It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: the past year has been like no other. However, with vaccine numbers increasing and infection rates slowing, we are beginning to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The big question, both personally and professionally, is, “will things really go back to the way they were pre-pandemic?”. The view on that from my sales desk, which is still the dining room table as both my wife Annie and I continue to work from home, is “yes and no.”
I’ve been on a few road trips as restrictions have begun to loosen and I am finding that about 50% of our customers are ok with in-person visits and 50% are not. Hopefully, with improvements in vaccine distribution and eventual herd immunity, we will be able to meet in person more regularly. But, as always, SIGMA’s top concern is the customer, so we will continue to honor individual preferences regarding virtual vs in-person meetings.
Because ours is a relationship business, the transition to virtual meetings has been a significant shift for a lot of folks in the industry, and many people are eager to return to the way things were before. Some people I have spoken with believe that travel will pick up to pre-pandemic levels. Others believe that digital communication will replace in-person communication even when unrestricted travel is permitted. I know for a fact that major players in the industry saved significant amounts in travel and entertainment expenses in 2020, which impacted the bottom line. I believe we will end up with some sort of hybrid model. Digital communication is fine when relationships already exist, but to establish a new relationship, in-person meetings are much more effective.
The biggest unknown from SIGMA’s perspective in the coming year is when the shortage of containers and vessels to move product will subside. All global suppliers are subject to the same challenge; we are doing our best, and our long-standing relationships and boots on the ground have helped us and our customers, but this remains a question for everyone.
On the home front, thankfully, our kids have returned to school, so my office no longer doubles as a kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd grade classroom. They are happier, back in their routine, and that is a huge plus. Baseball season is starting soon, so the kids are geared up for Little League, and with spring on the near horizon, we are all anxious to spend more time outdoors. The only family member who won’t be happy to see the end of this era is our Black Lab, Scout. He has enjoyed having the family around all the time to play fetch, go for long walks, and keep him company. But as they say, the only constant is change, so we all—even the dog–will adjust.