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Invisible Touch

To understand which economic processes are still ahead of us, or to be fully aware of what has happened during the dreaded COVID era, we need to define the crisis’s impact on people. A vicious attack has been made on our private lives! This is true for everybody: simple workers, managers, and business owners, or, to put differently: for employers and employees alike.

It takes control and slowly tears you apart

Many experts had predicted grave consequences of an unstoppable virus, one that could freeze regions, countries, and the whole world. But few imagined, even in their nightmares, what is happening right now and what is yet to come. Businesspeople typically try to find parallels between current processes and those from the past, so, of course, the Great Recession of 2008 has been central to many such analyses. We now know that it was a huge mistake to think this way! And no matter how we look for similarities to past economic crises, we have not found the solution to this one! But of course, it cannot be found! It was a vain dream to equate the processes of a purely economic crisis with one that comes from the private side.

COVID-19 is different; it has not destroyed just economic sectors. People’s private lives broke down as the virus began to exert not only psychological but health-destroying effects. The enemy was invisible and unknown. Today, we know much more about how it spreads, the whole world is working on solutions, and the light is almost visible at the end of the tunnel. But for example, in March, there were no signs of hope! From an economic point of view, people – consumers in the B2C area and decision-makers in the B2B area – had to focus on themselves and their families.

The virus imploded our social structures and broke down deeply held societal beliefs. It was easy to say that everyone should work from home to avoid physical contact with colleagues and other people, but as we have seen, it was a relentlessly difficult thing to actually do. As a result, jobs, production, and services have stopped. There were several months of downtime, and not just in one field, but eventually across almost every economic sector.

In 2008, experts could pinpoint the sectors most affected by the crisis. Now, they are trying to determine if there are any sectors where the adverse effects are not irreversible. We must acknowledge that this crisis is unique in a very negative sense, and existing remedies do not work. Previous comparisons are misleading. We are fighting a war against an enemy that is, unfortunately, still invisible!

“We will not be silenced, and I won’t sit down!”

This sentence is a rallying cry for minorities fighting for their rights! Now, we have to reinterpret this spirit! The crisis has already swallowed up a significant number of economic actors, and it is nipping at, or even biting, many more! The whole business community needs to stand up for itself right now! In civil rights battles, groups have to stand up for themselves as a group via legal battles and protests, but they also have to fight as individuals in everyday “micro-situations”; business decision-makers must now do the same! Everyone has to stimulate their own businesses, be proactive, and of course, it’s good to get help, but in the end, we’re responsible for our own organisations.

Olga Drach

That’s all well and good, but what do we need to do, specifically? First, realise that nothing will be the same as it was before COVID! Our businesses definitely need to be reinterpreted! Don’t expect a miracle from the fact that economies will reopen! This does not mean that former consumers will slowly come back to us – decision-makers hope it happens sooner rather than later – and continue purchasing where they left off nearly half a year ago! This will not happen! We must wipe this vain hope from our thoughts! A significant proportion of consumers did not have adequate savings entering the crisis and has had to live paycheck to paycheck. So, by taking a cut or losing their means of income altogether, they ceased to exist as solvent demand in the markets! The overall consumer structure has transformed, though the extent is not yet visible. Or maybe it is! In countries where the government has proactively restarted the economy, it is already perfectly visible; just because there is a central decision to “reopen now” does not mean that consumers are actually buying anything!

And we are not just talking about tourism here, even though it has undoubtedly suffered the most! In general, reopening did not come close to expectations. In fact, it was a massive disappointment for decision-makers! Anyone who hoped that everything would return to normal after a while is now at a loss. And now begins a period of not-so-intense, and certainly prolonged, confusion. Those who have already been affected by the crisis know that this is the most dangerous condition! This condition must be replaced by the smarter, fitter “I stand up for myself and my business” mindset. And since, by its very nature, a significant portion of businesses will not be able to do so, whoever successfully leaps this hurdle will be a winner!

Tomorrow is a new day

I hate such blindly optimistic slogans! But I really couldn’t find a better fit for this situation! The crisis is hardening and testing people, and this is especially true for decision-makers! Now, we will see who can build a stable business and who can protect it. Indeed, who can move a business forward and restructure it to meet future demands! The consumer market has transformed completely, and we expect to see its new “form” by the last quarter of 2020. This form will then accompany us for the next 8-10 years. The rearrangement has quite specific material origins and has deep psychological foundations. There is no need to explain much about the fact that, in a situation like this, consumer priorities change completely.

Some things will jump ahead in terms of priority, and others will plummet. Many believe that the solution is to start a business in a higher-priority sector with greater demand that needs to be met from the outset, such as healthcare. But there are elements in almost every industry that can perfectly serve new priorities! Finding these, however, requires a drastic change in our mindset! Thus, businesspeople are facing very significant strategic, organisational development, and sales development tasks (not to mention the other areas).

Sentimentality will now be a killer of survival and development. Just because something worked a year ago does not mean it will work NOW. Indeed! Chances are high that it will definitely be ineffective! If a colleague had a perfect solution in a given position, it is far from certain that their solution will work for our future! Indeed! For a businessperson to take this significant step, to be a leader at a multinational or to lead their own company, one thing is undoubtedly essential: rock-hard, black-and-white, ruthless, raw, and non-contradictory self-criticism.