Inevitably, the events of the last three months have disrupted business and personal planning. Unprecedented circumstances have that effect.
Just before the world went into COVID-19-enforced lockdown, the UK was fixated on Brexit and guess what? It hasn’t gone away.
Other major global challenges (climate change, deforestation, plastic waste, air pollution (it’s returning)) are still out there too, but let’s, just for the sake of planning our short-term futures, have another look at Brexit.
Debt, grants and furlough
Since March, the UK has generated vast amounts of debt. Businesses are drawing on government support in the form of grants, loans and/or furlough funding, and also delaying paying rent and VAT. Hold that thought.
In June, the UK enters a critical period of negotiation over its future relationship with the EU.
If, by the end of June, we don’t reach an accord over matters such as fishing and an agreement over trade borders with Ireland, there may not be an agricultural policy deal, or any deal. Despite the UK government talking up its prospects of success, EU member states aren’t likely to agree a set of terms for the UK that are better than they can get themselves. This is part of the problem.
With no outline deal in place, we are heading for a no-deal exit that will come into effect on 1st January 2021: about the time when personal tax bills will be imminent; three months before business rents could be a full year overdue; and a couple of months before delayed VAT payments must be settled. That’s a lot of cash due to flow from businesses into the Government’s coffers within the space of a few weeks.
To an innovation agency that tells business to plan for the long-term, it’s clear that planning for even the next nine months, without the benefit of a certain trading relationship with our closest overseas markets and supply chains, will be problematic.
The signs are that 2021 also has the potential for new lockdowns, if COVID mutates into COVID-21. Restricted access to the workplace through enforced social distancing, app-led movement controls, face-recognition surveillance and zero return from banked cash will all still feature large.
We’re anticipating at least another year of disruption, uncertainty and risk of infection, and so, at room44, we’ll maintain a pragmatic approach of seeking new opportunities through the application of consumer-facing innovative practices.
Normal has moved on
If your business had a problem maintaining its supply chain when COVID first hit, or if you had to shut down your branch of a national chain, you probably understand the trust that previously brought customers to your door has now been diluted. Those small operators you didn’t worry much about before have been working away to fill the vacuum while you were away, and they’ve made gains in market share. It may only be local in your eyes, but it’s enough to keep them going.
Local is the new trusted brand equity
Lots of companies have pivoted into service models where their product can be delivered to consumers through new distribution methods. Even more, though, are waiting for the ‘new normal’ to float back into view, hoping that it looks a lot like the ‘old normal’.
As disrupted businesses cut back or close, there are people new to the jobs market and they too are trying to generate income by starting up a micro-business locally. Local is becoming the new trusted brand equity, further disrupting established business in a virtuous circle
Normal has moved on. Don’t wait for a return to business as it was – start working on a new plan. Tomorrow has always been different from today. Your tomorrow may be unrecognisable.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.