Wednesday 2 December 2020 9:55 am

Pride and paradox: How to celebrate business success in the midst of a pandemic

Gustav Lundberg Toresson is chief executive and co-founder of memmo

Though we have all read countless stories of under-pressure businesses this year, we should not forget the many companies that have benefitted from 2020’s radical shift in human behaviour. 

12 months ago, the average person on the street had no idea about “Zoom”, for example. Since then, the video conferencing brand has become a household name, its own verb, and a company with a market cap of over $100bn.

Business leaders and strategists may not necessarily like to admit that luck — as it often tends to do — has played an essential role for many of these companies. Zoom chief executive Eric Yuan could hardly have factored a global pandemic into his company’s forecasting back in January.

Read more: London is the toughest place to be an entrepreneur, report finds

But luck only tells one part of the story. 

Organisations which have seen rapid growth were likely already championing society’s move to digital. They were ready to combine that dash of fortune (if you can call a pandemic that) with existing cultures of innovation and resilience. 

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. The strain of this year has fostered brilliant new ideas. And certain business models have thrived in 2020 not in spite of the pandemic but because of it.

I speak from experience, as the company I co-founded — a platform connecting fans and businesses with public figures, celebrities, and influencers via personalised video greetings — has benefited in this way. With celebrities stuck at home, and people now desperate to cheer up their loved ones with gifts, demand for our platform has skyrocketed. 

This has been a strange experience for our team. While we are proud of what we’ve achieved and excited for what’s next, we also know this year has been among the hardest ever for millions of businesses and individuals.

This is a peculiar challenge for any leader. How can you celebrate success and a team’s hard work, while respecting the awful context that allowed it?

A few rules for leaders can be helpful. The first is to be empathetic to what is going on, and talk freely with staff about this strange paradox. By acknowledging your progress, and where it (in-part) stems from, you’ll make sure you don’t take anything for granted.

The second rule is to never even come close to exploiting the pandemic. Be considerate in all marketing materials, and act and speak in a tone that fits the global situation. Save the celebrations for later, and make sure to be sensitive when communicating about your company’s achievements.

And the third — and most important — rule is to pay it forward. Make sure to spend time supporting others within your industry who have been less fortunate. Be it through financial help, advice, sharing materials and office space, or engaging in charitable initiatives, it’s important to reach out to those who might be struggling through no fault of their own. 

As vaccine breakthroughs signal that the end potentially now in sight, businesses can expect some return to normalcy in 2021. Though the pandemic merely accelerated a shift that was already happening, the move to digital, hybrid workplaces, and a further reliance on technology will see many companies scale tremendously this decade. 

They should never forget the important role 2020 played in their journeys: how it helped their businesses grow, but also how they were able to spread joy and keep people connected in such difficult times.

Read more: Topshop owner Arcadia collapses putting 13,000 jobs at risk

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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