In Amcham latest issue, our Chairman Angela Lee Loy shares her personal views on the need for us to move forward and to explore the trends that are emerging. View full story below or link to Amcham magazine issue at the bottom of the page.
We can all agree that COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while and this is forcing us to change the way we do business. I don’t have a magic ball to see the future and how 2021 will evolve. But there are a few areas businesses can explore further for development and this is based on some key areas that emerged over the last year.
Are you reviewing your physical space?
Many companies are shrinking their offices spaces and testing the capabilities of their online networks. Although many parents are struggling to meet the demands of homeschooling their kids whilst managing work, the reality is, many of them may not have a reason to return to their physical office once things improve.
The Banking Sector is also reviewing their real estate space(s) and are restructuring based on their current and future needs. As they begin to restructure, some retail operations have already started exploring the process of moving inventory to increase sales transactions online. Foot traffic continues to decline therefore making rent and leases more difficult to sustain.
The landscape is changing at an unbelievable pace. The real estate business continues on decline as many of the traditional brick and mortar stores are now operating online or are in the process of transitioning to that model. This is happening globally. Our cities and downtown areas will evolve as we continue to move operations and customer experiences online in the Caribbean.
As a leader in any business, irrespective of the sector, it is important to invest the time now to move your operations online. It is extremely important to support your staff in getting the right tools, training and, developing the right attitudes for successful remote working.
Are you exploring new areas of service?
We have to pivot our business as the landscape changes. People need to re-examine and analyze which of their services cannot work during this pandemic and explore new areas for development.
One example is the hotel industry. Across the Caribbean, we are dependent on tourism. With a significant decline in air travel, our hotels and bed and breakfast businesses are suffering and a critical part of this is food and beverage revenue. Some restaurants have implemented ‘curbside pick-up’ and others have reduced their services in one area to make room for new services. This is to help generate the revenue and to also support the business through this challenging time. There are even those business owners and sole traders who have completely changed their entire business. I anticipate many people may take this route and completely start another business.
As a business owner, you must continue to look at your business differently now, without the emotional attachment of your original vision. Businesses have to evolve. Think about what services are needed at present and determine how you can meet those needs with the current resources you have. Continuously ask yourself, ‘What else can I do?’ and do your research and adjust accordingly.
How often have you asked your employees, ‘How are you doing?’
We all have different personalities. Introverts may enjoy working from home at this time and avoiding their videos on Zoom meetings. Extroverts on the other hand, need social interaction. They may feel isolated at times and miss coming in the office environment to see their colleagues.
As we continue to navigate the challenges ahead in 2021, we have to book time in our diaries to check-in on those who work for us. Exploring ways to continuously keep our employees engaged in our business during this challenging period is important. As an owner, ask yourself, ‘How can I better understand the challenges my employees are experiencing so that we can work in solidarity with each other?’
Find new ways to support local
As foreign exchange continues to be more difficult to obtain, businesses should begin to explore how to produce things more locally and collaborate with local suppliers, innovators and research institutions. We cannot do it alone. But, we can do it together. This is the time to innovate, plan and prepare. This could well be a time when your businesses ‘leap frogs’ into the future.
Our manufacturing sector is extremely vibrant in Trinidad and Tobago and there are a lot of things that can be produced locally. This could be a period of innovation and adaptability for the manufacturing sector.
Invest in technology
If you are already investing in technology, that’s great. But it does not end there. As a business owner, I am constantly looking into new technologies with my IT Manager to ensure I have the competitive advantage. Technology is changing so rapidly. As we buy a new phone or software, there is already another version out on the market. Delve into the details of your business to explore what efficiencies you can create through the use of technology so that you can focus on your staff to manage more meaningful work.
One of the areas I am fascinated by is – hydroponics in the agriculture sector. I firmly believe we need to continue to encourage people to grow our own food, buy local and support the new local products many people are developing. If you are not into technology and innovating your services, you will be left behind.
Further your knowledge
The world is your oyster. You are no longer limited by geographic location to learn something new and with technology, you can have a wide array of products and services to market and sell. Education is going to be key. What education do you need to give your children now as we move forward? What skills do you need to learn as a business owner to move your business more online? We can look at every area across all industries and dissect it – how can I learn to do this better? What are the tech trends in my industry? There is so much to learn.
Be an authentic leader
People are struggling and things are getting more difficult. Whilst profitability is important, in 2021 it is not the most important thing as we work towards resetting. We have to think about the people working with us. If we don’t have people working, economies cannot move forward. Yes, businesses will take a massive hit and these businesses will dive into reserves for survival.
As difficult as it is, we have to look at maximizing your people. You can come together as an organization, communicate the situation and let them know what compromises can be done. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
You do not always know individual employees’ situation, so you need to have these honest conversations and be prepared to be vulnerable. Your employees will surprise you. The profitability will come. You cannot think short-term for long-term solutions but you need to work together.
If you are a leader and reading this – don’t lose sight of what is important. You have to understand this – ‘It is important to have business but the business you have is dependent on the people working for you.’ If you don’t treat your people right, you cannot expect them to give 100 percent? It is a partnership.
Shareholders with a dual role of director are in the position to determine their remuneration, as well as, they had many years to build their nest egg. Managers and staff do not have that discretion. During these COVID times, shareholders/directors could survive on less.
There are going to be many things you can do differently in 2021 but there are some fundamentals that are emerging:
- Isolation is real. Stay connected regularly.
- Technology is the way forward. Educate yourself.
- Retail space is on the decline. Build an online business.
- Support local and seek opportunities.
- Authentic leadership is key at this time.
- Whilst profitability is important, it is not the main thing.