Milwaukee-area business leaders reflect on lessons learned in 2020

Last updated on December 31st, 2020 at 11:12 am

We asked you to reflect on how you navigated your businesses through the challenges of 2020, what lessons you learned along the way, and what you’re looking forward to in 2021. Here’s what you had to say:

Sarit Singhal

What was the best business decision you made this year?

Sarit Singhal, president and CEO, Superior Support Resources:

“The decision to further tailor our services to small- to mid-sized businesses is the best decision I made. The pandemic highlighted several needs specific to businesses of this size. I knew we could address them and ultimately help our clients develop competitive advantages within their market. We used this year to examine ourselves – internal processes and outward services – then began adjusting from both sides. We’ve only just begun to evolve, and we’re already seeing great response and results.”

Ryan Thompson

Ryan Thompson, president and owner, Mention Marketing:

“Leaning into predictive analytics to make smarter business decisions for our team and our partners. For example, in February we all heard about COVID, many of us unwilling to believe the data. I did and understood that: A) My kids were coming out of school B) They’d be home all summer. So, I started to research a simple above ground pool. I ended up getting one for $300, two weeks later the same pool was selling for $1,500.”

How has COVID-19 affected your business this year?

Glenn Roby, executive vice president, Kahler Slater:

Glenn Roby

“Our work in corporate and hospitality was hit hard and immediately. We are grateful to see some projects coming back to life. Multifamily residential, and our institutional markets are doing well and we continue to see growth in those areas.

“We are focused on opportunities presented by this pandemic, and there is still demand in even the hardest hit sectors. Designing for remote-working affects all our markets. Our subject matter experts are collaborating together more now than ever.”

Aaron Saray, owner, More Better Faster:

“I thought I had diversified my business, but there are many ways that different industries are still connected. The driver of all of my clients’ success was large gatherings. When these were eliminated, many of my clients had to pause their new projects. I wasn’t quite expecting most clients to contract their budgets at the same time.”

Singhal: “It created more unpredictability. Trends can be industry specific. The more unpredictable variable is how each business is reacting, which impacts the viability of their business. Some clients saw or created opportunity and adjusted to survive or grow – many needed technology support to do so, which was good for us. Some clients were knocked on their heels and are struggling – many put a hold on service, which caused concern. And some clients are somewhere along the spectrum in between.”

What’s your biggest concern and the biggest opportunity for your business heading into 2021?

David Wendland, vice president, strategic relations, Hamacher Resource Group, Inc.:

Dave Wendland

“Because we work across the retail supply chain, the biggest concern is the uncertainty regarding retail restrictions, continued decline of brick-and-mortar stores (although we do have a presence in the e-commerce space also), and the survivability of various manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

“From an opportunity standpoint, we are excited about the emerging partnerships (e.g., Kohl’s and Sephora) that are creating new formats for shoppers, new potential alignment for our company and services, and the energy that this brings to the market.”

Paul Hager, director of solutions, Elevity:

Paul Hager

“We’re definitely concerned about those industries most heavily impacted by COVID, like hospitality and restaurants for example. Our biggest opportunity is the chance to help organizations improve their remote tech so they can work wherever they are. We see 2021 as a year for guiding businesses in their journey to the cloud and helping them complete their digital transformation so that even after COVID ends, that remote work flexibility will still be there.”

What lessons have you learned this year that could help other business leaders?

Roby: “Resiliency takes practice. In all businesses there will be times of uncertainty and it requires openness and trust to navigate through as a team. We experienced a devastating loss when our friend and leader Tom Miller passed away unexpectedly in 2019. Through our grief, we committed to investing in the theme of resiliency firmwide. We had no way to predict the impact of our newly forged resilient mindset, but the pandemic has certainly highlighted the strengths we have gained.”

Saray: “Money is a tool. We make money so that we can take care of needs, acquire things and new experiences, and remove pain. We use money to help measure success in business and to help collateralize risky ideas. Make sure it isn’t the goal, though. It’s not the basis of meaning. Businesses exist to generate money and potentially wealth, but they also exist for many other reasons. Don’t let our temporary monetary setbacks make you question your reason and meaning.”

Hager: “Perseverance. Things are changing rapidly, but one thing that doesn’t is the need to get up every day and keep doing your mission. Our mission is to help people succeed through technology. COVID doesn’t change the need for technology and it doesn’t change our mission.”

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