I keep hearing “when things go back to normal” or “when will things be normal again?”. Plainly, its going to take years for a full recovery back to the world we once knew. But the more I think about it, from a personal, business and social point of view, I don’t want things to return to normal at all.
Change is needed
I wrote yesterday how the recovery in UK fenestration, as well as the wider economy, had to be built on sustainability. You can read that here. We should be using this opportunity of self-reflection to understand the damage we have done to our planet when it comes to production and consumption of everything. Do we really want to go back to normal? Back to rising pollution and accelerating climate change? We have seen some of the effects lockdown has had on parts of the planet, the breather it has given. We know big change can have big effects.
I’m not just talking about business or fenestration. I’m talking about the wider society. As we are seeing playing out on our screens, huge protests have swept the world’s major cities since the murder of George Floyd in the US. It has brought into sharp focus the severe inequalities across society. The pandemic, which is still very much with us, laid those inequalities bare. The George Floyd murder was the tragic event that brought the current movement to life. The disparities between certain communities have been sadly normal for them for centuries when you look back through history. Do we want to go back to that as a society? We should be changing society, breaking down structural injustices across all areas to make sure everyone, no matter who they, where they come from, what they look like, who they love, has a fair crack at making a success of themselves. I do not want to go back to that normal.
On a personal level, there are things I want to do differently. I want to plan my work better so I can spend more time with the ones I love, including Spencer and Sophie. I want, and already are, to support local business more in what we buy. I have written in previous posts about buying more from local dairies and butchers to help support my local areas. I want to spend more time outdoors. We have decided to get our garden landscaped at the end of this year ready for next year. If we’re going to be going out a lot less, I want our outdoor space to be as amazing as possible both for our little boy, but also for entertaining and living life outside more often.
From a fenestration perspective, we have seen about a decade’s worth of change occur in the space of a few months. The digital transformation has been huge, as companies across the supply chain quickly innovated to keep ticking over. This change was always going to happen, but more slowly, over years, not weeks. However, I believe a lot of this change is for the better, if it streamlines operations, makes businesses more profitable in the long run, improves communication time and service. Change isn’t smooth at first and will be clunky at times. But over the coming months, companies will get used to the new systems put in place and it will soon feel normal. I don’t want to go back to an industry that takes days to price something up, or you can’t get hold of a rep quickly enough, or you can’t track your orders. We’re making good progress here, and we have to keep up with that level of improvement.
A chance to learn
The more you look back at life pre-COVID, the more you can see the huge problems we faced in business, in our industry and as a society. I understand when people say they want to return to normal, as we were all in our comfortable niches, in a world we knew. But whilst we were, there were major problems across all walks of life that needed addressing. In life post-COVID, whenever that era begins, I hope we start to address some of the problems so we can create far better environments for people to live in and prosper from.
The only bit of the old normal I want to see is business levels at work. Right now, things are busy as it seems homeowners are in a rush to get their home improvement works completed. Those prepared to see through the giddy busy weeks and further down the road will know that this current burst of energy we’re operating in won’t last much beyond August as support mechanisms from the Government begin to be wound down. We’re being told we face the worst downturn for three centuries. Economic reality will set in later this year and we as an industry have to begin preparing now, through the profits we make during this busy period, to adapt and change again to a very rocky trading environment.
Looking at life in a wider lense, we face a period of major societal change. What I hope is that we as people learn to understand the problems other people are going through. Really understand it. Not just to see it, acknowledge it and move on, but to say to ourselves as people “what can we do to help”. We have proved during this crisis that we can pull together by and large when we have to. There is a lot to do, and it will take a long time to turn around the systemic problems that have been exposed massively in the last few weeks and months. But that doesn’t mean we should shy away from the work. If we coalesce and pull together, we’re capable of great things. In this industry, on a personal level, and as a society.
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