Opinion

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Business Is Personal

What’d You Learn In 2020?

What was your big takeaway from the adventure known as the year 2020?

Was 2020 your best year ever? Was it your worst? I’ve talked with people dealing all three types of results, except that those conversations don’t really describe three types of results. It’s more like two easy to understand types of results and a wide spectrum of results between those two extremes. After an “eventful period”, I always wonder what people and companies will do next.

As you get older, you start seeing patterns during stressful, challenging periods. Younger people today seem to grasp this earlier than I did when I was their age. At least it seems that way.

One pattern is that you learn who people and companies really are. For example: there are takers, there are givers and there are those who do both. Stressful times don’t create those tendencies, but they do tend to amplify them.

There are people who seem to need pressure to perform their best. Likewise, there are people who need no pressure to perform their best. If you manage both of these people, it’s important to understand their differences.

I wonder what you’ll do differently this year vs. last year. I wonder what you’ll do the same. What did 2020 teach you about your business, your team (if you have one), your customers, and yourself.

My biggest takeaway from 2020 had nothing to do with COVID or the election.

I realized that I need to work harder than ever to spend time with smart, talented people. People smarter than me at things I find important. I’ve done this for years but in 2020, I doubled down. I’m already working even harder on this in 2021 because the payoff from last year’s effort was major.

At the least, the one thing to take from 2020 is that you made it. Hopefully your business did too. While there were a lot of human traits on display in 2020, there was at least one that stood out.

Resilience.

We can take a punch – in whatever form that might present itself. Doesn’t mean we don’t get hurt, but we get back up and try again. Even when it’s “wrong” or ill-advised.

There’s this guy in the valley I’ve been watching. Young guy. I knew him when he was a kid. He’s tried jobs. He’s tried his own business a couple of times. It never seemed to work out, at least not with enough consistency to depend on for the long haul. I could see his frustration – and so could everyone else. He wore it on his sleeve. I worried about him. Privately sent some advice. He’s a good man. He just hadn’t yet found his thing… until he did. Somehow, he managed to find it in 2020, of all places. I don’t see him angry anymore. He’s happy. He’s enjoying his work – and his customers seem to be as well.

He kept getting back up. That’s the part I’m proud of him for.

A sizable percentage of the country’s businesses are going to have to do the same, including some right here.

Encourage them when you can. Send some business their way when you can. Help them get back up off the floor after taking the punches 2020 handed out.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if they were unable to help you a few months or years from now because they’re closed – perhaps because not enough people did a little bit to help them back in 2021.

If your business had an amazing year, great. Depending on the reasons for that result, don’t get all cocky on us and assume that success will continue simply because you’re brilliant (even if you are). Keep proving your brilliance.

If your business had an awful year, perhaps the worst since your first year in business, don’t look at yourself in the mirror like you’re an idiot (even if you are). If your business survived, that’s something.

Depending on the reason(s) for the trouble, hopefully 2021 will be your great comeback. Or maybe last year was the signal that you need to try something else. If you do change business paths, take your resilience with you, along with the lessons of last year. They’ll both come in handy.

Take care of the people who take care of your customers. Spend more time with people who are smarter than you about something you find important.

Mark Riffey is an investor and advisor to small business owners. Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site, contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or email him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.