2020 Year In Review – The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly
By Jill Button, President and CEO, ProcurePro Consulting and Co-Founder ThryvX
Each year here at ProcurePro I write an article about the year in review. I reflect back on our successes and share what’s ahead for the coming year. This year, I reached out to my team as this year has been “unprecedented” as they say. I think people use this word because, frankly, there is no blueprint or roadmap for what we are all going through. Honestly, I am still kind of in shock and when I take a moment to really think about it, I find it all so surreal. Not just Covid-19, but the cultural and political unrest. We’ve all kind of been doing the best we can, winging it as we go. One of my long-time colleagues said we are all in this together, but we are all in different boats. It got me thinking that yes, while we are “All in This Together”, our experiences, trials, wins and sometimes devastating losses are so vastly unique and different. So in a year where, “How are you?” takes on real meaning or the requisite intro to an email; “I hope this email finds you well and staying safe”, I asked my team to help me write this “2020 Year in Review” and to share “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”. Here is what they had to say.
Krysten Lammert – Sales & Marketing Coordinator – 2020 Ontario Tech Graduate
Krysten joined us in the spring near the beginning of the pandemic and had just graduated with a Degree in Marketing and a minor in Supply Chain. Krysten is a perfect fit for our team as Susan calls her our ‘unicorn’. We are a Supply Chain and Procurement consulting company, and her job is to help sell and market our business. When we interviewed Krysten, it was the first video interview I had ever done. It was also the first time I have ever hired someone in my 30-year career without actually meeting them face to face. In fact we still have not met face to face. A fact I sometimes forget because I feel like she has been with us for years. One of the first major interviews of her career, Krysten took the interview from her parent’s basement in lockdown.
She jumped in with both feet, rolled up her sleeves and got right to work. Her enthusiasm and tremendous initiative are magical. She brings fresh ideas and perspectives constantly. In her spare time she jumps horses and climbs rocks. Not little rocks, big sheer cliffs! One Saturday in the summer I got a text from her. Halfway up the cliff side, she decides to send me a picture of her view! She scares me but she is living life to the fullest and I am so proud of her. Aside from her wonton disregard for spelling, I could not be happier that she joined our team.
Here is what Krysten had to say:
- I was lucky enough to find a fantastic, work from home (WFH) job directly in my field right out of university during the pandemic.
- 2020 was also the year I officially moved out into my first bachelorette apartment, and my furry friend and I are loving it!
The Bad and Downright Ugly:
- My 2020 started with John [her significant other] in Australian while the wildfires raged, there for a 6-week trip of a lifetime… stupid me said the year would just get easier. HA!
- Losing friendships to the pandemic is not a unique experience. Due to my proximity to multiple health care workers and subsequent refusal to cut my significant other and my mother out of my life, I was put at odds with friends who viciously disagreed with my personal decision to continue to support my loved ones as they were put to the test that would go on to define their careers. This year has taught us all which relationships to value and who will go to the risk and effort to stay connected. My mother always told me, “watch someone’s actions, not words.”
- I never got to properly graduate or feel the relief of finishing school …. Since I live away from home for school, my parents and I developed a tradition that after each of my finals I would call them and tell them how it went. For years I imagined the feeling of walking out of my last exam room ever and getting to call home and tell them that I was finished my degree.
Imagine for a minute you worked for years getting an education, excitedly anticipating your graduation then all your hard work, hopes and joy is dashed by a global pandemic. It brings tears to my eyes. Krysten is my daughters age and her perspective and how she is experiencing this pandemic is unique.
Susan Mercer-Tumilty – Operations Manager & Consultant – Wife, mom of two small children 6 and 3 years old
Susan and I have known each other for over fifteen years. We worked together in the telecommunications industry for over seven years. She joined me shortly after returning from maternity leave in early 2018, looking for a change, a way to spend more time with her small children and avoid the exhausting commute downtown. She joined me on a six-month ERP project and never left.
She has been with ProcurePro now for almost 3 years and runs the operations like a well-oiled machine, provides project management, procurement consulting, oversees our sales and marketing including content writing, she helped me write and edit my book and edits all our articles, including this one. She also provides oversight on our own business systems and all things technical at ProcurePro (I tend to break things). She jumps in to do what ever it takes to keep us moving forward, including me! Her loyalty and dedication are what every founder, leader, and CEO dreams of. She is my right hand wo-man and is absolutely critical to our continued success.
Here is what Susan had to say:
- Personally, while having my entire family home ALL the time certainly has its frustrations there have been some really great things too like discovering new places to explore in our neighborhood, using our yard more than we ever have and watching my kids mostly get along and using their crazy imaginations to keep themselves occupied!
- Getting some extra time to snuggle in the mornings because we don’t have to get everyone up and out and finding more time in the evenings to do fun things because again, we’re not waiting for anyone to get off at 5 and commute another hour home.
- Reconnecting with some of my close friends who don’t live near – we’ve talked more over virtual meetings than we ever did over the phone.
- Having an amazing and supportive CEO who understands the craziness that my life is with two small kids at home while also trying to work from home and not lose my mind!
