There is no doubt in my mind at all that doing business after Covid-19 will be very different to doing business before Covid-19. How will this look? As a business mentor, my role is to look forward, consider the possibilities and help my clients navigate that path.
Whilst most businesses are currently just looking to survive Covid-19, to survive AND thrive, we must also start looking ahead to what the future brings. Doing business after Covid-19 will be different. Why do I say that?
In Australia, the government states that we must be prepared for this to last at least 6 months – that is more than enough time for a habit to be built. And habits, once formed, are difficult to change (at least, that’s my personal experience).
For example, try ordering one of those yummy cakes when you next stop at a café to buy your regular coffee fix. Change your regular order from just coffee to coffee AND cake for a week. I would take a bet that you’ll find it difficult to go back to just coffee after this. Bad habits form quickly. On the other hand, good habits are not as easy to form unless you are one of those highly disciplined people (which most of us are not). Just look at how busy the gym is in January each year. Then see how many are still there in February and March. Good habits take much longer!
With Covid-19, we are now being forced to change our habits. And indications are we will have 6 months of it. As I understand it, it takes, on average 66 days to form a new habit. I won’t repeat the great article written by James Clear on How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit which goes into it in a lot more detail. It’s worth a read if you want to understand the psychology behind this. Certainly his book Atomic Habits is one of those must read books if you’re wanting to change your habits.
Those habits we are now forming will be part of our “normal” life – doing business post Covid-19 will reflect this new “normal”.
100 YEARS SINCE 1918
History show us that a pandemic is nothing new.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a powerpoint from their webinar on Are We Ready for the Next Pandemic in 2018. You would have thought that the 2 years since would have meant that we would be fully prepared. However, as we know only too well, we’re not. Polarised politics and self-interest are not helpful.
When Covid-19 first surfaced, many discounted it as “just a flu”. There was no talk of how this would affect business (or anything else). However, this is not “just a flu”. According to the World Health Organisation, the speed of transmission is one big difference. The graph from WHO demonstrate this clearly. Covid-19 is different. Conspiracy theories about the accident from the secret biological warfare laboratory in Wuhan (I guess it’s so secret we’ve all heard about it), about the deliberate infection of Hong Kong dissidents to silence them, about how USA has deliberately done this, etc has caused much distrust. Fake news is alive and kicking.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 will make it into our history books as one of those pandemics that shape the world. Doing business after Covid-19 will be very different.
- RESTRICTIONS – In December 2019, if you had said to me, that we would accept stringent restrictions on our movement, I would have laughed and said that you’re crazy. Yet, look at today. We have accepted, and indeed cried for and approved of (not counting those few instances when people are totally ignoring it), the restrictions our various governments have imposed. People are dobbing in those who do not comply. Will we adjust to this new lifestyle? This reek of dictatorship – something that those of us who live in a democracy will fight tooth and nail to keep.
- TRUST IN GOVERNMENT – The Roy Morgan’s annual Image of Professions Survey found that the public has a very low level of trust in government, with Federal and State Members of Parliament ranking #23 and #24 respectively … Way behind the nurses, pharmacists and doctors and only just ahead of the car salesman at #30. However, Covid-19 appears to be changing this perception. A recent poll showed that some 56% trusted the government to provide honest and objective information about the Covid-19 outbreak. The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has recorded the highest approval rating for a national leader in more than a decade as he steers a path through the coronavirus pandemic, according to Newspoll.
- COOPERATION – Polarised politics appear to be taking a back seat as our government representatives (at least in some countries like Australia) work together and cooperate on a wide range of initiatives that would never have passed parliament nor seen the light of day just 2 months ago. In the “old days”, our politicians would have fought like cats and dogs over the most minor issues. And yes, even in America, where politics has been very divisive (and still is), there is partisan agreement that the top public officials have done a good job responding to the Covid-19 outbreak and they do agree on some of the initiatives. The recent rare recent televised address by Queen Elizabeth in UK evoked the darkest days of World War II and called for unity. She likened the lock-down to the sacrifices that families made during World War II when parents sent away their children for their own safety.
