Covid-19 CEO’s Update: 1st May 2020 – Looking to the future

Its Mayday – I had forgotten the date until I came to write this blog and I could say that like Proust I was immediately taken to my childhood and to ceremonies involving flowers and friends named after a cake. But it would not be true and all I remember this afternoon is that this week’s musing on the value of a trade association is supposed to be about the future post COVID 19. In a fit of optimism, I wrote

1. That whilst we are doing some really good work now, we must also work out what we are going to do as we exit lockdown and how we are going to add value differently in world- post COVID 19.

Easier said than done and when I started thinking about the future, I almost came to the same conclusion as I have heard in webinars and Zoom meetings. “There are too many unknowns for us to plan yet, lets concentrate on the present”. But this just isn’t good enough – when exit comes, although it seems likely to be phased and drawn out, it will be imposed on us quickly like lockdown itself, and worse, coming out will be much more complicated than going in. So, what are supposed to do?

At the start of this crisis there were some excellent articles published about how to plan, I particularly like these from McKinsey and Deloitte and Jo Green of HomeMade has just written a great blog about likely changes. However, being old and stubborn, in the face of confusion I like to go back to some rules I drew up for myself 20 years ago when I worked in corporate and IT strategy for a major financial services group going through an existential crisis.  I would be trying to get a steer on the direction of the business and their requirements for IT systems from senior management and all I would hear is “We can’t make decisions because we don’t know what’s going to happen”.

After lots of frustration, I decided that just like now, action is required, and I drew up four guides for myself and my team:

1. Workout what you do know and secure this. However, much change there is going to be, an awful lot of things will be the same. Secure these and build on them.

2. Do the “no regrets”. There are lots of things you can do now which don’t squander resources and should be done anyway because they will make things better.

3. Focus on an agile infrastructure. You don’t know what is going to happen, but you know for sure that you’re going to have to react fast. Build this capability now.

4. Make a few bold choices. When there is confusion all around, as we have seen over the last few weeks, there’s a lot less resistance to making big changes. They may not always be right, but the chances of success are increased by showing strong leadership and articulating a vision.

So, what does all this mean for the UKAA?

1. What do we know? That the value of creating a space for the BTR industry to collaborate will remain and we must continue to do this, even when the external pressure, the immediate crisis has passed.

2. What can we do that has no regrets? We are spending time and energy on running webinars and Zoom meetings – these are our primary channel now. UKAA webinars need to be the best they can and to stand out in an increasingly crowded space. Getting better at raising the production values and for example addressing concerns around Zoom’s security can only be a good thing. Building relationships with other associations in a time when we are all under pressure will help us focus on our distinctive role and avoid duplication in areas where we are not strong.

3. We need to create an agile infrastructure to deliver our major revenue generating activities. We don’t yet know what major events will look like post Covid19 nor how study tours will work, but we can invest energy and time in building the ability to run both face to face and on-line events in lots of ways that we can’t do now. Whether this is through allying with a provider or going alone we done know but we cannot wait until post lockdown to create that capability.

4. Be bold – well here I think I will be like Boris and keep my counsel until the plans are ready. But through the contributions of members and staff, the UKAA is currently in a good position to exercise leadership in the BTR space. We need to take this position forward for the sake of the sector and the long-term health of the organisation.

More in due course, but sadly not next week – I will be enjoying the bank holiday and celebrating VE day. Apparently, our street is going to decorate houses in red white and blue and have a picnic on the front lawn – let us just hope the sun shines.

Have a great weekend and stay safe.

Dave Butler