THANK YOU, 2020!

Yes, you read that right.  Thank you, 2020, for all that you have been, all that you were not, and that you are (finally) coming to an end.  Nonetheless, thank you!

I have thought about this month’s letter for a few days now and this is my salutation to the year.  For the last 20 years, I have reflected on the 12 previous months and I write a list of everything meaningful that has happened, good or bad.  I usually share this list with my company at a holiday party, but we all know too well that isn’t going to happen this year.  Perhaps no list has been so ugly at first glance and yet so powerful the longer I dwell on it.  Please allow me to explain.

Firstly, let me be clear, I hope we never again experience a year like what 2020 has been at face value.  COVID-19 brought haymakers down on us time-and-time again: personal illness, anxiety, masks everywhere, and bottles of hand-sanitizer at every door.  That little virus has wreaked havoc on employment, the stock market, production schedules, shipping, and even an election in a myriad of ways.  Add to that the magnificent destruction of the derecho that hit the Midwest in August that caused weeks of power and internet outages for some.  Any drive down our snowy streets still tells the tale over 4 months later with hundreds of tree stumps, tarped roofs, and missing pieces of siding around every corner.  And while these events were holding us back, technology kept advancing with no regard for our situation, bringing us to realize a new ‘illness’ known as Zoom Fatigue.  We all mourn missed weddings, graduations, vacations, and other celebrations.  Families had to forgo funerals for people who died alone in those last months of isolation.  It’s taking everything in me not to use colorful explicatives to express our joint dissatisfaction with the year 2020.

The business side of things for R/B Sales Corporation, like most businesses, was no walk in the park.  Remote work meant making compromises to how we get things done.  Every expense was checked and double-checked.  Everyone in our company had to cut back for the good of the whole.  Communications were difficult under the stress of production woes due to shipping, staffing, and shut-downs.  Through it all,  we know these struggles were less than so many other businesses experienced this year. 

Still, this letter started with, “Thank you, 2020.”  How does one say thank you after what I just shared?  First, 2020 forced me to change how I go about getting work done.  I am one of those people who like to be face-to-face with others and share a good handshake as a sign of my word.  The change forced me to work with communications technologies against my will only to discover I could have six separate hour-long meetings in a day that would have required 4 days of travel before.  Not traveling has also forced me to expand my communication efforts and led me to start writing this “Brighter Days Ahead” series.  I have discovered that these articles provide me with a means of sharing my inmost thoughts with you in a way that is therapeutic to me.  (I hope you enjoy reading them…but at least I know I enjoy writing them.)

2020 also has brought me a greater level of appreciation for our manufacturers.  To those of you like me, think back to that 1988 song by Cinderella with the lyrics, “don’t know what you got, ‘til it’s gone.”  It would seem as if that song was (gulp!) 32 years early.  I have been privy to some of the struggles our manufacturers have suffered this year; the lengths they have gone to in order to meet customers’ demands even if they are not always successful.  They have changed inventories, production methods, providers, and personnel; all in an attempt to preserve trust and prove value.  I cherish the confidence manufacturers put in our company to allow us the privilege to represent them and visualize that trust on our line card.  This year, with all its struggles and isolation, has made the depth of our relationships very apparent.

I am grateful for distributors that, like our manufacturers, have been on the front lines this whole time.  As the rep, we don’t HAVE to be in our building; and, for the most part, we have had the luxury (if you can call it that) to work remotely.  To the staff of the distributors that were receiving shipments, picking and shipping material, cutting wire, and modifying product, I salute you.  It is the servant attitude that is at the heart of the greatest human accomplishments even when we call it ‘work.’  You are a necessary part of the industry and you have proved it once again (although I never doubted it.)

I would be remiss if I did not appreciate my team.  My normal travel schedule has forced me to be in the office more than I want.  A skeleton crew has been with me to keep certain functions moving.  And, from homes with backgrounds buzzing with children and pets, the R/B Sales Team has carried on with our mission to support our partners with energy and integrity.

Looking forward to 2021 puts me in that cliché attitude of ‘hope.’  Hope is great, don’t get me wrong, but it is cliché to say it this time of the year.  It is necessary to have hope to inspire us to carry on when life tries to break us by churning us under stress.  My hope is to see the day our office is buzzing and smiles exist where only masks have been.  There is hope to see people in the field again without the anxiety that people are looking at me as a walking contagion.  The hope to do what representatives are meant to do – unify manufacturers, distributors, and customers: not by falling into old habits, but empowering new ones with zeal.  I’m looking at 2021 as though I’m staring out across the ocean at dusk – an abyss of swirling power, unrelenting persistence, and endless potential destinations.  Isn’t she dangerous and beautiful?

Thank you, 2020, but I won’t be sad to see you go.

Have a blessed and wonderful holiday season! 

-Bill Devereaux

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