People lost their jobs, small businesses shut shop, healthcare system collapsed, sports were carried behind closed doors, and almost all of us worked from home. 2020 will remain in our minds for at least a few decades.
Personally, I had learnings that will always remain with me.
Diversify…Even if You Don’t Like It
You’ve been told this. I already knew this. It’s an altogether different experience, however, to see it in action and in your own life.
On March 25, the first day of a nationwide lockdown started. All non-essential services were suspended. I sat in my flat and worried for the next five days. I was unsure, like many of us, how everything will pan out from there. One of my clients based in UK notified that he won’t be able to continue from the following week.
What should I do?
I was notified by my team that two of my clients had asked to increase their ad budget. To be precise, they doubled their ad budget within the first week of the lockdown. As the next few week turned out. I closed more business that I had between January and March.
What was happening? Some of the agencies I knew about were cutting costs. Left office. Cut employee salaries. Why was I getting more business?
We were targeting diverse industries.
I had never liked the idea of working in one niche. The industry I and my team have been servicing has always been diverse; from B2B, finance, and SaaS to eCommerce, real estate, and education.
And that was all luck.
When I had decided six years back that we will not be industry specific, it was more a personal inclination than a strategy. I took a stance that turned out to be lucky. To say I was strategic about it, would be falling into the trap of self-aggrandizement.
My plans for 2020, back in January, were totally different from how everything turned out to be.
It could have easily gone the other way for me if I was in any other business. Or if I had chosen to serve only one industry.
Trust People…and Be Social
Like everyone, we embraced work from home too.
However, I knew working alone, from your room, and not being able to go out may have toll on my team’s mental health. Or in some cases, motivation.
We made two changes in the team which panned out well.
- I entrusted my team with more responsibilities
- Added two meetings in a week (Monday morning and Friday evening) where we met on a video call.
The idea was to ensure everyone was happy working at home and they also get to talk about things other than work. So while we briefed and debriefed the client’s updates to each other and discussed work related challenges, we kept more and more time to discuss books, movies, and even how we spent our weekends.
Now while I not agree the onus on the customers to buy Indian, unless it’s a better option, I totally recommend reading books which talks about Indian entrepreneurs and ecosystem rather than the Western.
Even if the work and business fundamentals remain the same, on ground realities of a developing Asian economy like ours differ from, let’s say, Australia. Or Canada. And even China. This year I had decided to read more about (and from) Indian entrepreneurs and Indian startup ecosystem than the grandeurs of silicon valley success stories.
Here are two specific books I liked in this context.
Both books are by veteran Indian entrepreneurs who have been there and done that. While Alok share’s his journey and struggles, Sidharth Rao shares stories from India’s most successful entrepreneurs. If you’re an Indian entrepreneur or planning to start something new, you will relate to both the books in one way or the other.
Understand Finance…It’s More About Life than Money
Two subjects I always shied away from were finance and economics. At the onset of 2020, I had decided I will spend time understanding the basics.
I started with basics. Picked up financial history books and how the modern financial institutions came to be. Banks. Insurance. Credit. Bankruptcy. Share Markets. Risk. And so much more.
Now that I have more appetite and I am able to ask questions in this domain, I will have more finance and economics books in my personal library.
Oh…by the way, here are other two books I will recommend.
Niall Ferguson takes you through a journey of 600 years starting from the adventure and brutality of Spanish conquistadors who reached South America to loot the mountains of silver and then paves way for you to understand how modern financial institutions came to be.
Mihir Desai looks at finance from the lens of humanities. What you can actually learn about your personal lives by understanding finance.
I am sure if you look into your own lives, there’s must have been exciting stuff. Events that you can look back at and smile.
Hope you could find some parts of it valuable.
And I am always ears to listen to what you have to share.