Roger Fairhead Certificate JMT Certified

How to make your business Pandemic Tolerant (6)

”The past is a foreign country,
they do things differently there.”

~ L P Hartley

The year 2020 will go down as marking the most significant disruption to the modern world.  2019 was a different country, and they did things differently there.  
To thrive after this disruption requires a new way of thinking, a new way of working, and a new way of leading if you want to continue making a difference after the Disruption in a pandemic tolerant world. 

Some who didn’t

Woolworths – The first Woolworth store was opened by Frank Winfield Woolworth on February 22nd, 1879. It was Woolworth’s “Great Five Cent Store” in Utica, New York. Although it initially appeared to be successful, that store soon failed, however, Woolworth went on to open his first successful Woolworth’s later that year in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on July 18th, 1879. A few years later the British branch of F. W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd was founded by Frank Woolworth in Liverpool on 5 November 1909.

The loss of 807 stores and 27,000 jobs between 27th December 2008 and 6th January 2009 was “the first domino of physical retail armageddon,” according to Matthew Hopkinson, who was the co-founder of retail advisory company Didobi and a former Local Data Company director.  (Local Data Company is probably the UK’s most accurate retail location insight company, and they physically track every retail and leisure business right across the UK.)

Possible reasons suggested for Woolworths’ failure range from poor management, poor customer offering, a rapidly evolving retail world, technology, and the discount pound stores.  

“We’d never seen anything like that before where suddenly every town in a [just over a week], 800 Woolworths stores – bang – they went.”

~ Matthew Hopkinson

Kodak & Digital photography – Kodak led the photography industry for over 100 years. They were founded in 1888 by George Eastman, and by 1976 they sold 85-90% of all films & film cameras.

In 1975 Kodak invented the first Digital Camera, however, Kodak executives were convinced that “no one would ever want to look at their pictures on a television set.” At the time, gross margins on film were over 67% or £2 in every £3 of sales, and it had one of the strongest brands in the world. The company completely dominated its industry. 

Then, in 1981, along came digital. Kodak filed for Bankruptcy in 2012

Some who did
National Geographic ~ print to digital

We’ve become used to seeing a copy of the National Geographic Magazine in every Dentist’s Surgery or Doctor’s waiting room, along with a few copies of Readers Digest, and several other special interest glossy magazines and newspapers.

The National Geographic Society was founded in 1888 “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge”.  It began as a club for an elite group of academics and wealthy patrons interested in travel and exploration. 

On January 13, 1888, 33 explorers and scientists gathered at the Cosmos Club on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., to organise “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”, and the National Geographic Society was incorporated two weeks later on January 27th. Gardiner Greene Hubbard became its first president and his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, succeeded him in 1897.

The National Geographic Society is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational organisations in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology, and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history. 

Many of you will know that The National Geographic Society’s logo is a yellow rectangular portrait frame, which appears on the margins surrounding the front covers of its magazines and as its television channel logo. Its first issue was in 1888 which sent to 165 charter members, and early in the 20th Century, it moved to pictorial content, when, in 1905 it featured some full-page pictures of Tibet.

More recently, and most notably, the June 1985 cover featured a 12-year-old Afghan girl named Sharbat Gula with a photo taken by Steve McCurry, and this became one of the magazine’s most recognisable images.

In the late 1990s they read the signs, and the magazine began publishing The Complete National Geographic, a digital compilation of all the past issues of the magazine and a new chapter began.

Print is in rapid decline and in some areas has almost entirely gone, but National Geographic Magazine lives on. They have continued to be successful in the new format while retaining their original purpose, and they now reach 40 million people each and every month.

Some who did ~ Sandford Hill

When my son started to attend our local primary school, Sandford Hill, I decided that I would join the board of governors.  I recall that the Headmaster, Colin Smith, faced several crises during the time I was serving on the board, and each of these asked the question “what will we do now!” 

Sometimes it was teachers leaving, funding “adjustments” (ie reductions), or Councils changing their minds. Well, every time that happened he seemed to be able to come up with a new solution that was even better than what had existed before the crisis appeared.

That’s the kind of thinking we need in today’s pandemic tolerant world: After the Disruption.

Examples from

“I think that you’re going to see a de-emphasis on physical offices and perks, not just in tech but in finance and every other sector, such as having beautiful open floor plans, with in-office gyms and onsite yoga. Employers are going to be emphasising flexible work, health insurance, and more practical benefits
“Just like a whole generation changed after the Great Depression, the behaviour of young workers in regards to savings and risk-taking is going to change forever. You’re going to see, long after this coronavirus is gone, people being much more conservative and careful about savings and looking for stability and work.”
~ Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor

“I think traditional distribution in our industry, products through department stores and speciality stores, is over.”
~ Gregg Renfrew, (founder and CEO, Beautycounter)

“Though we talk about how big e-commerce is, it’s still less than a fifth of total retail. Covid is acting as a flywheel to increase the speed of digitalization for retail.”
~ Harley Finkelstein, (Chief Operating Officer of Shopify)

“At its core, Nike Fit will work when a customer opens the Nike app, selects a shoe to buy, and then instead of selecting a numerical size, the shopper will be presented with the option to scan his or her foot straight using a smartphone. A scan can take less than 15 seconds. And then Nike Fit will recommend a size for that particular shoe being considered. That information – such as the width of the shoppers’ foot, down to the millimetre will – be saved for later purchases, too, because the size may vary with the style. Nike’s Air Jordan shoe, for example, fits differently than other sneakers.”
~ Heidi O’Neill, President of Consumer and Marketplace, Nike

Other emerging examples

Healthcare: we’ll no longer need to queue in the surgery for an appointment with the doctor.

Travel: we’ll starting to enjoy our own country

Home Office: Companies will offer to pay to help set up a Home Office since this will be cheaper than providing a corporate office, and staff will choose to invest in fitting out their home office rather than buying a second car.

Difference Makers

Now, let me take you back to1970, and a Times magazine article in which the economist Milton Friedman argued that businesses’ sole purpose is … “to generate profit for shareholders”. Increasingly today, this statement is being brought into question.  Customers, Colleagues and the so-called C-Suite are all becoming increasingly intolerant of Companies without a Cause.

Today, there’s a Confluence of external causes, a coming together of several global trends. Along with Covid, we have Conservation, Diversity in all its forms … with Black Lives Matter and the legacy of the business of Slave trading, or sexual orientation and the introduction of non-binary passports, the move away from dependency on oil and petroleum products, to electric vehicles and sustainable power generation.

In recent years there has been a parting of the ways between those exclusively pursuing a Profit, to those pursuing Profit PLUS Purpose (I call them Not JUST for Profit companies).

The way forward is to identity two things:

How you go about doing that is the subject of the previous posts in this series.

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.

He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.