One day soon, the COVID-19 pandemic will end. When that happens, some businesses will scramble to pick up the pieces, while others will move quickly on plans they’d made before the storm cleared.
No one could have predicted this catastrophe before it happened, but the same doesn’t hold true for the post-virus business landscape. When infection numbers fall and medical providers have more of the supplies and knowledge they need, life will return to something resembling normal.
Business owners must recognize that they can’t make plans solely to survive the bad times. Some companies will make it out of the pandemic, only to fold a few months later when they run into post-crisis problems they didn’t anticipate. Rather than treat this disaster as a one-time difficulty, businesses should acknowledge the long-term changes created by the spread of COVID-19 — and work proactively to develop future-facing strategies.
What will life look like after the coronavirus? The outlook will be rosier for some businesses than … [+]
What Will the Post-Virus World Look Like?
Maybe faster action from the world’s governments would have stalled the virus enough to ward off some of the serious consequences ahead. Perhaps not — but none of that matters now. The financial consequences have already hit hard, and business owners expecting a quick bounce-back must face a grim reality.
At the end of March, the head of the International Monetary Fund announced that the global economy had entered a recession that could be even worse than the major crash of the late 2000s. Younger Millennial and Gen Z business owners may not remember how bad things got during the last financial crisis, but entrepreneurs who were operating at the time can testify to the severity of the struggle. According to the IMF, economic recovery may begin in 2021, but only if the nations of the world successfully contain the virus and limit the economic fallout.
Business owners can’t afford to wait and see whether governments rise to the challenge. Perhaps political leaders will surprise everyone, but with continued infighting, the odds of a unified and effective response look dim. As usual, entrepreneurs are on their own.
Industries to Watch After COVID-19
Long after shelter-in-place orders expire and stores can keep toilet paper on shelves for more than an hour, many industries will continue to struggle with the fallout. These areas will experience some of the toughest challenges, so leaders of affected companies should start planning for the future now.
Healthcare and Medical-Adjacent Companies
Radiology centers, women’s health companies, dental offices, and dozens of sub-industries within medicine not on the front lines of the pandemic will still have to deal with the fallout. Companies within healthcare that aren’t currently overwhelmed should take this opportunity to prepare for a surge after the smoke clears. People who stop seeking treatment for long-term issues, routine problems, or minor ailments will return the moment they feel safe to do so.
Technology can help alleviate some of the strain. What better time to implement new and predictive tools than during a lull? For example, about 40 million screening mammograms are done each year in the U.S., so that means an average of 3.5 million mammograms are currently being deferred each month because of COVID. Doctors will surely need help managing the backlog after the virus. A useful tool could be CureMetrix’s cmTriage, which uses AI to prioritize suspicious cases that need timely attention to help focus and support early cancer detection.
Scheduling and reminder tools can also help outpatient offices minimize missed appointments and make sure all necessary appointments are rescheduled. Medical companies shouldn’t attempt to collect physical supplies until the crisis passes, but software and strategies can ease the transition back to normalcy.
Service and Shift Work
While some companies allow workers to telecommute, others don’t have the same luxury. Employees and contractors in manufacturing, construction, food service, and other shift and gig industries can’t put up drywall or bus tables at home.
Some manufacturers smartly kept their operations running by pivoting to help out during this time of need. Companies like Pernod Ricard and BrewDog used their facilities to create hand sanitizer instead of their usual offerings, keeping employees working while pushing out essential goods. Even these companies aren’t immune from the effects of the pandemic, though, especially when workers must be vigilant about staying home when they’re sick.
Missed shifts and miscommunications hurt businesses on a normal day. In a post-pandemic world, every hour will count even more. Businesses should consider partnerships with companies like MyWorkChoice, which enables scheduling flexibility for companies that rely on shift workers. Investing in productivity now will pay dividends, both during the uncertainty of the pandemic and in its economic aftermath.
Coronavirus has already forced crowd-gathering businesses, such as movie theaters and gyms, to close indefinitely. When occupancy limits return to normal, companies that rely on crowds may find that not everyone feels comfortable jumping right back into the swing of normal life. To address that issue, businesses with crowd-friendly environments should prepare to offer limited-contact options to wary customers.
Restaurants should plan to advertise more spacious seating. Movie theaters may have more luck selling tickets by blocking out seats between groups. Gyms must make a greater show of sanitizing equipment and start enforcing wipe-down rules with members.
Businesses with at-home alternatives could face a steep climb back to normalcy. Peloton, for instance, began offering 90 days of free workout tutorials to keep people active during the pandemic. Some people who previously relied on gyms may cancel their memberships in favor of digital alternatives. Increased awareness of streaming service offerings may harm theaters and out-of-home entertainment venues. Businesses should prepare to combat this shift by creating more attractive experiences that customers can’t replicate in their living rooms.
Anyone expecting life to return to normal must acknowledge the reality of the COVID-19 situation. Just as the world changed forever after the last major recession, the economic fallout from this pandemic will dramatically alter consumer behaviors and expectations — to say nothing of the behavior changes caused by the continued presence (or fear) of the virus itself. Small businesses weathered the last storm, though, and savvy business owners who act now can protect themselves in this crisis, too.