By Brenda Stoltz
As we were ringing in 2020, it’s safe to say that almost no one could have imagined the novel year that was virtually at our doorsteps. Like a monsoon, Covid-19 arrived, and with it a plethora of changes to not only how we live and work, but how business is conducted.
Quarantines and lockdowns became a way of life, forcing companies to transform how they operate. Office staff, sales reps, and others who were considered non-essential workers began working from home. In-person meetings and sales calls became a thing of the past, replaced by collaboration tools to boost the efficiency of virtual teams.
Even though we’re a year into the disruptions caused by the virus, the economic fallout is still being felt in virtually all corners of the world. According to a Harvard Business Review report, the downward forecast includes a 13 to 32% decline in merchandise trade, 30 to 40% reduction in foreign direct investment, and a 44 to 80% drop in international airline travel.
Although the impact continues to unfold, one has to ask: could businesses have been better prepared, what lessons can be learned, and are there any opportunities that can be realized from this once-in-a-century global pandemic?
Covid-19 delivered unprecedented business challenges
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, executives are more optimistic about economic conditions and their own company’s viability. A recent McKinsey Global Survey reveals that more than half of executives surveyed believe global economic conditions will improve over the next six months, and they are equally confident that the demand for their products will increase in the coming months.
While the outlook is hopeful, it doesn’t mean that companies can or should return to status quo. Many continue to struggle, and some will follow in their predecessors’ footsteps by closing their doors permanently. To remain profitable, companies needed to find new ways of doing business, which in many cases means a different business strategy.
To illustrate, the legal and healthcare fields rely on language service providers (LSPs) for onsite interpretations. With the onset of Covid-19, LSPs needed to pivot to remote interpretation almost immediately. “LSPs that didn’t have the technology to support remote interpretation lost almost 100% of their revenue overnight,” says Angelo Passalacqua, CEO at BURG Translations, Inc.
Whether operating on a local or global scale, the pandemic has made companies realize the importance of being able to quickly modify their business model to meet shifts in purchasing behavior. For some companies that has meant enabling customers to obtain what they need without having to leave their cars or even their homes, others have begun manufacturing much-needed products, while others have transitioned from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce.
Don’t make the same mistakes twice
Taking a retrospective look at how businesses have coped with the changes that were thrust upon them, two phrases come to mind: business model resilience and unleashing innovation. “Now’s not the time to take anything for granted,” says Karl L. Buschmann, Executive Director at International Trade Club of Chicago (ITCC). “It’s a new world of uncertainty. What is tried and true is no longer.” Many companies found this out firsthand when they had no other options but to reinvent themselves.
An example we’re all familiar with is the restaurant industry. Many establishments that never dreamed of providing carryout are now doing so with increasing regularity. It seemed to have happened virtually overnight, when restaurants nearly everywhere began offering curbside pickup and meal delivery.
In the same vein, many manufacturing companies have retooled to produce equipment that has been in short supply. From small furniture stores to large corporations like GM and Boeing, companies have manufactured products to combat Covid-19, including ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPE), nasal swabs, and even field hospital cots.
If you’re in an industry that isn’t conducive to offering curbside pickup, or you don’t have a manufacturing facility that can be retooled, you still have options to generate sales. One of the best…