As we reflect on the year, there is no denying this has been one of the most challenging years of our lifetime. There were many trying days but they each made us stronger. Some of my favorite moments likely would not have happened in a “normal” year. Just to mention a few, I had the opportunity to spend more time with my grown children, take extended walks in my neighborhood while participating in work calls, Zoom with the entire firm routinely and introduce them to my dog Ruby. This year has certainly shown us a new level of appreciation for the little things.
I hope that as we journey into a new year with many of the same challenges, we will remember that we are strong and will persevere as ONE DHG. Below I share five ways 2020 has made us stronger.
1. People-First Will Always be DHG’s Approach
This year, a people-first approach had a two-fold meaning for our firm. The firm’s strategic response to COVID-19 was to take care of our people and preserve long-term careers. However, as the events of 2020 unfolded, the people-first approach also meant our people taking care of each other. Everyone was experiencing a stressful time – whether dealing with a childcare crisis, anxiety, or concern over safety in their own community – we were reminded of the power of small acts of kindness. Teams checked in often, sent doughnuts, offered help with virtual schooling, and were reminded we are not alone. From the background of Zoom calls, we were welcomed into each other’s home to meet children, pets and loved ones. This year brought us closer on a personal level and I hope this sense of connection will prevail.
2. Listening and Learning Leads to Action
As a firm, we recognized the importance of having the hard, but needed, conversations on inequities and inclusion during the #MeToo movement in 2017. After the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we asked our Black teammates the important question, “Are you okay?” Our firm reignited these difficult conversations to hear from DHG teammates on their experience being Black in America. The overwhelming reaction to My Experience: Black in America expanded into additional My Experience sessions on Hispanic Heritage, Professional Parents and Veterans. Over 3,000 people joined these sessions, which generated over 200 comments and questions inciting deeper conversation and learning. It takes courage to self-reflect but our people left these conversations with their “eyes opened” to new perspectives and experiences. We are on a constant journey to be a truly representative firm and will continue to listen and learn to advance DHG as the Firm of the Future. I am extremely proud to work alongside leaders and team members who passionately agreed something must be done.
3. Willingness to Adapt and Learn
The interesting part of 2020 is that every day felt the same, yet so different with a spur of new challenges. Every day our teams brought their passion, integrity and agility to adapt to new challenges. These challenges included navigating Zoom challenges during firmwide calls, conducting an audit virtually, staying connected with clients, and keeping up with the ever-evolving CARES Act and more. I am beyond proud of the entire firm’s “can do” attitude – the willingness to pivot and innovate that I witnessed was inspiring.
4. The Power of Transparent Communications
Our world changed virtually overnight. On Friday, March 13, we decided to close our offices effective immediately. Our people were facing so much uncertainty – childcare concerns, financial stress, mental health implications – they needed to be assured that DHG was there for them. Our Executive Committee said, “Matt, you've got to get in front of everybody and you have to make them feel calm, to see that we have a plan in place, and that everything's going to be ok.” I learned getting on a 2200-person Zoom broadcast and just speaking the truth to be one of the most successful strategies for us. In the beginning, I was addressing our team members via Zoom once a week, when clarity and hope were needed the most. I believe this approach brought us together and will continue to do so in 2021.
5. Difficult Times Remind Us What Matters Most
This year forced us all to take a step back and recognize what matters most. Speaking to my personal experience, optimism and gratitude kept me going on even the hardest days. When you focus on your mindset, you can see the silver linings. Many of us saw our grown children more than we ever thought possible in their adult life, enjoyed afternoon recess with our school-aged kids, learned a new recipe, got to know our neighbors more with socially distanced conversations, stayed more connected with family on FaceTime or picked up a new hobby. In the dark, there is light, and I hope everyone can take a moment to reflect on the year and find their source of light amid the darkness.
I would like to thank our people and clients for your support during this unprecedented year. As we look ahead to 2021, I have the utmost confidence that we will continue to emerge together and emerge strong.