Thinking back to this time last year, when many people experienced the daily or occasional commute into an office, spending so much time working with and around other people, prompts a whole host of emotions. To those who continue to enjoy the comfort of their own homes, office life may feel like a chapter of a closed history book. A done and dusted idea. For others, like me, who were built for a varied and multicoloured working week, it’s a story that we can’t help but cling onto.

There seems to be a hunger to join forces with others (in the non-virtual way) to get energy circulating again. Perhaps that’s because the built environment is such a friendly sector. The sheer number of events, parties and opportunities to mingle (prior to Covid) goes to show that there’s an appetite to socialise and to build relationships in a natural way.

Business development - then versus now

Last year, the BMG team were here, there and everywhere, meeting clients, hanging out with colleagues, attending networking events, touring exciting office spaces, and visiting universities and colleges to promote FM careers. We were wherever we needed to be to understand what workplace trends were approaching. It was all about business development. And I don't just mean that in terms of turnover. I mean business development as in staying in tune with what’s going on in the market, an advancement of innovation, and a way to attract and keep the best talent. That's why we led a varied work life pre-lockdown. It wasn’t just a habit. It was a calling.

Quite often the success of business development programmes comes a year or two after an initial encounter. It doesn't come straight away. It can take months or even years to build those strong foundations that one day might lead to an opportunity. And it’s during that process that you gradually demonstrate your worth, your value, your credibility and your fit as a potential partner. That’s been taken away from us this year.

Don’t get me wrong. The virtual world is to thank for ensuring business continuity the world-over. Platforms like Zoom, despite the fatigue they’ve triggered in some, have helped us instigate, maintain and build relationships. But it’s not the same as those serendipitous rendezvous we used to enjoy when doing the rounds at FM events.

We’ve won some fantastic contracts this year, so you can win business and you can still develop, but I don’t know how long that will last for if we’re all sat in siloed spaces doing our siloed thinking. We’re missing the non-verbal cues that can tell us so much more about the person we’re talking to. Much like the faces we look into, is there a risk that the relationships we’re cultivating during this period are merely two dimensional? Is business becoming more transactional and less personal?

Looking forward with optimism

The good news is that there is an energy and keenness to get back into the arena. We already recognise the value of strong relationships but that’s going to be even more apparent in the future when we’re allowed to mix again. We’ll also keep the things that have worked so well, whether that’s a blend of home and office working, or reduced travel time and the associated carbon footprint by suggesting a virtual meeting instead of an in person one.

I don’t think you can tell whether a person is in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime if you can’t feed off and share their energy, or see the sparkle in their eyes. So here’s to a brighter 2021 and to a time when people can do what they’re built to do.

By Rachel Houghton, MD at Business Moves Group

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