived 2020, you should view that as quite an accomplishment.
2. We were forced to look inward.
Seasons of adversity force us to look inward, both personally and professionally. I know I did a lot of soul searching in order to learn, grow and adapt while not allowing the season to make me bitter, but make me better.
3. We can always endure more than we think
You really are stronger than you think. Most of the challenges for us were around uncertainty. Uncertainty creates stress and overwhelm. But good leaders remain calm and recognize that facts are our friends. Good leaders remain patient and don't overreact.
4. We reevaluated our priorities
Adversity forces us to revisit our priorities. What is really important in life, who and what matters. This truly surfaced in 2020.
5. We can show gratitude for the good things we do have
Gratitude is key to avoid being overtaken by our circumstances. There were so many things we can be grateful for looking back.
6. We recognized the value of surrounding ourselves with the right people
Without the right circles of people in your life, it can be difficult to navigate the seasons. Your team, your people, your mentors -- they are even more important in times of crisis. Surround yourself with good people. We sure did.
7. A resilient team is important
Wow -- I can't express how much our team stepped up this past year. Like many, we had to reorganize some of our processes and roles, and our team showed up time and time again with their resiliency and willingness to step up to help us grow through the past season. Grateful beyond words.
8. We learned to have empathy for others
Some have called the past year a dumpster fire; for some it was a forest fire. We watched many struggle, hurt, process and make their way. But because we were all in it together, it brought us closer as well.
9. The importance of a strong online presence
As a business during COVID, online and virtual communication were everything. We were all reminded of the importance of a strong, clear and effective online presence for our companies.
10. The need for clear messaging
Having an online presence was important, but so was having a clear and compelling message.
11. A good sales funnel is the secret to success
If you weren't collecting and building an email list for your sales funnel before, you should be now. A good sales funnel was a secret to survival for many during these times. It was a secret weapon.
12. Remote work is good and bad.
One of the things we are grateful for is our ability to fairly easily transition to remote work. Not all businesses could do that. However, sometimes the distractions of home are a challenge, yet the ability to keep creating great work for our clients and do it from the safety of our homes was a blessing.
13. The need to communicate clearly and often in a crisis
Communication is always important. It's even more important during a crisis. Over-communicate, with empathy for and competency in your team, to your customers, to everyone.
14. The unexpected benefit of saving for a rainy day
We have always tried to run our business lean, keep cash in the company, operate in a fiscally responsible way, working to make investments in long term solvency and growth of the company. The savings for a rainy day turned out to be needed for a rainy year (aka 2020). Sometimes you don't exactly know what you are saving for, so it’s important to do so.
15. We appreciated our friends and family in a whole new way
When you experience a different way to be with your friends and family, you gain a whole new appreciation for those in your life.
16. We still grew and improved as a company despite what was going on
Because of quick pivots, a great team, clear strategies and a commitment to move forward, our team and company improved in the past year, probably more than any other year.
17. It forced us to make changes we probably should have made a long time ago
As business leaders, we all have things we know we should do or should have done. This past year forced many of us to make changes that will be of a greater benefit moving forward.
18. If you looked, there were a lot of opportunities in 2020
It is sometimes easy to get caught up in the emotion of what is going on and the change that is happening. So much so that we miss out on opportunities. There were tons of opportunities within the mess of the past year. Opportunities to grow personally, time to learn new skills, to rethink strategies and execution, to improve systems, come up with new ideas, and help customers in new ways.
19. It's important to have the right perspective
When a challenge arises, it's easy to look straight ahead at the obstacle. Perspective is trying to get a complete view of the situation. A lack of perspective breeds fear. Perspective helps you get facts, and facts are your friends that allow you to make better decisions. The right perspective and attitude can be the difference between success and failure.
20. Innovation is born out of adversity
I won't say we invented the wheel during this past year, but the adversity did force us to think differently. It put us in a "turn over every rock" and "there is no idea is off the table" type mode that helped us pivot and grow.
21. Building company culture remotely is difficult, but it’s not impossible
You don't realize the micro-moments you get within an office environment...until they are gone. Those quick check-ins and social engagements that build unity and culture. As a leader, building and maintaining are unique and awesome team culture was a challenge this past year. It was not impossible, however, and we will continue to lean in, and not take for granted the old normal; we will continue to search for ways to build unity and culture with our team and clients.