Business Lessons We Can Learn From 2020

5 min read
in Blog, Community

This past year felt like a medley of post-apocalyptic movies all rolled into a film director’s fever dreams. Most of us are just hoping to put this crazy year behind us and move on. Despite the negativity we all encountered, this past year wasn’t a total wash. There were plenty of business lessons to learn from that we can apply to 2021 and beyond.

So, in an effort to look on the bright side, let’s take a peek at what we can learn from the business challenges of 2020.

From Crisis to Innovation

When things are running smoothly, there isn’t much impetus toward change. Businesses typically don’t want to upset the status quo when everything seems to be going well. But once a business hits a snag, innovation becomes king, and ideas spring forth. As new rules, tighter restrictions, and outright lockdowns swept across the country, companies had to adapt their business models in order to survive.


Working from home was just a fond hope for many people pre-pandemic. Some companies saw no real need to make teleworking an option, and some said it wasn’t worth the cost of switching procedures. While we’ve all seen some workflow hiccups, one thing 2020 proved was that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Obviously, some jobs will always need to be on-site, but remote work opportunities in many industries just accelerated their timeline by several years.

What Else Has Changed?

Even once people start heading back to their physical locations, some things will remain different. Now that we’ve stripped away certain niceties and gone to bare-bones expectations for work, traditional office attire might never hold the same weight again. Being lucky to show up at all can really change your perspective on what truly matters.

Work flexibility is becoming mainstream at a rapid rate. Businesses who offer on-demand or per-availability schedules, remote work opportunities, and a willingness to hire freelancers or outside agencies will find themselves at an advantage in 2021’s market climate.

How many of your current or future full-time employees can work remotely from now on? How many more could make do with just periodic office check-ins? These are worthwhile questions to ask yourself as you prepare to move into the new year or make your business idea a reality in 2021.

Fill the Vacuum

Businesses that don’t adapt to new circumstances will shut down. That’s definitely sad in some ways, but it also presents new opportunities for more revolutionary small business owners to fill the space left behind. While it might seem too difficult for an established company to change tactics, a startup can take a new direction from the get-go. What opportunities do you see to occupy the gaps in the current market?

As a result of businesses closing or cutting back operations, many people have lost their income. While this is always a tragedy in one sense, in another, it’s the perfect opportunity. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention–and once you have some downtime, you can devote yourself to your business plan full time.

Here’s Why You Should Take the First Step Toward Starting Your Own Business

When you watch businesses shut down around you, it can look like the absolute worst time to launch a new venture. Your friends and family might even have advised you against it. But despite how things might appear, it’s actually a great time to start a new venture. By looking at why certain businesses had to close, you can avoid the same mistakes by factoring in those solutions from the very beginning.

Not only will 2021 likely bring an upswing from this downturn, but people will be eager to get out and do new things. Upswings always follow a downturn, so business opportunities are expected to explode as lockdowns end and the world readjusts itself.

Opportunities In New Places

While many businesses struggled to make ends meet or have shut down altogether, others have pivoted to meet new demands. Restaurants have increased outdoor dining opportunities and added curbside takeout or delivery app options. Touchless payments and contactless delivery became options almost overnight, as businesses pivoted to meet new customer expectations.

It might seem like a terrible time to start a business, but nothing could be further from the truth. The past year has taught savvy business owners more than one important lesson, and all you have to do is take them to heart and apply them. This year is going to be full of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

One lesson 2020 brought us was that online interaction wasn’t innately limited to mostly Millenials and Gen Z. Given the impetus of lockdowns and reduced capacity in physical stores, many people embraced online shopping, ordering online and having their purchases brought to their car. This is something many people previously thought wouldn’t catch on.

As stores focused their efforts on pleasing customers while following ever-changing closure rules, we also laid to rest the assumption that older generations were too attached to in-person customer service. Digital service channels must rise to the occasion in order to handle the permanent increase in digital interaction driven by the pandemic.

Another thing 2020 definitely taught us: put your efforts where they will have the most effect. Successful entrepreneurs know that they can’t spread themselves too thin. You have to focus on the areas with the most return in order to get yourself off the ground.

Want some tips for moving forward?

Speaking of focused efforts, we already mentioned the increased focus on digital interaction. Anything you can do to make online accounts, payments, and customer service a better digital experience for your clients, the better your competitive advantage.

That doesn’t automatically mean you should increase your reliance on AI-powered chatbots, however: while bots can perform simple updates and answer simple questions, only humans can provide the emotional connection needed to drive customers further into the sales funnel.

Using a balanced mix of bots and live support is the optimal strategy for driving positive digital interactions while maximizing employee efficiency.

The 80/20 Rule

As an axiom, the 80/20 rule is a good way to help focus your business efforts. The principle states that 20% of your output leads to 80% of your results. That means that one-fifth of your customers are responsible for four-fifths of your sales. Likewise, just 20% of your online content will bring in 80% of your leads.

A successful business plan includes awareness of this 80/20 ratio in every aspect of the launch, sales, and growth strategies. It can help you understand how to manage cash flow, allocate your time, money, and attention, and address other aspects of resource management. Using it can help you reach your full potential and run a successful business, not just now, but also in the long term.

How do you take advantage of this mathematical average as part of getting your business idea off the ground? Realize which of your efforts are generating your best returns, and make sure that enough of your resources go there.

This year has shown everyone the benefit of targeted resource allocation. Many businesses focused on essential products or services, dropping whatever was considered the least necessary. Don’t lose focus on what really matters, however. Getting customer feedback can help you determine what the market wants the most, and allow you to meet consumer demand better than some of your competitors.

We can help with some of that. We’ve been there.

We know how daunting it can feel to get your business off the ground or decide how to pivot for the new year. We’re here to help. Having launched our own business during an economic downturn, we understand the risks. But with the right strategic partners, you can make your business flourish.

Your online presence is vital to surviving today’s digital market atmosphere. If you don’t provide an optimal online user experience for your customers, you are missing out. At ThirdSide, we know how to put our graphic design and web design skills to work for you. We understand how it feels to pour your heart and soul into a business idea and then launch it into the wide world hoping it succeeds.

We certainly can use some hope in the new year, but it’s not enough to just cross your fingers. Taking a little off your plate by putting your web design in the hands of professionals is just what you need to divvy up your time and talents and put them where they’ll do the most good.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and always be ready to change directions in order to chase success. That’s probably the most important business lesson 2020 taught us, and we shouldn’t let it go to waste.

Meet the Author

Jason is a co-founder of ThirdSide. When he’s not building websites, making graphics, or meeting clients, he’s hanging out with his family doing family things or hanging out with performers doing performer things.

He has a Star Wars obsession that some consider to be…unnatural.

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