In this post (pandemic)… world it is clear that something important is going on out there in the world of business. Something is stirring. However you want to describe it, you can be sure of one thing: it's going to change the rules of the game, perhaps for ever.
Here's what we think is happening: the river of technological progress which has swept most of us off our feet over the past decade has hit the slower flowing waters of economic recession. And just as in the real world, these metaphorical rivers have created a swirling cauldron of uncertainty and opportunity.
To be fair technology has always given us the means to achieve great things, but until now there has been no real pressure to fully embrace it. The global down-turn will change all that. Where there was a way there is now a will.
We are witnessing the rise of slimmer, smarter, faster businesses that operate in new ways, taking advantage of new collaborative technologies and a globally available resource base. These organisations will be ‘just big enough’, highly focused on delivering value, and use data to drive insights and innovation.
You may be surprised to learn that we wrote the above paragraphs six years ago as a reflection of the changes we were seeing from the last recession starting in 2008. We could be writing it today.
From research we conducted after the last downturn we developed a ‘Size Zero’ theory for the future business landscape. This theory has helped focus the Letts Group and its affiliated companies, partners and investments around a series of principles which we hoped would help them navigate the next few decades.
We talked about how Size Zero meant operating at maximum efficiency by focusing on where value is created, and being ruthless in removing waste. Doing more, with less if you like. It is has been interesting to see how the Zero Waste narrative has blossomed and broadened since we started researching it and advocating about it.
The ‘Size Zero’ theory is put into practice through a number of principles including Zero Inefficiency, Zero Baggage, Zero Property Costs, Zero Unprofitable Customers, Zero Technophobia, Zero Budgets, Zero Waste and Net Zero - amongst others.
As this extremely challenging year has unfolded we have started to analyse how these practices have helped our businesses and those of our partners to withstand the great shock of 2020. Some of our smaller entities such as Artstur and DSP had introduced all-digital front offices and advanced websites and web/mobile apps which have put them at the leading edge of their industry while ensuring that they were less affected going in and coming out of lockdown.
When we introduced the idea of Zero Property Costs it was seen as somewhat extreme and it was intended to be. The idea was to get leaders to think hard about how they could continue to grow their business if they had no physical properties. It forced them to digitise business processes and communications, offer home working and serve their customers online. These changes made them more resilient and better able to succeed through Covid-19 lockdowns and the current business realities.
One international services firm we know moved to a broad based home working model three years ago and told us recently that, as a result of it, they saw almost no interruption in business or reduced customer income through the lockdown. Indeed their remote working credentials meant that their clients trusted them above other suppliers and leant on them more through the lockdown.
Once business leaders develop more nimble, flexible and automated businesses they can focus their energy on serving customers better, improving team dynamics, innovating faster and thinking about the future landscape.
Net Zero (emissions) is a critical component of the new landscape so we developed a 10 step guide to making your business climate ready. It’s good to see Microsoft and Apple taking a lead in the tech sector with commitments to being carbon neutral by 2030. Microsoft has taken it a step further by aiming for net negative. Both have appointed a VP for Environment, which we would recommend for large corporates.
The reality is that we will all have to gear our businesses for a greener, fairer world. Our brands, to survive this oncoming economic depression, will need to get in touch with consumer requirements for cleaner, greener and more diversity-centric companies and services.
We believe that business and government leaders should try to go beyond just responding to these unprecedented times and try to shape them. This will only be possible if they are passionate about the emerging trends for sustainable products, for ethical services, for a lower footprint, for a fairer, healthier, more diverse workplace, for genuinely unique customer experiences and for enhanced value.
Government organisations will have to consider what Size Zero means for them and how they get ahead of the issues in a post pandemic world. Local government is becoming more empowered to drive micro-change in a macro-challenged world. The local speedboat can move much faster than the central government tanker.
We have been surprised by how many local government leaders have got in touch to ask about Size Zero as they grapple with endless budget cuts, more complex service delivery, the drive to Net Zero and equality with opportunity for more. They recognise that the future is about a stronger sense of community and purpose in their region, with new economic frameworks incorporating some kind of universal basic income as automation changes the spectrum of work. Local government may, for a while, have to get more directly involved in their societies and economies as the new reality shapes.
Many of us are focused on 2050 as we were once obsessed with the new millennium. And we should be because if we do not hit Net Zero emissions by 2050 in a majority of countries around the world then the following 50 years might be our last. So today we are challenging ourselves and our partners to think about what their business should look like in 2050 and work back from there.
First we have to think about how life in general will look. By doing this we will hopefully come to realise that we are at a critical crossroads today. If we take the high road by shaping our businesses for the new tomorrow - green, lean, techno-mean, diverse fighting machines then we stand a chance. If not, then, say goodbye to the business you once knew.
We will have to stand up and fight for the things that matter and create a grand union of spirit and hope around a healthier, happier and more environmentally sound prosperity. A 2050 that our children are proud of. A planet we enhance and no longer strip. Technologies that support an improved workplace and way of life. Business and government organisations that excite us and make us want to get involved. That's Size Zero 2050 with Net Zero as perhaps its highest order pre-requisite.
We’re always urging our businesses and partners to get more involved, to not get left behind. We would love to hear about how your business is gearing itself for the post pandemic world.