This article was written for and first appeared on First5000.com.au on December 14 2021
First 5000 have been publishing a series of articles on The New Normal for several months. Expert commentators are reading the tea leaves, and passing on their analysis to you, the business owners. Now, some hard research is starting to show up to confirm (or discount!) our predictions.
One such report is from the software giant Salesforce. More than 150,000 companies across the world use the platform, so they should have a good spread of interview targets on which to base their research. It shows some clear trends emerging about what the New Normal will look like.
The innovators are the survivors
This part is my observation – it’s not highlighted in the report conclusions. But if you dig deep into the numbers you find that these 4 things top the list of “Top Characteristics for Running a Successful Business over the Next Year”:
- Market knowledge
- Problem-solving skills
- Flexibility and agility
- Innovative mindset
The Lesson? Business-as-usual is simply not going to cut it from now on.
Government and community support has saved businesses
In those scary weeks and months at the beginning of the global pandemic, cash flow all but disappeared. That scared the wallets out of Governments’ pockets, and businesses needed it. Almost 7 out of 10 businesses said that Government support was important to their survival.
But it wasn’t just government support that mattered. Communities stepped up to support their own businesses. Again, almost 7 out of 10 business owners said that community support was important and helped them to survive.
The Lesson? In spite of some criticism, huge injections of government funds was the correct action to take. When really pressed, communities will act to protect their local businesses.
Employees and customers are the most important.
HR and workforce management has undergone about a century’s worth of change in 2 years. On the whole, business has responded by working hard to earn the trust (and loyalty) of their employees.
Before we had even heard of COVID 19, various surveys told us that employees had lost their faith in government, big business, the media, and even some not-for profit organisations. They were looking to their employers for guidance in an uncertain world, so it’s no surprise that businesses are pulling out all stops to keep and build that trust.
Businesses have also responded to their customer’s new expectations – at least the innovative ones have. They have changed how they communicate with their customers, brought new offerings to market, personalised service, increased their safety spending and generally upgraded the customer experience. They are also mindful of how they act in difficult times. Customers are watching – 90% of customers say that how a company acts during a crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness.
The Lesson? Employees and customers are looking to business owners and managers for guidance in a turbulent world. Businesses that fail to live up to those expectations will be punished, with both customers and staff going elsewhere.
Technology is tops
We all learned how to use Zoom very rapidly once we couldn’t get on planes any more and it’s not just Zoom that we embraced. Technology uptake has zoomed ahead. 7 out of 10 growing small and medium businesses say they wouldn’t have survived without technology investments.
The Lesson? Keeping on top of available technology, and using in your business is now a critical business requirement. You probably won’t survive the next crisis without it.
The changes are permanent
When we first encountered COVID 19, some were calling for a snap back to normal. That is not going to happen. Three quarters of business leaders say that the changes they made to survive the pandemic have made them better and more efficient. They won’t give up the new practices.
The Lesson? The New Normal is here. Major economic upheavals such as this pandemic leave a 10 year tail – businesses will still fail from the effects up to a decade later. Embrace the changes. There’s still plenty of time for your business to buckle under the strain if you don’t do so.
One further revelation from the research data piqued my interest. In my book Small Company, Big Crisis, I write about why SME owners don’t plan for potential upsets to their business. Now, 70% of them are doing just that. They are creating scenario plans to put into action when the next crisis hits – whatever that may be.
The New Normal is here, and it’s staying. I don’t know what the next business crisis will be, but I know there will be one. Preparing is our best defence, and we have two years of very uncomfortable lessons to draw on. Let’s start planning now!
What does the ‘new normal’ look like for your business?