2021 – A Look Ahead  

Many eulogies will be written about 2020. It has been a year of uncertainty as a pandemic swept a polarized country during a record-breaking election. At this writing, COVID-19 infection rates soar. President-elect Biden has put together a task force to address the public health emergency, and a nationwide mask mandate appears likely when he takes office in January. Meanwhile, on November 9, Pfizer announced that the initial trial shows a vaccine that is 90% effective, which would make this vaccine about as effective as the measles vaccine. There will be challenges with manufacturing and distribution, but the news from Pfizer and D.C. has caused a record-breaking rally in the global stock markets.

Speaking of masks, we’re hoping that 2021 sees an increase in mask use. Keeping fellow Americans safe has got to be the highest form of patriotism. And as coincidence would have it, we’ve been working with OCTO®, the makers of a patented respirator device that we think will make major headlines in the new year. Not just “pretty fabric on a worn-out idea,” this reusable mask kills viruses and bacteria naturally, and it’s a game-changer.

To paraphrase the great Monty Python, no one expects a global pandemic. But we certainly feel well prepared for this moment. Our model has always been a team that works remotely, so while many agencies adjust to life without an office, we were way ahead and hit the ground running. The days of sitting around baking bread all day are long over! This crew is busy. Sure, we have technology clients, healthcare clients, and finance clients but, speaking of bread (wink), our bread has always been buttered by builders and developers, and some have seen communities selling at triple the pace of last year.

The biggest challenge for builders and developers isn’t COVID, it’s lack of land. Leonard Miller, the CEO of one of our clients, The New Home Company (NYSE: NWHM), said that buildable land will remain a challenge but that what is available for sale is selling. In Q3 2020, their home sales saw a gross margin of 14.2% compared to 9.5% for the third quarter of 2019.

A major factor that we think will fundamentally alter how Americans work is a foundational shift in where work happens. Twitter announced that many of its employees will be able to work from home permanently. Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, reports an estimated 25% – 30% of the workforce will be working remotely multiple days per week by the end of 2021. This trend has huge implications for many clients. New home builders, for example, are drafting plans that accommodate a remote work environment.

Where consumers want to live is changing too. We’re in California and you need only look at the sales figures in wine country or ski country and compare them to the sales figures in San Francisco or Los Angeles to see what happens when commuting to work every day stops being a deciding factor in where to buy. Other industries are impacted as well. A client in accounting now has to figure out taxes for clients with residency in California but who spent half the year working from Mom’s house in Arizona. Legal and finance clients are also budgeting for less office space and more technology. Technology providers must quickly accommodate a surge in interest, while commercial property developers plan for adaptive reuse of the current and planned spaces.

Our biggest wish at the agency for 2021? More time with you, our clients. And more time together. Some of the best and most productive hours have been spent at the many conferences that have now gone remote (and the bars and restaurants adjacent to those convention centers). We miss that. And we miss you! Hopefully, we clink glasses soon.

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