STREAT’s Bec Scott on how the future of work is likely to change
The COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses to re-evaluate their operations. Bec Scott, co-founder of STREAT, shares her journey and thoughts on the future of work.
Business owners and entrepreneurs are often asked to create a long-term vision for their company. Bec Scott, TEDx speaker, Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient, and co-founder and CEO of social enterprise STREAT, rose to this challenge by creating a 20-year plan for her business. Here are her thoughts on how the future of work might change following the global coronavirus crisis.
STREAT’s mission is to create healthier people and a healthier planet. But, like everyone affected by COVID-19, it was forced to make concessions when the pandemic struck. This included closing five of eight cafes, reducing staff numbers and cutting hours.
STREAT has been supported by Westpac Foundation since 2010. In response to COVID-19, the Foundation brought forward $100,000 in previously approved grant funding to help STREAT sustain jobs and plan for the future. This helped the stores that remained operational to focus on home delivery of groceries, meals, bread and coffee.
Many of the half a million people who eat and caffeinate at STREAT’s 11 cafes and restaurants each year might not realise that it’s also a social enterprise which teaches vulnerable young people skills they can take to any industry in the future.
When COVID-19 forced store closures, Scott knew that her staff would be even more affected by the challenges - such as mental health issues, drug or alcohol abuse - that they face on a daily basis, and began looking for new ways to help.
“Our strategy has been to be clever in the way we’re using resources – not being reckless – but trying a heap of things very rapidly to help create the future, rather than being a victim of the future,” Scott explains. So they involved all employees in their research and development process, sourcing hundreds of ideas from various teams. Then they prioritised and tested them for viability by creating new teams, rapidly prototyping and, finally, getting products to market.
As a result, Scott launched Moving Feast, a new urban agriculture initiative to help keep young people safe and active – all while remaining at a safe social distance from one another. This alliance of 18-plus companies now trains young people to plant and grow the food they used to serve. “If you’re teaching young people how to be urban farmers, they’ll grow the produce to go back into our kitchens,” she says.
Quite apart from the project’s various health benefits, such as reducing depression and anxiety, increasing physical fitness and creating a sense of community, Scott is also excited about increasing vertical integration into the business. Now, STREAT comprises all elements of the food process from production to processing, storage to distribution and, finally, hospitality.
Because STREAT doesn’t compete for profits at every stage of the supply chain, it’s triggered a state of “radical cooperation” with other businesses. “When you’re mission-driven, you want to be generous with your knowledge because you’re collectively trying to change the world, socially and environmentally,” says Scott.
This has enabled them to start sharing team knowledge and intellectual property by moving workshops online. “We also have teams of psychologists, youth workers, social workers to help and train our young people but they could pivot to teaching a corporate workforce about mental health in the future,” says Scott.
Their research also revealed an opportunity to launch new streams of training and employment for young people through online learning. “We haven’t jumped into unrelated business areas. They are adjacent industries. But they’re certainly very different training opportunities for young people,” Scott explains.
While it looks like STREAT’s transition happened rather quickly, it’s been a long-term strategy in the making. “We’ve been dreaming about it and working towards it for a few years. Now the lockdown has given us the time and headspace to get everything ready for bringing back people into whole new business units,” says Scott.
While pivoting at short notice may never be seamless, having the foresight of a 20-year plan did make the change easier for STREAT - and helped ensure viability in the long run. “There’s nothing like new opportunities being born out of a crisis,” says Scott. “I’ve been able to fast-forward a whole bunch of my 2040 strategy work during this pandemic. I couldn’t be having more fun than now.”
For Scott, pivoting her business has produced new business units, integrated other local enterprises, and triggered greater sharing and use of ideas, business-wide. Scott believes this is indicative of how workplaces of the future might operate: with more remote learning, remote working, and a significant shift in knowledge sharing. What’s more, she’s hopeful that this shift will also allow for greater diversity at work and more creativity in the future.
This article is a general overview and should be used as a guide only. We recommend that you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before acting.