With the final phases of the government’s easing of lockdown restrictions plan well underway, new research suggest that Covid-19’s legacy for some businesses could be that of innovation and bigger thinking.  59% of businesses have changed their business model as a result of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, according to research by Langleys Solicitors, published in the Back to Business? report, which looked into the future of the region’s companies.

While digitalisation is an inevitable evolution for most modern businesses, the pandemic restrictions made it necessary for business to fast-track digital transformation. The report revealed that 48% of businesses now have a greater online focus, allowing them to refresh the way they work and helping them adapt to an increase in demand.

Almost one in three (30%) existing businesses are considering new products or services, following an increased or completely new demand for alternative services. Furthermore, 20% of businesses have introduced delivery-based systems into their businesses. While this was a move intended to bridge the supply gap during enforced closure, the business owners and directors polled plan to make these temporary changes permanent.

Interestingly, the region’s business owners and directors still highlighted a shift to online among their biggest challenges facing in the years ahead, meaning those that have used the past 12 months as an opportunity to innovate may be ahead of the curve. Despite acting with caution during the pandemic, almost two-thirds (60%) of businesses have made changes they were already planning, more than a third (39%) of businesses have brought forward change, and 23% have made planned changes bigger.

Tim Cross, managing partner at Langleys Solicitors, said: “It’s great to see the many months of lockdown restrictions have not been lost time for the region’s businesses, who have seized the opportunity to innovate and restructure their practices to face the future of their industry.

“Those who have adapted to the changes in consumer demands have been able to prioritise expansion during a time where other businesses’ rigidity has come a great cost. The clear desire of business leaders to continue with expansion points towards a real renewal of prosperity across the region.”

While existing businesses have made changes to innovate and adapt to new challenges, almost a quarter (23%) of the region’s business owners and directors expect new start-ups to enter the market to make the most of new opportunities.

Tim Cross continued: “It’s a positive sign to see businesses expecting the market competition to grow, particularly following a global recession.

“The increased competition is likely to have a positive impact, acting as further incentive for more innovation as new start-ups increase the fight for market share. While there is no mistaking the past year has been difficult for many, our research and experiences show that there is still a strong appetite to continue with their innovations and changes during the post-Covid recovery.

“More than 40% of businesses expect to emerge from the pandemic stronger than they entered and one in six (15%) business owners and directors will also invest more than they did pre-Covid. With these findings considered, and a new sense of optimism as restrictions ease, I expect that we are in for a genuine period of growth for businesses in the region. I for one cannot wait to see it unfold.”

Langleys’ specialist Corporate, Commercial Property, Dispute Resolution and Employment law teams are available to advise on any questions business leaders and owners have concerning new business planning and operations post-lockdown.