Towards the end of 2020, I bought a T-shirt that said “2020 - 1 Star - Very Bad, Would Not Recommend”. I was very proud of that T-shirt and what it represented. We had made it through a very tough year! A year during which COVID killed millions, the stock market crashed, we were all forced to work from home or risk infection, and client spending froze. A year in which freak weather storms, forest fires, political and racial unrest, a presidential impeachment, and even murder hornets kept us all hunkered down, separated from friends and family, wondering what on earth would happen next. A year in which Pepper Foster Consulting not only survived without letting anybody go, but continued to grow, promote, and pay bonuses
By the end of 2020, we were all very optimistic that 2021 was shaping up to be a much, much better year. Maybe not quite 5-stars, we were still in the midst of the pandemic after all, but at least 4! The recovery was going to be strong and rapid and we were all looking forward to life getting back to normal. And, despite some political distractions early in the year, the first half of 2021 proved our optimism to be well-founded.
Vaccines were approved and rolling out, the stock market was booming, restaurants were opening, people were taking vacations, clients were initiating new projects and spending, everybody was debating about returning to the office, and Pepper Foster Consulting was growing and hiring some amazing new people in both Portland and Minneapolis - St. Paul.
By the end of June we had held our first in-person team event in over a year - the MSP version of PFunC; our annual retreat for all team members and their significant others where we “put the Fun in PFC”. We’d also worked out how to maintain our culture and team spirit while working from home, made a difference for our paying and several pro-bono clients, made great strides in our DEI education and goals, and laid the foundation for a big recovery and rapid growth in the second half of the year. Like the rest of America, we were feeling pretty darn good!
And then Delta reared its ugly head! Everybody went into shock. We were forced to cancel PDX PFunC for the second year in a row and clients started to grow cautious again. What if we never got back to normal life? What if this was the new normal? What if we never went back to the office, ever?
At Pepper Foster, we decided that although Delta had definitely taken the wind out of our sails, our optimism about the future was still warranted. So, although we postponed the opening of our offices, we doubled our office space in preparation for our growth in the future and the time when we would want to be back in person. We continued to hire and invest in recruiting. We put the finishing touches on The Pepper Foster Way, outlining our cultural touchstones, foundation, values, core beliefs, vision, and plans for who we are today and what we will be tomorrow. And we got ready for 2022.
As we start 2022, Omicron is obviously creating yet another wave of infections and concerns but early evidence suggests that COVID may now be following a similar path to the Russian Flu pandemic of 1889 - 1891. At the time, the Russian Flu was one of the deadliest pandemics in history, but it is now believed that the virus responsible for that pandemic was human coronavirus OC43, one of the viruses we now consider a common cold. Hopefully, 2022 will be the year that COVID-19 becomes just another cold virus.
Even if it does though, life definitely won’t snap back to the way things were before. Too many things have changed. Businesses and employees have learned that many things can be done well in a remote capacity. The balance of power has switched from employers to employees. Supply chain issues have driven long-term changes to where, when, and how products are manufactured and managed. Advances in robotics combined with greater choices for and a shortage of minimum wage workers are changing who, what and how labor will be provided in the future. And the metaverse, blockchain, NFTs, and virtual reality are creating new markets, challenges, and opportunities, and changing where and how brands and products are bought, paid for, made, delivered, and consumed.
At Pepper Foster, we’re going into 2022 confident and optimistic. Confident that after surviving and thriving in 2020 and 2021, we can handle whatever the world throws at us in the future. And optimistic that 2022 and beyond will offer us and our clients huge opportunities to grow and make a difference in the world. We’re looking forward to 2022 and to working with you to realize your dreams and opportunities.