This year’s story is told in the graph of our sales. We started out strong, our sales energy was taking hold, and we quickly took a firm lead on 2019. This held steady and was even starting to grow as we headed into our busy season.
Near the end of March, amid the first big wave of Covid cases, Fort Worth enacted lockdown measures, and Trust closed its doors for about a month. Even when the total lockdown was lifted, our staffing was limited and our sales stayed very slow. Our customers were struggling along with us to figure out what doing business looks like in a pandemic. If you had talked to us in the middle of this plateau, we would have been worried. We didn’t know if business would ever pick back up, we didn’t know if our customers’ businesses would survive, we didn’t know if Trust would survive.
Around June, sales started ramping up again. After a couple more brief slow-downs, the last third of 2020 ended up tracking very closely to the same period of 2019. We’ve even hit a nice little spike to end the year, pulling us closer to our 2019 total than we ever would have expected when we were sitting at home in April staring at an empty schedule.
Breaking 2020 down into quarters paints an even clearer picture. If you just look at Q1 and Q4, you can see what 2020 might have been if we had gotten our usual summer spike. Even if we had just matched our Q2 from last year, we would have come out ahead of 2019!
For a year like 2020, surviving is enough. Trust survived, we didn’t have to reduce staff or salary, and we closed strong with a clear path forward to making up for our losses and continuing to grow into the future.
When Tarrant County locked down, we felt lost. What does a printshop do when we’re not allowed to print? For our owner, Matt, it meant busting his butt working with our bank to secure a PPP loan. This covered a couple months of payroll and bought us some time. For our leadership team, it meant continuing to meet weekly over video chat, staying on top of health and safety guidelines and staying connected and strong. For the rest of the team, it meant a month or so to be with their families, take care of kids, and figure out how to navigate pandemic life.
When the lockdown ended, we began looking for our new normal. Our first priority was the safety of our team, so we started with a small production staff and print teams limited to roommates and/or partners who were already in a bubble together. These few teams carried us for a while, and we can’t express how grateful we are to them for shouldering that load and keeping the presses spinning.
After ensuring that we had good safety standards, we brought more of the team back and moved back to normal press teams. Eventually, with temperature checks, distancing, staggered breaks, vigorous hand washing, and (most importantly) masks, we were able to get the full team back in the shop. Anyone who has contact with a possible case is sent home immediately until they can get tested, and we’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any positive covid cases on the team.
Working like this hasn’t been easy—if you’ve worked an 8 hour shift in a mask, you know the struggle—but our effort has been worth it. Besides keeping the team safe, it has allowed us to safely produce an incredible number of amazing products. We’ve been able to make money so we can survive, and we’ve provided our customers with the products they need to survive.
It was certainly a difficult year to find joy in our work. We were all more stressed and tired than usual, and the pandemic robbed us of our normal events, parties, and outings.
But we looked for the moments of joy and togetherness wherever we could. When we had a small production team allowed in the shop, we brought beers and danced when a good song came on. We played games for raffle tickets, we watched a scary movie, and we made some gifts for a good friend.
These joyful moments were vital this year, even when they were simple and hard to locate. A few weeks ago for Thanksgiving, we were finally able to gather together as a team and enjoy a nice lunch together at the park. We ate, talked, laughed, and slid down a hill in cardboard boxes. Jonathan said some wonderful words about how much we have to be thankful for. In the toughest of years, we still have steady work, a healthy team, and each other.
It’s impossible to know what next year holds for us. We are encouraged by the news of vaccines and the promise of normalcy at some point in 2021, but we know these things take time.
As a business, we are excited for the possibilities of 2021, no matter when the vaccines reach our doors. If the end of 2020 is any indication, next year could be huge for us. We’ve doubled our sales efforts, our team is lean and excellent, we have a great leadership team in place, and we have a great base of customers that keep growing and doing amazing things.
All we can do is work hard and stay safe in this final stage of the pandemic, and dream of the day that will arrive before we know it: when our entire team can walk into the shop vaccinated and safe, and we can do one giant group hug.
We hope you have a wonderful holiday! After the year we’ve had, we are taking a full 2 week break to rest and recharge. We will be closed from December 21—January 1, and we’ll be back on the 4th ready to attack 2021 with everything we’ve got. Be safe, get some rest, wash your hands, and wear a mask. We’ll see you next year!