Resilience. Stamina. Strength. Hope. These are words I remember when I think back to 9/11. It was a horrible day filled with resilience, stamina, strength, and hope. I do not ever remember fear. There was no time for fear. That emotion never entered my mind nor the minds of others making their way uptown from Wall Street that day. Old, young, disabled, rich, poor, or destitute, the playing field on that day was leveled. We no longer wore labels. Color, race, and religion did not matter as we all walked the streets together. New Yorkers came together with water, food and clothing. It was the generosity of the NY community on that day that will always be front of mind, and the resilience that followed reminds us all that we can come back.
I thought about that day and the weeks that followed as I maneuvered through the challenge of this last year. Although not the same circumstances, my behavior and that of my colleagues, family, clients, and friends remains resilient and their stamina, although challenged, remains strong.
The difference today from almost twenty years ago, is fear. This year we felt afraid. This year we felt anxious. This year we felt alone. It has been thirteen months since the pandemic forced the world to shut down and that anxiety and fear remains. Our government gave businesses Band-Aids. Many businesses embraced those Band-Aids: PPP1, PPP2, EIDL, grants and gifts. Most businesses made decisions to change their business models, tighten their belts, and make changes that should have been made regardless of the pandemic. It was not easy. The path forwards most days was murky at best, but many businesses are stronger today as a result. They were able to challenge and embrace the changes forced upon them, adapt, and reinvent. The fear and anxiety are still here but we are beginning to feel hope.
I challenge you to take some time to evaluate the last thirteen months. Were you profitable despite the pandemic? What changes did you make that you continue to embrace? Some of the changes that we see businesses continue to embrace include:
- Financial cushion. A reserve of 3 months expenses is not enough. The minimum should be 6 months.
- Staffing. We found out we can do more with less. Understanding capacity and embracing productivity is the key to long-term profitability.
- Retention of customers. Know what your customers need today. It has probably changed since the pandemic. Embrace the changes and support them. This may have an immediate effect on your profitability but will bring long-term rewards.
- Retention of staff. Have a strategy that embraces flexibility with accountability. The work will still be the same, but many people found they were more productive when allowed some flexibility in their schedules.
- Adaptation to new technology. Meetings and calls over Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams became the norm changing the way we do business today.
- Mediocrity no longer works. How you measure success will ensure high performance.
- Understanding that having a strategy balanced with culture and strong financial reporting is the only path forward.
Only time will tell what the next thirteen months will bring and I encourage you to not forget the lessons learned in the previous thirteen. Keep them close and remember you are resilient; and you have the strength and stamina to continue to thrive. Replace fear with gratitude and embrace the knowledge that anything is possible.