What else can we say about 2020 that hasn’t been said? We have so much to reflect on, both to mourn and to be thankful for. The global pandemic has made an indelible mark on us all, and we, like everyone else, are changed forever. With the year behind us, and light at the end of the tunnel, we take a moment to look back as well as look forward.
First, to all those who suffered loss, my heart is with you, truly. I too feel the weight of suffering and loss of friends and family members to COVID-19. It is also not lost on me how fortunate we are that our company was only minimally disrupted, while we witnessed so many around us whose businesses (and in many cases, life’s work) were crippled by the ripple effects of the pandemic response.
While the first months of 2021 will remain much like the last year, relief is in sight with broad distribution of the vaccine, and an impending return to our “new normal,” or maybe even “old normal.” I’m not quite sure what “normal” is at this point. Over the last year, I’ve tried to take my own advice, recommitting to some core values in addressing the challenges that 2020 presented. I wrote in my July 2020 column about how I’d been influenced by Jim Collins’s story of the 20-mile march, and endeavored to live it every day. The challenges of the year also reinforced my belief that real leadership demands that we continue to seek opportunities to grow rather than just survive, especially in the face of hardship. While it was a tough call to make, I chose, for example, to take advantage of some of the talent that came available because of the pandemic. We grew our team, a move that I’m confident will serve our organization well through the recovery and beyond. And as I reflect on the lessons of the last 10 months, I can see the outlines of our new normal are already somewhat sketched out.
I’m amazed how effective we have been able to be with flexible workspaces, flexible schedules, and with so many working from home. Video conferencing, once a last resort, has proven to be a far more valuable tool than I’d have imagined, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the intimacy generated by simple things like the cameo appearances of our rug rats and family pets, injecting the kind of welcome comic relief we rarely experience in our conference rooms. While we’ve missed meetings with professional organizations and gathering at trade shows, we found real success and value in gathering remotely through webinars, both those we’ve hosted as well as attended. All these things will help shape the new normal, possibly resulting is smaller investments in physical space and travel, and I certainly find myself scratching my head a bit with respect to when and if I should commit to another trade show.
I’ve long been committed to a strong domestic supply chain and, likewise, committed to vertical integration. I wish I could say that it was because I saw all this coming; nonetheless, these approaches proved invaluable in coping with 2020. Our 600-mile supply chain allowed for remarkable continuity, with little interruption despite broad disruption in global supply chains, transportation, and travel. Vertical integration allowed us to continue both production and service even while we broke our manufacturing into small, off-site cells that provided the necessary distancing to keep our team safe.
Speaking of teams, we all learned a lot about the makeup of our organizations this year. I’m particularly proud of what I learned about these people that I already respected so much; we are made up of a unique and talented team of makers and doers, and 2020 served to reveal their tenacity and dedication. I am so thankful for the unity of purpose that they demonstrated in supporting our mission. That’s what makes us so bullish about the future and to be able to grow our team in preparation for a bright tomorrow. Thank you, team!
Of course, none of what we accomplish is possible without our customers and partners. I thank them for sticking with us as the challenges of the past year emerged. It was their confidence in us, their commitment in the form of orders as well as patience and trust that allowed us to rethink our manufacturing process, fully utilize our domestic supply chain, and continue to deliver products and services without a hitch. We look forward to being part of their continued success!
We approach 2021 still facing many of the same challenges, but more adept at addressing them. We’ve all learned many lessons that will help us better serve our customers as the recovery takes hold. We will emerge from this pandemic a better and stronger industry.
Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year!
Dr. Bill Cardoso is CEO of Creative Electron.