Cancel OK

The benefit of hindsight

It is easy to become transfixed on the future, so much so that we may forget about the past and the present. We become so focused on what is to come that we miss out on the lessons learned from the past.

Why did something happen in a particular way? What did we learn from it? How can we use the past to make the future better?

I was a history major in college and one of my main interests then, as now, was World War I—specifically, how could a war of such carnage and magnitude be allowed to start in the first place?

The fact is, the war began for no good reason, and there seems to be no good answer for why. Does history fail to give us answers? The answer to this question is yes.

To move from such a heavy, philosophical example to our own actions is really my focus. As we look back on Covid-19 and how companies comported themselves, what did we learn?

It is fair to say much of what business leaders did was done on the fly. There was no book to read or YouTube video to watch that answered the question: “What should we have done?”

Nevertheless, there are a few things we can all agree on that might have made the pain a little easier to bear. To begin with, what was the state of your business at the beginning of Covid-19?

Were you in good financial health? Were you generating sufficient cash flow to pay bills? Were you overstaffed?

How about during the crisis? Did you involve your staff in the running of the business? Did you listen to others beside yourself?

There are many other questions you can ask to determine what and why you did what you did. Only you and your staff can ask and answer such questions.

Is it worthwhile asking such difficult questions? The answer is yes, if you want to do the hard work of using history as a means to make the future better.

History usually provides perspectives and answers—but only if you inquire of someone in the know.

Otherwise, you will never learn from the past, potentially making the future less certain.

Jim Carr is the President and CEO of Blue Book Services Inc.