By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect
December 15th , 2020
5 Steps to Take by The End Of 2020
2020 has been a challenging year for many people. Families have been kept apart, jobs have been lost, businesses closed, and parents are pulling their hair out trying to balance working from home with round-the-clock childcare and distance learning. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on both our personal and professional lives, and with 200,000 reported cases in the U.S. per day and a new stay-at-home mandate in California during the busiest retail season of the year, America’s economy is still reeling from the impact of this novel virus.
Some people and businesses are faring better than others. Why is that? Some of it is industry specific; for example, those working in pharma or in tech may even be thriving. But those of us in the private equity and investment banking world have certainly had to adapt and make difficult adjustments this year. On March 9th, I arrived in Chicago for what would be Opus Connect’s last in person event of 2020. When I stepped off the plane, my team informed me that a third of the participants had already canceled. The next morning, we made the decision to cancel dozens of upcoming events, with no idea of when we would be able to reschedule. For the first three weeks of the COVID-19 national emergency, we had no incoming revenue. And yet, by the end of 2020, Opus Connect is not only thriving, but it is growing. Here are the steps we took to make that happen, and how you can do it too.
Always Be Prepared for a Disaster
I was born in the Soviet Union to a family of post-Holocaust Jews and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 18 years old. My grandparents fled their homes days before they were overrun by Nazis, narrowly escaping the camps and likely death. Once they heard the rumors, they didn’t hesitate, even though it cost them dearly. This somewhat paranoid mentality ultimately saved their lives from the horrors of WWII, and they passed it down to future generations. My parents and I were taught to always be prepared for disaster, to always assume the worst, to always keep the refrigerator fully stocked in case of emergency. So, when COVID-19 hit, I automatically assumed the worst-case scenario: We’d be in lockdown for months if not years. One of the biggest mistakes that businesses made in the beginning of the pandemic was to assume that things would be back to normal shortly. I recall people’s disbelief and outrage over the idea that the virus might affect their summer Europe trip. Due to this cautious attitude, I immediately began working on strategies to pivot Opus Connect and saved months of wasted time.
Drive the Change
Be proactive, not reactive. Very early on in the pandemic, when most people were still postponing conferences and events, I decided not to postpone and instead to go virtual. We were up and running on Zoom within a week, and we have now hosted over 100 events including 30 Deal Connect events virtually. We have not seen any reduction in attendance at events, clients are still making valuable connections, and they are saving countless hours and dollars that would have been spent traveling. I, myself, traveled 162 days in 2019 and spent over 200 hours in the air! Having that extra time has enabled me to be so much more productive and to work on ventures and ideas that I simply didn’t have the time to implement before. For example, for the last 3-4 years we had been exploring the idea of creating a network of mastermind groups, but up until recently we didn’t have the bandwidth to make it happen. The extra time the pandemic afforded me, and other team members enabled us to finally launch Opus Mind, a curated, peer-to-peer community of like-minded M&A professionals who participate in monthly mastermind groups. Opus Mind was one of 30-40 ideas we have had over the last few years. It was one we actually considered launching at the beginning of lockdown and given the environment COVID-19 had created, it was the timeliest one of them all to implement; and so we did just that. This illustrates how important it is to not only continuously innovate but to also always have a backup plan or two.
Think Outside the Box
Be flexible and creative. Tough times can actually serve as a catalyst for innovation. When things are going well, it is easy to be complacent and rest on our laurels, but when something like the pandemic hits, people are forced to think outside the box. The marketplace is more receptive to new ideas and people are more willing to say yes to new things because the old ideas and ways aren’t working anymore. For example, Opus has been a membership and events company for the last decade, but during the pandemic we decided to expand our thinking and focus on being more of a complete solution to our customer base through the use of technology. So, we created our own virtual data room, or software for investment bankers to manage deals, and we simultaneously created a virtual deal platform to integrate this software into a marketplace for buyers and sellers.
Map Out Your Course
Before navigation systems existed, we had to get directions to our destinations before leaving the house. We’d write them down on a piece of paper – turn right on this street, turn left on that street, blue house on the left. The same goes for business preparedness. You must know where you are headed and be able to plot your course if you are to survive the journey. Once you have this roadmap, you can simply move from point to point. Many people talk about having a personal business plan, but few ever create one. A personal business plan includes your goals, steps you must take to achieve those goals, and contingency plans. I suggest having multiple back-up plans so that when you face a dead-end in the road or a difficult path, you can easily turn right or left and still arrive at your destination safely.
Invest in Tools
There are many tools out there to help you implement your personal business plan despite the pandemic. Zoom is just one example of a tool that has changed millions if not billions of lives in the past nine months. In addition to technology, there are other tools that you might find particularly helpful right now: If you don’t have one already, create an advisory board for your business and/or yourself. Make yourself accountable to someone such as a coach, a group, or a learning partner. Sign up for peer-to-peer networking opportunities through offerings such as Opus Connect or Opus Mind. The connections you may make through such events and groups are beneficial in a number of ways: Facilitating deal flow, providing accountability and support, sharing new ideas, helpful tips and information, and in some cases, providing new job opportunities.
Wherever you find yourself at the end of this challenging year, these steps can help you ensure that 2021 is a better year for you, for your business, for your family, and for our world. Happy Holidays and may you be healthy and prosperous in the year to come.