Last year was the year of strategic uncertainty. We began 2020 with a big shock in the Spring, empty roads, makeshift working from home, and immense turmoil as we all scrambled to work out how to survive for as long as it might take. We didn’t know how long that might be or what might get us back to normal. We could see the theoretical possibility of vaccines, but they were only conceptual solutions. The future was unknown and unknowable.
Warmer weather came, peaks subsided, and restrictions were eased. The summer gave us a glimpse or two of normality in our personal lives as we met friends in terrace restaurants and went for walks with our family relations in the sunshine. In business, though, there was only a pause as the immediate fight for survival had been won or lost, but the future wasn’t clear in direction or timing. Business was about hunkering down and ticking over until the way ahead became clear.
The approval of vaccines in the last quarter of 2020 was a distinct boost to morale that increased as more vaccines became real. This positivity was tempered by some caution over the details and timing, but there was relief that an end to the pandemic would come, eventually.
The emergence of virus mutations and new restrictions to meet infection surges were a blow to us all personally, and doomed us to winter months of isolation, but marked the point where business ambitions began to diverge from personal life.
The pandemic and lockdown restrictions meant that we’d all got to suck up more personal privation. In our personal lives, most of us are still in lockdown, condemned to an uncertain amount of time living on the Space Station, only seeing people on a screen and passing our daily lives in isolation apart from welcoming occasional cargo ships dropping off supplies.
However, for businesses with ambition this lockdown doesn’t change much. These firms have already adjusted and adapted to both the pandemic and lockdown. For business decision makers, Lockdown Three has been business as usual, and vaccines mean that the future beckons. Business decision makers can start to act, even though personal lives are still constrained.
Vaccines are being deployed and we can see and judge the trajectory with some accuracy. The new year has begun well for businesses that were able to deploy firm survival plans in 2020 and devise a clear vision for the way ahead and how to prosper when the time is right.
Vaccines have created a tail-wind for business that’s only going to grow in strength in the months ahead. There will be choppy water ahead and tactical challenges to overcome, but it’s time for business decision makers to get going. Fortune favours the bold, and the future is open for business.
Peter is chairman of Flexiion and has a number of other business interests. (c) 2021, Peter Osborn