Executive Search in USA – 2021 Outlook

Resilience the Key to US Recovery

It is safe to say 2020 was likely the strangest year on record for most of us, particularly on the business front, due to the global COVID pandemic.  An entire year of ups, downs, twists and turns certainly kept us on our toes and truly only the strong have survived

That is not a knock on anyone in a business that failed as the economics of this pandemic have been flat out confounding: depending on which side of the coin you landed on is probably how your business faired.

For example, if you are in the fine dining restaurant business and could not pivot to take-out, you were on the wrong side of the proverbial flipped coin. But if you were in the commercial banking business and managed to process literally thousands of PPP loans and assisted homeowners who took advantage of the historically low mortgage rates you were on the other, more positive, side of that same coin!

It was manna from heaven for some and doom and gloom for others. Add on top of the pandemic a Presidential election cycle in the US that was less than normal along with horrific social unrest and that spelled DISASTER for so many businesses, particularly small business.

But the ups somehow offset the downs and we saw historical highs in the stock market that just did not seem possible. Perhaps the economy was in such high gear prior to the pandemic that it just kept on rolling or perhaps the tech giants that kept us entertained managed to keep it afloat.  Whatever the reason, the surging stock market was a welcome reprieve from all the negativity and gave us a light at the end of this tunnel.

Predicting what will happen in 2021 is anyone’s guess as optimism and pessimism grapple to see which one will end up on top this year.  As vaccines, herd immunity, and a new administration emerges in early 2021, our economy certainly seems primed for a rebound.

In fact, the folks at Morgan Stanley are predicting a strong US recovery of 5.9% GDP growth and, overall, it appears most forecasts agree to a consensus of 3.8% growth. I will venture to say it would be difficult for our situation to get any worse, but I also feel a simple turn of the calendar to a new year will not usher in immediate improvement.  So the first couple of quarters, I am afraid, will likely feel all too familiar.

But, as the pendulum swings back the other way and the pandemic, hopefully, starts to be seen in the rear-view mirror, we will be back to business and a recovery that is SO needed to get people back to work and businesses thriving again.

In terms of the recruiting business, it has been a tough year for many as firms struggle to stay active with unemployment peaking mid-year in the 10%+ range in many areas. Having lived through the 2009 downturn and a couple of Presidential election cycles, the recruiting business tends to slow during such times, but it typically comes back strong.

We may not see a V shape recovery, but I remain optimistic that a U shaped recovery will come and I’m hopeful we all come out of this downturn stronger and even better prepared to serve our clients because of the struggles encountered.

Necessity is the mother of invention and some of the creativity and the way businesses pivoted during this downturn has been nothing short of amazing. People are resilient and I’m certain that resilience will be the key to recovery.