With a touch of irony, 2020 was the year that no one saw coming.  Last Christmas, Covid-19 was an isolated outbreak in China that seemed destined to be the next Bird Flu; something that happened largely to other countries.  By Easter, we were either rushed off our feet or had joined Grayson’s Art Club (depending on our job). And everyone was using the word ‘unprecedented’ in every other sentence.

But, as I recently wrote in one Christmas card, I think the knack with 2020 is going to be trying to remember the bits that we unexpectedly quite enjoyed. For me, the glorious weather we had in the spring and being at home to enjoy it.  In that same spirit, I think there are also business lessons that we can take from the year to help us face the ‘new normal’, whenever that finally kicks in.  Here are my top three.

1. People matter

You know the old saying: a friend (when you’re) in need, is a friend indeed. It’s certainly true in our personal lives but I really believe it’s true in business too.  I expect we all have examples of customers or suppliers who went the extra mile for us when times were tough – or even when we have been extra helpful to someone else, just because.  Compare that with the business contacts who you just haven’t heard from, or who have used lockdown as an excuse not to do something for you, and how do you feel about them?  We have long memories when it comes to dealing with others, and however large or small your business, any investment in people and relationships you were able to make this year will pay off in the long term.  That’s a lesson worth taking into what I hope will be a kinder 2021.

2. Distance doesn’t matter

Yes, I know we all have Zoom-fatigue now, but remember those heady-days when a good night in was a glass of wine (OK, bottle of wine…) and a Zoom quiz with your chums?  Now it’s a competition to see how many platforms we’ve used in a day (“Well, I did Zoom networking this morning, then a Google Hangout with my apprentices and now I’m off to a Microsoft Teams meeting with a client…”).  But one thing that all this has proved is that we are often not as tied to geographical locations as we thought we might have been.  So many services are deliverable remotely that being forced to pivot what we do has actually opened up new opportunities for us.  (Why do I feel the need to caveat that with an apology to anyone who is still waiting for the outcome of Brexit negotiations?).  But as a principle, in 2021, remember not to be limited by your physical location.

3. Marketing matters

Yes, well, I would say that, wouldn’t I (I am a marketer) but hear me out.  It was not uncommon in the past that, in times of business-crisis, marketing teams would be the first to suffer the consequences; budgets cut or staff let go.  But I am pleased to say that most businesses today seem to realise that marketing is an investment in the future of your business and that, if you are serious about restoring the business post-crisis, you do need to ensure your presence is still felt.  I picked up a new customer in April with exactly that thought: she was one of many businesses forced to close completely in Lockdown 1 but her words to me were “I know that, for any of my clients to come back in future, I need to keep marketing.”  I am delighted to report that she is now back (restrictions permitting) and as busy as ever. So my third and final learning from 2020 isn’t really anything new but more an affirmation of what we already know: marketing is key to the future of your business.

Wishing all my readers, contacts, clients and business friends a very happy (and well-earned) Christmas break.  Let’s see what 2021 has in store for us!

Best wishes, Claire