Lately, you repeatedly hear different politicians, business owners, and academia say that the world post covid-19 crisis will not be the same as before. Just Google “world beyond corona crisis” or other related keywords to find out the tens of opinions published in this regard. This claim is heard everywhere in the world and from people in several types of businesses, industries, or institutions.
I have decided to look for the reality. Is there really going to be a change? What is going to change? And more importantly, if so, How the Professionals including Entrepreneurs or Intrapreneurs may benefit from these changes?
Before we start, let’s align on two points.
First, what is a crisis? According to Wikipedia, a crisis is any event that is going to lead to an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community, or whole society.
Second, what are the consequences of a crisis? The definition above already mentions instability and danger as consequences of a crisis. This can have negative impact on people, businesses, societies, and countries. You might have also heard that the Chinese word for “crisis” (wēijī) is composed of two Chinese characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity” respectively. Even if you only look into the definition of crisis, it refers to both unstable and dangerous situations. And as you know, instability, is a potential for both dangers, but also opportunities.
What is your current situation?
I am not advocating for naïve belief that every disaster is full of opportunities. If you are for example in the tourism sector and you experience months without any flights to the airport around you, there is no reason to believe that you have a lot of opportunities. Although we have lately seen also cases wherein hotel chains in some countries go through a temporary adjustment to serve as post hospital care centers helping the national health systems. But this in no way is a substitute for all the loss that all hotel chains, airlines, and other players in the tourism sector are going through.
On the other hand, you have companies like the hygiene products manufacturers or the companies in the Tech sector providing video call platforms having two- or three-folds revenue in those services compared to last year.
Looking into these examples you should ask yourself, How the current crisis has affected you, your organization, your business, or your society, as the answer to these questions can be different from one to another. Do you own a business? How much your business has been affected due to the recent crisis? Is your industry suffering from the current situation at the moment? Or do you see the clouds in the horizon?
Reflecting on these questions are important as the answer to these questions are the starting point in seeking your way forward. If you still are in business and operating during these crisis – with or without major difficulties –, what you need to reflect on is if you will be in business also over a month, three months, or a year or two. This may seem bleak. But this is the real question to be asked.
I will not mention here any examples. But think of industries where their customers are not able to use their products or services during this crisis. Think of others whose products or services can be delivered, but with much reduced volume or capacity due to shortages of supplies or the social distancing measures impacting customers as well as employees. Think of the industries for which these kinds of measures will stay beyond the period in which the crisis is at its peak.
Now think of industries in which the new ways of working as contingency measures are partially or fully effective. Some of those companies may find the new way of working so good or good enough to adjust their business and service delivery model for ever. This may result in them using less of some infrastructure, services and resources and more of some others in their value creation.
All these changes will shift how the value is created and how it is captured across multiple industries and value chains in the world. In that way, such an impact is not anymore going to live until the crisis is over. Those fundamental shifts are going to stay with us for the decades to come. That is why reflecting on how your business, your sector, and your value chain will evolve is of paramount importance in understanding how your customers and their needs and purchasing behavior will change.
The Corona Business Model
Do you have an online or remotely operating business? Or perhaps you do have a traditional business which does not have any major online component? Do you deliver your services in your office, at customer premises or on the road? Again, there is no argument, if you are in a sector where the service delivery can only happen through physical interaction with your customers. Using social media, there are millions of businesses that aim to keep contact with their customers during this crisis. However, the regular delivery of services is halted and can only wait until the situation improves, at least relatively.
On the other hand, there are businesses who know that either the financial impact of the crisis or the situation in which, after the crisis, they may need to operate makes it infeasible to have a profitable business, the way they did up until few months ago. This creates an opportunity. Both for those businesses thinking of evolving their ways of working long term, but also for new players who see the current circumstances and the months and years ahead as a catalyst to enter such sectors using newer business models.
To be able to anticipate how your own business and sector may (need to) evolve, you need to go through a structured process of re-designing your business model. You may need to think about your production or service delivery processes. You may need to think about your workforce, suppliers and working conditions. You may need to consider new regulations affecting how you, but also your suppliers and other stakeholders in your value chain should operate in. You may need to consider how your marketing channels will change. And you may want to also reflect on how your customer relationships may evolve. Such fundamental changes in your business can also result in the need to think of how your Value Proposition may need to change. And as a consequence, how your revenue streams and costs attached to them may evolve. Addressing such shifts will prepare you for ‘The Corona Business Model’.
