2020…a year like no other.
It has been a year of unknowns, uncertainty, disbelief, unpredictability, cancellations, volatility, and confusion. We have undeniably been changed forever.
We, as the Syverson Strege leadership team, want to close out the year with honest, raw, heartfelt reflections about this intense year. As with nearly everyone on the planet, this year has stretched us to places we thought we would never have to go.
Let us take you back to the beginning of 2020. Rumblings of this mysterious coronavirus began to surface in January and articles on its global effect on the markets and economy began to appear.
We were well aware of the developing coronavirus situation and were taking steps to incorporate pertinent information for our communications, but did not want to exaggerate or cause unnecessary alarm. After all, we reasoned, the market was due for a correction, and a faraway virus was a valid justification for that correction. And certainly, we thought, those in authority would stop this intangible threat.
Our planning, investment, and communications teams began to formulate plans to address the “what ifs” of the virus and its implications. Before we knew it, it was early March and the first known cases were identified in Iowa - three individuals who had traveled on a cruise in Egypt before returning home on March 3 to Johnson County.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on Wednesday, March 11. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was cancelled, spring break vacations were abandoned, schools were closed until further notice, and more and more people were getting sick and dying. All of a sudden, this invisible enemy invading our country became widespread and very real. Lives and livelihoods were being shaken to the core.
With a steady diet of state and national news conferences, Americans were glued to the television to receive important updates. The constant flow of information was shaky at best with unclear information about how the virus spreads, who gets it, why they get it, incubation periods, quarantine recommendations, and how to stop it.
Words like PPE, social distancing, asymptomatic, epidemiology, pandemic, community spread, contact tracing, flattening the curve, quarantine, herd immunity, and mitigation were a part of everyday conversations. And throw in a geography lesson as Wuhan, China was thought to be the global source of the evil coronavirus. During the early days of the pandemic, each day had seemed undefined and the information overload had been time consuming and heavy.
Our leadership team had some tough decisions to make, especially when concrete, accurate information was scarce. No company, community, family, or individual had navigated uncharted waters like these before…ever.
On Monday, March 16, we assembled the entire Syverson Strege team for a socially-distanced meeting in our large venue space. The atmosphere was eerie and unsettled. Everyone had the weekend to mull over the severity of the situation. We announced that, effectively immediately, most all employees were asked to pack up their things and work from home remotely until further notice.
A flurry of “to do” items quickly grew as a result of this decision and the growing spread of the virus. Providing safety, service, and up-to-the-minute information to our clients and employees became the top priorities. Figuring out how to accomplish all that in the midst of a pandemic became an obsession. Our leadership team was dedicated to remaining sure and steady.
You might be asking, “How does the story end?” Well, we don’t know yet, but we do know how the story ended for 2020, and it is positive! As Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
In 2020, our company has learned to:
- be more creative and resourceful.
- be more flexible and “pivot” when necessary.
- improve our communications to clients.
- find ways of meeting virtually.
- be extra strategic with investments and financial planning.
- seize opportunities to care for our employees, including allowing them to work safely from home.
- better deal with the unknown and uncertainties.
- be more patient with each other and our circumstances.
- serve others above ourselves.
As a result of what we have learned and our focus on serving, we feel client satisfaction is at an all-time high, our Assets Under Management (AUM) have reflected an upward trend, and overall, we’ve had a remarkable year.
On a more personal level, we all have seen the positives of spending more time with family due to quarantining, clearing our schedules and distractions, stimulating our creativity, paying more attention to our emotional and physical health, and caring for others. We have discovered how to love more deeply and appreciate and cherish those around us.
Each one of us on the leadership team has experienced our own personal and business setbacks and victories as the pandemic has persisted, but one thing is for sure…we have all grown. We have grown to be more compassionate and more sensitive to the needs of our clients, employees, and families.
We have put service and safety first above profits. We have used this time to invest in meeting the needs of those less fortunate through philanthropic efforts in our community. We have strived to preserve unity. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”
Although we have experienced about as many ups and downs as the COVID-19 numbers themselves, we have tried to show steady, calm, and composed leadership.
The best writers, artists, and musicians will try to depict this moment in time, some painting the picture of doom and gloom and others using their creativity to offer hope and inspiration. For us as a company, we hope we will be remembered for our faithful service and our genuine care for our clients and our employees.
So yes…despite COVID-19, we feel 2020 has been a resounding success! We believe in the future. We have hope for the future. We are thankful for our faithful, resilient, understanding, patient, flexible, and good-natured clients who have helped us survive and thrive in 2020.
Lance Gunkel, Managing Director
Meri Grogan, Director of Finance and Administration
Matt Roberts, Chief Planning Officer