The UK has reported almost 14 consecutive days of falling Covid case numbers, tumbling from over 45,000 cases a day to below 25,000 cases as of yesterday. This is in sharp contrast to the predictions made by certain experts who believed daily cases could
climb as high as 500,000. While the Prime Minister has urged caution in spite of the good news, the numbers of those who have been vaccinated continue to grow. Taken together this means that the UK may finally be turning the corner and closing the door on
a long period where there has been preciously little to be optimistic about. However, for many business leaders and members of the public jaded by a frustrating 16 months of false dawns and tragedy, the mentality will remain defensive and downbeat. While understandable,
this is the wrong moment to adopt this attitude.
Recent history is replete with examples of disasters and crashes that seemed apocalyptic at the time, but which have come to be seen as just another bump in the road in hindsight. Many considered the financial crash of 2008 would set business back decades,
but prior to the Covid pandemic many industries were reporting record growth, whether it was Amazon becoming the second trillion-dollar company after Apple or the burgeoning field of renewables and electric vehicles coming into their own. Thousands of businesses
have forged on and managed to grow even in spite of the pandemic. Some of these gains may be the result of being positioned in favourable market sectors, but that alone is not enough to guarantee success. Optimism and confidence must now be seen as assets
within every business, just as important as talent and capital.
Markets ultimately live and die on confidence and perceptions. Commerce is not simply a purely rational mathematical calculation, but an exercise in human psychology. The mood for a lot of businesses at the moment is understandably defensive, as they constantly
brace for the next wave of disruption. But changing circumstances provide opportunities as well as challenges. We know this from developments in my own sector, payment solutions. Without the onset of the Covid crisis, businesses across the country simply might
not have considered taking card payments or setting up an online eCommerce presence. Often, we can get stuck in a rut, unwilling to change an approach that seems to be working now to adopt one that may generate results in the future. Yet from pub marquees
to local delivery, what was first developed as emergency measures looks to become permanent fixtures for firms all over the world.
No one is denying that contingency planning and a modicum of caution is important. It would be reckless to assume that is plain sailing from here on out. Yet whether it is the Covid pandemic or not, there will always be unexpected challenges in the business
arena. The long-term winners are enterprises that are not only reacting to events but taking charge of them. While some may hesitate to set out lofty growth plans or to adopt new ways of doing business, their competitors are doing exactly that. Businesses
should not be afraid to believe that on a long enough timeline, they will succeed. Optimism is having the courage to take chances where others simply would not. Many businesses have been pushed to change by the pandemic and are seeing positive results from
that. The lesson to take away is to embrace change without being forced to do so in the future.
On a purely human level, we could all do with a dose of positive thinking and optimism. Though the last year and a half has been heartbreaking for those who lost relatives, for those whose education has been disrupted, and for the countless millions who
have missed out on seeing friends and family, we have seen some exceptional community spirit. Just as the wider community has come together, the business community must now come together in a collective positive spirit and outline plans for the future that
not only generate profits, but support businesses which have struggled, and ultimately make life just a little bit easier for all concerned.
The switch in thinking from the cautious and the pessimistic, to the growth-orientated and optimistic may take some time. It is possible that the progress which the country has made so far could be reversed, but we must take a long term-view. Regardless
of whether the current disruption will continue for weeks or months, in the end things will not only get back to normal, but for many businesses times will be better than ever. The good times will come to entrepreneurs that make them happen, and this is a
pivotal moment where companies will choose to be among the innovators or be left behind. Whatever happens, this a juncture to embrace the power of positivity, and to reap the rewards of doing so whether that is today, tomorrow, or in the not so distant future.