The events of 2020 have caused us all to reflect, take stock and have hope for better things in this new year. Brands, consumers and individuals alike are clamouring for the fresh start and reset that a new year brings, and the continued rollout of a Coronavirus vaccine and the promise of brighter days ahead have us all thinking of the future. But how have future innovations been shaped by the events of last year?
We asked some of the most innovative business leaders about their biggest takeaways from 2020 and top predictions for the year ahead. In this post, we’re thrilled to share thoughts from two powerhouse entrepreneurs, Holly Tucker MBE and Sherilyn Shackell.
Best known as the co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com, Holly is also UK Ambassador to Small Creative Businesses and founder of Holly & Co. Since the pandemic, she has also launched SME:SOS, a reactive resource and initiative aimed at helping small businesses during this difficult time.
Sherilyn is the Founder and CEO of The Marketing Academy and creator of its Fellowship Programme, a development programme which helps CMOs to become CEOs. Founded in 2010, the not-for-profit company identifies and develops exceptional talent in the field of Marketing, Media and Advertising.
20:20 vision in 2021
2020 has certainly been a year of unpredictability – and also one of transformation. What are the shifts and trends that stood out most to you in the past year?
Holly: “‘Hallelujah’ I say to some of the shifts we saw last year! I love efficiency, as most entrepreneurs do, and so was very happy that five years of progress seemed to be crammed into one! To start with I loved how
everyone was connecting more than ever, using the power of services such as Google Hangouts and Zoom. Having lost many hours a week commuting to endless meetings, which now in retrospect didn’t need to be physical, I’m very happy to get back my valuable time. Not to mention now connecting through FaceTime with people I’d have usually just picked up the phone to or correspond with through email.
I was beyond excited to see the shift in consumers caring about small businesses. As it really is my life’s work. Be it their local coffee shop, newsagents but also the small online businesses who allowed us all to connect with loved ones. Giving the consumer the chance to see small businesses for all their glory. Understanding how each package SMEs send out is not only showing another level of quality, but each package is literally sent out with love. Long may the support of small businesses continue.
And who’s with me with the joy of seeing less bureaucracy, red tape and meetings for the sake of meetings? Watching managers in bigger businesses being able to be more entrepreneurial has not only been brilliant for them, but fantastic for people who work with them. Getting things done faster and finally able to meet deadlines that marry the mood of the customers”.
Sherilyn: “There’s been a general shift in business to putting relationships first and generally being kinder. We’re all embracing a lack of ‘formality’ in business. Once you’ve entered someone’s front room / bedroom / home office and seen their kids, pets and clothes drying on radiators, all perceived hierarchy goes out the window and a deeper more human connection is formed… quickly.
Within marketing particularly the need for more meaningful ‘connection’ with customers and consumers will continue to be important. Collaboration between organisations during 2020 was huge, the ‘we’re in this together’ mentality shone through everything – I’m praying this continues”.
The year of digital domination
In a world gone (largely) virtual, it makes sense to think about digital strategies. How has your view of digital changed this year, and what do you think will be its importance looking forward into 2021?
Holly: “My new business Holly & Co, now 4 years old, was born through Instagram and with all our physical events last year transforming into social equivalents. Last year Holly & Co took the next step, and I’d say the brand was truly born thanks to the highest engagement we’ve seen to date, in creating content and pushing ourselves to the limits.. I believe that 2021 is now about taking those learnings and challenging ourselves with how we make our engagement as strong as the peak of the pandemic, but 365 days a year! It showed us that we survive, if our community thrives and yet there’s a fine balance between becoming digitally slick but thus potentially losing the authenticity (and magic) of when we all got in front of the camera (so to speak) for the first time. Digital engagement generally will be the fine tuning of being ‘of service’ whilst scaling our authenticity. Not as easy as it sounds for any brand”.
Sherilyn: “Everything will be ‘digital’ going forward, anyone who doesn’t embrace it will be left behind”.
Productivity and promise in 2021
Make a bold prediction about your industry: What’s going to happen or be a hot new trend in 2021? What are your big predictions for 2021 in general?
Holly: “I am not one for ‘trends’ per se, but I do think that we will see an exponential rise in people starting up their own businesses over the next 12 months – for two reasons. The first, I think that many have realised that what was once thought of as a ‘safe’ 9-5 job, is no longer the case, many will be craving stability and see starting a business (either full time or on the side) as giving them back some control.
Secondly, I think in the first lockdown, people ran home from their offices and, in many ways, breathed a collective sigh of relief that they no longer had to do the commute, be a slave to the system of 9-5 and an hour lunch break, to miss bedtime with the kids. COVID has brought our own mortality, the stark realisation that life is short, into sharp focus – and I think this realisation has borne a new way of thinking. By starting your own business, you can truly build a life you love, following your passion and what makes you happy. We are aware of what really matters, what really fulfils us, what we crave and what is superfluous in our lives. COVID, whilst horrific in so many ways, I feel may have a lasting legacy of creating brilliant brands of the future”.
Sherilyn: “The word ‘digital’ will disappear (as in ‘digital strategy’ ‘digital marketing’) as it because the de-facto medium for everything. Marketing will become even more central to growth and the function will continue to grow in scope incorporating more functions into the domain i.e. innovation, customer experience, customer service, product development, technology etc. There will be an increased need for training and development at lower cost, especially within marketing, media and advertising. Never has leadership capability been so important – but budgets will be slashed everywhere and L&D is always first to get cut”.
How is your business thinking about refining or continuing transformative plans as we head into 2021? What strategies will you continue? Which will you sunset?
Sherilyn: “In many ways it was an incredible year. Given, for the last decade, all of our development programs have been delivered ‘in person’ we were blind sided by the entire world going into lock down. But after the initial panic we switched our entire operating model for all programs in the UK, USA & Australia to virtual delivery. While we have no intention of keeping a virtual format for our flagship programs (unless we have to) we’ve launched a new global program delivered exclusively online….which means for the first time ever we can develop tens of thousands of the industry’s talent, globally – for free. This is a direct result of the pandemic. This will also enable us to build more quickly internationally especially as we’re now able to provide online programs to the Middle East, Asia and Africa”.