You know one of the benefits of traveling around the country and around the world as I have done for years is picking up free matchbooks from local restaurants and bars. Another benefit was bringing home bathroom amenities. If you travel, you know. All those little soaps, shampoos, and conditioners from countless hotels, large and small. Now, I buy box matches from the grocery store and big bottles of shampoo from Trader Joe’s.
Perhaps my longing for the simple perks of global travel might seem trivial. But the pandemic’s impact on everything we once thought was “normal” is truly staggering.
Just pick up (or click on) the business section of any newspaper. You’ll see that a day doesn’t go by without a company reducing its workforce or shifting to a WFH model. Of course, that’s if it isn’t closing down locations or revamping its customer experience. Or all of the above.
I think back to the conversation I had with Monica Ho of SOCi and Christian Betancourt of Self Esteem Brands at Localogy 20/20. Here’s what Christian said. “We’re not moving back to anything . . . for Self Esteem Brands, if we had any plans for 2020 or 2021 those got thrown out of the window . . . if anything we deemed for the future it became now”.
But for the Pandemic Would…
When I take in all the signals out there, “acceleration and transformation” are the words that best characterize what’s happening. The pandemic has impacted all businesses, no matter its size. And as a consequence, no business that wants to survive can stand pat. So let’s play a little question and answer game and see what we learn. Put the words, “But for the pandemic would” in front of each of these 10 statements and simply answer Yes or No.
- …Localogy deliver such a great, engaging virtual event?
- …United Airlines drop its change fee?
- …Walmart modernize its stores?
- …Self Esteem Brands build a subscription business for virtual training?
- …Peloton’s market value grow four to five times in 12 months?
- …Thousands of restaurants become mini specialty food stores overnight?
- …Wix’s market value top $14 billion?
- …Shopify’s market value exceed $127 billion?
- …The local roofer use a contactless payment solution?
- …Zoom’s market value surpass $135 billion?
These 10 questions are really just a sampling of the transformation changes that are taking place in businesses around the corner and around the world. Of course, the loss of life due to Covid-19 is tragic and many lives will never be the same because of it. The loss of one’s livelihood is also devastating. And many business owners will never be able to recover from the aftermath of the pandemic.
Yes, There Are Silver Linings
But there are some obvious and clear silver linings. And if you were lucky enough to own shares of companies like Zoom, Shopify, and Wix before March, you’ve made a ton of money. At least on paper. And if you enjoy dining al fresco, you’ve hit the jackpot. Many communities have fast-tracked local outdoor dining permits.
If as a small business owner you’ve begun to automate aspects of your business operations, you’ve probably lowered your operating costs and improved the customer experience you deliver. As a large company maybe you’ve been able to re-negotiate your office lease terms in your favor; or you’ve been able to offer your employees greater flexibility to work from home or you’ve had a good excuse for implementing a difficult change that in the long term will improve your customer loyalty.
The Mother of Invention
When we look in the rearview mirror six, 12 or 18 months from now, we’ll be astounded by the accelerated change this period yielded. And those businesses that trashed their 2020 and 2021 strategies and replaced them with new plans responsive to the crisis will be rewarded. These companies will be ahead of the curve, will achieve great customer engagement, higher customer loyalty, and greater market differentiation.
Of course, no one would ever wish this pandemic on anyone. But as the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”. And in these times, this could not be more true. So in that regard, I found this article from Business Insider to be particularly on point. According to the US Census Bureau, and analysis by the Wall Street Journal, the applications for new businesses hit a 13 year high.
Sure, I miss snagging a couple of the fancy shampoos from that neat boutique hotel in Burlington, VT. But, at $3.99 for a large bottle, the stuff from Trader Joe’s is pretty darn good.