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What is the new normal after COVID?

A very large oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds.” They replied, “You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape.” - Aesop's Fable

It goes without saying that 2020 has proven to be a very challenging year, politically, economically and health wise.

Almost exactly 100 years ago the world was hit with what is referred to as the "Spanish Flu" and today it seems we are seeing a repeat performance in terms of damage from our current form of influenza. Yet the human spirit forges on and regardless of the loss of life and loss of income caused by Covid-19, the desire to return to normalcy becomes stronger as the months continue to tick by.

Over the span of these past 6 to 8 months we have seen some drastic changes in both the work and home environments as we create ways of getting back to productivity while trying to maintain personal safety. the old adage of necessity being the mother of invention still holds true as we adapt and adopt new ways of doing past tasks. Working from home has proven to be a viable alternative to the day to day commute in to work. Video conferencing has quickly replaced face to face meetings and new catch phrases roll off the tongue with ease.

For most, the methods of doing business has also altered due to social distancing rules put into place to protect both employees and customers. Consumers are embracing distance buying more and more as the desire to minimize human contact increases. Sounds Orwellian, doesn't it? Yet these are the realities of our current times. While we all hope that we can return to a time before Covid-19, the truth is that the experts are predicting that the current paradigm shift will have very major and long term changes in our behavior.

While large corporations have the money and manpower to devote resources to this paradigm shift, the small business does not. For the most part, mom and pop shops and smaller entities have to look to their larger counterparts to take the lead and follow suit. Not that it's a bad idea, after all, it's the larger corporations that do have those resources. But in order to survive you need to be keen on what those changes are and hopefully adapt and adopt to them quickly and as budgets allow.

If you have been in business long enough, you know that things change quickly. Not too long ago the world went from shopping in brick and mortar stores exclusively to shopping by mail. You could literally buy anything from a catalog. That fad has continued without letdown and very recently morphed into shopping on line.

With the forced isolation that Covid-19 has put on us, online sales has increased by about 28%, according to an online report from Digital Commerce 360. If we take time to think about this implication in online sales alone, we can estimate that not all those that moved to buying online will give up and return to brick and mortar buying post Covid. Sure, the basic commodity products will still be a viable market but even these have seen a shift.

The sad truth is that many businesses will continue to fail as the months go on and the strain of our current situation continues. But not all of these failures need to happen. I know a couple of businesses that failed because the owners were stuck in the old mentality of, "it work for me then, it'll continue to work now. Why change things?" Unfortunately, like the oak tree in the opening passage from Aesop's Fables illustrates, not bending to change leads to sure ruin.

The trick is knowing when to change and how to do it without getting into further trouble. Unfortunately there are no easy solutions as every business has it's own dynamics. however, there are broad concepts that can be adopted. All you have to do is be receptive to them. For example, restaurants were loosing eat-in customers so to survive many began offering takeout, delivery and curbside service. Something many did not offer previously. A more personalized service is also being used to tailor past customer experiences that were previously done 'en masse'.

Again, take the lead from those that have preceded you. You don't have to reinvent the wheel if someone else has done it for you. In short, don't get left behind because you refuse to yield like the oak.

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