Business Lessons from 2020

black swan swimming on lake

It’s probably fair to say no one was truly ready for 2020. Most of us don’t claim clairvoyance at any point, but this year has provided some exceptionally unique challenges for businesses and individuals alike. From a global pandemic and the resulting recession, to a tempestuous election season, we’ve collectively experienced some odd twists and turns. In reflection, here are some business lessons from the past year.  

  1. Expect the unexpected. There is an investment theory in economics known as the black swan theory which involves anticipating the most unexpected and catastrophic events. Investors who ascribe to the theory know that most of us hope and plan for best-case scenarios, but if you are prepared for the worst to happen, you are more likely to handle it well if something goes awry. The tried-and-true business advice of having 4-6 months of operating costs saved has become cliché for a reason: although we hope and plan for the best, planning for the worst is crucial to surviving a year like we’ve experienced. Even if you operate a small business or are still establishing yourself as a brand and haven’t been able to build the savings cushion you need (yet), thinking through worst case scenarios and building a contingency plan can be extremely useful.
  1. Agility is everything. Learn to pivot, and pivot again. Being flexible about how you operate and what you offer can allow you to emerge from a tough year stronger than ever. This may mean moving your business online, changing the way you reach customers, or offering employees the option to work remotely. Embrace the needed changes and use this opportunity to assess what’s worked well in the past, what you can improve on, and where your industry is headed. Then refocus and add more of the good stuff to your new strategy. 
  1. Play the long game. Like investing in stocks or real estate, if your strategy allows you to ride the wave, it gives you more stability in the long run. As CEO of Amazon and the wealthiest man on earth, Jeff Bezos has made mistakes that cost billions – but he’s still regarded as a top entrepreneur. Why? The mistakes he made represent only a handful of the decisions guiding Amazon, and he continues to play the long game. In the span of your lifetime and career, a hard year or a few setbacks won’t tank you if you have a good long-term strategy in place. 
  1. Stay future-focused. Yes, the unexpected happens, and setbacks come, but staying focused on your goals will keep you moving forward. That doesn’t mean you have to go it alone, however. Now is the time to network and connect with others, be it an advisor, mentor, fellow business owner, or someone whose business acumen you value. Especially during a recession or global pandemic, millions of businesses experience the same challenges, and you truly are not alone. Tapping into your network at this point may seem vulnerable, but it can be helpful to connect with others, whether it’s to get advice or simply to boost morale.  
  1. Nothing lasts forever. If all else fails, coming to the end of the year means a new year is fast approaching. 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for many of us, but even the most difficult times eventually come to an end. Regardless of the setbacks and financial difficulties, if you come through the challenge having learned something, you can move into the next season stronger and better equipped to tackle new challenges.

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