2020: What have we learned and what can we look forward to next year?

Dec 14, 2020 | Brexit, Business, COVID-19, International trade, Organisational culture, Planning, Small businesses, Technology, Wellbeing

2020 has been an absolutely crazy year for all of us and not in the best way either. Where do we begin…

We started the year with political tensions between the US and Iran, leaving us in fear of another potential world war.. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the world, Australia was fighting devastating fires for over 200 days.

In March, the mysterious Coronavirus started appearing in the UK, which then led to a national lockdown, forcing thousands of businesses to shut down and people to work from home. Not only that, but the pandemic completely changed the way we socialise with our friends and family and even the way we do our shopping. 

On top of that, the UK has officially left the EU and entered a transitional period that ends on the 1st of January 2021. As of yet, the two parties haven’t agreed on a meaningful deal, which means that a no-deal Brexit is likely to welcome us in 2021.

So with all that (and more) happening in a single year, it’s safe to say that 2020 was one of the strangest and most difficult years in a long time.. But looking at the bright side, we have learned a lot of valuable lessons and we are ready to meet the new year with fresh perspective and positivity.

What has 2020 brought businesses

Let’s have a look at the lessons we could take away from everything that happened in 2020:

Embracing digitalisation

The world is becoming more and more digitised every year, but 2020 really taught us that it’s crucial to embrace it. With the majority of companies forced to shut down during the lockdown and thousands of people working from home, businesses had to adapt quickly. The ones that were already digitally focused struggled the least, while the others had to completely change the way they operate.

It’s not just about online conferencing and events either, businesses needed to shift entire systems and processes to enable continued working regardless of their location. They also had to ensure that the quality and efficiency of their operations haven’t decreased and find better ways to automate processes.

Going forward, we are likely to see businesses investing more into technology and becoming more digitally focused, as we’ve been reminded of how important that is.

Having a contingency plan

The importance of contingency plans has never been shown better than during an unexpected pandemic and two national lockdowns. Your business should always consider the “what if” scenarios and plan specific responses for them, no matter how unlikely it currently seems.

This means thinking about the potential risks for your business and how certain changes in the market would affect it. Once you know your weak points, you’re able to act according to them and make better business decisions. Planning for the worse in advance could be what it takes to survive turbulent economic times.

Diversifying your revenue streams

Relying on a single revenue stream is a very risky business decision, as you are left with nothing if it gets disrupted. Having multiple revenue streams gives you something to fall back on in such a situation and ensures that you still have enough profit coming in.

This was extremely important during a pandemic – we’ve seen some great businesses go bankrupt because they didn’t make any money for several months without their physical stores. However, some businesses managed to act quickly and adapt to the situation with new ways to generate revenue.

For instance, restaurants that were only serving customers in-store started offering a takeaway option so they could keep operating during lockdown. Or personal trainers that usually work in the gym started doing virtual training sessions and fitness plans adapted to a home environment.

There is always a way to diversify your revenue streams and, in most cases, it’s a smart business decision.

Things can change very quickly

This year, businesses have been reminded of how dependent they are on others and how unexpected changes can impact them drastically. We’ve had big changes in certain laws (due to both, Brexit and Coronavirus), different consumer patterns, changed demands in the market, etc..

The lesson here is that you should never get comfortable where you are as a business, as you won’t be able to quickly react to any changes (even if they’re not quite as extreme as this year). You should stay on top of everything and always look for ways to improve and become a smarter, more efficient business. 

What can we look forward to in 2021

2021 will hopefully be more positive and there are already things that we can look forward to: 

Things may get back to normal

While no one can tell for sure how the on-going fight with Coronavirus will resolve in 2021, it’s safe to say that we are slowly seeing light at the end of the tunnel. The NHS has recently started giving vulnerable people COVID vaccines and it seems like we are getting a better understanding of the virus.

If all the current Government’s actions show results, we may be potentially looking at the world slowly going back to normal. This would be great news for businesses that are currently under tough restrictions or operating at a reduced level.

This also means that the international borders would open back up and travel restrictions would be lifted. This would significantly help the tourism industry that has been struggling for months now as well as improve the imports and exports of international goods for businesses (e.g. quicker delivery times).

Saying that, it’s also quite likely that working from home will be a lot more normalised going forward – many businesses have realised that their employees can be efficient and productive from home. We could see companies giving their workers the WFH option which would also lead to a significant reduction of commuting. 

Technology developments

Technology is one of the things that never stops improving and getting more advanced, so there’s always something to look forward to. As a business owner, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on the latest developments, since you can harness them to make your business smarter and more cost-efficient.

For example, some interesting technology trends to look out for in 2021 is AI engineering, increased use of automation in businesses, smart sensors, distributed cloud and so on.

All these technological developments will also likely allow us to get even more things done from our smartphones. In 2020, we were already relying on them to do our shopping, ordering takeaway meals, video calling our friends and families or having Zoom meetings with work. These will be supplemented with even more possibilities, making us even more dependent on our phones for everyday tasks. 

Becoming an independent country

Brexit has been one of the most controversial topics in the last few years and lots of people are still very sceptical about it. It will significantly affect the way we do business with Europe or even go on holidays, with travel restrictions and more difficult trading rules…  However, with it taking effect from the 1st January, all we can do now is embrace it and look at the positives.

Becoming an independent country means that the UK will be able to start making new and interesting trade agreements with other countries, such as Japan, India and the US. This means that businesses, that are trading internationally, could potentially expand into other major economies. 

A lot of people are also excited to see Britain regain full control over its domestic affairs and the borders. This will allow the UK to make its own regulations and laws that apply for businesses, catering specifically to the country’s economy and industries. 

Final word..

2020 has posed some big challenges for businesses and people: jobs were lost, businesses have gone bankrupt and loved ones were lost.. However, as it’s coming to an end, we can reflect on all that happened and take some valuable lessons into the new year.

Besides, we have many positive changes to look forward to in 2021 and hope that it will be a much better year for all of us.