Never ask a funeral home director, “How’s business?” They have a macabre sense of humour. Their standard reply? “It’s dead.” Unfortunately, the joke’s now on us.
Amid the economic havoc delivered by the advance of Covid-19, many of us are living a dire business downturn in real time that others are just beginning to “feel” in their investment and retirement accounts. Unfortunately, the pain will eventually wash over all shores of the economy. It’s rough out there. Many in my network are quick to say “it’s dead,” before I even ask the question, and their response has much underlying meaning…Central banks and governments are using the whole play book to delay the economic paralysis, but we know the arc of this story, don’t we? On top of the human toll of the virus, the negative economic impacts will be far-reaching and slow to recede.
At the macro level, the immediate future is bleak. But what about small businesses and many individual households? Is it time to note the time of death of Western capitalism? Absolutely not. However, there are some things we can do to shore-up the sandbags and mitigate some of the worst impacts of the incoming economic storm surge.
Let’s start with a lesson we’re learning from the medical profession. As hospitals and clinics deal with the influx of symptomatic individuals, there’s been a rush to ensure that adequate masks, gowns, gloves, and treatment implements are warehoused and ready to meet the need. Improvisation has been the name of the game. If a new supplier has masks, you streamline the paperwork to get the masks delivered as soon as possible. If another nation has the equipment that hospitals in Manhattan must have right now, you leverage the efficiencies of military supply chains to get the goods delivered at JFK for immediate distribution. And what about medical personnel? How many RNs have been called in from retirement? How many plastic surgeons are handling triage in ERs? How many students in the latter stages of respiratory therapy training are being asked to learn contextually because their skills are needed right now?
There’s an obvious corollary with “what we do” Gigs. The Gig Economy. For the foreseeable future, our business – all businesses – will need to improvise the business plan to deliver goods and services. If you must outsource your technicians to keep the machines running while some of your people receive treatment or self-quarantine, you outsource. If you need people with accounting experience to fill holes in your receivables, you hire them. What about the development person in the nonprofit with no liquidity to tap until further notice? She’d make a great temporary marketing resource.
Conversely, for individuals who are currently impacted, it’s an opportunity to see the Gig Economy, as an unexpected opportunity in this bear of an economy. You have MANY skills to offer, even if you are unable to use them in what has been your regular “day job”. With a need to pay the bills, now’s the time to stretch and look at Gigs to support you and your family. Are you willing to freelance as a financial planner for a frightened investor if it brings them a little peace of mind AND pays the mortgage? Do you have some niche skills in logistics, supply chain, or telecommunications that can help the national or community response to the pandemic while keeping food on the table? Sell your skills.
There’s a lot of talk about death these days. Untimely death to Covid-19 victims, death to economies, death to great businesses, and death to personal finances. I’m choosing life; you should too. Now’s the time to improvise, get scrappy, and humble yourself for the wellbeing of the world, the business, and your family. We’ve got this.