Shakespeare once wrote “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. When it comes to businesses, the same could be said regarding change. Some business owners and leaders naturally welcome and pursue innovation and change as part of everything they do; some are well prepared for when change happens, see it as an opportunity and manage it well; but others stick their head in the sand and hope it will go away.
It won’t go away, however much you want to avoid it. Change is often seen as intimidating, it can be confronting but over the past year countless businesses have evolved the way they do things, at unprecedented speed. During New Zealand’s lockdowns, businesses achieved levels of change in months, weeks, days, and even hours, that might otherwise have taken them years – because often that was the only way to survive. Organisations of all sizes moved their staff to working from home, producers swiftly moved to provide click and collect, small retailers took e-commerce on board.
Remarkable things were achieved.
Dealing with change is a mindset. The most effective approach for any business is not simply accepting it will happen but embracing it – and definitely not avoiding it. By being mindful of and engaging with change, you are best prepared to control its impact. If you don’t, then it can become an uncontrollable force and your business will be playing catch up. Change can be challenging and it can be positive. If you front-foot the risk and potential for change and build a culture within your business where people are constantly looking for opportunities for innovation, you will be best prepared to seize the opportunities and weather the challenges – as many New Zealand businesses have demonstrated over the past year.
Moving forward, all businesses, whatever their size, need to take lessons from the lockdown achievements and build preparedness for change into their planning.
These are uncertain times. In New Zealand we have been less affected by
COVID-19 than many other parts of the world, but we know the situation could change at any time. So it is critical for every business to be prepared and to have a strong degree of agility – this is not the time for a rigid business model.
Being agile may, for instance, mean not having so many fixed overheads. At RightWay, we are seeing more customer businesses moving into shared workspaces or working from home. We're also seeing an increase in the use of contractors, rather than recruiting new staff. They are more expensive but at challenging times it means costs can be reduced very quickly.
There are a lot of questions on issues that impact business that no one knows the answers to. When will the borders reopen? What happens if tourists can’t come back within the next two years? While we always want to be optimistic about business, there has to be a degree of risk taking, but it has to be calculated risk taking. This is very much what we are seeing among our customers.
Businesses, including small to medium-sized ones, have good cause for optimism. For example, tradespeople are very busy and many retailers are reporting that sales are up year on year. For many medium-sized operators, with 5 to 10 stores, such a result might otherwise have been a catalyst for expansion, but organisations are treading carefully and not increasing their footprint. How agile you can be depends very much on the business you are in, but digital technology enables most businesses to have a level of flexibility. The mantra for business planning in 2021 must be ‘agility is our friend’.