- NEW ONLINE USERS – I have seen a new “generation” of dinosaurs who have just discovered how to use online tools like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. Those who have resisted getting online no longer have a choice. You have to get online if you want to survive AND thrive. You have to get online if you want to remain connected. This has suddenly introduced thousands and thousands of new users who have probably never done an online webinar before. The market is exploding. The probability is that once they discover the world is now at their fingertips, there will be no looking back.
- FAMILY – I have seen a return to family. Prior to Covid-19, “kids” were leaving home at the first opportunity. They wanted adventure and that often meant that they left home and travelled the world, making a new home for themselves in all four corners of the world. Covid-19 has seen many returning “home” to be with family. Family has become important again. Citizenship also matters as various governments call their citizens home.
- PROTECTIONISM – Consumers have suddenly discovered how reliant we are on our global partners. And I do not think people like that dependency. Our economy is no longer in our own hands. How China fare affects all of us. I also sense a greater distrust toward China and a louder and louder call for protectionism policies. Trump started it with “Make America Great Again”, followed hot on its heels by Brexit in UK. Will we hear this catch cry resound in all countries as each country grapples with restoring their own economies and maybe lead to a resurgence of manufacturing industries in the home country? Or will we see an attempt at the One World Government which the UN has been promoting for a long time? That remains to be seen – although there is a prophesy in the bible that one-world government is coming!
- CASH ECONOMY – The use of cash has all but disappeared with many businesses now insisting that all payments be made by card only. Paying by cash is the only way Big Brother couldn’t track you. But now, it’s all about TAP AND GO. Don’t touch anything! I suspect the normal cash economy will now be saying “Don’t give me cash” – because they can’t spend it anyway! That same card that’s used to “tap and go” can be used to track our movements. The technology already exists and, as I understand, is already in use in some countries and by the various law enforcement agencies.
- BIG BROTHER – Some of the initiatives being rushed through now by the various governments to in a bid to stop the economy from crashing are welcomed. People have rushed to the government for support and the government has risen to the challenge in this time of crisis by introducing an unprecedented level of support for its citizens. Are we creating a new mindset of “big brother will look after us”? Democracies have generally encouraged an entrepreneurial mindset, not a “hand-out” mindset. Will this change when we’re doing business after Covid-19?
DOING BUSINESS AFTER COVID-19
Doing business after Covid-19 will be different. It doesn’t take Einstein to work this out. How different will this be? How do I think this will pan out? Let me get out my crystal ball. This is my personal beliefs. I could be wrong. In fact, I guarantee I will be wrong in some of it. The fact is that no one has a crystal ball. We are all operating in uncharted territories. This is a changing world.
I’m not an economist. I’m not a politician. But I am an entrepreneur. Doing business is what I do. I plan on innovating my business to ensure that I get to the “other side” so I can continue to do business after Covid-19.
Until something else comes along that makes me think otherwise, my plans (and the advice I give to my mentoring and coaching clients) take the following into account:
1. WORKING FROM HOME
I believe this will become the new normal, not the exception. Why do I say that? Businesses will be trying to recover after life returns to normal (however you define normal). They will be looking to save on costs. Many employers will have discovered that their employees CAN work as easily from home and their productivity CAN be monitored.
Those tools are already being used by companies who outsource their work to the Philippines and India. If employees continue working from home, the business will not require the big premises they had before Covid-19. That is an instant saving that will go straight to the bottom line.
However, there will be employers who want to revert to the old way and insist on having all their employees in the office. Now, they will have to justify why employees HAVE to go into the office when Covid-19 has proven that you can work from home.
If that happens and you own commercial properties, will you have difficulty leasing your premises? Will this affect the value of your commercial properties? Will workers need to live as close to the city centre or will there be a move further out to the suburbs where property prices are lower when they no longer have to commute? Does that mean that the highly sought-after properties close to the city will no longer be as highly sought after? Will that result in a drop in value of those properties? Who knows! Doing business after Covid-19 will change.
The awareness of our inter-connectivity will likely see an increase in outsourcing. Covid-19 will have gotten us used to talk to our employees on Zoom and Skype, etc. It will have gotten us used to working remotely. Many businesses will have realised that the business continued to operate fine with remote workers. Meeting face to face will have proven to be unnecessary especially in certain industries such as bookkeeping, accounting and financial services.
