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2020, The Year That Was: Dan Bolton, Owner And Director, Dan Bolton Creative Management Agency Despite all of the pain this year caused, Bolton is now choosing to look ahead- while still armed with all of the valuable lessons he learned through it.

By Aby Sam Thomas Edited by Aby Thomas

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Dan Bolton Creative Management Agency
Dan Bolton, owner and director, Dan Bolton Creative Management Agency

As the entrepreneur behind an enterprise that specializes in creative performances, event design, production, and artist management, Dan Bolton is someone who has personally witnessed the absolute havoc the COVID-19 crisis inflicted on the region's events industry this year. "2020 was being billed as the year," Bolton says. "We had Expo 2020 Dubai on the horizon, and a steady pipeline of really amazing projects. We had plans, we had goals and ambitions, and then it literally came crashing down overnight sometime mid-March."

For a man whose eponymous company (and, indeed, the industry in which it operates) is built upon the proposition of bringing people together, it's easy to see how the COVID-19 crisis must have caused Bolton several sleepless nights over the course of 2020. But despite all of the pain this year caused, Bolton is now choosing to look ahead- while still armed with all of the valuable lessons he learned through it.

"The subsequent series of events that followed that fateful day in March have actually presented me with a series of highlights that, in some strange way, I am grateful for having happened amongst the chaos," he says. "I truly began to understand what is important in life: close relationships with friends and family, letting go of those things that are simply beyond your control, and most importantly, who stood beside you when the going really does get tough. There have been some incredibly dark and depressing days as I have battled to keep my business afloat (and still do), whilst making some very difficult decisions that impact not only myself, but the lives of the people around me. Those kinds of moments are tough, and I am extremely grateful that there have been a number of people that have picked me up from the floor when I have needed it the most."

Related: The Year That Was: Pallavi Dean, Founder And Creative Director, Roar

And Bolton made sure he paid it forward as well. After all, it was not just event organizers that were suffering through the coronavirus pandemic; the artists, creatives, and musicians that were a mainstay of the events they organized were also hurt badly by the crisis. And that's essentially why Bolton got together with acclaimed Dubai-based DJ Lobito Brigante to stage Breakout DXB, a two-day music, arts and culture festival in Dubai in early November, which was billed as "an event for the community by the community" aiming to support Dubai's community of homegrown creative talent.

For those of us who attended this event, it felt like a return of sorts to the way the world was before 2020 happened- but, at the same time, Bolton and his team had also set the stage for what we can expect from the so-called new normal in 2021. As Bolton himself put it: "Live event experiences will be back, more relevant, and stronger than ever- just different from what we might be used to."

Time for introspection: Dan Bolton reflects on 2020

1/ You cannot control everything "I am the epitome of a control freak, and this whole experience has really highlighted that, at some point in life, you literally have to surrender to a greater force, and that the only thing you can control in these situations is how you act and behave."

2/ Everything is temporary "I believed that the business I was building was almost indestructible, and that with continued hard work, we would always progress and grow. Unfortunately, sometimes that's not the case, and fate has other ideas. As much as the growth before COVID-19 is temporary, so is the chaos and decline afterwards. This time will pass, and we will prosper again."

3/ Don't take it personally "The hardest part in all of this has been the damage that the impact of the shutdown has had on what I believe is my personal reputation. The COVID-19 crisis has forced many of us into making decisions that we would never have normally made. Cash flow has been restricted resulting in delayed payments, staff have taken unpaid leave, some have left the company- all decisions have massively impacted others. All choices right now are hard choices, so take it easy on yourself, and try not take them personally.

Related: The Future Of Mega-Events: How Remote Work Technologies Could Enhance The Global Reach of Expo 2020 Dubai

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.  

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