The current pandemic (or any crisis, for that matter) has a way of offering clarity that isn’t usually found in what could be called normal times. It would probably be more accurate to say that clarity is forced upon us with the circumstances that we are thrust into; no one would choose to live through these times in an effort to figure out what’s most important. Suffering of the kind we’re all going through to varying degrees isn’t something to be wished for, and while there’s likely little that any of us will want to bring forward from this period, it does give pause to consider our life’s pursuits, in this case in a very literal sense.
It would be both myopic and ghoulish to speak of the coronavirus pandemic as simply a business problem and not acknowledge the very real human cost of the crisis. The price is high, in terms of those who have suffered and even died and the families left to deal with the grief and loss, as well as those who find themselves out of work and left to wonder if they will be able to have food on the table or a home for much longer. While all of us have our own struggles during this period, it should be stipulated that those dealing with the very immediate effects wrought by the disease are facing what are the greatest burdens.
With that said, those fortunate enough to have businesses that have stayed afloat during this period may be considering what their future looks like, and what changes may be forced upon them by a prolonged economic downturn. Candidly, any business that hasn’t done so is somewhat negligent; it’s not enough to assume that stay-at-home orders will be lifted and the economy will go back to its previous state immediately. We’ve entered into what is, if not a new reality, an extended state of altered existence that will exist for long enough that it requires some long-term planning to deal with the effects.
What our circumstances make clear to us is what our priorities are for our business — what we need to do to survive and what our core competencies are, the ones that will hopefully maintain a customer base during this period when nearly every consumer is dealing with some loss or the fear of losing their income altogether. Extravagances and non-essentials are the first to go for consumers and businesses alike, and while it’s difficult and unpleasant to have to tighten your proverbial belt, it does offer clarity on what it is that you consume or use or make that’s most important to your existence.
What are those priorities? While they undoubtedly differ from business to business, there are some obvious commonalities that have emerged during the crisis. Companies that rely upon face-to-face, in-person interactions and transactions have had to make a rapid shift towards providing what they can of those services online. Those businesses already operating online have had to consider what the shutdown means for not only their customers but their supply chain or other services they rely upon to do what they do. In short, it’s about making do with what we have, and doing what we can to bring in money and provide customers with something resembling what they’re used to while hopefully retaining as many employees as we can.
Those basic precepts — providing the best possible product to customers and taking care of the people who work for us — are the sort of bedrock ideas that we should always have in mind when running our company, and they can be easily lost amidst our other projects that would otherwise occupy our thinking under more normal circumstances. To be clear once more, the coronavirus pandemic benefits no one and nothing, and many more companies of all types will have to downsize or shut down entirely. But every crisis teaches some hard-won lessons and those businesses that are fortunate enough to survive and come out on the other side will hopefully do so with a new perspective on what every business should focus on, and how tenuous its existence can be. #onwards.