Companies will be looking to cut costs. And what better way to cut costs than to go overseas to countries where the labour cost is much lower and potentially save up to two-thirds of your labour costs. The thinking will be that if you can connect remotely with your employees in your own country, why not overseas? Why not, indeed?
I’m currently walking my clients through the changes they will have to adapt to. It’s no good complaining about it. You have to adapt. And adapt FAST. The current conversation suggest that this crisis will last for at least 6 months. That’s about as long as you got. In business, it is always FIRST to the post who wins. Speed is everything. Act now. Don’t wait till the crisis end before you make your change. If you are an employee, what change should you be making now to prepare for the possible loss of work to outsourcing? The general agreed view is that you must upskill so that you can do the work that cannot be outsourced overseas. Doing business after Covid-19 will change.
3. RESURGENCE IN MANUFACTURING
Expect to see a resurgence in manufacturing industries in your own country.
I sense that people are concern about the country’s dependence on China as a manufacturer. Whilst we’ve all known that China provides much of what we buy, I don’t believe we have truly understood how much … Until Covid-19 came upon us.
In fact, China has ranked as the world’s biggest exporter of goods since 2009 – including being the world’s largest exporter of toilet paper accounting for 12% of the global market. The run on toilet paper in all countries will possibly have been caused by the fear that toilet paper will run out because of the lock down in China. Have a look at all the products sitting in your home. How many of those have “MADE IN CHINA” labels?
Just ask Mr Google. What does China export. I’m sure there’s no surprises if I tell you the list includes machines (computers, broadcasting equipment, telephones), textiles (women’s sweaters, suits, etc), metals (steel bars, iron structures, etc) , chemical products (such as pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics), transportation (vehicle parts, ships, motorcycles, etc) and plastics and rubbers (plastic housewares, rubber tyres, etc). The last figure I saw stated that China exports make up 7.46% of total world exports. Look at the range of products and answer the question – Can you manage if China didn’t exist?
Will the government step in with incentives for manufacturing businesses to make sure the shortages we see never happen again? Who knows! But you might want to consider IF there is a resurgence of manufacturing, are you in the position to take advantage of that? I know one thing – doing business after Covid-19 will change.
4. PRICE WILL MATTER
We must remember that most people will have just surfaced from a period of quarantine and worry about holding on to their jobs or keeping their business going. Cash will be tight. It’s also likely that many will be surfacing from Covid-19 with more debt to pay off than before Covid-19.
I would take a guess that people are going to be ready to party hard. They will be wanting to hit the cafés. They will be wanting to do that which they haven’t been able to do during the crisis i.e. have a great big gathering! BUT most people (except for those in essential services who are working flat out during this time) will also not be flushed with money. They are going to be looking for value for their spend.
Does this mean that people will not pay the higher price for quality? I don’t have the answer to that. Much will depend on what happens between now and when the stringent government measures imposed are lifted. Necessity will dictate their choice. Your customers might not have a choice. Some of the high fee chargers might have to reconsider their charge rates after Covid-19. I would suggest that we prepare for the worst but expect the best. Doing business after Covid-19 will be different.
5. ONLINE IS HERE TO STAY
The dinosaurs who insist that the ONLY course worth doing are the live face to face workshops have now been dragged kicking and screaming into the technology age. Many insist that networking can only be done face to face. Many have stubbornly refused to learn how to use online tools because they “don’t need it”. Suddenly, they don’t have a choice. Social distancing means that the only way to connect is now online – practising social distancing does not mean we have to be socially disconnected.
And many have discovered that online is not as bad as they thought it would be. Who would have thought that it would be possible to do church online and still be in a community? My church, Kingdomcity, has transitioned our weekly church services to church anywhere anytime online and still maintain its community. It does have its advantages – now I can attend church in my PJs J. Who would have thought that it’s possible to do group worship while practising social distancing? Worship leaders have gotten innovative.
And that is what we MUST do in business. Get innovative. How can we take our current business online? Before you say, “I can’t”, or “It’s not possible”, you must ask, “How can I …”. As an example, you would have thought that basketball coaching can only be done face to face. ImpactX Basketball Academy has gone online and has commenced a holistic basketball program that incorporates skills, fitness and mindset coaching (particularly important to counter the social isolation because of Covid-19 quarantine rules) that will produce a great team basketball player.
