It's old news now that the eventing industry got absolutely smashed by lockdowns. Our business was no exception. After reeling for weeks and dismissing it as 'just a short-term thing', we soon realised this wasn't a blip but a very real, long-term challenge.
In the chaos, I turned to the business coaching types as they glibly rolled out cliched rhetoric about how to ‘pivot’ and take advantage of the ‘new normal’. You know them, the ones on YouTube or LinkedIn. With their freshly minted channels, podcasts and carefully curated bookshelves suddenly becoming experts in the new world-of-work, digital acceleration, purpose and empathy.
To their credit they did pivot. Previously self-proclaimed as futurists, they swiftly dropped that moniker after failing to foresee a health crisis, global economic collapse, government incompetence or the overblown hype this would bring. Now their preferred pronoun is a notch down at expert.
Initially, I scrambled to try and adopt this ‘new’ wisdom and re-imagine myself and my business in line with their preaching. Thankfully, not for long before sanity prevailed thanks mostly to the insights of my team. I’m constantly forgetting, and having to be reminded, of just how much they bring to what we are as a business even when we had no business.
After abandoning the fluffy BS, we decided to double down on three core fundamentals to get us through and sort out whatever business shrapnel resulted down the line.
1). An absolute obsession to deliver the very best possible work we could for any clients still willing to be active. Despite the ridiculously challenging environment we rallied to pull off some amazing work over the year. Industry leading, cutting edge, world-class work as it turned out. And that led to more work, more demand and more clients willing to explore.
2). Unwavering commitment to our team as they worked their faces off for us despite salary cuts, uncertainty and steep learning curves. Can’t begin to imagine how we could have done number one without number two.
3). Partnering with our key partners. And I say ‘partners’ as they are so much more than suppliers. These guys too dived in deep to deliver on number three while finding their way through their own set of challenges. I’m reminded on a daily basis what it means to be a partner and how we each rise on the efforts of others.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing and we’re not out of the woods yet. Our respective businesses have survived the worst of it, but the shrapnel wounds are real, and we have the collective scars to prove it. Some cliches for nostalgia.
But when these words from a client are received, they are so much richer and rewarding than any futurist’s so-called wisdom.
I’ve come to embrace the changes 2020 brought to us as marketers as possibly the biggest opportunity we’ve had in decades. On that score, the experts were right and I will continue to follow them with curiosity.
But my undivided attention will be focused on listening very carefully to my clients and my team to predict our future. They seem to know.
PS: Sars and our bank, I have moved you guys out from ‘partners’ to ‘charlatans’ as you made it exponentially more difficult to survive 2020’s challenges when we needed you most. I won’t forget.