The Work as We Know it Today
If you do not own a business, you are perhaps employed. The current crisis and its consequences impact jobs as much as they do businesses and societies. According to International Labor Organization, covid-19 is going to wipe out 6.7% of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020. In US alone, more than 30 million people have already applied for unemployment. At the same time, Tech giants are hiring even during month of March right in the peak of the crisis, with Amazon alone sharing 20,000 of those jobs.
The social impact of this shift where the Tech giants are gaining even more power and dominance is not the subject of this article. I may write about this in another one. But what is important to realize is that there are some sectors, who are more resilient to such crisis today. What one can learn from these sectors is how their characteristics can shape the business models of the future. And those businesses shaped on such characteristics are perhaps the ones offering most of future employment opportunities.
So, if you have a job today, it is a good exercise to think if you will have a job over a few months or over a couple of year. And if you have been unfortunate and lost your job early in this crisis, next to looking for a new job today, it is important to ask yourself, where the opportunities of tomorrow most possibly will be.
The post covid-19 Entrepreneurship (and Intrapreneurship)
Irrespective of being an Entrepreneur running your own business, or a professional working as an Intrapreneur in the corporate world, there is one question you need ask yourself. What are those capabilities which will create resilience as well as ability to succeed over coming months and years? No claim to have a crystal ball, but let’s try to investigate.
Where basics matter – The first learning out of the current crisis is that basics matter. Supermarkets, Hygiene products manufacturers, Couriers services and online delivery services of food and other basic products, Hospitals, and some other sectors, have only been seeing increased customers.
Online is king – Not only existing online services and delivery of online purchased goods have been increasing, but there has been a wave of new online stores and delivery of online purchased products as well as online services at private but also public sector, who were not that eager to go online before. The one global example of this phenomenon is official education. Although distance learning is not new and although there are thousands of online education websites ranging from LinkedIn Learning and Udemy to local providers on specific niches such as online business schools, this has been the first time that national education systems across the globe have been taking the remote classrooms seriously, and that out of necessity!
Data is the queen – If online is the king, then data is the queen. Knowing your customer is crucial. Having digital contact is only possible if you do have access to your customer via email, chat, or your own platform such as Apps and websites. Capturing your customer data when such a crisis starts, is a bit late, although useful for next time.
New practice? What new practice? – Months after this crisis is over, there will be a normal life, or better to say, a new normal life. In that new normal, professions such as health practitioners will go back to their old practices. Imagine physiotherapists just as an example. Such a profession can try to have many different shifts in the delivery and business model. But unless we find the new ways to achieve the same outcome with another solution, the physiotherapy as we know it today, will need human interaction. On the other end of this spectrum, imagine a design professional in engineering or art. Longer periods of remote work will show how businesses can continue operating without having people sitting in one physical location. On the other hand, companies will start to reflect on the much appreciated reduced cost of operating with less physical office space. These two forces will shift the business models in which such sectors operate. Most probably forever. This way, the new practices, will become a new normal less associated with a crisis period contingency.
Now, if you are an entrepreneur, have you looked into how you will shape your business for tomorrow? What are the new opportunities in such a future? Do you have all the capabilities needed in your business to benefit from the environment then? What are the missing enablers and skills you and your business will be needing (more) going forward. And if you are an intrapreneur and hence working in the corporate world, have you in your area of personal responsibility, your department, division, or the overall organization considered the challenges and the opportunities after this crisis thoroughly? In both cases, you must seriously consider adjustments in your production and services delivery, your business model, or even a complete revisit of your business altogether due to this crisis.
Some businesses will find new opportunities in helping other people through their products and services today and more so tomorrow. People need their knowledge, know-how and new insights they have learned during this period. These businesses make a difference enabling people, businesses, societies, and the countries function in the months and years to come. They help them restore diminished or lost stream of income or create new ones altogether. Doing so they also create income streams for themselves shaping a prosperous business. The reality is that the change is only going to happen as a collective outcome of the choices made by people: YOU!
It is up to us to take the opportunity side or stick to the crisis side. Either case, the future will be shaped. Consider using the current crisis as a catalyst to change your business so that it is suffering less from the current situation, but also becoming more resilient for the future. Remember a crisis is both a “danger,” but also an “opportunity.”
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Building an online business is a journey. But it does not need to be long and painful. Building an Online Business or Transforming an existing one Digitally, should not become a sophisticated paper exercise. Creating value for the customers and other stakeholders should remain as the aim of any business process including the Digital Transformation. This is more so for smaller businesses.
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