I believe that the market for online training is about to explode. By the time Covid-19 is over, you will have a whole new potential global market of people who never used to go online but now accept that meeting and networking online is OK and normal. You have a whole new group of people who’s just discovered webinars. More to the point, they will also now be accustomed to searching for online material. How can YOU reinvent your business and take it online? Doing business after Covid-19 will change.
6. FAMILIES ARE IMPORTANT
I have not witnessed this type of return to family and to the home country for a very long time. The Chinese have traditionally done this during Chinese New Year – and that tie to family has always been strong. The western culture have a similar tradition over Christmas or Thanksgiving, but not to the same extent. Except now.
Will this see a popularity of products and services that cater to this? What are families who are looking to reconnect looking for? Perhaps a course on how to write your life story will be sought after? It gives the older generation the tools they need to help them leave their legacy behind. Will this mean that the take up on life insurance will increase? I don’t have the answer to that. There’s still at least another 6 months of Covid-19 and the landscape will continue to change. Think outside the box. Doing business after Covid-19 will change as priorities change for people.
7. CASH INDUSTRIES
For years governments have tried to stop the cash industry without much success. They introduced a consumption tax to try to catch the tax as people spend. They brought in spending limits for cash transactions. Covid-19 changed people’s habits where governments couldn’t.
I’m sure the big businesses probably prefer it this way. Less cash to count and less chances of theft by staff. Those who continue to offer a discount for cash will find it much harder to spend their cash income. How will that impact your business? You can therefore expect to pay more merchant fees as the banks take their cut from each transaction. And those who have charged less for cash will possibly not be able to continue to do so as there’s nowhere for them to spend the cash. I could be wrong. We will see. Doing business after Covid-19 will change.
8. RE-INVENT YOUR BUSINESS
No business can afford to stay still. The environment will change, and so must the business. One of the first to feel the effect of Covid-19 were travel agents and caterers. I have a half share in a catering business that specialised in grazing tables for weddings and corporates. The Long Table Perth had built its reputation to being one of the Top 10 Grazing Tables in Perth. Our event catering income reduced to ZERO overnight as events got cancelled. Has Covid-19 affected my business? Yes, it has.
We have had to change. Overnight, we started work on transitioning our grazing table to incorporate catering for corporate meetings and training – The Black Swan Catering Co was birthed out of a need to innovate. We still serve the same delicious petite canapes that we built our reputation on. We’ve added several other new items to our menu. By the time we re-start our business, we will look very different to the way we did before we went into this crisis. We’ve adapted. And we will continue to adapt depending on what Covid-19 throws at us. Doing business after Covid-19 will change.
PRIORITIES AND VALUES
There’s one other major change that’s taken place. People have now realised who are the real essential workers, the unsung heroes of Covid-19. It’s not the CEOs of major corporations, it’s not the famous sports personality or movie star. And it’s also not your highly paid professionals.
Sports centre have closed. Restaurants can only do takeaways. Public parks have closed. Big sporting events are cancelled. It’s your teachers, childcare workers, checkout shop assistants, nurses, doctors and truck drivers, etc that are being asked to keep working to keep the wheels turning when a country is placed into hibernation.
Will that change the way we do business after Covid-19. Yes, it will. How it will change remains to be seen. But it will change. Maybe out of all this our unsung heroes will see better pay conditions. I don’t know the answer to that. The only answer I have is that we must be prepared to go with the flow and ride the waves whichever way they fall.
So here’s to innovation and change – here’s to a new way of doing business after Covid-19 – however that may look like.
About the Author:
Patsy Lim’s business and financial background (having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980), together with her entrepreneurial spirit enables her to apply a potent blend of strong financial and accounting expertise, deep practical business experience, and entrepreneurial flair and creativity to complex business problems. As an entrepreneur, she understands the issues that an entrepreneur faces. So, unlike some accountants who only know the theory of business, Patsy has had hands-on experience of what it means to be IN business, to start a business, to grow a business, and most of all, to manage a business when times inevitably get tough!
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