What comes next for business leaders?

Published: Tuesday 13 July 2021

For many businesses, and arguably society, recent focus has been on getting through the day-to-day, but what comes next?

Global economies will not act uniformly in their bounce back from the pandemic; however, what can be surmised, is that some aspects of business life will never be the same again.

The post-COVID-19 era is set to be full of generations changed by their experiences and businesses that have adapted to survive: will we now see new trends emerge?

As we pass the halfway point for 2021, Hazlewoods Partner, Scott Lawrence has considered what he thinks the top three changes could look like and how they affect businesses now and in the future.

1. Increased digital productivity

In an audience with ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Philip Hammond in the spring, Hazlewoods guests heard Lord Hammond profess the importance of productivity to the success of our UK economy. More than ever before, this productivity will rely on both digital literacy and digital capabilities.

During the first industrial revolution, William Pollard famously said: “The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” As we accelerate our way through the fourth industrial revolution, reliance on digital has become greater than ever before and the need to adapt working practices, develop operations, and keep pace with ever evolving technology has become vital.

Connectivity has become a key driver for businesses to remain operational across the world. Investments in new technologies, previously positioned further down strategy plans, have become an immediate necessity over the past year.

The BBC equally reported earlier this year that 43 of the UK’s 50 biggest employers said they do not plan to bring staff back into the office full time, demonstrating remote working may be here to stay.

Out of disruption, businesses have been forced to change rapidly. We consider that this will further increase both business leaders’ and consumers’ expectations for change in the future; now that it has been demonstrated that it is achievable, businesses will need to consider what implications this expectation has for them.

2. The new generation of entrepreneurs

We are excited to see and work with the new generation of entrepreneurs who have been driven by the disruption and the need to develop new products and services. Those individuals who can see opportunities in the challenges faced by the world, the great innovators and developers, will be a fascinating outcome of the last year.

Sustainability of an idea is key and will be what sets apart the new wave of entrepreneurs. Where distilleries have diversified into hand sanitiser production, have they considered how and whether this is a viable source of income for the future? Digital health has seen a dramatic rise in uptake, due to necessity, so now consumers are more used to the concept, what new services will arise in this arena?

Furthermore, there has been an increased focus on sustainability and purpose developing for many years pre-COVID-19, which has been brought into sharp focus over the past 12 months. We are interested to see the businesses that capitalise (an ironic term in this instance) on this cultural shift, and engage with the new, more environmentally and socially responsible consumers.

A further product of the last 12-months may well be the young and developing minds that have spent time learning in a virtual environment. Where there were challenges, many will have overcome and will now be school leavers that have ideas and solutions developed from learning in a different way.

3. Sophisticated supply chains

In 2020 we wrote frequently about the importance of supply chain management and utilising lean operations in order to manage cash flow and avoid disruption to business.

Disruptions to businesses are not unusual and, at any given time, part of your supply chain can be affected by business shutdown, weather disruption or any number of external influences. The past year saw UK supply chains being affected from all directions; various lockdowns caused businesses in the middle of chains to close without notice, Brexit offered new administrative challenges with little time for preparation and at the time of writing this article. The Ever Given, famous for recently blocking the Suez Canal when it ran aground, is still being held in the Canal with its cargo onboard whilst compensation is negotiated.

A business’s supply chain can be just as important as its customer base; last year, vulnerabilities were exposed in long and complicated chains, highlighting the need to scrutinise suppliers and sub-suppliers, as well as securing alternative options, in order to mitigate the risk of disruptions to revenue streams. An increased importance being placed on analysing supply chains can only be a positive for businesses moving forward.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to be a driver here, enabling more effective management of supply chains, reducing time and labour costs involved in management, and enabling subsequent cost reductions along the chain. With the improvement of data analytics, businesses will be able to learn more about, continuously audit, and connect with their entire value chains.

As an additional benefit, knowledge of supply chains and ‘provenance’ of products has become increasingly important for businesses, as consumers become more savvy, and keen to understand the details of what they are consuming. Having knowledge of your entire supply chain and having confidence in the operations of businesses throughout your chain, can subsequently inspire confidence and increase your credibility with your consumers.

To discuss what comes next for your business and create a #BusinessForTomorrow, contact Scott Lawrence at scott.lawrence@hazlewoods.co.uk or 01242 680000.

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Scott Lawrence
Scott Lawrence
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