Hindsight is 2020: Year in Review

Shana Gardner, CAS, Operations

2020 taught us a lot about ourselves as individuals, a company, and an industry.  Some were hard lessons, while others were uplifting, plumbing depths we didn't know we had.  It provided us an opportunity to recognize and overcome challenges both new and old.

Maple Ridge Farms has always had the technical capability for team members to work remote, but few took advantage of it with any regularity.  (We do really enjoy being here!)  The pandemic naturally changed this as we joined the remote work movement, with many Ridgers shifting to work entirely from home.  This led to a sweeping evaluation of procedures, many of which we realized could be made leaner.  Some worked well, some less so, but even the flops taught us valuable lessons that helped us to grow as a company, and the successes carried into the peak season even after team members had returned to the office.

As shows and sales calls were canceled left and right, our sales team had to become even more nimble.  This was accomplished by embracing technology and participating in virtual events and sales calls, as well as virtual education opportunities.  In addition to larger events, such as skucon at home, we also took part in a large variety of lunch-and-learns, webinars and other virtual events with our regional association partners, other industry organizations, and even directly with distributors.

We've always called ourselves the "Make It Happen" team, but 2020 really reminded us how we pull together to earn that moniker.  With orders being up our production team was hopping, so when time allowed the office teams came together to assist, whether it was putting labels on cubes at their desks or helping build towers on the production floor.  Both teams even coordinated working weekends to keep orders flowing out the door.

One thing that brings team members to the Farm—and keeps them coming back—is the sense of community.  Team members build lasting relationships, whether they're year-round or seasonal, old or new.  To help foster this feeling of family, Maple Ridge Farms would hold events, often with potlucks.  Needless to say, this wasn't an option in 2020, but we carried on.  Instead of potlucks, several days featured catered box lunches, while others offered individually-packaged pastries and baked goods.  While we weren't able to ooh and ahh over everyone's delicious recipes, we were still able to share some treats and connect.  We were also able to celebrate holidays like Halloween as a socially-distanced group through creative costuming.

We also learned a lot about the creativity of our customers!  We saw a large uptick in kitted gifts that included everything from wine glasses to pajama sets.  The excitement of the projects was contagious, as our teams worked together to kit the perfect gift.  It wasn't just kitted gifts that were creative, though, but the uses for stock gifts.  Virtual meeting gifts were huge, as were gifts for canceled events and shows.  We also found demand for individually-wrapped gifts, for those returning to their offices to share.   (Check out some of our case histories for more information!)

2020 was a challenging year, but by pulling together, planning, strategizing, and communicating, we made it through!  Additionally, it taught us valuable lessons that will help us develop and continue to grow not only in 2021, but for years to come.