2020 was nothing short of disruptive, but in hindsight, we have gleaned some important lessons. Here are some insights...

There’s no doubt that 2020 was a dreadful year for most people, and in particular for small businesses and their employees. While the full impact of COVID-19 has yet to be assessed, one thing is certain, it was a major disruptor of business.

From the closure of schools, businesses, and many public facilities, to the traumatic physical, emotional and mental impact on a vast number of people worldwide, the pandemic has forever changed life as we know it.

With unimaginable damage done to economies, businesses and employees, it’s time to ask that vital question: what can business learn from all that happened in 2020? And how can we survive such cataclysmic events in the future?


1. Agility is Key

If we learnt anything in 2020, it’s that the more agile a business is, the better able it is to embrace and adapt to change. The pandemic not only disrupted lives, it utterly shattered many businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry. For businesses to survive, it’s essential to plan for future disruptions and put systems in place to ensure agility and the ability to pivot, if necessary, to meet new demands and challenges.

How agile is your business? What do you need to do to ensure future agility?

2. Adaptability Means Survivability

Survival of the fittest took on new meaning in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic not only caught many businesses by surprise, it revealed just how vulnerable they were to a game changing world event. Businesses need to be able to meet challenges and adapt where necessary, when it comes to strategy, objectives, operations and employees. It’s important to think about worst case scenarios and what you can do to survive them.

How adaptable is your business? Have you conducted a thorough analysis of how your business and employees handle change?

3. Never Take Anything for Granted

The annus horribilis that was 2020 taught us to never take anything for granted. Just because your business has survived challenges in the past, doesn’t mean that it will survive future ones. If your business suffered in 2020, it’s fair to say that many of your clients, partners, customers and even competitors did too. This probably forced a change in their spending, operations and activities.

Was your business caught off guard during 2020? What do you and your employees take for granted in your business and its dealings?

4. Invest in Staff Training and Mentoring

2020 forced so many changes on employees and many of them lost their jobs. Most of those changes were sudden with little warning. One day they were commuting to their office, the next they were working from home, or, had no job left to go to.

While a large number adapted quite quickly and rose to the challenge, many struggled and suffered and continue to do so. Without competent, reliable and adaptable staff, businesses lose their competitive edge and fail to thrive and prosper.

Investing in employee training to ensure that each team member learns to be prepared for and to embrace change, should be a priority in 2021. And helping teams who are working remotely to jack up their digital security should be a priority too. Behavioral change has never been more important.

Are your employees and management team prepared for change? How will you invest in staff training and mentoring to activate behavioral change and desired preparedness?

5. Support, Trust and Listen to Your Staff

For most businesses, employees are its greatest asset - and greatest expense. So it’s logical to ensure that they are supported and heard. After all, they are the ones on the ground who carry out the daily operations of your business and deal directly with your customers, partners and suppliers. The biggest friend to adaptability is information. What are your customers experiencing? How are they handling change? What are their needs, fears and pain points? The answers to these questions can most likely be answered by your staff, which in turn can help you to move faster in adapting to a changing landscape. Listen to them. Trust them. They could be your most valuable resource.

How does your business support, trust and listen to your staff? Is your business underestimating the value of your employees?

6. Think outside the box

Strange times demand strange strategies. 2020 highlighted just how important it is to think outside the box in meeting the challenges of a disrupted society. In the more than 100 years since the last worldwide pandemic, what have we learnt about change management and surviving catastrophe?

Many businesses have had to throw out their playbooks and look for new ways of conducting their business. Many have successfully reinvented themselves. Many have not.

How can creative thinking help your business to survive and thrive? What new ways can you grow and improve your business?

7. Reflect, Reflect, Reflect
2020 has much to teach us about society, survival and adaptability. Ask any behavioral expert and they’ll tell you that reflection plays a vital role in driving impactful behavior change and in managing change.

From analyzing how your business and your employees handled the challenges of 2020, to looking at how your competitors, customers and clients fared, reflection can teach you much about creativity and agility.

How can reflection inform your change management strategy going forward? What lessons can you learn from facing such a year as 2020?