What a year.
Our Win Without Pitching annual planning meeting is tomorrow and I can't help but think back to the plans we made a year ago for 2020. The phrase “We plan, God laughs” comes to mind.
Who planned for this?
Putting aside the human tragedy of more than 70 million infected, 1.5 million dead and the many businesses that have been devastated by this pandemic, what has astonished me about the creative sector in 2020 is the speed and innovation with which many firms have responded.
Back in March, in my first in a series of pandemic posts, I began by addressing the question on the minds of a lot of creative firm owners: Am I going to be okay?
“No,” I wrote. “You are going to be spectacular.”
And did you ever rise to the occasion.
As I saw it then, this was your moment to shine, to lead as you would wish to be led, and to let the chips fall where they may, knowing that you did your best, acting with principle, conviction and grace.
No, not all firms survived. Some were already in vulnerable positions and the pandemic was the knock-out blow they were unfit to withstand.
The fate of other firms remains in the balance today. They have survived but need things to normalize or otherwise change for them to carry on much longer. (These I worry about most—the ones who chose to wait instead of react. Many will keep waiting until the firm is bled dry.)
But the norm as I see it—and my evidence is only anecdotal from conversations with maybe a couple hundred firm owners—is you rose to the occasion, reacted positively to the constraints imposed on you and pivoted where required: your discipline or market focus, your service offerings or your delivery model. Your firm is more robust at the end of 2020 than it was going into it.
But regardless of the shape your firm is in, this post is a love letter to leaders who led in 2020. Who were a model of grace under pressure. Who provided to their team the honesty, inspiration and decisiveness they needed to know everything was going to be okay.
That doesn't mean you didn't have to let people go or make other ruthless decisions. It means you treated others the way you yourself would have wanted to be treated in that moment.
There are few things that I know to be true beyond any doubt. One is that whatever test you are facing in life is not the real test. The real test is how you treat others while facing the test.
Being an entrepreneur does not automatically qualify you as a good leader. These are two different, if tangentially related, things. I saw some poor leadership decisions made in 2020 by people who thought they were good ones, and some by people who thought the pandemic would give them cover for their decisions.
But that wasn't the norm.
There were a lot of shitty things about 2020 but you were not one of them. You were spectacular.
I'll close with a thought on the topic you come here for: selling. There are many models for selling but one of the best is leadership. Selling—especially in a complex sale—is leading.
That way you showed up as a leader to your team in 2020? Show up the same way to your clients and prospects in the sale in 2021 and you will have the same results.
I wish you all the best in what is sure to be another unpredictable year.