UK: A land of opportunity?

Reece Webb speaks with Eric Greenop, Avex UK’s new MD, as he reflects on the challenges and opportunities facing the UK market amid a perfect storm of uncertainty.

Many think that uncertainty is bad for business, but where there are grey clouds, there is often a silver lining. For Eric Greenop, the zeitgeist of the early 2020’spresents an exciting opportunity to learn and explore new markets against the backdrop of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taking on a new role as managing director of Avex UK in addition to his role as chairman of the GPA, Greenop took the plunge and moved from New Zealand to the UK. With more than 35 years’ experience in the industry and the past 10 as owner and CEO of New Zealand AV/UC systems company Asnet, Greenop sees the changes and trials ahead in the post-pandemic world as an exciting new period for integrators.

Greenop explained: “Most people talk about the mix of working from home and the return to the office [hybrid working], that poses questions about the AV and UC requirements in and around the meeting rooms, that’s a dilemma for the entire industry.“

“I can’t see us returning to what the office was before. People have understood the use of remote technology and the flexibility of it. It’s become far more common and it’s not too formal. We can meet and chat on VC as a common way of interacting; it’s less dressed up because it’s the communication that’s important not the formality of being in that space. There’s no stigma in asking or seeking a video call even if it’s the first-time meeting someone. People have become accustomed to it and accepted it, it’s just an additional facility.”

A lot of question marks still hang over the long-term future of the so-called ‘new normal’ workspace, with opinion divided on what the future holds for hybrid working environments versus a return to the pre-pandemic ways of doing business.

Regardless of opinion, it’s clear the hybrid working genie is truly out of the bottle and it may be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get it back in.

Greenop said: “Once we go back to the office, it may revert back towards the norm somewhat, but I don’t see it reverting the entire way. The younger generation (20-30) naturally slipped into this new way of working and it’s the old timers that were largely forced into it. Now, the later generations are used to doing this whereas before, they would have resisted enormously and not taken it up.

“It’s a challenge for everybody not just for Avex, that’s what’s most exciting about it. Anyone altering meeting rooms presents an opportunity for the industry in general. There are [Microsoft] Teams and Zoom meeting rooms as well as other solutions that are becoming the norm, and how that is addressed when people return to the office is the real opportunity. Corporates appear to understand that, it’s what they do about it and how quickly they can make those changes.”

Looking at the UK in particular, the market faces an array of hurdles to overcome in the form of changes in working and shipping products from the UK to the EU as a result of Brexit, as well as challenges and changes to work brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. It would be easy to fear-monger given the situation, but Greenop sees the UK as a springboard of ample opportunity.

With a world-leading vaccination program, Covid-19 infection rates at their lowest since September 2020 [at the time of writing] and an economic bounce-back in the second half of 2020 twice as strong than predicted, the golden opportunities for expansion and growth are there for those who are brave enough to grasp them.

Greenop: “We’re experiencing forced change. Covid-19 has forced a different way of interfacing with customers, you went out of business if you hoped to work from the office. We’re coming out of Covid now and transitioning back to the office, customers expect and anticipate the same connectivity but from an office environment. Working from home has forced the potential reduction of space required in the offices and a change of technology within the meeting rooms.

Add that to Brexit and folks moving out of London and a different trade environment with new offices and people in Europe, these things combined show a huge opportunity for our industry as we are solving both sides of that problem.

“The uncertainty will continue, especially in Europe and India. As part of the GPA, we look at it from a global point of view and we need to solve these issues globally for our corporate customers. It’s an upside opportunity whatever happens, you may go through a period of time where there are restrictions and doubt about purchase orders going through, requirements changing etc. all you know is that people have no choice but to do something. They can’t continue working as they were, whether in the UK, Europe or internationally.”

Looking to the future, Greenop sees a short-term bumpy road for the UK but also a leading position to secure a head-start in the road to recovery, presenting businesses with the chance to embrace a new way of working with the support of a strong economic bounce-back.




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