- Professionally, having the time (while super scary because our client base has been so low) to finally focus on the things that we’ve continuously put off like Social Media and advertising. Each year we’ve had the conversations about not ‘taking our foot off the gas’ and this year we truly didn’t! While our year from a revenue perspective hasn’t been good, we’ve done so many other amazing things and we have so many more things coming up for 2020! I’m super excited about where things are heading for us!
- And of course finding our ‘unicorn’ Krysten who has been a huge help! And being given the opportunity to expand my role and take on more things for the business.
The Bad and Downright Ugly:
- Personally, I’ve never second guessed my decisions as a parent more than I have since March. The guilt, the mental exhaustion, and the battle of defending my decisions during something (a global f’ing pandemic) that I’ve never experienced before. There have been many f-words used and bursts of crying fits. Lol
- Professionally, having worked so goddamn hard in 2019 and finally feeling like we’re on our way and that 2020 was to be the BEST year yet … Fearful that ProcurePro won’t make it as hard as we’re trying and with so many great things, I know we have coming up for us. Trying to remain optimistic … we said, ‘oh by September we’ll see an uptick in clients’ and then the second wave hit, and I think it put a lot of businesses back to square one.
This year has been especially challenging for parents, like Susan and her husband, who also works from home, juggling work and small children. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on family life for so many. I simply can’t imagine the fear of sending your child into possible harms way at school or supporting learning from home while trying to also meet the demands of work, I just do not know how they do it. I am so grateful both my children are grown and while I still worry of course, they are smart, self sufficient, healthy, and safe.
Now for me, it has been a roller coaster ride to say the least!
A year of extreme highs and lows. Depending on how you measure success, it has been wildly successful while I struggle to keep my business open and my employees employed.
First and foremost, my family and I, my team, business partner and their family, our clients and all our friends are all well. That is a blessing and something I am immensely grateful for. It is the first entry in my gratitude journal, which I write in every (well almost every) morning. Writing down those things I’m grateful for, along with yoga and meditation, helps me stay focused and positive. There are so many people around the world, and right here in our community, who have been absolutely devastated, lost loved ones and their livelihoods have been decimated. I’m incredibly fortunate and while I have my down days and suffer from Covid fatigue, I’m staying positive.
Here is what my year has looked like:
In early February, I took another leap, became a serial entrepreneur, and launched my second company, ThryvX Consulting, with my business partner Corette Miller, CEO, newINITIATIVES HR. More to come on the company and the exciting plans we have for 2021.
About a month later, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO), officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic. People and businesses, struggling to save lives and livelihoods, took shelter, quarantined at home for safely, not knowing what would come next. All work at ProcurePro abruptly came to a halt and all our projects are cancelled indefinitely.
Two days later, on Friday, March 13th, I released my first book; “How Not to Get Screwed by Your Suppliers and Save Millions!” on Amazon. Not sure what I was thinking about that date but there it is.
At around that time, I was nominated for an RBC Women Entrepreneur Award.
In spring, a couple months after the Pandemic began, I doubled down on sales and marketing and hired Krysten. Almost immediately, I was recognized as of one the “Top 100 Canadian Professionals”.
Later summer, revenues are still down by 97%, year over year and so we pivot and began offering free webinars, online training and delivering custom training for sales professionals; “Demystifying Procurement, Bridging the Gap Between Procurement and Sales”. The response to the training is tremendous and we are slated to launch Learning on Demand in January.
Fall 2020, CIOLook Magazine recognizes me as one of the “Top 10 CEO’s Revamping the future” while the second of the pandemic hits and cases skyrocket. Toronto is now in lock down and surrounding regions are in the red zone.
While I’m extremely humbled and grateful for the recognition, the reality is during all of it, I was wondering if I was going to be able to keep my team employed. My team and I have hung in there, inching our way forward, making progress every day.
- The answer is YES, we are well and staying safe!
- We are open for business!
- I have not had to lay off a single employee, in fact we added Krysten and are currently recruiting!
- We have had more time to focus on sales and marketing this year than ever before.
- We have developed new revenue streams by offering Learning on Demand and custom training.
- Our business was focused on serving clients locally and across the Greater Toronto Area. Embracing technology, we can now serve clients virtually anywhere globally.
- I am a serial entrepreneur and my business partner Corette Miller, and I are excited to make an announcement early next year.
- I have learned to appreciate the ability to hug friends, family, connections and clients. Yes, I’m a hugger.
- I have reconnected with family I thought was lost forever.
The Bad and Downright Ugly:
- As an entrepreneur, every day you live in fear. You wake up in the middle of the night, lay awake tossing and turning, thinking up ways to keep the dream alive. Keep your employees employed and pay your bills. Now magnify that times 10X with Covid19.
- As Susan mentioned, 2019 was a great financial year. I had incredible hopes, like many, that 2020 would be our best year ever. So far (there are still two weeks left as of this writing) that has not been true, at least financially, but then, I don’t define success as narrowly as revenue generation, but it is obviously a requirement to staying in business. See ‘The Good’ above!
I prefer to think and focus on the positive. Yes, I could lament this upside down, surreal year but why? I do believe “what you think about, comes about” so looking back at 2020, you will notice that the Good, out ways the Bad. While the roller coaster has me longing for stable ground and predictability, f’ it! as Susan says, I’m an entrepreneur, we have amazing things coming soon, I’ve got my big girl pants on and I’m excited for 2021!