Good morning, welcome back to the blog and – if we haven’t already been in touch – a very happy New Year.
I’ve just looked back at my first post of last year. What was my first sentence of the new decade?
2020 sounds like a year when we should all achieve something significant.
Well, we all know what 2020 brought.
Unprecedented challenges; problems we’d never faced before and – of course – another pair of trackie bottoms from Amazon. After all, no-one sees them on a Zoom call…
Am I being flippant? Only slightly. I’m making the point that 2020 did bring unprecedented challenges – and we did achieve something significant. We adapted – and we survived.
Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams – whatever we used, we found ways to communicate with our clients and colleagues and keep our businesses going.
…And we learned.
We learned that we work with amazing people, that the worst of times bring out the best in people – and that we could cope with those unprecedented challenges.
Now we’re being asked to do it all again. I’m writing this very early on Tuesday morning, less than 12 hours after the Prime Minister announced another national lockdown. Schools closed until February half term, work from home and yes, you can exercise – but only once a day.
It’s March and April all over again. But in the cold, dark and gloom of January and February.
It would be easy to get depressed. Bad news was not in short supply even before 8pm on Monday.
2020 brought us job losses on an unprecedented scale. There are nearly 1m fewer people in work than this time last year. Businesses that took years to build have been destroyed in months. Many of us – with a heavy heart – have had to take decisions we thought we’d never have to take.
Why, then, do I face the New Year with optimism? With confidence? With the certainty that this year will bring far more opportunities than problems?
Maybe because of the second line I wrote this time last year…
As we all know, a business career is built over far more than just a year.
2021 is going to be tough. Not only do we have the pandemic, we also have Brexit. That’s not to make a political point, it’s simply to acknowledge another layer of uncertainty. Throughout December the UK and the EU were ‘in the last chance saloon:’ there was ‘one final throw of the dice:’ there were ‘still significant gaps.’ Then we had ‘le bust-up.’
It was a headline writer’s dream but, as we all suspected, a deal was finally done. A good deal or a bad deal? Your view on that probably depends on how you voted in June 2016. What’s undeniable is that it will take some time for the advantages, disadvantages and complications to become apparent. In the meantime, owners and directors of SMEs will need to chart a course through… well, unchartered waters.
And yet, I repeat, I remain resolutely optimistic. We’ve survived 2020: we can survive – and do a lot more than survive – in 2021.
That, it seems, is a view shared by the majority of small businesses. In a recent survey – reported in City AM (admittedly before the latest lockdown) – three-quarters of SMEs said they were planning to take on more staff this year, with 40% of the businesses looking to recruit in the first quarter.
That certainly echoes the feelings I get when I talk to TAB colleagues. There is a real determination to recover, and to recover quickly. ‘Build back better’ has rapidly become a cliché but it sums up the mood – a will to build back better, stronger and soon.
Let me end by going back in time again, to the post I wrote on June 25th last year, after the first lockdown had ended, as we sipped our gin and tonic in the garden…
So, despite the recession, despite the fact that it all has to be paid for, I’m optimistic. I have absolute confidence in the people I work with, both at head office and throughout the UK. I’ve absolute confidence in the wider TAB family and its commitment to constantly share best practice.
And I have absolute confidence that one day we will look back and say, ‘Yes, it was tough. Yes, there were moments when the road was rocky. But we worked together – and look what we achieved.’
It’s possible that some of you might not be sipping a G&T in your garden right now, but the sentiment is just as valid.
So let’s go bravely into the new year.
As Shakespeare says in The Tempest:
O wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here? / How beauteous mankind is! / O brave new world / That has such people in’t
That’s what I’m looking forward to in 2021 – a brave new year, that has such people as my TAB UK colleagues in it.
Carpe diem, ladies and gentlemen? No. Carpe annum…