Looking Back at 2020

Paradigms and Adapting

We could talk about the obvious parts of 2020. Focus on this entirely new paradigm upon us, and what we all know it’s done to change the face of business. In the end, though, 2020 was about adaptation. 

We learned (and continue to learn) how to navigate a new way of doing business. Those not already using digital means of communication had to adapt to this method of interaction. Companies not already offering remote opportunities had to shift gears quickly to accommodate without interrupting the flow of customer interactions and relationships. Many professionals were also adapting to being a teacher while also continuing to perform their job to the best of their ability. 

Ultimately, though, it was the willingness and ability to adapt that decided how we’d navigate an entirely new set of challenges. With that in mind, we wanted to look back at a few ways that Special-Lite focused on forging ahead, how we adjusted to constant changes, and what got us through this year. 

People, Passion, Performance

This year gave us the launch of our all-new values and mission statement. It was a project a year in the making. It started when we were all still interacting face to face. We finalized and launched when most of us were in makeshift offices in our homes. This project’s significance is what kept it going when we had to adjust to a new way of working together. In the end, the values we were launching were the very ideals that allowed us to do so. People. Passion. Performance. 

The words speak for themselves, but the truest meaning of these words together and apart is that they focus on success. They prioritize relationships. Our values honor Special-Lite’s reputation as a company of integrity, dedication to its internal and external customers, and manufacturer of high-quality products. 

Our values were launched virtually for our remote staff, publicly on our social media channels, and with added signage for our hard-working production staff on-site. These are the principles and driving forces that got us through 2020 and will take us into the new year. 

Blazing New Product Trails

When it comes to our products, this year was on fire for us. Our drive to deliver quality and high-performance products meant this year saw many new launches. Most notably, a considerably expanded fire- and smoke-rated line that gives us the ability to produce and deliver all of your rated (and non-rated) entryway needs. 

In March, our Fire-Rated Ambassador, Blaze, introduced the FireSafe 20. A 20-minute fire-rated door designed to complement our existing line of fire-rated models (30-90 minute).  Innovation can mean many different things, including understanding that it includes looking back and adding to what’s already done. Including adding a 20-minute rating to our exclusive pultruded all fiberglass door (the AF-100). We studied the additional needs of rated builds and additionally this year launched two smoke seal options in our existing monumental and interior stile and rail doors. Doing so allows us to support our customers with cost-saving options for the fire- and smoke-rated commercial build requirements. 

Staying Connected in a Virtual World

Special-Lite has always had a culture that prioritizes people. Understanding the human side of the business and that a company’s success often rides on its employees’ satisfaction. Instead of knocking on office doors to chat this year, we video chatted. Where most interactions were phone, email, messaging, and more, it can become very easy to lose the connection needed among a staff and its customers that keeps relationships strong. With that in mind, and again, adaptation at the forefront, we added activities to keep everyone connected. We offered photo contests with multiple ways of entry for our staff to share what they were doing at various times of the year. During a year when we are all much more confined than we’re used to, there was value in the activities we found to stay active, and keep our mindsets positive. One of our internal contests let our staff share photos of activities like kayaking, taking walks, or learning new hobbies. With even the holidays taking on a new form of celebration, we rose to the occasions and still enjoyed festive events. Offering staff a chance to dress up in their festive attire, and decorate their spaces and share with their fellow employees. It goes without saying that 2020 was a year where every company likely struggled with keeping up morale. Finding new ways to do so was another chance to keep our family mindset strong. 

Continued Growth Despite Added Challenges

Continuing to maintain some type of consistency in workflow, while adjusting to new ways of doing so, could have made it easy for growth to stall. This past year, though, still saw expansion, added manufacturing capabilities at our Benton Harbor facility, and continued additions to the Special-Lite family. All while continuing to improve on existing processes and standards, including lead times and quality trends. Growth doesn’t have to stop because of challenges. In fact, sometimes that’s the biggest driver of progress, is learning what’s necessary for improvement while tackling other obstacles. 

The above may all seem like blips in a year with much bigger happenings. For us, though, these are how we keep forging ahead. Continue serving. Preserve our reputation of customer service and support, and ensure our People are set up to continue Performing with Passion. 

At the helm of all of the above and so much more, was our President, Steve Benscoter.  In closing our year-end look back, Steve has offered his thoughts on what this year has meant for us and likely for most business leaders right now. 

President’s Message

For me, 2020 was a year of uncertainty.  Is it safe to send kids to school?  Can I go to the store?  Why am I more excited than my dog about walks and car rides?  Who is buying all of the toilet paper?  How do I protect everyone?  Is it safe to travel?  Do I really need to buy hand sanitizer by the gallon?  Should I vote by mail?  Do I need to wipe down the mail?  Do I need to wipe down the groceries?  Speaking of groceries, why does the clerk at the grocery store now always ask me if I found the wine I was looking for?  

At Special-Lite, we were not immune to uncertainty as we worked to answer many questions and respond to challenges we had never faced.  Through it all, we never strayed from our core values of People, Passion, and Performance.  We used these as our guideposts to drive our decisions and behaviors.  

Related to our value of People, I am very proud that we did not have any jobs impacted due to the pandemic. That was only made possible by everyone’s collective commitment to not only our customers but also to embracing the many new policies and procedures we established in response to the pandemic.  In a year where many companies were forced to cut back on benefits and other perks, we protected the many perks that make Special-Lite a ‘special’ place.   

Our value of Passion was evident throughout the year.  In addition to continuing to honor our customers with exceptional service, we demonstrated our passion for innovation by launching many new products, to include our Fire-Safe 20 interior door, new wood grain options for our all fiberglass fire rated and SL fire rated series, and new fire ratings and smoke labels on other products.  Our business model also innovated as we transitioned a large portion of our workforce to remote work.  While there were certainly some learnings through the process, I am very proud of all of our team members as they adjusted to new ways of work while keeping focused on our customers’ needs. 

Finally, despite all that was happening, every member of the Special-Lite family embraced our value of Performance.  Over the course of the year, we improved our quality trends and order lead times and, despite many obstacles, remained committed to holding ourselves accountable to high-performance standards.  

Thank you to all of our customers for the privilege of supporting you.  Thank you to all of the Special-Lite family members for your commitment to our customers and each other.  

While I am excited to turn the page in 2020, I am equally excited and optimistic about 2021.  In the face of new challenges and new questions, our core values of People, Passion, and Performance will continue to guide our decisions.  And our decisions will always focus on providing exceptional solutions and service to our customers and a great workplace for our team members.  

Happy Holidays everyone!

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