When I think about 2020, I think about a scene from the sitcom Friends. “Pivot,” Ross Geller screamed, “Pivot!,” as the coffee house gang struggled to carry an oversized couch up a tiny, apartment building stairwell. Things did not end well for the couch.

2021 is not going to be much easier. I’m not being negative, because I know many of us had to pivot in 2020, and we can do it again. What lessons did we learn this year, and how can we apply that knowledge in the months to come? Especially when a pivot is often unexpected and urgent.

Creativity Is Queen

Don’t expect what’s worked in the past will work moving forward. At the same time, things that didn’t work before may well work now. Question your assumptions, and be open to the idea there’s a good chance you could be wrong.

Our business grew the first two months of 2020 and exploded further in March. Our clients needed our help to transition to a largely virtual business world. But as their belts began to tighten, so did ours. We went back to the drawing board, created new services, ditched others, and reimagined our sales plays. The good news? We’re still here, and we feel confident we will continue to evolve in the year ahead.

Be Present with Your People

Regularly check in with your people. A year ago, most meetings I attended kept the small talk to a minimum. In 2020, I saw how truly powerful it is to ask — and listen — about each other’s well-being. It’s not a small thing to ask a colleague or client how their day is going, it’s actually a huge boost.

At ProResource, even though we’ve always relied on remote employees in key positions, with the temporary closure of our office in March, we discovered we truly missed each other. We started “lunch-ins,” a voluntary, monthly get-together. Shoptalk is strictly prohibited! We swapped recipes (lots of debate over the pineapple-bologna rolls seasoned with Quirky Furki), and critiqued binge-worthy TV.

It’s natural to make a human connections in the workplace. Embrace the personal side of your professional relationships.

Use Your Voice

Speak up — people are looking to you for leadership in new areas. In the past, a leading executive or CEO often avoided controversial social topics, for fear they would alienate a segment of their business network. But with social norms and order upended in 2020, your audience wants to know where you stand on thorny issues. Your colleagues want to hear your vision for positive change.

We balled up our content strategy and tossed it in the recycle bin. Business marketing now demands engagement on top social issues, whether it’s Black Lives Matter and racial injustice, diversity and inclusion, voting rights, climate change, or more.

Look for New Influencers

A key 2020 lesson for leaders — listen to the disenfranchised. Ask yourself, who is not getting what they need right now? Explore what you can do to impact the situation, evaluate the tools you have on hand to make sure these voices are heard. A great analogy I heard this summer: the more voices in a choir, the stronger the song.

As marketers, we were well-positioned to broadcast new voices. As we expanded our business network in 2020, we offered complimentary blogging services to a diverse group of people. This was a benefit to us too! Because not only did we amplify new voices, our eyes were also opened to new perspectives.

Plan Your Pivot

Back to that episode of Friends. Ross tried to cut corners because he didn’t want to pay for delivery. When the couch finally reached the apartment, it was torn and battered.

Keep that in mind as you approach your short and long term planning for 2021. In a successful pivot, the key is to know when to walk away from a business practice that no longer works. And, when to exercise your creativity to take a chance on something new.

What was your biggest business pivot in 2020? Share your successes, or your biggest “sofa” moments.

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