They say it takes an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic: a new habit.

One habit of mine that was interrupted when we first went into lockdown in March 2020 was having a daily coffee at Foodstory café in Aberdeen.

Being one of their early Kickstarter supporters, it always felt important — almost a civic duty — to shop there (OK, I am also partial to the cinnamon rolls).

The shop local message took on renewed resonance for me during lockdown.

Pre-lockdown, I probably had lots of excuses for favouring easy purchasing with the big retailers, which is where habits come in.

There’s no doubt lockdown was a circuit breaker that gave me the opportunity to change some of those habits and take the time to investigate all that local businesses could offer.

Foodstory delivered fabulous lunches, having turned its business from sit-in to delivery within a week. Butcher supplies followed from JK Fine Foods, green stuff from Vital Veg along with essential beer supplies from WEST and BrewDog.

And these businesses weren’t alone as they adapted their models at lightning speed to survive.

The link between The Ultimate Business Show (TUBS) and my pandemic food habits may seem somewhat tenuous, but essentially, it’s about championing buying local, where you can: supporting those businesses based in your community or region that help drive the economy.

It’s also about understanding the challenges they’ve faced, and why your support is so important.

Perhaps it’s never been more so.

The challenge ahead

While the pandemic brought considerable uncertainty and challenges across the board, it’s encouraging now to see the corporate conversation increasingly shift to resilience, recovery, and long-term sustainable growth.

Amid expectations that the Scottish economy could return to pre-pandemic levels by the second quarter next year, businesses in Scotland have continued to benefit from the easing of CV19 restrictions.

Isn’t there always a but, though…?

While the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) says in its latest quarterly economic indicator for Q3 that there’s strong growth across most sectors included in the research, there’s a counterbalance: mounting concern about the energy crisis and rising costs as well as inflation and tax.

Plus, in the survey, the construction, manufacturing, and tourism sectors all reported significantly increased recruitment difficulties because of a lack of skilled labour in the UK workforce and lack of access to previously available EU labour.

Combine this with rising costs, there’s likely to be an impact on business capacity which could, longer term, force firms to curb investment.

Simply put, if Scottish businesses can’t get the talent they need, they risk falling dangerously behind the curve on recovery and growth.

And according to the CBI, Scotland already lags the rest of the country in several areas including investment and exports as a percentage of GDP and the percentage of “innovation active” businesses.

Net zero

With COP26 in Glasgow at the start of this month, businesses have been analysing the risks and opportunities that come for them with decarbonising the economy.

According to the Citizens Advice Scotland’s Risky Business report the industrial and commercial sectors account for three fifths of Scotland’s annual electricity and heat consumption, and UK-wide, SMEs contribute up to 53% of the country’s “environmental impact”.

The UK and Scottish Governments have binding commitments to reach net zero and it means we all have a part to play, no matter how large or small our businesses are. And that means investment.

The survey says larger SMEs, those with higher turnover and those established for longer were more likely to have taken action to reduce their carbon footprint; however, Scottish organisations of that size in the sample were more likely to express their need for support to kick start decarbonisation.

What now?

All this calls for businesses to be bold and ambitious. And for buyers to support local, including SMEs, where and when they can.

No small ask after the last 18 months, of course. But I’d like to think since March last year so many of us have come to appreciate the contributions these organisations make to our communities, perhaps even more than we realised before.

And we’ve created new, sustainable, long-term habits along the way.

That’s why events like TUBS are so important: offering a great platform to inspire and support business growth and development for businesses of all sizes across sectors while also offering an opportunity for delegates to easily source the products and services they need locally.

We’d love to see you there, and please join us for breakfast between 8.15am and 9.30am!