For those in the UK, the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown has been confirmed this week. We can soon hug other people and drink a coffee inside. It certainly beats being soaked while sipping an espresso in high winds!
Many people will be thrilled to see others and experience some kind of return to social connection. Over the past 14 months, we have all learned so much. Adaptability is something most of us are likely to have experienced this past year.
In business, adaptability has been crucial to the survival of many. Entrepreneurs have managed to learn new skills and implement ideas to help secure the future of their enterprises.
What is encouraging is that while many people have faced the difficulties of redundancy, others have recognised it is a time of opportunities. According to a survey at the start of the year, more than 468,000 UK startups were registered at Companies House during 2020 despite lockdowns!
Armed with new knowledge, here are the 5 things that I have learned about the opportunities that lockdown has offered.
1. Creating an ‘at home market’
One of the people I work closely with has seen his mother switch from being afraid to buy online to bossing her laptop! Opting for online shopping means she’s no longer thinking about about lugging her groceries onto a bus. Her story is typical of many who have made the switch. She now plans to enjoy days out rather than making groceries the focus of her trips!
What this has shown is there is a new market emerging: the ‘at home market’. While the media focuses on multinationals and their taxes, they miss the fact that small stores have adopted further to online shopping.
A member of the Relationology team lives in a village where the local gift shop introduced an online shop and doorstep delivery service. Rather than stay closed and earn zero income, the shop owner decided to use Facebook as an online store. It isn’t a sophisticated online shop but in recognising this new ‘at home market’, the owner has grasped an opportunity to create new customers.
It’s not just in online shopping that there are ‘at home market’ opportunities. During lockdown, I launched a business I’ve been considering for some time.
For me, online wine clubs are a somewhat uninspiring and you have to sit through pre-recorded slideshows. So I wanted an interactive live experience instead.
So, I launched Rebottling, which offers a live online wine and food experience where a collection of wine is paired with ‘eat treats’. At the most-recent event, the ‘eat treat’ was a pasta sauce and top-quality pecorino cheese prepared by Michelin-star chef Jason Atherton!
Over 160 people joined the live event and were able to ask Jason questions. Those who missed it and bought the wine collection, they can watch a recorded version! It has been massively successful and highlights the rise in the ‘at home market’.
2. Starting a new business
When life serves you lemons, make lemonade! I’m sure you will have heard this saying, which sums up what many people have done this past year.
Whether it’s due to the loss of a job, being at home on furlough or simply having extra time, the pandemic has spurred people on to try starting a new venture. After years of thinking about setting up a new business, I set up Rebottling, which I mentioned previously. It felt like the right time to do so as I was able to use the time I’d normally spend in airports travelling to and from conferences and meetings.
Creating enterprises is close to my heart because it also increases employment. In January, I wrote an article in The Times encouraging entrepreneurs to start new businesses to plug the gaps and give hope. With number of startups looking promising, we may be seeing an exciting new phase in business.
3. Digital transformation
The ‘at home market’ would have been unthinkable only around 15 years ago. Although many of us were online then, only the richest of companies had the ability to set up an online shop. The expense of a website with a shop and the payment facilities necessary put the prospect of an internet store out of the reach of many.
Thanks to faster broadband and more affordable technology, businesses have embraced digital commerce quickly in the pandemic. While they may have had plans to move into such markets, the need to work in a lockdown world led to an acceleration of their aims. In the McKinsey Global Survey of executives, business leaders reported that adoption of the digital economy has ‘taken a quantum leap’ at both organisational and industry levels during the pandemic.
4. Local business growth
When lockdowns started, there were enormous queues at supermarkets. Supply was also an issue, so many people turned to their local stores.
The Relationology team member I mentioned earlier was amazed at how his village butcher, baker and corner shop (there are no candlestick maker’s there, apparently!) boomed. In fact, the corner shop owner says turnover increased by over £45,000 year on year! That is an impressive sum for such a store with limited space.
Since the easing of lockdown, those shops are still busy and I believe local businesses will continue to grow. Travelling on public transport to city centres that have dwindling ‘high street’ names mean more opportunities for local businesses.
Online shopping from multinationals may have impacted large retailers, but a survey by Barclaycard earlier this year found that 90% of people who shopped local said they plan to continue doing so after the pandemic!
5. Hybrid working
Hybrid working is here to stay. While many commentators believed that commuting would be consigned to history, it appears that many workers will mix time in the office and at home.
A report from the FT states that one office lettings company has seen a spike in interest and rental of upmarket commercial space. They believe that many businesses are adapting to hybrid working and want modern offices that are purpose built for hot-desking and mixed working.
In theory, this could mean improved well-being for employees: those who want to commute can, those who don’t can stay at from home.
The pandemic has changed our lives, and for some it will be for the better in terms of their future work. If you’re wondering about the opportunities now presenting themselves to you, can I encourage you to grasp them? You may feel nervous, which is natural, but maybe this is just the right time for you!
• If you’re thinking about setting a goal to take advantage of new opportunities, I would like to invite you consider taking part in a Relationology Mastermind with me from September. With a success rate of 91%, Masterminds can help you reach your goals.