21 Business learnings to apply in 2021 - Part One

16th December | Thought Leadership

2020 has been one of the most instructive years most of us have lived through. At Alexander PR we have been working alongside clients in nearly all sectors, helping them navigate the sudden loss of international visitors, move their businesses overnight to WFH models, adapt to a home-delivery and click-and-collect retail landscape, and many more seismic shifts.

Along the way we have picked up a lot of lessons – and summarised 21 of them to help you prepare and strap in for 2021:

1.    Connecting is possible in almost any circumstance. This year we have all become adept at talking and meeting via technology – even parties and dating have moved onto Zoom around the world. As it happened, one of our successes of 2020 was the IMNZ summit about leadership in difficult times, which was held virtually by necessity and included Green Party MP for Auckland Central Chloe Swarbrick, Footprint CEO Angela Vale, Stuff CEO Sinead Boucher, and director and executive recruiter Dr John Peebles.

2.    We crave human voices and stories as much as ever. Again, technology has bridged the gap, and podcasts which were already popular, have really had their moment in the 2020 lockdowns – giving us interesting conversations to listen to and company on those endless walks around the block. To explore the podcast world in more depth, we launched our own, The C-Suite Spot, talking to business leaders and executives about their experiences in and lessons from enterprise. This added to the three other podcast series we have already established with clients.

3.    Expect the unexpected. In February 2020, right before everything changed, we wrote about guaranteed uncertainty, and during the rest of the year we fielded phone calls and emails for advice around issues and crises. To answer all the questions, we put together a detailed white paper to help equip businesses with the tools to emerge from whatever problems they were facing. We also developed pillar content and launched and 0800 PRCRISIS. We’ve learned that while it’s not possible to prevent 100-year events, you can be ready to face whatever comes your way, and we’ve strived to share our knowledge with our clients.

4.    More businesses are open to changing how they work, with many exploring the 4 Day Week; CNN has followed the story from the beginning, and innovator Andrew Barnes published a book about his 4 Day Week idea in early 2020. Now the likes of Spain are looking at legislation to enact a productivity-focused, reduced-hours week for workers, and global consumers goods giant Unilever has started a year-long 4 Day Week trial in New Zealand.

5.    Combatting COVID-19 risk – to help reduce stress and risk for essential workers at New Zealand businesses, we worked with a leading medical microbiologist and one of the world’s most advanced COVID-killing machines to create safer environments for people and workers. It is only a matter of time until hotels, transportation and other businesses routinely sanitise rooms and workspaces using Sanipure NZ’s innovative sterilising “fog” machines.

6.    The Government's recent climate change emergency declaration will have businesses thinking about what steps they need to take to reduce their emissions if we are to become carbon neutral by 2025. Heavy engineering research association, HERA, is walking the carbon-reduction talk within its business, having worked with thinkstep-anz on a four-month-long project to calculate its own carbon footprint, and has a number of sustainability focused initiatives planned for 2021 to support its members.  

7.    It’s always worth investing in a robust immune system. Vitamin C and honey are a magic combo with immunity-boosting effects, so it’s no surprise that NatureBee reported sales of its potentiated bee pollen capsules have increased five-fold over the last year as the pandemic has driven a shift in consumer behaviour. Likewise, AFT Pharmaceuticals doubled its 2019 sales of its high-potency Vitamin C products in just the first seven months of 2020.

8.    COVID has given us refreshed respect for our communities and our elders. Students at Albany Senior High School set the standard by pairing up with Settlers Lifestyle Village in Albany, Auckland in an inspiring and life-affirming project involving everything from making birdboxes together to exchanging letters during lockdown.

9.   Thirteen years of KiwiSaver is something to celebrate. With all the focus on fees and returns, we looked more widely – at what makes a KiwiSaver account successful, fit-for-purpose and uniquely Kiwi. In a first for the KiwiSaver sectors, and in line with investment manager Kiwi Invest’s focus on responsible investment, venture capital firm Movac secured investment from Kiwi Invest for the Kiwi Wealth KiwiSaver Scheme to become a cornerstone investor in the new Movac Fund 5 technology fund. It marked the first time an institutional player within the KiwiSaver space has entered the growth and venture capital ecosystem at this scale, and may presage other interesting developments linking retirement savings to estate planning.

10.  It’s never too late to start adulting. Leading trustee services company Perpetual Guardian, digital Wills platform Footprint, life insurer Partners Life – all have spent 2020 coming up with innovative ways to protect New Zealanders in the present and shore up their future financial resilience. Footprint is helping organisations include affordable digital Wills in employee benefits packages; Partners Life offered the most generous premium holidays in the sector when COVID hit; and Perpetual Guardian continues to innovate all over the park, including by settling a deal to bring crowdfunding platform Givealittle into the fold and creating a $250,000 campaign to support the RSA.

11.  Property leaders are working hard to make homes and investment properties more accessible to all New Zealanders. CoreLogic continues to provide, several times a month, market-leading data on house prices, first home buyers and other key market trends that inform media conversations and keep the likes of the Reserve Bank up to date; and Ray White New Zealand remains one of the dominant agencies in an unexpectedly booming property market.

To make for easier reading, we have split our learnings into two parts. You can read the rest of our learnings in part two (read it here).

By Kate Alexander, Crisis & Legal Consultant at Alexander PR