The New Normal

“Newmal”

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership, 4-ExtPost

Mindset:

I like that new word—“Newmal.” We know that the significant disruption of our economy means that there is no going back to normal. The new pastime is trying to predict what the new economy will be. What businesses will survive? Which will thrive? What new opportunities will there be?

Business leaders have always attempted to predict what was changing in the marketplace they serve. It’s essential to position your company to be ahead of the customer and the competition. The pace of change has been accelerating over the past decade. However, the pandemic has forced a noticeable spike up on that acceleration curve.

Near-term

Many leaders are looking at the next milestone along the road to getting back to business. That milestone is if and how to bring their workers back to the office safely. Some employees will lobby to remain mainly remote workers. Some employees will not feel safe in an office environment until there are cures or vaccines for the COVID-19 disease.

The next milestone is the point when their PPP funding runs out. At that point, depending on their top line income, leaders may be facing difficult decisions on cutting expenses. We are formally in a recession. Therefore, drastic measures will be necessary and are to be expected.

Once the expenses are right-sized, the focus will shift to demand generation—a euphemism for sales. I sense that for many of the businesses in my network, leaders will make those decisions and sales efforts in the next couple of weeks.

Mid-term

Next up is to survey the marketing landscape to document what has changed for each business. There seems to be consensus on several major trends:

  • Remote work will increase since, in general, it has improved productivity
  • Technologies that allow social distancing, improve remote work, aid online-education, and enhance telehealth will grow
  • Commercial real estate will be in a bit of turmoil as office space needs are adjusted
  • Businesses requiring large crowds will be very slow to recover (public transportation, bars, restaurants, theaters, etc.)
  • Cybersecurity is a growing need and accelerating
  • Online retailing will take a front seat now that more folks are using it
  • Estate and financial planning is now on the front burner for those who haven’t planned
  • Like it or not, the “Gig-economy” will be part of the new normal for many workers

We know that the disruption will not be uniform across all businesses and industries. The leaders in my network are circumspect about applying national trends to their businesses unless they are running national or global operations.

Long-term

Many companies have put any planning (beyond a year or two) on the back burner. There is a wait-and-see attitude that is not only understandable but practical. Investment funds will be scarce for many small to mid-sized companies, so being sure of the market trends will be critical.

One item that leaders are not putting on the back burner is crisis planning. Not only are they thinking of a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus in the fall, but they are also putting in place, or updating, disaster recovery plans for anything from wild-fires to earthquakes and violent storms.

Conclusion

The human toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has been tragic. As of June 5th, there were more than 2 million confirmed cases in the U.S.A. and more than 114 thousand deaths. And, there were also almost 576 million recoveries at that time. There is hope, but not yet confirmed, that the survivors will have significant immunity to future infections. As Nietzsche said, “they will be stronger.”

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche

There is a business analogy to the tragic personal plight. I believe that the trauma and disruption we are experiencing will undoubtedly kill more than a few companies. It has, at the time of this writing, forced weak businesses into bankruptcy (Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, Hertz, J.C. Penney, and more). I also believe that those who can make it through the turmoil with enough cash to figure out the new normal will be much more durable.

I hope that you, your loved ones, and your company will be one of the stronger survivors. Getting back on our feet will not be easy. Like physical therapy from a debilitating accident or disease, our companies will need to focus on slow, deliberate work. We are up to it. Let’s get started.