The pandemic and the unprecedented events that have arose in the past year should never be minimized—it was a really, really tough year for the majority of people around the world.
But that doesn’t mean there was nothing good to come of it—in fact, for many business owners, the coronavirus pandemic spawned radical change, positive pivoting, and as a result, a great year for business growth and learnings.
Below, we spoke to two business owners in completely different sectors who, in spite of the adversity that many businesses had to navigate, actually saw great success despite the unprecedented road blocks we all experienced in 2020.
From being getting honest about self-reflection and creating a rock-solid morning routine to holding onto a positive mindset while creating multiple revenue streams to help weather the storm, here is how Toronto-based Dan Demsky, Founder of Unbound Merino and Los Angeles-based Koko Hayashi, Celebrity Face Yoga Instructor, managed to navigate the twists and turns of 2020 and come out better for it—both in business and in life.
Ladders: What made 2020 a success for you on a personal level?
Dan Demsky: This past year, the way people worked and lived changed drastically. 2020 pushed me to go inward to figure out how to stay entertained, productive, happy and fit.
It took a lot of self-reflection to identify what I needed to be my best self during this challenging time. I adjusted and took on new practices like meditation, which I had never tried before. I learned to be happy in solitude and with less external engagement.
Koko Hayashi: Being Japanese and keeping up with what was going on in Japan made me very aware of the virus even before it became a big deal in the States. My American friends didn’t believe it and whenever I went out with a mask on, they laughed!
They also refused to receive my mask present. Being aware of the world news is more important than ever. Because I had been so prepared for the virus, I haven’t had any major problems in my personal and/or business life.
Ladders: How was it a success in business (whether it was key learnings, financial success, etc)?
Demsky: We took a step back from customer acquisition efforts and focused our efforts on retaining our loyal customer base. We strengthened our connection with our existing customers through more direct communication and developed more products of value to them.
We are a lot healthier of a company because of the pandemic. We have implemented positive practices that we should have been doing all along. We ended up growing in the end, so it’s really helped us figure out the most efficient and smart way to operate our company.
Hayashi: The pandemic forced us to change from a 50% in-person 50% online model to a 100% online model, which is good for the long term and has helped us gain a more global audience.
Ladders: What do you think separated your business from others who may have had a more difficult year?
Demsky: Our company intersects both the travel and retail industries, so we were hit hard by the pandemic. Our lifeline was having a direct to consumer, ecommerce business.
We had to switch our positioning to resonate with our customers’ current lifestyle needs, but overall, we were able to pivot quickly due to the agility of our business model.
Hayashi: I think what separated us from other Face Yoga businesses might be, one, our collaborations with medical doctors, and two, we began offering Instructor Certification for Medical Professionals.
We also consistently posted tutorial videos on YouTube every few days. A lot of people started being on social media more during the pandemic, but it is hard to keep up with that. Yes, it is hard for us to keep introducing new techniques, exercises, tips every few days, but this internal rule forces us to come up with new ideas and always keeps us learning.
How did you keep your mindset in check with such an unprecedented turn of events?
Demsky: I’ve found that making a list each morning of reminders (both work and wellness related) keeps me in check. My list typically includes meditation, 5-minute gratitude journal, hydration and exercise reminders, along with work tasks.
By doing this in the morning, whether I have a good day or a bad day, I always have a routine to fall back on. This practice has been key to preventing my emotions from influencing the results of my day.
Hayashi: Remembering that I wasn’t alone. Every single person was affected by 2020’s turn of events and because of this, it brought more people together. Businesses helped support other businesses. I also exercised more frequently and always looked ahead at what I could be learning, helping me keep a more positive outlook on things.
Ladders: What advice do you have for business owners or executives who feel the pressure to make up for last year?
Demsky: We are all feeling the losses from this past year. I think, if you care about the growth and success of your business, you should embrace the pressure to make up the losses. In hard times what else is there to do but keep your head up, stay motivated, and try to learn from everything so you can emerge stronger than before? Take this opportunity to pivot, try something new, get back into the saddle, work hard and move in a positive direction.
Roll up your sleeves to do the work without getting discouraged. Now is not the time to rest on your laurels, but to work really hard to emerge stronger and better than before. It’s important to have a clear vision for your business with actionable steps that align yourself with that vision.
Hayashi: I don’t think you need to feel pressure to make up for 2020 because a lot of businesses suffered. I think it was an opportunity for us to adapt to a new environment. Dinosaurs went extinct because they couldn’t adapt to the new environment, but some species survived because they adapted! We should try to be the species that can adapt.
Also, this experience has taught me the importance of multiple income streams. We have mainly 4 businesses: private/group sessions & instructor certifications; Face Yoga app; learning content for the public; and influencer gigs. We aim to grow our app even more, as we believe it is a more sustainable business model.