CEO of Bowles & Wyer, John Wyer, reflects on the year past and looks forward to 2021…
I am hardly the first to say that last year brought many surprises, or that it will go down in history. Like many others, I feel that I have worked harder in the last twelve months than almost any other in the last 25 years. The relentless need to plan, re-plan and adapt has taken its toll. But it does of course, also have upsides. We have all learnt more about ourselves in the past few months: what motivates us, how much easier it is to achieve change when everyone is behind it, how to look at new ways of doing things and new methods of working.
At Bowles & Wyer, we were used to regular close contact: meetings, information exchange days, socials etc. Without these, it became harder to maintain the close unit or series of units that we needed to be. But the need for closeness in some form was greater. We rolled out our internal social media platform (Blink) in April – this was pre-planned and once launched was well used. In addition, we had done a lot of work last year in moving information onto the cloud and allowing more remote working, including setting up Microsoft ‘Teams’ communication software for everyone – which proved to be a godsend. Although not as good as face to face meetings, it allowed smooth running.
But what really shone, was the extra efforts that almost everyone in the business made to keep the whole ship sailing. There were some extraordinary individual efforts as well as outstanding teamwork. Many of our suppliers also went the extra mile to keep things going. We were thankful for the government support too, without which life would have been much more difficult. ‘Support’ has been a key word for many people in the last nine months with a new sense of community and renewed altruism.
As I wrote back in late March, one of the curious things was that in an odd way, the advance of the virus was almost matched step for step with the advance of the seasons. The progress from early spring’s wind and rain to the sun and growth of late spring and early summer was a curious reverse parallel to what was happening on the news. For those who could not get outside, this was torture, but for those of us with gardens the enforced stay-at-home time was remarkably liberating. Sometimes in the past I felt ridiculously guilty when I was gardening – as though I should be inside doing some work. The term ‘gardening leave’ certainly took on new significance this year. Hopefully this enforced contact with nature will be good for all of us.
So what of 2021? I hope to be able to build on what we have learnt from this year and propel ourselves forward. The value of trust, support and team work in a business and the need to be as agile as ever. But beyond that, the need to understand the value of the natural world beyond that of economic value. This goes straight to the heart of our purpose as a business – to Enhance Lives and Landscapes. Perhaps if we have learnt anything positive from this last year, it is that change is not always as difficult as we thought. If we focus more on ‘What if?’ rather than ‘If only…’ then we will be moving in the right direction.
[Photo credit: Eva Nemeth]