Our editor says everything changes – but sometimes quicker than expected

Are we at the ‘new normal’ yet?

Ah, the ‘new normal’. It’s a phrase we have heard many times over the past three months or so with no one really knowing what it is or what it will be.

There’s no doubt that things are looking more like they did. Non-essential shops are open, pubs and restaurants are taking their first tentative steps in welcoming customers through their doors again, and recreational sport is beginning to make a return.

But will our life, or more specifically for this column our business life, be like it was in February or early March?

It’s got me thinking whether our lives are ever really normal, anyway. Do we ever stay exactly the same for a long period of time without any detrimental effect to our productivity, performance or profitability?

Most businesses and organisations are usually in a constant state of improvement. Testing what works, refining what doesn’t work and looking at ways to be better.

The old saying of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is true to a certain extent. But only if you want the particular item to carry on doing exactly what it did before (and it’s also a part that will never break or have wear and tear – pretty much impossible, whether human or machine!)

What about if your competitors are all making improvements, or are adding services to eat into your market share?

It’s a brave business that just maintains a tunnel vision and carries on regardless, oblivious to the world around them. Sooner or later they will see that the world has changed and so must they.

So that brings me back to where we are now.

In an earlier column I mentioned that those businesses who will thrive post lockdown will be the ones who are used to adaptation and change.

For them there never is a ‘normal’ because they’re always looking at ways to better serve their customers or to be a more attractive employer.

Mark Ross, the managing director of South Yorkshire and north midlands estate agents Redbrik, has a saying that COVID-19 hasn’t changed anything, it has just accelerated everything that would have happened anyway.

For a lot of businesses this is true. And while it hasn’t been plain sailing by any means there are an awful lot of firms who have brought in new practices that are already benefiting customers and employees, alike.

Who doesn’t enjoy the benefits (and trust from bosses) of home working, for example?

I don’t want this month’s column to be too ‘happy clappy’ as I know many businesses – even the ones now bouncing back – have been saddled with problems that they never thought they would have at the turn of 2020.

But to think we can just flick a switch and return to the normal of July 2019, or whatever random month you pick before lockdown, is simply not realistic. Believe me, look back to the headlines from last summer and the world was very far from normal.

Everything changes, but sometimes the change just comes quicker than you think.

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