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Reflecting On 2020

Thoughts on running an advertising and marketing agency during a global pandemic.

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So, 2020 was quite a year.

If 2020 was a drawing, it would look something like this furry red guy. We affectionately named him the 2020 Monster. But we still couldn’t be more grateful for another year of doing what we love. Our team has had a very busy and fulfilling year, even despite the challenges and surprises 2020 has thrown everyone’s way.

We learned a lot about ourselves.

After running a marketing agency here in Roanoke, VA for the last seven years, we’ve had great systems in place, and we’ve done things a certain way. But you never truly know how great theories will hold up under the weight of the most extreme tests. The COVID-19 pandemic, and this is probably true for everyone, has been a real challenge. Human nature, when faced with a threat, tells us to hunker down, buy all the toilet paper in the grocery store, and wait it out.

While faced with the temptation to sit back and be carried by the current of these vast societal and economic changes, I was inspired by the team’s desire to proactively guide our destiny and turn a crisis into an opportunity. This pandemic has helped us re-think our most basic fundamental principles. Our team has thoughtfully expanded a lot of the services we offer, which has resulted in even better marketing outcomes for our clients in 2020. We’ve made our processes even more efficient, identified and cut out unnecessary elements of our business and workflow, and we have actually seen this as another opportunity to evolve, grow, and get better at serving our clients. Sometimes “survival” can help you see what things are the most vital.

We learned a lot about other businesses.

We’ve also had the honor of observing and learning from our clients, fellow business owners, and our local community. Witnessing their optimism, their do-whatever-it-takes resilience, determination, and their outward focus during tough times has really been remarkable. While the restaurant business has been profoundly affected by COVID-19, we’ve help four new restaurants open their doors during the pandemic…and we’ve witnessed their wild success. Their courage, determination, and resulting success a real testament to the strength of the human spirit.

Based on what we’ve seen this year, we’re taking a few of these observations with us into 2021:


Optimism is the best antidote for fear. I haven’t met anyone who is happy about this pandemic. For most of us, the COVID-19 crisis has been unsettling, threatening, and anxiety producing. This can easily lead to fear and hopelessness. But we can still choose optimism, even while staring this stark reality in the face.

I was always inspired by leaders during my Army career that were optimistic even during the tough times. In fact, when times are tough (pouring rain, sleeping in the mud, or walking 20 miles in pitch black darkness), a common refrain from Soldiers is “this is good training!”

Obviously, empty or insincere optimism isn’t helpful, and it is okay to have a bad day or be honest about fears and concerns. But our fears and concerns should not dictate our approach, destroy our outlook, or limit our opportunities.


Resilience has always been essential for any business, but this pandemic has given resilience a whole new meaning. One of my favorite things about owning a small business is the freedom and independence to shape the future. My freedom to choose the course for Agile has always been very exciting, and creating an ever-evolving business model to support that plan is very rewarding.

And while steering the ship can be exciting, the true challenge is remaining resilient when things don’t work out quite like you planned, or when times get tough. Resilient people can take a hit, recover their senses, and adapt…instead of throwing in the towel and giving up. Running a business is complex and challenging, and I am always amazed by those who have run a business for 25, 35, or even 50 years. They are the picture of resilience to me.

Restaurants have had to reinvent themselves overnight. Retailers have seen the most dramatic drops in foot traffic in our lifetimes. Consultants have seen a steady stream of clients become a trickle. The COVID-19 pandemic has required a new level of resilience.


While resilience can help you pivot, re-calibrate, and survive, determination can help you actually grow and thrive even in the toughest of times. Watching many of our clients have their best financial year ever in 2020 is a very black-and-white outcome of steely determination. Watching our clients evolve and improve their business practices, hire new employees, open new locations, invest in marketing to take advantage of new opportunities and adjust to changing buying trends during the pandemic, buy real estate, and expand their services is truly admirable. Their unstoppable and unwavering determination to stay the course, put one foot in front of the other, and just do the next thing seems to have been a big dividing line in 2020.


But perhaps the biggest example we’ve observed and admired from other businesses, and just from people in general, is the immense power of an outward focus. While we admire continued survival and success during a global pandemic, the compassion, empathy, and assistance shown in our community has been the most impactful.

Let’s face it…2020 has seen businesses close, people lose their jobs at a scale not seen in decades, and our way of life has completely changed (for the time being). Seeing people and businesses step up to help those most affected by COVID-19, offering flexible work schedules for employees, providing paid time off for employees based on dire circumstances, reaching out to their communities with practical assistance, and valuing humanity above their own bottom-line or bonuses…well, that’s of the highest value.

Here’s to 2021 being a little better than 2020.

With the vaccine showing promising results, the stock market weathering the storm, businesses continuing to grow and thrive, here’s to remaining optimistic, resilient, determined, and outward focused in 2021!

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