Sheltering in place is changing the business world as we know it
#business The quarantines in place worldwide to stave off the effects of COVID-19 have altered the way we do business. Who's hurting the most and who's thriving during these times?
This is survival of the fittest
This is do or die
This is the winner takes it all
So take it all
Eminem, Survival (explicit)
We’ve had some horrible viruses happen in the last two decades. Four that come to my mind are SARS, MERS, H1N1 (2009), and of course, COVID-19. What’s been different about COVID-19, however, is both the scale of its impact and the global response to it.
The last pandemic we had, H1N1 (2009), impacted every country in the world, infected up to 1.4B, and killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people.
A few months into our current crisis, at least 430,000 people have been infected by COVID-19, which has impacted ten times more people than Ebola already. COVID-19 is estimated to be up to 10x more deadly than H1N1 and up to 1.5x more contagious. H1N1 (2009) was horrible, but COVID-19 is likely far worse. Unlike any other recent public health event, the response to COVID-19 is striking. Countries around the world have enacted mass quarantines to reduce infection rates so that hospitals can keep up.
The indiscriminate nature of our current crisis and the global response of using quarantines as a tool to contain the spread of the disease will alter the business world as we knew it.
To understand what the future might be like, I’ve had conversations with several CEOs and industry insiders the last two weeks on the impact of quarantines so far. Here’s where I see the pain:
Your company derives a substantial amount of revenue (if not all) from customers who do business with you at a physical location. If customers have to be somewhere to do business with you, your revenue will evaporate when they are unable to leave their homes.
Your company depends on people physically working face to face to be effective. If your company requires people to work face to face either by necessity or for cultural reasons, then by definition, work won’t be getting done during a quarantine.
Your company is dependent on the tourism industry or requires travel. Nobody travels during the quarantine for pleasure or business.
Your company has critical dependencies to deliver your product. If your company depends on a single company or region of the world to deliver your product, then you suffer when they suffer.
Even at this phase of the crisis, we can already see some of the effects:
However, some companies are thriving and even hiring during these times:
It’s hard to tell what the future will hold. One thing is certain, the world will be stronger for it. The Greek philosopher Epictetus says:
Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths
When the next pandemic strikes us, we’ll be ready.