For the past eight years, I have been a member of the Virginia Council of CEOs, a professional association that connects the CEOs of small and mid-sized companies through peer roundtables and exclusive learning events. My roundtable started out with ten guys, but due to attrition, we’re currently down to five members. In fact, two of the founding members just left in the past few months. The remaining members met the other night for beers for what we all believed would be our final meeting.
Our conversation migrated to business and how everyone was doing this year. The two guys that left are killing it and all but one of the remaining members were having record years, busy planning parties and trips for their staff to celebrate their success.
Who was the odd man out? Well, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out. It’s me!
To say that the pandemic took a bit of wind from our sails is a huge understatement. Prior to the pandemic, we earned close to 40% of our revenue from live, classroom training and the related development. Well, that has evaporated. And even though we eked out a respectable year in 2020 doing webinars and selling our eLearning courses, the fact that two of our “whale” clients spent ZERO dollars with us this year, pretty much sealed our fate for what we hope is at least a breakeven year in 2021.
Woe is me. “I got it. I’ll throw a party too!” A great big ‘ole pity party for yours truly. The problem with that plan is there would be only one guest and he wouldn’t be much fun! Plus, given that I subscribe to the premise that my job as CEO is Chief Energy Officer responsible for the culture of the company, I don’t have the luxury of being down.
After venting my frustration with Vicky Hale, our Chief Learning Officer, she reminded me that we are blessed and have many things to be thankful for. We are still in a global pandemic and breaking even is a whole lot better than losing money. Plus, we have our faith, our families, and our health.
She’s such an optimist and I knew, deep down, she was right. So, I sat down to think, from a business perspective, of the things that I am thankful for.
I love my job and the biggest reason why is that I get to work every day with this amazing team. They go above and beyond to serve our clients, ensuring that their needs are met. They’re all team players, willing to step up and help each other out when needed. No prima donnas in this group! They are energetic, funny, and bring their best every day, without any drama.
Plus, they work hard. In addition to serving our clients in the midst of the pandemic, we produced many free webinars for our clients and potential clients this year. Plus, we migrated to a new leaning management system (LMS) to provide better reporting for our clients. And we cranked out a ton of eLearning courses! Did you know that we now have a full U.S. GAAP eLearning library and industry-specific eLearning courses tailored to banking, insurance, and investment management entities? Check it out!
A heartfelt “THANK YOU” to all our clients that have remained with us during the pandemic and the new ones that we picked up, including another Big 4 firm! We pivoted to online learning, and our clients made the switch right along with us. What’s interesting is that when live, classroom training comes back, and we all think that it will eventually, we’ve heard that many our clients will offer both, live and virtual training, because many of their professionals are choosing to work from home. And even though two of our “whale” clients did not engage us this year, we have every reason to believe they’ll be back…and we’ll be here for them when you do!
I am thankful for the Federal government (yes, even the previous guy) for getting the COVID vaccines to the market in such a short time frame. And I’m thankful that everyone in our company believes in science and has gotten vaccinated. Because of this we are able to work together, in person, mask-free and we even got together in September to celebrate our 20th anniversary in the Outer Banks! And, as if there was any doubt, we’re all getting our COVID booster shots in the coming weeks!
I’m also thankful for the PPP loan program designed to help small business weather the storm caused by the pandemic. Like many small businesses in the United States, we received PPP loan proceeds in 2020 that were subsequently forgiven. Although we made a slight profit in 2020, these proceeds did help us from a cash flow perspective. And, given our current year, I’m glad we had the cash on hand as we are using it to keep our workforce intact, which was the intended purpose. Assuming we do breakeven this year, we’ll use the proceeds to pay employee bonuses. They’ve worked too hard to not be rewarded!
And I have one more thing to be thankful for. The five remaining members of my roundtable unanimously decided to “keep the band together” in some form. That’s good because I am going to continue to lean on them for advice in both good times (they’re coming) and bad!
From our family to yours…Happy Thanksgiving!
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