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  • Philip Jalufka

2020: A year to remember and a year we'd like to forget.

2020 will always be a year to remember—as well as a year we’d like to forget. Coming into this year, I had high hopes. By connotation, “2020” reflects excellent vision. The real estate market was experiencing a boost, thanks to low interest rates and a strong economy. You know the rest of the story. The pandemic struck with stunning impact we’ve never before experienced in our history.

Who would have imagined in 2019 that we would have to shut down the entire country? Businesses closed. Schools closed. Travel stopped. Hospitals overflowed with patients who required treatment that wasn’t readily available.

Toilet paper became a valuable commodity. Families sheltered at home, with more togetherness than they were prepared to endure. Arguments ensued over the wearing of protective masks in public.

There was a lot of ugliness this past year. You can either wallow in it or rise above. Each one is a choice you make.

I chose to find opportunities to make the most of the situation. I respected limits but didn’t use them as an excuse to stagnate. As we put 2020 in the history books, I’d like to share what I learned in 2020.

Communication is critical.

There was a lot of information flying around this year. And a lot of MISinformation. Social media posts riled up followers with articles that may or may not have been accurate. We were all desperately searching for something to hold onto. When uncertainty is the only certainty, where do you turn?

In the film, “The American President”, the Chief of Staff advises the President to speak up against an opponent who is spreading lies.

“People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.”

When COVID caused us to shut our doors and send workers to their homes, our management team moved quickly. We knew communication would prevent our team from guessing and worrying. We had video calls every day, checking in with one another and ensuring every person was fully informed and had what they needed. Whether that was for personal or professional needs, it didn’t matter. We work as a team and we live as one. Reaching out in this way also provided comfort for them as they knew that the leaders were smartly managing the obstacles.

Stick to the process

Success is not random. It isn’t the result of luck. Results come from following a process. In my years of military service and a member of Special Ops, we trained over and over again in the same exercises and tactics. When a mission needed to be completed in 30 minutes, an additional 30 seconds could make the difference between life and death. Every process had been tested and proven. Every team member followed the process with the exact same precision. Each of us carried identical weapons and ammunition. Actions would be carried out with little or no words, because we each knew that everyone in the battalion followed the process.

Adhering to a process provides continuity, something that is essential in a time of uncertainty like we just experienced in 2020. We are creatures of habit and when those habits are disrupted, it’s easy to lose focus.

Of course, we had to adapt during the pandemic, but we never abandoned our fundamental processes. Any sports team will tell you that fundamentals win championships. A strong defense and winning offense rely on players sticking to the playbook. There is no deviation, no creative interpretation of the rules or plays.

Maintaining our processes allowed us to do more to survive the challenges of the pandemic. We thrived! As some businesses struggled to invent solutions, we relied on our training to better serve our customers and our teammates.

Stay in touch with your market

In 2020, we learned the essential difference between a “house” and a “home”. A house is a structure, a product that is constructed for the purpose of a sale. A home is where people live. It is the haven where residents can enjoy privacy from the rest of the world, a safe environment that gives respite from threats that lurk beyond these walls.

This distinction became absolutely crystal clear over the past 10 months. We saw a surprising surge in new home sales as Americans realized their current homes weren’t adequate. They wanted comfort in an uncomfortable time and safety when lives were at stake.

A house has features, like extra rooms, a walk-in pantry, and a big yard. A home is a collection of stories—not levels but actually stories. Those extra rooms are where kids go to do their online learning or mom enjoys her much-needed yoga. The walk-in pantry allows them to stash the aggressive supplies of toilet paper and non-perishables, so that no one in the home worries that they will run out.

We are working with our residential developer partners to apply this important difference between house and home to new home sales. I encourage all developers and builders to be true to placemaking, to understand the value of the flow that must exist between community, neighborhood, and the home. Those who are marketing and selling new homes that support demographic shifts and pandemic-related distancing measures will succeed better as markets continue to adjust to the many changes we have now—and those that are yet to come.

What did you learn in 2020? And how will you use it in the months and years to come?



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