I had a pretty testing 2019 on a personal level, losing both the ‘outlaws’ within the year. I recall on New Years eve/day thinking through all sorts of plans both personal and for the direction of the BEC. I was adamant it was going to be a year of growth and change for the BEC, we were excited about developing a brand new affordable creative workspace bang in the middle of Barking town centre which is currently under major regeneration. We had plans to develop some innovative business growth programmes for growing sectors in our communities as well as other projects in the pipeline.
Sadly, these went ‘out of the window’ with the impact of Covid-19 and our crucial role in supporting start ups and SME’s took over for the whole year. I am pleased to say these plans are back for 2021 which happens to be our social enterprise 5th birthday. I have to say that despite the enormous challenges and the impact that the pandemic has brought there were some great things that did happen.
Firstly, improved relationships, between our organisation and those we consider to be our partners; these have changed drastically for the better. We have always talked about partnership but now it truly feels like ‘mutual partnership’ is truly happening. Now given that we no longer meet face to face instead using the plethora of video technology this was somewhat a surprise. I call it the new informal formal way of working, this is especially precedent in our different relationships with departments of the local authority and it feels great to get things done! Not just talk …actual actions which will improve the economic situation for businesses.
Secondly despite the circumstances we have seen some businesses who adapted quickly and pivoted and diversified into new markets and kept afloat or in some cases thrived despite all the challenges.
There has been a shift in the culture of business it sounds ‘twee’, but people are just nicer and kinder to each other; well that’s my perception and my lived experience over the last 8 months. I really hope post COVID-19 that continues and is embraced as a culture identity in business.
The reach of the BEC has grown significantly; we have finally dispelled the myth that we only work in Barking and Dagenham I think! This can be attributed to the digital shift of our support services in the main. It was money well spent to move our training and mentoring online, I didn’t think that the BEC would ever need to consider the time in New York to discuss mentoring, but we did. It appears that there is much more of an appetite for online events and training, of course it makes sense it fits round work and family life. From a business perspective it is a cost-effective way to deliver networking although I miss the ambience of a networking event and we will all think differently about those shared buffets now!
A highlight in October was that we achieved our London Living wage accreditation, for some not a big deal I recognise. For me it was important as it’s not just about us, its about those we contract with as well, and we want to lead the way in supporting a fairer business community.
In January/February this year the news and media were full of Brexit and the implications, we have found that its just not been at the top of business owners lists since March, However of course if you are affected you are running out of time to review your plans.
Ruminating on my plans for New Year, my thoughts now are how we blend our service offer to a mixture of face to face delivery (when safe to do so) whilst still developing our online activity. Getting the two projects that were this year off the ground in January 2021. We are pleased to be supporting kickstart in our borough from January and keen to develop or Board of Directors and engage more people from the business community to be part of our growth and development.
Crucially, those 5th birthday plans remain high on my list for 2021. It may not be February, but I am confident that at sometime in 2021 we will meet to celebrate.