2010 Looking forward to the year of the TIGER!

2009- the year of the groundhog, not sure the Chinese would agree, but for an event planner and fundraiser like me, that little rodent sums it up.  Every day, I woke up wishing it was over and now that we are so close to the end the clock seems to be ticking slower and slower.  What a wretched year it has been…time for it to end.

Like everyone I know who has survived the year, bruised, beaten but intact, we are waiting for the sunlight of 2010 with cautious optimism and the hesitant swagger of a soldier who dodged the fatal bullet with the stories of surviving in the trenches.

Like a party where the guests forget to come, 2009 was the year of sleepless nights and nervous stomachs.  For those of you who missed it, the economy wasn’t so good.  And for those who didn’t know, owning a small business was a game of Russian roulette.  Who got the bullet today?

But 2010, offers a ray of hope – the light at the end of the dank, cold tunnel of 2009.  About a month or so ago, I woke up and things weren’t so bad.  Like the morning after the apocalypse in those made for TV movies, the dust had settled and look…we were still here.  A bit amazing, cause before the commercial, well, things were kind of bleak.

We entered 2009 losing our two biggest clients.  Well, we weren’t alone – being rather large employers, with a rather large group of investors, a lot of people lost by their economic downturn.  But, for us it was significant.  We went on to down grade our third biggest client in an effort to grow new business – it was a necessary risk..

2009 was by far the scariest of times.  But, as I reflect on the year that was, I also know that I have always learned more during time of adversity than ever in times of prosperity.  Not sure what that says, but it definitely puts a spin on life that makes it more interesting.

When faced with the brick wall in 2009, we decided to climb.  Instead of reducing staff, we cut expenses, and for the first time didn’t give raises across the board.  Instead of asking staff to pay for their healthcare (we have always been 100% employer paid), we shopped competitively and became creative in cutting costs.

As I watched friends cut staff and close offices, I knew that the only way we would survive was to take risk and to keep growing.  The staff has always been my greatest asset, so we hunkered down, became even more interactive and worked together to set priorities.

We expanded by purchasing another fundraising company with a complementary client base.  It increased our debt, but we also added revenue and assets to bring new business to our table.

We looked ahead and saw the future of our business.  So, we started a new company – Comitatus Consulting to harness the power of social media and to be on the cutting edge of technology in politics and event planning.  Comitatus will play a key role in our growth, and in the worst economic conditions in over a decade, we decided success was defined by good ideas.  And somehow, we actually are entering 2010 with exciting products to roll out and an unparalleled infrastructure backbone to our other businesses.

The power of branding didn’t escape us.  In the past, we were fortunate.  Our successful event planning and fundraising business was built via word-of-mouth.  Going forward, we realized that investing in a marketing and communications strategy was essential—which today even includes a blog.  Okay, 2010’s resolutions mean I will write more scintillating tales – I swear!

Finally, all agreed that reducing debt and increasing efficiency were the critical keys to our long-term growth strategy.  Without cutting staff, this would be difficult.  But to me that wasn’t an option.  Instead, after reviewing every expenditure, we have streamlined our processes.  We worked collectively and individually to assess client services and products in an effort to maximize client satisfaction.

As miserable as 2009 has been, and trust me, it was not fun,  we have so much to be thankful for – both personally and professionally.

I know some absolutes – first and foremost, that I am blessed with the best staff in the business.  Folks who work hard, who feel a sense of ownership in all that they do.  They are dedicated, tough, smart and driven.  I just could not be luckier to have them on my team.

We have loyal clients who have trusted us and who have grown with us this year.  We are proud to have clients who have retained us for years and years who have expanded their services as we have expanded our offerings.  We thank them today and every day for sticking with us.

2009 has brought us babies and engagements and puppies and new teammates.  It kicked Scott’s butt and made Peggy a hero all in one terrifying day.

But we are so very glad to see the end of  2009.  We won’t miss it, I can promise you.

And as the clock ticks down, like the tiger behind the gate,  we are waiting to pounce into 2010, taking with us all we have learned and all for which we are grateful to begin a new year with new optimism and regained enthusiasm for all that we do.

Thanks to you all for your support, your friendship and your loyalty.  May the new year be eventful!

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