In March of 2020 – just one year ago, our lives changed. Borders closed, stores closed, restaurants closed their doors with some keeping their take-out windows open and business – well…some thrived and some faltered.
We remember where we were when we got the news. My husband and I had just arrived for a three-week vacation in a Hilton Head condo on the beach. It was a short vacation – the beach closed, the pools closed, the restaurants closed and there was just a scant number of open grocery stores. “Should we stay, or should we go?” We decided to come home – two weeks early.
Our clients put their ongoing searches on hold – we agreed it was a wise idea – no one knew what the world was going to look like in another month, let alone after a year.
Looking back, we can learn from so many of the experiences that we went through. Leaders were forced to reassess their entire business systems and make plans for contingent actions in order to return to an efficient business model. How have we prepared our companies for the future should this happen again?
The stories that captivated my interest are those of businesses that pivoted and pushed forward in spite of the crisis. This has been a time when many have had to ask themselves, “Do we want to close down or stay alive?”
According to the US Chamber of Commerce, below are some of the businesses that found a “niche” for themselves this year:
Drive-In Movie Theaters – a great blast from our past became popular again
Delivery Companies – especially meal deliveries took on the need and many thrive
Food Industry – canned and jarred foods, baking supplies, coffee and unique goods showed record sales Game Makers – puzzles especially found a new pastime in many homes Fitness Equipment – especially yoga mats have become essential items for the home Landscapers – their schedules were full long before the season began Tutors – as parents were forced to become teachers, the demand for tutors escalated Used Cars – avoiding public transit pushed the demand for used cars in virtually every city Furniture Sales – home offices were just one area of the home being re-decorated Wine & Liquor Industry – with bar closures liquor stores cashed in on increased demand
Challenges for companies severely affected by the crisis made it difficult, or impossible, for them to “reinvent” themselves and return to operational health after a severe shutdown. For many this has been extremely difficult to overcome. Most industries have needed to reactivate or reinvent their entire supply chain. The weakest/strongest point in the chain has and will continue to determine their success. This reality has forced leaders to turn to rehiring, training, and/or re-training their workforce.
The shifts we have encountered in how we live, how we work, and how we use technology, have begun to emerge more clearly. The online world of "contactless" commerce and networking has escalated in ways that have reshaped our behavior forever. Whether we like it or not, this “strange new world” is here to stay.
As we navigate this new normal—a normal that looks unlike any in the years preceding the coronavirus, (or the next new normal) – we will look back at this pandemic, as we have with other significant events, as a time that changed everything. Some things may be lost forever. Some new ways of being and doing are here to stay and will bring new occasions and new duties.
Carpe Diem. How will you seize the day?
Kelley Small is an Advisor to Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.