An Entrepreneur’s Reflections on 2020 and the Business Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Written by Josh Mente, Founder and Community Director at Co-Balt Workspace
As the new year has gotten underway, I’ve spent a lot of time looking ahead at how to maneuver through 2021, but I’ve also given a lot of retroactive thought to 2020 and the impact it had on my business and on me as an entrepreneur.
To say the least, last year brought me one of the biggest disruptions in my entrepreneurial career. It challenged me to think about things in ways I’d never had to before.
Here are the biggest things that stand out to me when I look back at the year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Key Things Had to be Put on the Backburner
Most entrepreneurs are focused on the trinity of a company—sales, marketing, and operations—all the while creating a product, service, or experience for their customers.
And last year, some of those things were placed on hold while I tried to figure out the new normal and come up with a contingency plan.
Crisis Planning Became Priority #1
Crisis planning is a skill that I’ve certainly had to sharpen since last year.
If you didn’t feel the effects of the pandemic, you’re among a lucky few. But, by and large, I would say that everyone’s business was affected in some capacity or another—some with hyper-speed growth and others with figuring out how to survive.
But one thing is for sure: “getting by” isn’t something that entrepreneurs say.
In the wise words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try”.
But in the equally wise words of Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
And the pandemic certainly felt like a sucker-punch to a lot of people.
Something as unexpected as a pandemic will separate those who adapt and change from those who can’t or won’t. Dealing with a crisis shows gaps, faults, and strengths in your business.
So, what mattered most was finding a way to take the punch, adapt the plan, and continue moving forward.
And the silver lining? We’ll forever be better adept at adapting to large-scale adversity from here on out.
Growth Stopped Being a Reality
Plans for growth in 2020 were thrown out the door last March—at least for my business and industry. We made a lurching shift into survival mode. We slowed down and thought our way through things.
We refocused on our customers, being safe at all costs, and following the lead of our government officials. And this meant a shift in what we could say “yes” to, such as taking on new members.
There’s nothing harder than having to turn away business, but we knew there was a greater good at play. The safety of the building, our community members, and the greater public was of paramount concern. It was always part of what we did, but it became all that mattered after March 14th.
We Had to Fully Rethink Our Physical Workspace
As the pandemic blew up, we had to fully rethink our physical workspace.
Shifting to fewer desks and building out more offices seemed like the best way to move forward once the dust started to settle.
But there’s a plus side: we believe that both our members and Co-Balt as a business will benefit today—and into the future—because of it.
Every Expense Came Under Scrutiny
When you deal with lost revenue, it creates a situation where every expense comes into play.
You start asking, “do we need that? Is it vital or important to the customer and our operations?”
It had us looking at the P&L and really focusing on what is important and eliminating what is not.
And as a result, we were able to find ways to operate on leaner expenses without unnecessarily compromising our members’ experience.
We Fought Through Adversity and Came Out on Top
Tailwinds are fantastic. When you’ve got them behind you, things are smooth. You can’t help but feel like you’ll get to your destination faster than anticipated. It’s always great to hear a pilot come on the speaker and say you’re ahead of schedule. And 2020 certainly looked to be starting that way.
But by the second quarter, we had hit turbulence and decided to turn around and battle the headwind straight on.
Unlike tailwinds, headwinds are tough. They require grit, determination, and additional fuel. In this case, that took the form of cash and time—both precious commodities for a business owner.
And at the end of the day, adversity brings growth. Mindsets shift. Business plans change. Things move forward with a new way of doing things.
And we were fortunate to have the most incredible members who stood by us through thick and thin and helped make sure we made it through the worst of this pandemic. We couldn’t have done it without them.
If I’ve Learned Anything, It’s This…
Change is the only constant but the growth that it brought is invaluable. Lessons learned today will bring dividends into the future.
And at the end of the day, a plan is just a roadmap. Sometimes the roads are closed. So, you have to find a way to make a detour instead of abandoning the trip.
Trust me. The destination is worth it.
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