Staying safe and doing business in Covid times
Two things bursting to the fore in 2021 are job security and Covid safety. Many were worried at the start of the pandemic that their job might be at risk, but no one seriously worried they’d get the virus. Huge GDP contraction means the former is now a reality and a combination of knowing someone who’s seriously ill, the fact that many responsible for running businesses are older and more at risk and the vaccine is almost here, has heightened concerns.
Only an ostrich would imagine things will be back to normal in 2021, so thoughts turn to what can be extrapolated and used to best effect going forward.
As someone who started a business almost five years ago where everyone has always worked from home, it’s entirely possible to run efficiently, keep staff informed and included whilst allowing talent to flourish and new arrivals to learn. I’ve always been able to delegate, but many struggles and not being able to see the delegatee is an issue – but trust has built as a result and the ‘if they’re working from home they’re shirking’ mentality has largely been laid to rest.
The balance between social responsibility, brand reputation and profit has been well tested but for many the biggest hurdle is changing the status quo. Using highly trained staff effectively whilst even thinking about accessing outside resource to supply basic services often goes against the grain, but with service levels strained by sickness many customers will appreciate anything that shows you’re trying. To that end 2021 might be the time when Covid allows many to try things they might not have before. How many currently find their highly trained Housing Officers or negotiators are not always being used to best effect and can be used for tasks not fully utilising their skillset.
On the sales side of the industry getting out and about to show people round a property is popular but not the best use of, in that instance, a senior sales person’s time. Would they be better employed soliciting offers or looking for listings or closing deals? Will 2021 be the time when trying to match an employees skillset means the more low complex stuff can be ‘commoditised’ and can such outsourcing maintain the quality and service levels you are used to. Lowering your permanent cost base has never looked this easy?
Manpower versus service will be further tested this year by the increasing number of mergers in the property sector. This is mostly good sense and is where tech can enable a smaller number of people to maintain a larger and ever more challenging geography of assets. Property managers can now expect to look after four times as many assets as they would four decades ago, and in much wider geographical locations.
Clearly in some sectors occupier requirements differ but again, like the insurance industry, that first notice of an issue by a tenant, for example, is increasingly being dealt with via self-service or low-cost local last mile servicing. Once triaged the requisite expertise can be brought to bear on the issue.
For many in the Social Sector, access to trusted local third-party services could mean a more productive quasi ‘in house’ solution to servicing sales or managing lets. Again – it’s the status quo that needs to be challenged, but with an eye on costs.
This is a topic close to my heart as I’ve been working with a few in the sector to try and make some of the above a reality, having worked in the sales side of agency for forty years. It’s heartening to see the clarity being brought to a challenge few would have envisaged just a year ago.
Effective use of staff and not wanting to simply look at the cheapest commercial solution will continue to be a challenge many will face in 2021. With necessity being the mother of invention, I’d argue there’s never been a better time to leapfrog into the future.