As with every company, Centric Consulting faced a lot of challenges in 2020. In this transcript from the Centric Biz and Tech Talks podcast, our managing members talk to host John Kackley about how we overcame those challenges and what’s different about 2021.
Business leaders all over the world worked tirelessly to help their organizations transition to working remotely in 2020 — and when they couldn’t do that, they created new operations to ensure their teams would be safe during the pandemic.
As we transition in 2021 and continue to process the changes we must all endure during COVID-19, our leaders have a few ideas about what could happen now. Learn more about what 2020 meant for us and how we’re navigating what’s next in the “Centric’s Biz and Tech Talks” excerpt below:
John Kackley: A lot of stuff happened in 2020. What about 2020 changed your outlook for 2021? Did you take the 2021 plan and just rip it to shreds and start all over?
Dave Rosevelt: I would say I’m incredibly optimistic about it. I thought we came through 2020 way better than expected. It was really cool to see how everyone — really, everyone across the entire company — came together to get through it. So that part was done so well — it actually surprised me, and my expectations were high.
Larry English: So, when the pandemic happened, like everybody else, we were freaking out as a business and [there was] lots of uncertainty.
But, because we’ve been a remote company for 20 years and because all of our offerings are what companies need to help them become all-digital companies and be able to do business anywhere, we were really well-positioned.
So, we just had our best month ever as a company in October — all time! There’s no way I would’ve thought that would have happened six months ago. So, we really have 2021 — considering everything that’s happened, we consider  a huge success and we’re really proud of it. And we’re honestly very bullish.
As a vaccine starts to become available, we think the economy will be really good the next two years, and we’re positioning ourselves for growth.
John Kackley: So, with all that excitement and positivity, were there any goals we had for this year that we had to acknowledge at some point we couldn’t meet?
Eric Van Luven: Most of them. I think, easily our revenue at some point pretty early on — it became clear that we weren’t going to catch up. But beyond that, no.
Dave Rosevelt: We were going to launch Detroit, and we put that off. That was one goal. Financially, though, yeah, we’re going to maybe miss our numbers, but we’re coming close enough that it feels like we hit plan.
The summer meeting as well — I don’t know if that’s a goal really, but that was a big bummer not to be able to do it face-to-face.
John Kackley: What are some things you’re most proud of about Centric in 2020?
Jeff Lloyd: Just surviving would be the key, but surviving with a sense of confidence by the end of all of it. Not a sense of overconfidence, like we can do anything.
Adaptability of our company. We always knew when we were smaller, that we were pretty nimble, agile, and if something was thrown at us, we could just dodge or pivot, and we’d be fine. And when you get large, you start to wonder, can you do the same things? Can you survive?
And it was a tremendous amount of stress, a tremendous amount of effort — not just with the group of people on the call, but the entire company. But man, it’s pretty spectacular what we’ve been able to accomplish through the adaptability and agility, being nimble, being relevant, asking ourselves the right question.
And it convinces me that if we stick to our core purpose, which really gets back to: the Unmatched Experience is doing the right things for our people, doing the right things for our clients and stay totally focused there, it gets us through a heck of a lot. So the entire year proved to me that we’re on the right path, doing those things.
Larry English: The thing for me, that I’m most proud of, is how we took care of each other. COVID-19 has been hard on every single person in the company. We’ve had employees that have lost parents and family members.
Everybody has had all kinds of difficulty in dealing with it. And we came together as a family and really exercised compassion and caring for everybody. And I feel closer to everybody coming out of this. So super proud of it.
John Kackley: So it sounds in most ways as a real culture victory, right? Who we are was a big part of coming out of this well. Do you think we’ll change any going into 2021, as a culture?
Dave Rosevelt: I think it’s shown us what we can do together. In that way, it really is pretty amazing not to do any salary reductions or layoffs through this pandemic. It tells us what we can do in the future. A lot of operating groups — a lot of portions of our company — have really grown during the pandemic, individually. Particularly some of the smaller ones built a lot of confidence. So I would say if anything, it gives us a lot more confidence going forward as a company.
Jeff Lloyd: We got through the COVID segment and then they started to open the economy back up — and then there’s a really massive stage of social unrest, [which] played upon a real strength of the centric culture overall, in that it’s a group of people who really care about each other.
I think it brought us together in a bigger, more unified way across the company, both how we look at ourselves internally and how we look at the world around us. And I just see such momentum around that and growth around that. That will continue to evolve throughout the next year as well.
You know, in a year when we couldn’t be together face-to-face, I feel closer to the people across the entire company than I ever have. Mostly because we stare at each other on video cameras all day. But I think that will continue, and we will really appreciate being together in person next chance we get to do it.
John Kackley: What are some of the exciting goals that we have for Centric for next year ?
Dave Rosevelt: Well, I think to me what’s exciting about next year is there’s a real opportunity to grow our company a great deal and also be able to expand what we can do for our clients. A lot of our service offerings and industry vertical expertise really matured in this past year. It had to in helping our clients better understand what we’re able to do.
And we think the next three years — two- to- three- years at least should see great growth. So, we want to be able to take advantage of that as much as possible, uh, for our company as well as for our clients.
