COVID-19 has introduced a new normal, and history already shows that some of these changes could end up reshaping our beliefs and behaviors. The manner at which businesses do operate could change with time. So how can companies prepare for the realities after the pandemic?
Several models on the impact of the pandemic globally are being projected and the fallout from the crisis will be catastrophic. According to Reuters, the coronavirus pandemic will cause a global recession in 2020 that could be worse than the one triggered in 2008.
Business leaders are already looking for how to keep their business afloat during this period. The current situation has created other alternative ways to run operations. New boundaries are being set and these may be what would define companies that would come out strong from the pandemic. Companies who are aware of innovations are strategically gravitating towards it. As McKinsey.com puts it, ‘companies will define what they do by the experience of the virus or be defined by it’.
Firstly, let us go back in history and see how global crises have shaped the world we live in.
Wiping out over half of Europe’s population, the Black Death plague (1346-1353) changed the course of the continent’s history. The plague left a deadly trail of close to 30 million and labor became harder to find, bringing about better pay for workers. Studies suggested that the lack of cheap labor may also have contributed to technological innovation during this period. (LiveScience.com)
America was hit by a plague in the 16th century. This plague contributed to the collapse of the Inca and Aztec civilizations. However, lessons learned from the confrontations of the plague helped the world understand how to tackle modern diseases like HIV/AIDS, Coronary Heart Disease and Ebola Infections.
The effects of World War II accelerated the growth of women’s participation, serving as a precursor for the present-day female movement.
In recent times, the 9/11 terrorist attack gave a new definition of terrorism globally, resulting in a higher level of international surveillance and screening. (Boston Consulting Group)
According to BCG, societal crises can also have lasting effects on consumption. The 2003 SARS outbreak popularized the concept of online retail in China, as people were scared to go outside. Though the crisis was short-lived, many consumers continued to use e-commerce channels afterward, paving the way for the rise of Alibaba and other digital giants.
Survival is the first instinct during a pandemic
It is no question that the world will survive the pandemic. Parallel researches are being done in various countries to come up with a vaccine. We just need time with the closest of the vaccine to be developed in 12-18 months. Till the development of these vaccines, businesses will have to take on the survival mode.
Moreover, events triggered by the pandemic are unprecedented for so many companies. While multinational organizations have disaster and crisis management plans embedded in their operations, small and medium scale businesses do not have such support. As businesses were forced to shut their doors in the early part of 2020, many small businesses are confronted with the challenge of a lifetime. The uncertainty of how long the pandemic would last makes business owners question the current operational structure of their organizations. The period sees organizations experimenting with different approaches for the sake of survival. The opportunity for businesses to infuse their core organizational values with human support, empathy, and purpose is greater than it has ever been.
Constant communication with stakeholders cannot be overemphasized as feedbacks from them can lead to several iterations that would see the organization survive the crisis. Collaboration with suppliers and customers might identify the strengths and weaknesses you failed to see.
In Nigeria, small businesses and large organizations alike are redeploying their capabilities to respond to the crisis. No one seems to be an expert on how to essentially handle the impact of the pandemic. From the tech startup in Yaba to the Banks in Marina, survival seems to be the key principle. Businesses are adopting short term approaches to stay relevant in the market, playing it safe on decisions affecting the long term. No one seems to know what is in stock for them in the coming months.
While playing it safe during the pandemic, it is imperative to have a detailed plan to return the business to scale quickly as the virus evolves and the knock-on effect becomes clearer.
Sustenance on the long run
Successful companies that would come out of this pandemic are those, who are preparing a buffer zone against the harsh economic woes that would be the aftermath of COVID-19. As I established before, most global crises fundamentally have a way of shaping new beliefs. Business leaders should reimagine the next normal and build a model that will be sustainable in the future. Scenarios should be built ahead of the post-COVID-19 phase. Be clear about how the regulatory and competitive environment in your industry may shift and learn how to work with it.
McKinsey and Company said in its report that the “new normal” should be reimagined across the following pillars: Consumer, Supply Chain, Government Regulation, Organizational, and Corporate Valuation.
Major technological disruptions
In addition, technological adoptions could emerge from coronavirus crisis stronger than ever. From government meetings to boardroom meetings, the coronavirus has opened everyone’s eyes to the possibilities afforded by technology. The need for social distancing has drawn the world closer, virtually. The need to run operations despite global restrictions by organizations will accelerate the adoption of remote working technologies. I see remote working, having a long term adoption by both small enterprises and big corporations alike.
‘Stay-at-home’ orders are increasing traffic on video conferencing platforms. Streaming services are already seeing a surge in their volume of followers. Many people are gravitating towards online shopping than ever before. I still expect other technological innovations to come out of this pandemic based on a behavioral and social shift in customers.
In conclusion, it is a long road down to global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is for a fact that many businesses will die as a result of the economic crises that will follow the pandemic. Businesses will try various approaches to survive but many fragile businesses will break in this period.