Last year, businesses in Singapore were faced with a non-choice of change. It was a type of change that was forced upon us. It was not a board decision, nor was it a government policy change, nor was it from a new technology market disrupter. It was from a tiny, invisible virus.
We found our offices mostly or completely abandoned. We had customers and employees working from home having to balance the needs of the business and family seamlessly. The sight of children running around the background of virtual meetings became the norm. Dining tables serving as desks with couples working for different companies; the husband and wife facing each other and timing important calls so as not to disturb each other. But somehow, we survived and adapted. With the help from our government, our society, our prudent managers and fully committed staff, most businesses in Singapore survived and some did well.
What I found frankly surprising is that although our newly opened Singapore office has been only really used for one month in the last 15 months, our colleagues are more committed, productive and flexible than they have been before. Colleagues, who may have never met in real life, have become buddies. Our customers both in Australia and in Singapore are now more engaged and familiar with our WFH approach. Customer satisfaction has remained high.
At AECO Energy, we are the beneficiary of this willingness to accept change as we specialise in engaging with businesses in new ways to purchase electricity. We help businesses engage in innovative ways to lower costs.
To our surprise, businesses have been more than willing to hear about innovation in the last 12 months. It is as if COVID has opened the sound of change into the otherwise closed ears of prior practice.
I think the reasons for these phenomena are more about our individual willingness to accept change and to advance both personally and professionally given an external nudge. In the book Nudge, behavioral economist and Nobel laureate, Richard Thaler and legal scholar, Cass Sunstein, discuss how small external inputs can lead to big changes. I think my recent experience confirms this personally.
With COVID, the nudge was forced upon us. It wasn’t a little nudge, but still… businesses discovered that we could work from home productively given the right technology and management approach. In fact, I think our customers have benefited from higher productivity rates and employee satisfaction as they are now spared from the daily commutes and stress on the road.
It is true that at AECO Energy, we thrive on innovation. Innovation and “Saving Business More” are how we benefit our customers. Improving business processes and buying methods in our customers’ business to help them to be more profitable is part of our DNA. So, perhaps as CEO, I am more naturally inclined to be open to reinvention and seek new ways in business.
But I ask myself: If there was no pandemic, would I have moved so fast and so hard to go paperless, to move to a cloud-based infrastructure, to embrace virtual meetings, to outsource non-essential business practices, to change our management practices, timekeeping and corporate culture? Honestly? Probably not.
Is the AECO Group more profitable and successful because of it? Undoubtedly. Culturally, financially and socially more successful. Definitely.
A year into the pandemic, why then has the pace stopped for further change? Why has our time for innovation also stopped? Is it me?
I think YES.
I think the problem starts at the top. With Me. At the CXX level. With our organisation’s proven ability to cope with the COVID change, the success has taken my foot off the pedal. I caught myself agreeing with come colleagues yearning for the “good old days” of international travel, to return and see customers internationally face-to-face. Waiting to implement my plans. Delaying. Procrastinating. Waiting for travel bubbles to open.
I caught myself. What wrong thinking! The “good old days” are gone, forever. To seek to move ahead of the pack and serve our customers better, I can’t rest on our laurels, no matter how satisfied we are. Our goal is to “Save Business More” and we must drive onwards to that goal.
Now is the time for our business leaders to sustain the change for the betterment of Singapore. Innovate in COVID and POST-COVID. Continue to move ahead. Change!
At AECO, we will continue advocating for our customers to innovate, change their buying practices and lower their costs by using AECO’s services and technology. I need to heed my own advice and continue to drive innovation past the pandemic and into the future and to maintain dynamic growth for our colleagues, our company, our stakeholders and our nation.
How are you continuing to innovate? Are you stalled in the new norm? Longing for the good old days? Join me in a commitment to continue to drive change and by committing to change as a permanent state and move towards our future success.