Why it shouldn’t be ‘business as usual’…

The country is holding its breath until we can go back to ‘business as usual’, until the shops reopen, restaurants have queues at the door and we can get back to our normal daily lives.  However, what if we shouldn’t be focusing on life returning to ‘normal’? Maybe we shouldn’t see the end game as returning to business as usual.

Whether we like it or not, we have experienced a year that has changed our attitudes, habits and behaviours, both collectively and individually. We may think that the lifting of restrictions will instantly see a return to our lives pre-covid. The truth is, we won’t return to our lives pre-covid… and you may not be conscious of the new habits or behaviours you have acquired but we have all been impacted in different ways. 

You may wash your hands more often, opt for take out instead of dining out, go for a walk instead of signing up to the gym, take that new job that means you can work from home, stay at the country B&B you visited last year instead of taking a weekend break abroad, skip the coffee on the way to work and take a sandwich for lunch.  All seemingly normal decisions but collectively these decisions can make or break a business and have a huge impact on an industry.

Businesses cannot afford to assume that as they open their doors again, that customers will come rushing in.  The great news is that this period is an opportunity for businesses to assess how their customers, and indeed their employees, have changed, to respond to those changes and to build a strategy for an even stronger future. 

Where do we start?

Let’s start by looking at employees.

For a large proportion of the working population, March 2020 saw the beginning of a year of working from home. Laptops were propped on books on kitchen tables, businesses hurriedly signed their workforce into Teams, and we all soon settled into a new routine within our own four walls.  Over the course of the year, we have adapted our workspaces (even splashed out on the odd hardy plant), increased our grocery shopping to include our lunches and enjoyed the savings from train journeys, car parking and fuel.  

Many employees are wondering if they want to return to the office full time and many business owners are wondering if they want to continue to pay for office spaces. If they haven’t already, it’s a great time for businesses to begin conversations with their employees – to find out what they have enjoyed about working from home or whether they’ve missed the fleeting chats with colleagues in corridors on the way to the next meeting. 

It’s also a prime opportunity to find out how future generations see the working environment. What will compel the best candidates to choose your organization over your competition. What do people value most when selecting their working environment?

Thinking about us… the consumers!

Our purchasing habits have seen one of the greatest shifts over the last year. From Joe Wicks showing us that we don’t need to be in an air-conditioned mirrored room with 20 other people to perform a squat jump, to booking online entertainers for a Zoom party on a Saturday night.  There are many of us who are dreaming of wandering around the shops and meeting friends for lunch.  However, we cannot ignore the growing numbers of consumers who have adopted a new way of shopping and they don’t want to go back.  They have enjoyed competitive prices, fast delivery, the convenience of shopping from home and not getting back to their car to find a car parking fine.

Businesses need to learn

  • how their customers attitudes have changed;
  • how they can attract new customers in an increasingly noisy online environment;
  • how they can be of greater service to their customers to build deeper brand loyalty; and
  • how they can protect their new customers from straying when lockdown ends and their attention is drawn elsewhere. 

All these insights can be sourced from structured conversations, insights that will ensure the business is not just prepared, but excited for post-covid.

Lastly, what does this mean for the way businesses see their future? 

If there is one thing we have learnt over the last year about business, it’s that business is amazing at adapting.  From once ‘instore only’ retailers to now thriving online stores, from festival food trucks usually found in fields filled with music and revelry now renting empty pub car parks in the middle of winter, many businesses took the challenge of last year with both hands and threw themselves into a new way of carrying out their business. Not necessarily through choice but they did it – they had to. And not all will have been successful but many have found, to their surprise, that there is another way of doing things. Why didn’t we think of that before?

‘Needs must’… when we are presented with a situation we often rise to the challenge and think outside of the usually acceptable parameters. Lockdown meant that businesses had to consider every option – there wasn’t such a thing as a bad idea.  Businesses worked together to find solutions to problems and new services were born. Shouldn’t this be the way we always work? What if we are still missing out on opportunities because we are stuck in the ‘business as usual’ thinking?

Approaching the end of lockdown restrictions is another opportunity for businesses to look at the way they do business and to consider how we all need to adapt for life post-lockdown. Maybe we could do things differently – maybe our customers want us to do things differently.  

How do we find out?  Again, you’ll notice it’s a running theme through this article – we need to converse. We need to ask the right questions and give everyone the opportunity to have their say. We need to listen, we need to adapt, we need to strategize and we need to be prepared for every challenge that lies ahead.

The fact is that to survive (and indeed to thrive) businesses need to be adaptable, flexible and to overcome any challenges that come their way, however insurmountable.

This is precisely how we support our clients at Tribes. We have the expertise to provide businesses with the insights and knowledge they need to adapt, evolve and to succeed.

We have a huge opportunity over the coming months / year.  Let’s stop thinking of going back to business as usual… let’s not be the same, let’s be better.