As we approach the end of 2020, we can all agree it has been the year of constant change. The year where flexibility, determination, dedication and sheer grit were required to ensure success. We all experienced significant changes within our professional and personal lives.
As factories in China began to close, we immediately began to evaluate the potential impact on our businesses and the “short-term” affects it would have on our production planning, inventory flow and profitability. We expediently explored alternative options and locations for additional production, in what we had hoped would be a temporary impediment to our normal operating procedures. As replenishment began to diminish and retail shelves began to empty, the ever-aggressive pursuit to establish the “new normal” ensued.
Soon thereafter, many Americans began finding themselves displaced from the work environment and evaluating their financial well-being. Many individuals and families found themselves spending the majority of their time within their homes. A newfound focus on sterilization, cleaning supplies, cooking and in-home entertainment became the focus. In addition, many fortunate individuals soon had the added challenge of balancing their career where The Office became The Home Office. We were now pressed to establish a new set of professional guidelines and expectations never experienced before. In a world where face-to-face meetings and quick telephone calls were the norm, we were now set upon a path of video conference calls and the never-ending exchange of avoiding the double and triple booked calendars. In a previous time where we constantly ensured silence in the background, even if you had a car full of children because it was your day to drop at soccer and a quick wave of the hand let the family know you were answering a business call and complete silence was expected, to new expectations of video conferencing where a more casual approach had to be practiced. Teammates were now seeing into your private lives with an intimate view of your home office, kitchen table or back deck where you found your best workspace. Colleagues were now leading financial meetings with their newborn baby cooing in the background, a cat pawing at a computer screen and a young boy dancing in the background while his father was completely unaware as he covered his category sales from the previous week. Doorbells ringing, home schooling, dogs snoring at your feet, ill family members, finding time to grab something for lunch and “muting” for a bathroom break…we had to quickly learn flexibility and master the ability to pause and smile while we regained focus and pressed through our meeting agenda.
Through these changing times we learned how to manage our business in a less than traditional venue. Associates and teammates are managing very large businesses and running their personal lives in tandem. As leaders, whether we are experiencing record-breaking sales or struggling to hold the line, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the additional daily pressures and struggles each of our associates are experiencing. Most recently, within our organization, we have experienced aggressive sales increases primarily due to the changes of this year. However, with the increased growth we have also experienced many challenges from production, out-of-stocks, low fill rates, late deliveries, transportation, congested ports of entry, lack of available trailers, frustrated retailers, aggravated customers and exhausted internal associates. Daily, we continue to strive for excellence and work to correct the many opportunities and issues that have risen from the impact of the business for the year. It often seems to be a never-ending quest to correct our current inaccuracies and shortcomings as we are pressed to push our associates and continually find better efficiencies. Through all of this we have been pressed to wear many hats outside our normal scope of responsibilities in order to help carry the load.
As we quickly approach the final push into this Holiday Season, I feel it is more important than ever to take a moment with my team and celebrate our victories of the year. We naturally have continued to focus on the many professional challenges we have experienced to achieve success. It is imperative that we remember not only has this been the most challenging year in most of our careers, it has also been the most challenging in many of our personal lives. For our teams to have balanced the professional challenges with their personal lives with little separation, we have established so much as an organization. While quickly running through the specific category sales increases YoY and WoW, I suddenly realized we were not celebrating our victories, yet focusing on our failures.
In summary, this year has been challenging for the majority of manufacturers, retailers, associates and our families. We need to take the time to listen to our associates. Celebrate each of their victories and ensure each associate is aware they made a difference, and the success was due to their flexibility, determination, dedication and sheer grit. It takes a mentally strong team to ensure success in a year like we have experienced, and we need to ensure we are ready for the new set of challenges yet to come.
Stephanie L. James
*Vice President of Strategic Sales, Walmart & Sam’s Club – SharkNinja
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.