Some personal observations after the first 10 weeks.
After I sold my last company in 2014, I was looking for a way to stay involved with the business community while still having the luxury of scheduling my work and play time to make me happy.
I joined a small group of executives that were in the same boat and became a consultant focusing on Start-Ups, SMEs and the occasional corporate client with an unconventional problem.
So when the virus hit in the beginning of March, the initial major impact for me was to cancel a trip to Turkey that had been high on my bucket list. I was still busy with projects, but within two weeks several of my clients were in dire straights and several became “Pro-Bono” projects because of their financial situation.
Having successfully managed my companies through both the 9/11 and 2008 “Black Swan” events I realized that the best advice I could give my clients would be: a) This too shall pass and b) Be prepared for rapid and radical change.
I am pleased that what I have either seen or read about in the news is that some businesses have already reacted to adjustments to our new economy and society.
I live in a small community and I am tuned into the neighborhood Facebook page which even in normal times acts as the “Water Cooler” with tips, advice and trends. Since the beginning of March, I have seen the development of barter, sales of items that no longer give pleasure, and helpful hints on how to navigate the living hell of what is described as a “System designed to fail” .
Another change brought about by COVID-19 is the increased number of walkers, bicyclists, runners and joggers that are seen in the morning and evening. People are more friendly, but the biggest pivot I have noticed is that neighbors have started to talk with each other instead of being buried in their phones. While social distancing is being practiced, people take time to exchange comments, show off their dogs or most recently have begun to have cocktail parties on the their front lawns – 6 ft apart and BYOBs – without dips, shared bottles and phones!
Orlando, despite all efforts to diversify, is a tourism based economy and a disproportional number of Hotel and Theme Park employees will probably never get their jobs back. A less publicized disaster is what has happened to all the vendors and food distributors that were focused on the Disney, Universal and the hotels.
While giants like SYSCO and US Foods will survive, many local businesses will not. However, late in March I noticed (from Social Media) that one food distributor, Farmers and Fishermen , switched to and aggressively promoted their home delivery program. I have known the owner, Kirk Halpern for many years and he was always a strategic thinker, but this switch was really, really fast. I also think that his home delivery program may not go away as hotels come back. Instead it will become a critical and profitable segment of their business.
An even more amazing pivot was the transformation of a small Alterations Shop from a 2 year old storefront business specializing in alterations, to the neighborhood supplier of choice for designer masks. They started making masks for free for front-line responders in early March and now are doing designer and custom masks that sell as quickly as they can make them. It was an impressive feat of entrepreneurship combined with savvy social media marketing.
Melitta , famous for their 112 years of making coffee filters is now producing more than 1 Million masks per day in Germany. Incidentally, Germany forecasts an annual domestic demand of 12 Billion masks per year. Governor Andrew Cuomo is right when he suggests that local suppliers are important and should be supported.
As the States try to re-open, with no vaccine in the next 9 months if ever, we will see many more radical changes in both the economy and our personal lives. Resilience is what made America great and it is resilience that will get us through this and into a much changed future.
Enjoy the little pleasures, strengthen your family, wear a mask and remember this too shall end.