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“Pivoting,” “unprecedented,” “new normal,” “stay safe.” These are all words or phrases that quickly became a part of our everyday conversations last March. Business leaders across the country were scrambling to chart new courses in a changed world. At HomeSmart International, we decided to take a different path.

I found myself seeking moments of self-reflection, looking to find calm in the storm and being thoughtful about next steps rather than reacting to each piece of news and every prediction about business and life. It was a good reminder that in times of turmoil, it’s important to focus on what you can influence and/or control.

We knew we had a solid plan for 2020 and had already started executing on it when our world changed last spring. Industry sources said we’d be down 70%, but our data was telling a different story. We saw a path to recovery that wasn’t as dire as the experts thought, but knew we needed to take some steps to get there. We ramped up communication, adjusted our approach to our revenue goals, went virtual and kept service as our No. 1 priority. As fall rolled around, we were back on pace for the year, employees were engaging in the culture and optimism could again be felt through our every move.

The lesson in this crisis isn’t the successful tactical steps we took to survive, but the fact that we already had our organization’s foundation in place to succeed when it mattered most, allowing us to focus on what we could control. This meant that we didn’t need to reinvent our company in the middle of the crisis like many others.

For years, we have been putting everything in place to be able to handle what 2020 threw at us, both good and bad. Rather than rashly go into survival mode and pivot, we trusted our plan, kept working it and relied on our culture. This kept us from making it up as we went and lurching from rash decision to rash decision. Our long-held philosophy of leading to thrive and playing to win paid off.

With the pandemic’s end hopefully in sight, and the promise of normal life returning soon, it’s critical as leaders that we don’t chalk it all up to surviving another uncontrollable crisis or we will miss very valuable lessons. But if we pick and choose the things we wish to keep with us, we are fooling ourselves into thinking we couldn’t have done any better. We need to keep it all. The good, the bad, the tears, the success, the rebuild and more. By embracing all that 2020 brought us, we as leaders will forever be in a position to lead our teams to thrive.

Ashley Bowers is president of HomeSmart International and has more than 20 years of experience in talent management and organizational growth industries. She thrives on empowering teams to achieve success and drive profits, and brings a unique approach to organizational leadership. For more information, visit