On the first of this month mince pies, Christmas puddings and other festive treats made their way into shops as the country begins to prepare for the festive season. Yep, you read that right. Kids are only just going back to school and the end of the year is already in view.

In truth, from this point on its all about 2021 now. So much of this year has been disrupted, cancelled, postponed and we’ve all been indoors a lot more than we thought we might have been. We’ve created new ways of working, adapted to the new economic landscape and committed heavily to technology to ensure our businesses continued to function.

So whilst much of 2020 has been written off, there is still some usefulness to gain from the last few months of this year as we start looking towards 2021.

Lessons learned

I feel like this year much of it has been learning more about ourselves and our businesses. We’ve all learned new things to get around new problems. Discovered new technologies to adapt to a very different working world. Even now we’re still on a steep curve trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Business plans have had to be scrapped, replanned then scrapped again just as quickly. For UK fenestration, we’re back busier than we thought we might have been, although the last few months of this year remains uncertain. Most of us will have revised down sharply the year-end targets we set at the start of 2020. But I suspect some of us will be beating these new yearly targets and perhaps even approach the original targets set. Who knows what the landscape will look like by the end of this year but if we can be better off than we thought we might have been then that’s a major silver lining we can all take to see out what has been a pretty crappy year!

Technology and digital platforms have played an immense role in making sure fenestration continues to function and thrive in some areas. Whether that’s using social media more to keep in touch with customers, on investing in software to track deliveries and production, or improving your website and other online presences, or using Zoom to keep in touch with staff or set up client meetings. Imagine if this pandemic had happened 20 years ago. The effects could have been even worse. Thankfully we have tools at our disposal which have allowed our companies to function and that is never, ever going to go away now.

Whether you like it or not, technology and digital platforms are the backbones of our businesses now. They are driving new B2B and B2C sales. They are making businesses more approachable and easier to communicate with. They are cutting daily commutes and allowing people to spend more time with family. They are taking cars off the roads and the carbon they emit.

The pace of change and evolution is insane. Yes, we were on that path anyway, but the pandemic has boosted that evolution ten-fold. However long this pandemic lasts, which we have been told on average is around two years, change will continue at pace for a while to come yet. Its hard to know what October will even look and feel like, never mind next year!

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Adapt, then move forwards

If 2020 was the year of disruption and change, and I don’t think anyone could argue it wasn’t, then 2021 should be the year in which we put what we have learned to work. To make what we have adapted to work for us and be beneficial to us.

UK fenestration should look to boost even further the tech it embraced to keep functioning this year and seek to return to solid profitability and growth in 2021. It may well be that restrictions on certain aspects of daily life will remain during 2021, but all being well not enough to stop our sector from functioning. The opportunities to reach out to new customers both on the B2C and B2B fronts is exciting and so long as well all continue to work as hard and as innovatively as we have done this year then 2021 could be a solid bounceback year for the industry.

Its worth remembering that there are external factors out of our control to take into consideration for 2021. Brexit phase two is going to be wrapped up in one way or another by the end of this year. Depending on how that goes will determine the ripples it creates into next year. We also don’t know how COVID will affect us during the Winter. Fingers crossed its nothing major and we can keep a lid on things.

But we’re an adaptable bunch, capable of great change when needed. We have done it before, just like in the financial crisis, just after the Brexit vote, and right now during this pandemic. It excites me to see that our industry is right now forging a new path, using tech as the main tool, to create new niches and new revenue streams. These new avenues for business will become mainstays in the years to come and its the tech and hard work we have put to good use this year that will stand us in good stead for 2021.

As for me, I’m already looking forward to Christmas! Some time to spend at home with my wife and amazing little boy. Pack my face with mince pies and a few beers and some much needed time away from the world of windows and viruses. This Christmas may well be different for many of us, but perhaps this will be the most important Christmas for us on a personal level that we have for a very long time. A chance to reflect on what we have, who we have around us and to spare some generosity for those who have less.

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