by William Buist | Aug 10, 2020 | Business, Reflections, Risk Management, Strategy
Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities starts with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, that sums up our world today, doesn’t it?
Whilst pondering the longer-term impacts of coronavirus I’ve made some assumptions. Firstly that a fully operational vaccine is still some time off, that it won’t be effective for life (given other coronavirus vaccines) and that it won’t be universally used. If those things prove true then there will be SARS-CoV2 endemic in the population indefinitely. That changes the prospects for society at large.
The change that’s already here.
The first big change is that we have learned both to work from home and companies have realised the benefits to them. Office space left empty for two-thirds of the day, and crammed for the other third already seems like an anachronistic overhang from the production line industrial approach of the Victorians. If office values and rents with them collapse, then business finances shift. Some businesses will fail from the debt they carry funded by rental revenues, others will reinvent themselves. What then for office blocks? How many will become mixed-use; housing, infrastructure and office space co-located?
Travel too, we’ve learned we can meet remotely, and effectively, so how much of the planned expansions in travel infrastructure, HS2, the Heathrow expansion etc, stack up of where we are matters far less in the doing of business. These plans may be pushed through for the employment they create in the building of them, but that they deliver the benefits the proponents foresaw a year ago? That’s much less likely. If travel diminishes there are implications for the long term viability of airlines, hotels and train companies. Primarily that is because of their historic levels of debt and the implied occupancy rates just to fund it. New businesses, different businesses, will fill the gaps.
There are implications too for close contact mass gatherings. Sport, and other entertainment, may never be the same again. Humans are adaptable, the way we enjoy the collective atmosphere of thousands together sharing the same emotional highs and lows that a concert, or football game, can create, may be generated differently. Technology, such as the internet, will surely play a part here. Some venues, and businesses will fail, others will adapt, new things will appear.
Building Better Business
I turned to think about Building Better Business in this changing world. If we can live and work and enjoy entertainment from anywhere, then business can source it from anywhere too. The price of general labour will fall, except where that labour has a place value. We cannot repair a roof, or assemble a car remotely, not yet at least. Yet the opportunity to bring our skills to a global audience is also clearly present. Knowing your skill, signposting why you are the only person who does precisely what you do, will change the nature of knowledge-based businesses. Specialists will attract wealth that will bypass generalists. Bigger businesses will source the precise expertise they need from the best in the world. It better be you.
What will you do to maximise the opportunities?
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Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash
by William Buist | Jun 22, 2020 | Business
Here we are in the middle of June, 2020. It’s just a little over six months since the appearance of a novel variant of the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) that causes the disease now known as COVID-19.
Without question this small particle of lipids and RNA has changed the way the world works, thinks and moves about. The first peak of the global pandemic has in most countries, passed. Whether the continued relaxation of controls will facilitate a return of a second wave, or not, remains to be seen. Whether it does, or it does not, few expect that we will return to the same business structures, business models, and business strategies that existed before the virus made its presence felt.
What does that mean for business?
For many of the small businesses that I work with and mentor there has been a shift to a more digital, internet-connected way of working. The intention of the business owners is increasingly to maintain much of that change into the future. They will do less travelling, work for more of the time at home via a computer screen. We will all deliver our knowledge, skills and experience in new and different ways.
Signposting and Sales.
There are some basic principles that remained true regardless of the modality of delivery. Every business has to generate revenue. In order to do so it must attract clients and customers. It has to make its presence known and its value, felt by potential customers and clients. It must attract them to buy the products and services that we create. The signposting and sales processes that businesses have historically used to generate relationships, and understanding, to have meetings, and share experiences, and make proposals & offers almost certainly won’t work in the same way. After the same, when we sign up new clients, and start to work with them. Electronically connected and yet physically separated, we still have to be able to build rapport.
Systems and Skills.
Our customers wanted systems and processes that are no longer be appropriate. Our skills, listening, understanding, reading body language, sharing our knowledge, and providing the services and products may have worked well in a face to face world. Their natural ability to work is now stretched, perhaps broken. Business Systems need to be updated. We need to hone and enhance our skills. New Ways of working will appear.
Of course, there is ourselves. We too may need to change the way that we think and act and exercise. I see many businesses still relying on historical strategies to work for them. They are holding on to a vision, strategic goals, set in a different time, with a different customer expectation. These are now unlikely, perhaps impossible, to deliver. Our world has been fundamentally shaken up. Even if we do not know the practical details of every aspect of how the business will change as a result of COVID-19 it has, in fact, already changed. We must also change our strategies. Are you ready?
