By Courtney Fairchild on December 31, 2020
I think it’s safe to say we’re all ready for 2021—from the pandemic to politics, 2020 has been a year fraught with fear and uncertainty. But while, of course, there are many parts of this year I’d like to forget, there has also been light in the darkness, with many lessons learned that I will keep forever.
GovCon Kept Moving
In a year when many businesses—and whole sectors of the economy—have struggled to stay afloat, I’m deeply thankful that our industry has experienced very little disruption.
This year, GSA released multiple Refreshes of its MAS Solicitation until landing on its current #5, each time making content deletions and additions to further streamline the program for contractors who want to get on Schedule. This year, we’ve had new clients seek our assistance with GSA’s MAS process and have had many clients return to their GSA Schedule submission process, or push for Modifications to their existing contract to best serve their federal clients. My team and I have been busy supporting all things MAS for our clients, from the submission process to Mass Mod guidance.
At the same time, major GWAC programs have continued to push ahead. This year saw successful OASIS on-ramps for many of our clients. We supported numerous STARS III and ASTRO proposals, and continue to support our clients’ preparations for the CIO-SP4 RFP expected in January.
The cancellation of Alliant 2 SB surprised everyone, but the announcement of its replacement, Polaris, sets a solid course for small businesses and customer agencies in future acquisitions of IT solutions. And in addition to GWACs, other Federal procurements have continued to move ahead at their usual brisk pace.
Lessons Learned in 2020
In 2020, my business became 100% remote for the first time. I would’ve shuddered at the thought prior to this year, but the pandemic has taught me that our work environment is far more flexible than I’d believed. We shifted away from the traditional office setting, traded face-to-face for virtual, and said goodbye to our rush-hour commutes.
And while these changes offered an improved work-life balance in many ways, we faced a new challenge: knowing when to turn off our computers and walk away. With our offices now inside our respective homes, we were always just a few steps away from being “at work.” It hardly seemed worth taking time off when we knew we’d just be stuck at home. Burnout became a real threat.
I started this year protecting my team’s physical health by sending us to our home offices. I was soon reminded that more steps were needed to support our mental well-being.
When my team’s schedules were overbooked, I would remind them of their ability to decline meetings or virtual events if their schedules did not permit. I learned to check in with my team more often, ask how they were feeling, and encourage them to take time off to decompress.
In March, my team initiated a new, virtual morning standup meeting that led to more opportunities to share workloads and to bond as a team. As a Small Business, we have a benefit that many large businesses do not: getting to know each other very well. So, in these meetings, we didn’t just talk about our daily tasks, we offered movie recommendations, talked about our families, and shared words of encouragement when team members were facing hardships. I wouldn’t have believed it a year ago, but our team actually grew closer while working remotely.
Working from home gave us all the opportunity to spend more time with our loved ones (pets included, of course), which is the upside we’ve taken away from this year. And even though we couldn’t see people in person, we had all the technology we needed to stay connected.
This shift made me truly realize how often I took opportunities to connect in person with others for granted. Work would often monopolize my days, and lunch with friends or weekend trips to visit family had to be postpone or cancelled. This year, I learned to devote more time to my friends and loved ones, to be grateful for the opportunity to spend time together. I learned not to take something as simple as coffee with a friend for granted.
What Lies Ahead
At the time of writing this post, two vaccines have been authorized in the United States. The logistical challenges of producing and distributing vaccines across the country are immense, and so far, they are only available to certain high-risk groups including health care workers and patients in long-term care facilities. It may be many more months before vaccines are available to the public—but the end of the pandemic is finally in sight.
All over the news, all over social media, we’re beginning to see images of those on the front lines smiling behind their masks as they receive these historic vaccines. The sense of relief is powerful. And while we can’t yet go back to life as when knew it before 2020, we’ve learned to embrace the “New Normal” to pave a safer future for everyone.
A year from now, we should be able to sit in a restaurant or get on a plane again without fear. We should be able to go to a concert, see a movie, or visit a friend without a second thought. But as life begins to return to normal, I hope we’ll carry the best parts of 2020 forward with us.
We truly are all in this together. Our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers—we all depend on one another in ways that have never been clearer. Let’s continue to protect one another. Let’s reach out. Let’s offer support and words of encouragement. Let’s remember how fortunate we are to have all the things we used to take for granted.
If we go into 2021 committed to a safer and brighter future for all, I believe there’s nothing we can’t achieve. Happy New Year!
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