“In doing this, it was survival first and foremost. I knew if I stayed doing what I was doing, it wasn’t generating enough revenue to run that business.”
“I feel like a hamster on a wheel a lot of the time.”
“About 90 percent of our business was put on hold. We were looking at having to furlough employees.”
“What is most important is having technology that is simple to use. That has leveled the playing field.”
“We had to completely change the way we did things overnight.”
Five different people, yet one common theme to express 2020, the year everything — and everyone — had to turn and adapt.
Today on the front page, The Pilot’s annual Newsmaker of the Year tells the story not of one particular noteworthy subject for 2020, but of eight. Those eight could as easily have been 80 or 800 or 80,000, for the overarching subject — the act of pivoting — is one that has affected each one of us this year.
Regardless of whether you were an accountant, a grocery clerk, a resident in a nursing home or a stay-at-home parent, your life was upended in 2020 in ways no one could have ever expected at this time a year ago.
And yet, for all the struggle and hand-wringing and disruption, many of us this year have thrived in this sea of change. Forced into change by circumstances out of our control, we adapted with a speed and clarity some of us might not have thought we didn’t have in us.
The vignettes included in this year’s annual Newsmaker installment are representative of those many stories of change. A year ago, Chris Gilder’s kiosk and self-serve machine manufacturing business wasn’t making temperature-scanning devices, but by the end of this year it is one of Meridian’s bigger sellers, and doesn’t look any different for 2021.
“Every company I’ve talked to plans to keep taking temperatures indefinitely,” Gilder said. “It is an easy way to ensure your employees are healthy.”
Gilder’s company added capacity, space and employees this year as a result of their pivot.
Future Pathways, Now
The global pandemic, of course, has not been a boon to all. The coronavirus, as a health crisis, highlighted some of our weaknesses in blinding light. Not the least of our weaknesses was the local public health department. Used to occupying an unassuming role in the larger bureaucracy, the Health Department was suddenly thrust into a starring role, and its lack of funding, staffing and coordination showed quickly. But as time went on, it labored to correct those flaws. Today, as a front-line communicator of the health crisis, the Moore County Health Department has grown stronger as a result of the pressure.
That has also been true of parents and teachers. Once loose allies in the cause of education, the shutdown last spring of our schools and the rise of remote learning have built strong alignments of teachers and parents. Both have developed new understandings of their roles and each others’ roles as this unorthodox patchwork of education clunkers on.
The coronavirus has forced everyone this year to become more creative. But the most interesting thing is that many of these changes are here to stay, even once the virus, hopefully, succumbs to broad vaccination.
Retailers like Sundi McLaughlin think nothing now of using FaceTime to “walk” a client around the store picking out items that an employee will ship or deliver. Doctors like Ann Marie Richards are returning to their heritage of “home visits” — via computer — and learning new aspects about their patients. And restaurateurs like Curt Shelvey have taken stock of trends and discovered new pathways of service.
“I just see dining changing. Not just here, but everywhere,” Shelvey said. “That was a leap of faith that I was willing to have to say that this is the future.”