COVID-19 – One Year Later
Just over one year ago, we had to make drastic changes to the way we did business to accommodate what was then the “novel” coronavirus or covid-19. These days, mask wearing and temperature checks are simply part of the day to day routine. As I think back to what it was like to run a business when we didn’t know what the next few days or weeks would bring, and it certainly highlights the unique challenges of being an entrepreneur.
As we navigated the uncertainty, we shared a lot on our blog. And today, as I reflect on the past year, I want to share some thoughts on themes and ideas that have emerged as a result of the pandemic that will remain going forward.
No business is an island
According to John Donne, “no man is an island,” and that idea can be applied to businesses as well. Trying to operate on our own without any inside input creates a vacuum. As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult for those on the payroll to give honest feedback, and the result, whether intentional or not, means that you can end up surrounded by a bunch of “yes men.” Being a part of a professional organization such as an industry association or entrepreneur group, means that you will receive honest feedback and advice when faced with extreme circumstances as we were last year. I am a past president of I-SIGMA, the international industry association, and we had members throughout Europe, including Italy, who were about 10 days ahead of us with COVID-19. We were able to hear directly from like industries how they were navigating the pandemic, giving us insights on how to better prepare. Throughout the year, we held virtual meetings and seminars giving our members real-time feedback on best practices and navigating through the crisis. In addition to being a valuable information share for our thousands of members, it also created a safe space for entrepreneurs to express how they were dealing with the crisis.
Don’t use band-aids for bullet wounds
As I’ve been said many times before, many companies do not have a paper problem, they have a management problem. Instead of taking on a full-scale document management problem and truly dealing with the issue, companies would instead schedule a one-time purge to get rid of the obvious problem while kicking the can – processes and lack of digitization – down the road. Once things shut down and many people moved to remote operations, the true problem manifested itself in big ways for many companies. It reminded me of a quote from Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” As businesses had to quickly shift, many companies were left scrambling for fig leaves. In fact, this led to more document management engagements during the second and third quarters than the previous year! Companies that had previously declined full scale document management services were suddenly in desperate need of digitization. And because we were prepared and had adapted to operate safely during COVID, we were able to create solutions for clients that would not only help them navigate the pandemic but create efficiencies that would benefit long after the return to normal.
Examine your core values
Despite the fact that COVID-19 is still very much a part of our lives, things are slowly getting ack to ‘normal.’ The vaccine is here and now widely available in many states, including Georgia, and in our town of Thomasville, schools have been in session since September. While we all weathered the same storm over the past year, we were not all in the same boat. Some businesses and industries – airline, travel, hospitality in particular, were extremely hard hit and will therefore take longer to recover. Others thrived. Some experienced personal loss; some longer-term health impacts may still be felt. Regardless of which boat you were in, the response is worth a moment of reflection. British theologian Brooke Foss said, “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to our eyes,” and I think this certainly applies to the past 12 months. It’s important to reflect on how you handled the situation both as a person and as a business owner. A good gauge of this is to examine your mission and values. Did you live up to those words or phrases shared in the employee handbook? Or are they mostly empty and need revisiting?
We as a company invested a lot of time and energy into crafting a new mission statement in 2019: To create value for our clients through creative thinking and innovative document management solutions. And as I reflect on the past year, I am very proud to say that the entire SRS team lived up to this mission.
If you look back on the last year and see areas of improvement, don’t despair. Use this as a chance to improve. Take the lessons of 2020 and apply them to a better and brighter future for you, your company and your employees.