Learning from Kip Lewis: Important business lessons to take away from 2020

2020 brought upheaval and significant change to many aspects of life, including the way we do business. Business leaders have faced unprecedented obstacles and unexpected challenges, and they’ve had to urgently adapt to keep their businesses afloat.


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In 2020, business leaders around the world innovated, went digital, reoriented operations, shored up cash and liquidity, and worked to accommodate the shifting needs of the workforce.


As with all challenges and obstacles, these experiences create the opportunity to learn invaluable lessons. Business leaders who learn these lessons will build more resilient, adaptable foundations as they recover from the effects of the pandemic and position their businesses for the future.


In this article, we’ll share 7 lessons all business leaders should take away from 2020 from Kip Lewis, the President and Owner of real estate investment and development company Lewis Investments in Round Rock, Texas.


Kip Lewis: From Unfortunate Timing to Good Fortune

Lewis was one of many business owners to have his plans impacted by the pandemic. Early in 2020, Lewis Investments engaged JLL, a leading professional services firm and Fortune 500 company, to assist with a multiple property refinance. By March 2020, the project screeched to a halt due to the seizing of credit markets.


However, said Lewis, “What was initially perceived as unfortunate timing turned out to be good fortune, as the JLL team had the ability to search the market for alternative sources.” Ultimately, the team successfully completed the refinancing of a $17,000,000 portfolio of three large manufactured housing (MH) and recreational vehicle (RV) communities owned by Lewis Investments in Central Texas.


This ability to adapt, maintain optimism, and learn lessons along the way has served Lewis well throughout his career. He graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s in business administration before starting Lewis Investments with only $2,000 at just 27.


Today, Lewis has a portfolio of MH/RV properties, industrial, retail, office, residential, and raw land under management and development by Lewis Investments. He is passionate about the restoration of the historic Round Rock area and has purchased and remodeled 45,000 square feet of historic Round Rock buildings. Lewis Investments has grown to 30 employees and works to consistently give back to the surrounding community.


7 Business Lessons from Kip Lewis

1. Flexibility Is Key

Businesses that have been able to remain agile and quickly pivot in response to rapid change have survived. It’s important to stay open to innovation and creative solutions. Be willing to see new opportunities, shift your priorities, and adapt to new processes as necessary. In an ever-changing world, business leaders must stay nimble, recognizing that even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry.


2. Invest in Digital Marketing (and Technology in General)

People around the world have become increasingly reliant on the Internet this year, and business leaders must be prepared to meet consumers where they are. If you haven’t already invested in digital marketing, now is the time to do so. Connecting with your audience and building trust with them now won’t be forgotten, even after the pandemic is over.


As Lewis points out, it’s also important to know how to use your industry’s technology before you truly need it. For instance, many companies had to quickly adjust to online meetings, online project management, and other applications they hadn’t used much previously. Keep yourself and your staff up to date and comfortable with the latest technology trends, and you won’t have to scramble if similar circumstances arise in the future.


3. Take Care of Your People

Many business leaders have become more aware of the challenges their employees face, as well as the importance of employee morale. The physical and mental health of your employees is important not only on a personal level, but also for the success of your business.


Lewis explains that leaders can make a big difference even with small steps, like recognizing your employees’ successes, encouraging work-life balance, and checking in to see how your employees are holding up in times of stress. Employees who are burnt out mentally are not productive, and they’re less likely to stick around long-term. Especially during these difficult times, it’s important to take care of your people.


4. Learn to Do More With Less

Many companies have been surprised to find how much they can still accomplish with smaller budgets and reduced in-person interaction. It’s a reminder that there are many opportunities to cut costs if you’re willing to look for and implement them. Your employees are likely to have creative and insightful ideas on limiting expenditures too.

With the future unpredictable, it’s more important than ever to eliminate excess spending. Even as you find yourself with more room to breathe financially, keep the cost-cutting mindset you had during the pandemic. Do more with less, allowing yourself a buffer against emergency financial setbacks.


5. Communication and Continuity Matter

In times of stress, the way business leaders communicate with their employees and maintain a sense of normalcy is essential. If you respond to a crisis by panicking, your employees will most certainly panic as well. If your communication is unclear and scattered, your employees will feel confused and unsupported.


Lead with clear, empathetic communication that helps your employees feel informed and reassured. Even if your employees are working remotely, do what you can to maintain continuity in processes and company culture. It may look different (and decidedly more digital) now, but keep key norms in place. Make sure your people have the resources and support they need to remain productive and effective.


As many companies transition once again—this time back to the office or place of business—communication and continuity remain critical. Lewis points out that when everything else feels unpredictable, your team’s ability to trust in your leadership should remain the same.


6. Always Plan Ahead

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the necessity of planning ahead. Of course, none of us could have predicted 2020. At the very least, however, business leaders should strive to have cash buffers, plans for working remotely as needed, and incident management plans specific to the current crisis (in case similar circumstances occur in the future).


As your business stabilizes and you bring people back to work, take the time to assess your team’s response to the crisis. What areas could you work to correct moving forward? What steps can you take now to mitigate the negative impact of similar events in the future? Over-preparation is far preferable to under preparation.


7. Have Multiple Revenue Streams

In times of crisis, it’s extremely helpful to have multiple revenue streams. It’s the classic advice, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” When one type of business or aspect of your business hurts, the others can help keep you afloat. For example, companies fully invested in in-person events, hospitality, and retail suffered during the pandemic. Many didn’t recover.


The pandemic has likely given you time to develop formats or products responsive to the changing times. If not, think about how you can further diversify your business. Or consider how to offer your current products and services in multiple formats (including digital). As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, many consumers will still feel more comfortable shopping, learning, communicating, and finding entertainment from the comfort of their own homes. Keep this in mind as you ponder how to diversify and find additional revenue streams.


Put these business lessons from Kip Lewis, as well as the lessons you’ve personally learned in 2020, into practice to ensure the stability and security of your business. We don’t know when or if we’ll face a crisis of this magnitude again, but we do know that next time, we’ll be better prepared.