Navigating the unknown – how some business owners rose to the top


Over the past 12 months, I’ve seen all the business owner emotions emerge– from panic, to doom and gloom, to “Hey, here’s an opportunity – let’s jump on it” and everything in between.  Just when I thought I’ve seen it all – a new twist came into the picture.

The process in which we hire, onboard, train and retain key talent has forever changed – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it’s simply different.

I’ve noticed some commonality in the businesses that not only survived but thrived during all of this mayhem and uncertainty.

Ability to Hire & Retain the RIGHT people.   Let’s just say my job got interesting in 2020!  Unlike large corporations who can weather the storm of new employees not sticking, small businesses can’t sustain the disruption.  Owners who were intimately connected with their day-to-day operations, understood workflows, and were able to realistically share that with new hires won the game.  Just because someone has the right resume, doesn’t make them the perfect fit for the job.  Digging deeper to ensure they are a cultural fit is more important than ever!

Ability to Accept Reality and be Resourceful.  Business owners who accepted that Covid was here for a while and did not dwell on the  negative but rather became resourceful – were able to shift their mindset and change their business models quickly. We can’t control what happens around us, but we 100% can control how we react to every single situation.

Ability to Pivot Quickly.  I’ve seen restaurants close, and I’ve seen restaurants explode.  The difference was their willingness to pivot quickly and recognize that people were willing to PAY for the convenience and pay well. Servers shifted to production line, curb-side pick-up, and even at home delivery workers.  Business owners needed to pay them more, incentivize, and encourage – and many employees were grateful for the work, they stepped up.

Ability to Step up as a True Leader.   Where the leader shines, the team will follow.  Business owners who rolled up their sleeves and got dirty with the team not only showed initiative but showed hope.  Business owners who showed true leadership skills were able to pull the troops together easily – in other words, the teams WANTED to be a part of the process to help – they didn’t feel obligated.

Ability to Show Empathy.  If our Emotional I.Q.s were ever challenged, it was during the past year.  Work from home realities, caring for sick family members, and perhaps the hardest – remote education pushed many employees and teams to the limits.  Business owners who showed empathy, and stepped up to shift priorities, reorganize teams and communicate with customers about delays and the reality of life at their company were able to keep employees AND customers.

Over and over again, I saw these traits in businesses that were able to survive and thrive over the past year.  What will 2021 bring?  No one knows but heeding the lessons from those who navigated the past 12 months well, will surely serve many business owners through the choppy waters ahead.