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Lockdown Relived: What I Have Learned From Sheltering In Place

How did you learn that the world economy was suddenly locking down at lightning speed?

How did you find out about “shelter in place?”

What was your reaction when you saw restaurants and stores close down and streets emptying?

What were you thinking?  How did you react?

What’s the date?  When did it all begin?

The lockdown date that the US seems to be settling on March 15th as the beginning of the lockdown.  It is the date that will go into history books.  This date will be as infamous as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 or 9/11.  It is a day, to quote Franklin Roosevelt, “that will live in infamy.”  Mid-March seems to be the time for our European and Australian readers. 

What Have 8 Weeks of a New Reality have Taught Us?

After 8 weeks, what have we learned from the virus?  It wasn’t the crash course we were looking for.

It’s like a story someone recently told me about a woman who was recovering from a life threatening illness.  “What did you learn?” someone asked her.   “Well, I learned a lot,” she said.  “But frankly I wish I could have just remained ignorant.”

But I’ve learned in life as an entrepreneur/business owner/employee–I have been in all those roles–that I have learned more in challenging times than in easier periods.  From all of our collective experiences, I’d say that after this we have all earned our PhD’s in life crises.

Here are some valuable take-away lessons:

The Unexpected Is Way Different from the Unexpected We Were Expecting.  What keeps you awake at night rarely happens because you’re focused on preventing it.  Shutting down the economy is something that I would never have believed.  I have learned that we must be prepared to cope with the impossible and adjust to any circumstance.

Here’s the add-on to this principle:  People often say, “It can’t get any worse than this.”  Not wanting to be a prophet of gloom and doom, but with almost 40,000,000 people newly unemployed, the rolling consequences of the shutdown are just beginning.

Now is the time for each of us to:

  1. Cut our discretionary expenses
  2. Create new options and embrace new opportunities
  3. Stick with our friends, colleagues and employees
  4. Invest in the future
  5. Live in logic and leave fear

As the Economy Is Crashing, New Opportunities Are Appearing.  Many businesses were created that are still successful today during the Great Depression.  Muzak was created and swept the nation as a large corporation….because it responded to people’s need for comforting background in stressful times.  The salad as a menu item emerged…because it looked large and abundant and was cheap.  Many new opportunities are appearing now.  With disinfectants absent from store shelves, it’s obvious that older companies like Clorox have really failed to meet the challenge of these times.   There will be new disinfectant companies with companies that have an inventory and a supply chain.

Now is the time for each of us to:

  1. Look for the disruptive opportunity that is in front of you or that you can create…and seize it
  2. Look with brutal honesty at your current business and business model.  Does it still work?  Will it work in the emerging “new normal.”
  3. Ask what people really need and want (the present day Muzak and salad) and how you can fill that need.

Online Business Is the Way to Do Business Going Forward.  Our company, Delta Associates, has been working online for several years with teams in Austin, Mexico, and New Mexico.  Many of our team members have worked remotely for years.  We said earlier that teleconferencing is the technology that everyone must use successfully in order to be successful today–it is as critical and key as websites and emails were 20 years ago.  We have strengthened our Wi-Fi, built an IT department responsive to our needs, and built a portable studio for Zoom conferences and group presentations.

Now is the time for each of us to:

  1. Up your online game…no matter how good it already is.
  2. Take the opportunity to move every service and process online that can be moved
  3. Begin to plan now for how much of that you want to keep online when we we’re once again able to travel and meet in offices.
  4. Throw out all your assumptions for how your business should work….and begin with a blank slate

Fixing the Pieces of Broken Systems Around the World.   We are seeing broken systems in crisis mode more clearly than we have before.  We are clumsily trying to educate children at home with parents working remotely.  Hospitals are run by healthcare workers without basic protective clothing.  Businesses are not equipped to protect employees or customers.  We’re just now working to improve our own personal hygiene habits.   Everyone is quite appalled and I think the will to improve these systems is building. 

What we most need now is faith in the midst of Pandemic Panic.   There must be a balance between the sufferers of the virus and the millions of unemployed workers around the world who will literally be facing starvation.  The economies of the world are being allowed to open gradually. 

There is the point of view that if infections spike, we might have to go through a series of rolling shutdowns–open up, shut down, open up, and shut down and on and on.  Business can survive virtually everything and adapt to the most challenges circumstances, but businesses will not survive uncertainly and a constant changing of the rules.    We pray fervently for a vaccine soon.  Until then, we must learn to live with the virus. 

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