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
by William Buist | Mar 31, 2020 | Business, Collaboration, Reflections, Risk Management
Never before have we faced the challenges we face today, in every aspect of our lives we see change. Coronavirus has locked us in our homes, fearing social contacts, closing down some businesses, and radically changing the rest.
In his book “The Rise of Superman, Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance” Steven Kotler examines the psychological evidence of where we perform at our very best. It’s not when we are stretched to reach far beyond what we know, or have the skill to do, it is when we are stretched just outside our experience. Something that tests us, but is tantalisingly within our grasp. He posits that stretching to around 4% more is motivating, but beyond that is increasingly enervating. James Clear in “Atomic Habits” (this month’s Building Better Business Book Club book) calls this ”the Goldilocks Zone”
When I reflect on what I am seeing in today’s uncertainty it is that some people have been stretched too far, they feel that events are utterly out of their control and they cannot motivate themselves to act. Some are stalling. Yet others I see are motivated, active, never busier, finding joy in their learning, supporting others, building communities, doing different things, but using their skills, and stretching them. Are you letting your freedom of choice be lost to events?
Imagine two magnets on a smooth table. If you bring the end of one magnet towards the opposite pole of the other they will seek to pull themselves together. As the other magnet starts to move, if you time it right, you can move it all the way across the table without them touching. Too far away and the other magnet doesn’t move, too close and they lock together, imposing change.
In today’s situation, we have a choice. We can give in to the world’s magnet imposing its demands on us, or we can choose our own. The choice that keeps us moving, that keeps us in the zone. Choosing the achievable change, that tests you, and then delivering it, and keeping the aim of moving a little as you go.
Never has there been a time where it is more important to discuss your ideas and intentions with trusted friends to keep yourself motivated and your tasks close to abilities, yet still stretching them. Then you can keep the magnets moving, to a successful conclusion, through this rapidly changing situation.
I’m currently running a weekly zoom meeting to Start the Week – Building Better Business, (click here for details…) – come along and share your story, and be inspired by others, or if you would like a 121 conversation you can book a time to suit you here: williambuist.as.me/30-min-discussion
#reflections #buildingbetterbusiness #march2020 #business #coronavirus
by William Buist | Mar 9, 2020 | Business, Risk Management
In my life, I’ve seen a few things that changed the way people work and live forever. The triggering events cause shifts in behaviour that are fast, but not instantaneous. We do not go back to the exact world we left behind.
Some of those things had a narrow scope, Aberfan changed the way mining spoil was dumped and had impacts on our landscapes. Some have a global scope. 9/11 changed forever the world’s view of terrorism, and we all accept far more invasive security checks as a result. Assassinations crystalise change, those of Archduke Ferdinand, Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy had worldwide implications. Politics too: Perestroika, Solidarność, and the fall of the Berlin wall changed much. Now it is a disease, a virus, spread by people all over the globe that is affecting everything from our basic freedoms, to the price of oil and the value of pensions.
Coronavirus has already had a significant and immediate impact on the world as a whole. I believe that it too is a moment that we will look back on and say ‘This was when things began to change’. There are obvious immediate effects, of illness, and, sadly, deaths. There will be longer-lasting impacts too, and its these that seeps into the psyche, and change people.
Choosing to self-isolate or taking 14 days away from the office in case that cough and temperature is the virus make real sense. That time also exposes people with office jobs to the possibilities of working differently. They will find the things that work better and the things that don’t. They will start to think about how their future could be better. Managers and leaders will learn that control and oversight in most situations isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Influence and open transparent communication are more important than ever. Trust is a currency that must be spent wisely. In a world with limited resources, an office that requires hundreds, or even thousands, of people to travel for fractions of the day, increasingly looks archaic. That it then lies empty for hours, whilst outside homeless people freeze speaks more to our failings than our success.
Offices may have been a good post-industrial solution to creating value, but do they fit a 21st Century service-based economy? We may well find that 9-5 working in communal offices were all just a habit and one that we should break. If this virus disrupts for more than a few weeks, organisations will start to address the original issue in novel ways. Novelty becomes normality very quickly.
Can we tell you what these changes will be? No, novelty is novel after all. Can we tell you with certainty that there will be long-lasting change? I think we can, If I listen I can already hear the tectonic plates of corporate England creaking as they start to move.
Photo by CDC on Unsplash