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As midnight approached on December 31, 2020, very few people found themselves reflecting fondly on the past year. In fact, most had been eagerly awaiting 2021 since June.
2020 was a year fraught with anxiety, uncertainty, and profound loss. And yet, even as we celebrate a new beginning, we are all well aware that the difficulties that plagued us in the last several months are still here today. We are still battling a pandemic. Our elected officials are still struggling to find the right course of action to protect both the economy and public health. And business owners everywhere continue to confront the threat of economic downturn.
That all sounds pretty grim. But I can tell you this much:
My company is actually stronger and more productive than ever because 2020 was a never-ending “dumpster fire.”
The pandemic challenged the leadership of 911 Restoration (myself included) to truly exemplify a growth mindset. Our global crisis forced the members of my team to support and depend on one another as they never had before.
As a result, we achieved things that would not have been possible in previous years. We became stronger, wiser, and more intentional in our collaborations and strategies. And now, at the dawn of a new year, my team is poised to succeed in new, more creative ways.
Your company can achieve the exact same thing in 2021. Even with infection rates climbing and communities shutting down again, you can still look forward to a bright future.
Here’s how my team made 2020 a year of meaningful change.
We Doubled Down on Company Values
If you are familiar with 911 Restoration or my column, you know everything my company does is driven by the Fresh Start philosophy. This is my long-held belief that every challenge presents an opportunity for a new beginning: a chance to build a life that is better because of the struggle.
This philosophy appears in a lot of our marketing and informs the way we interact with customers in crisis. It’s also central to the way we approach obstacles inside our office. But this was the first time we dealt with anything quite as daunting as a worldwide pandemic.
As the gravity of the situation sunk in last March, my leadership team and I realized this was our moment of truth. Either we were the Fresh Start company—a company that chooses to grow through the struggle—or we were victims like everybody else.
We chose to double down on our values.
In concrete terms, this meant turning the struggle before us into an opportunity to grow in new areas… adding new, relevant services and becoming proficient in the technology that would help us work remotely.
In more abstract terms, being a Fresh Start company also meant team leaders kept their virtual doors open to employees who were anxious and needed help seeing their own strength and potential in an uncertain time. Those same employees became increasingly supportive of one another. The entire team passed that goodwill onto customers and franchisees.
In a time of fear, 911 Restoration became a beacon of light; for ourselves and for our community.
We Focused on What We Could Control
Newly dedicated to growth and adaptation, our team chose to be deeply intentional about where we place our attention.
We did not focus on the uncertainty of the future, the health hazards outside our home, or the instability of the economy. We didn’t fixate on how much easier it would be if we could just stay in the office. We didn’t even think in terms of “surviving” the pandemic.
Instead, we set our attention on what we could control, and what we could create. Every member of our team committed to a collective mission of transformation. I saw my staff become more proactive than they ever had before. Teammates collaborated eagerly, built on one another’s ideas, and found ways to grow the business at a time when other organizations were struggling to scrape by.
This was especially inspiring to witness because I knew my team was afraid. Like everyone else, they were living in a world where every day brought a new challenge—personally, professionally, and globally.
But with each challenge, they made the choice to act instead of react… to choose creation over fear, advancement over defeat. And that became the difference between growth and collapse.
We Put People Before Fear
I think my leadership team and I can attribute a lot of our success to this one pretty major choice.
We did everything we could to demonstrate that our employees could feel safe and secure at 911 Restoration. We worked to celebrate their successes and pay out small bonuses for the momentum our team generated. When other companies downsized out of panic, we hired more.
Beyond setting up a work-from-home system, there wasn’t much we could do to protect our staff from the pandemic itself. We couldn’t ease the burden of heightened family responsibilities or the fear of infection. But we could give our staff the peace of knowing that their livelihood was secure. We could create a community where they knew they were supported, valued, and understood.
I know not every business owner is in a position to invest more in hiring or supporting their staff. But if you can manage it, I encourage you to resist the temptation to tighten the purse strings out of fear of the unknown future. Your employees perform better without the worry of economic ruin hanging over their heads.
So What’s the Lesson for 2021?
Let’s zoom out for the big picture view. What was it that made 2020 such a success year for my company?
It wasn’t a brilliant business idea or a clever money-saving strategy. At least, it wasn’t only those things.
The number one thing that kept 911 Restoration alive and thriving in an historically terrible year was a strong company culture.
We’ve all seen the case studies, articles, and statistics proving the value of a clearly defined team culture. But 2020 showed me the power of shared priorities, mutual support, and team unification in new and unforgettable ways. Even the smartest business move could not have saved us if my team was afraid, cynical, and distrusting of one another.
If you have not defined your company culture, I encourage you to make it a top priority this year. Ask yourself:
- What mission and purpose drives my company?
- What values should guide the way my employees interact with one another and with customers?
- How do I want the larger community to think of my company and staff?
- What can I do to create an environment where my employees feel heard, appreciated, and empowered?
- How can I encourage my staff to support one another?
Once you’ve defined your company culture, communicate it. Make sure your team is in alignment… that they know what is expected of them and how they fit into your unified mission.
Above all, embody that culture yourself, day in and day out. Your staff is a clear reflection of the values you express. If all you put out is worry and defeat, that’s what you’ll get back.
But if you show them hope, support, and transformation… well, let’s just say an incredible 2021 awaits you, no matter what the headlines say.