Larry English: For me, when COVID hit, we realized we had a lot of knowledge and skills that could help companies survive it. And so, we mobilized, and we put out a tremendous amount of thought leadership and we were able to help a lot of companies.
And, where we’re going as an organization and our envisioned future, we want to be a nationally recognized brand, and we want to be a known thought leader in the space. And so, the things that we’re doing to position ourselves, across the knowledge that we have and across the organization to share — I’m excited that we’re building a platform to do that.
John Kackley: You had the spring meeting right before we shut everything down or got locked out, [and focused on] Centric everywhere, trying to cover all the country rather than just our local BU areas. Has that strategy been turned upside down here or accelerated or slowed down?
Larry English: No, the exact opposite. If anything, we think that that strategy that we were building pre-pandemic is the ideal strategy in a post-pandemic world. And so quite frankly, we’re looking at accelerating the things that you talked about in our envisioned future in the platform that we’re building out.
Dave Rosevelt: It continues to be really important, we believe, to have our local offices. And we certainly want to leverage all of Centric to bring the best of Centric to our clients. But a differentiator for us is our local relationships, so we want to continue to figure out how to be part of the communities and more and more cities across the country, for sure. And we think that the model we built out is really going to allow us to accelerate that over the next few years.
John Kackley: So as a consultant, I’ve worked remotely a lot and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I think most of our Centric folks have gotten pretty good at it, but, I think a lot of us would also say that we do our best work for our clients when we’re with them in their environment, side-by-side with them.
What do you think about that? How do you think that moves forward? Do we come to stay more virtual? Do you think we’re losing something if we do that?
Larry English: I’m talking to a lot of people about it, and we’ve been helping a lot of organizations that are actually in the process of permanently adopting remote work. So just recently, I interviewed some of the top researchers at the world’s largest office brokerage companies. And they’re saying 75% of companies are going to come back with a hybrid model, meaning you’re in the office sometimes and you’re outside of it working remote or in a shared space or wherever you want to work.
We see that as the way that most companies are going to adopt it, and it allows you access to the best talent in the world that way. And so, I would say the vast majority of companies are going to adopt it. And so, in the past, what you saw was an all-remote company, like we were, was super, super rare. I think very soon in the future, one that’s all in the office is going to be very, very rare.
So, what that means for us as a consulting organization is I think it’s very much here to stay and clients are going to be much more comfortable working with virtual teams of consultants. And so we think the business model that we’ve built prepares us for that.
John Kackley: And how would you coach consultants on how to strengthen their remote working?
Dave Rosevelt: To me, different players want different things. But I would say it’s important to have time where you are with people, even if you’re working remotely. Post-vaccine, I think there’ll be more opportunities to do that.
And, in my view, while we will have a hybrid model, I do think the fact that we have local consultants will still benefit us and benefit our clients to be able to have people easily be on site from time to time as necessary.
Larry English: I think the things that help make you a great remote worker are things like bringing your whole self to work, sharing your entire personality so people get to know you, learning how to resolve conflict virtually and, as Dave said, knowing the right times to get together because it’s finding the right balance for the team that you’ve got contributing.
So much of remote work now is predicated on having great tools. When you have that virtual door knock, you need to respond and treat it just like it was in the physical as well.
Jeff Lloyd: One thing I would say for the remote thing, it: It was novel in the beginning, in the idea of not having to drive to work and everything else. You start to appreciate, “Wow, I get a lot of extra hours in the day, not just having to commute and stuff.”
The mundane nature of sitting in the same desk early in the morning…but you got to change it up. You got to mix it up a little bit and do something different. That could mean different rooms. It can mean taking the right breaks throughout the day, because otherwise it’s really easy to sit at your electronic device all day long, staring at the video, and it’s probably unhealthy, too.
John Kackley: So, what’s the biggest thing you’re looking forward to in 2021?
Larry English: Getting back together!
Dave Rosevelt: Yeah, definitely getting back together. Hopefully for at least the summer meeting. It would be neat if we were able to do a spring meeting, but I think the odds on that are a bit lower.
Jeff Lloyd: I would be pumped to have live spectator sports again — to actually attend a game in person. I think that’ll be part of the next meeting!
John Kackley: Anything else about how we’re going from this crazy year into the future that you want to share or any sort of capstone comments?
Dave Rosevelt: Future’s bright!
Jeff Lloyd: Dave nailed it on the front-end. I’ve got a blend of optimism and confidence. All the uncertainty, which is definitely there — none of us knows that the vaccine is going to work, when they get it out, who gets it — but it’s almost like a doesn’t matter because I can’t imagine too many additional curve balls being thrown at us beyond what was thrown this year.
That gives me tremendous confidence to say, you’re going to get one, but you’re also going to know how to pivot, and the rest of the organization is going to be right there and ready to do it too. We will accomplish some pretty incredible things, I believe, over the next two to three years.
Dave Rosevelt: It’ll be fun to see what we can do with no distractions or fewer distractions, no pandemic, no election, no company-wide infrastructure and investments that affect everybody. I think that’ll be kind of fun to see what we can do without any distractions or any major distractions.
Eric Van Luven: I’m excited. I think 2020 is one of those years you will never forget, but it’s really shown us what we’re made of. And I think I feel really awesome about where we’re at and going forward.