As you get older you tend to stay at home; maybe out of necessity or perhaps desire. If you’re no longer going to work, it becomes the new normal to stay put; except for trips to the doctor or grocery store. Even before coronavirus, groceries were being delivered and medical advice was available via telehealth. Without much thought I had become something of a hermit in the middle of millions of people. And, it was essentially okay with me.
I have worked within many different business environments; from large corporations to small family operations. One common thread between these very different worlds was meetings. Meetings in the massive corporate world often became the job. Your entire reason for being is to attend or conduct meetings. The first thing I don’t miss about business engagement is commuting; the second is meetings. Meetings are normal in big companies but it might surprise you to know they also are normal in small companies. The amount of time and effort wasted related to meetings must be huge.
Scattered throughout my working life have been periods where I worked for myself. Except for the lack of financial security, these were my best jobs. One of those jobs was as a financial consultant. I helped businesses, large and small, deal with problems. Usually this was a lack of cash problem and the owner was basically looking for someone to perform magic and fix his poorly run company. While voodoo may have some benefit for particular ailments it is not very useful for bad management.
If you follow this blog you know that I’m a baseball fan and I’m currently following my favorite team, the Colorado Rockies, in their simulated season. This is a computer generated simulation of the games based on historical statistics. So the simulated 2020 season will look much like the 2017-2019 seasons because it is based on that data—interesting but not a real prediction because you cannot predict the surprise outcome—which happens in sports all of the time. Businesses also use the past to make decisions about the future-even when the past is not good. Just like baseball and the surprise MVP no one expected; businesses are now dealing with a surprise of mega proportions. A pandemic that has shut down a significant portion of economic activity. Planning a strategy for this circumstances is almost impossible. Hope is the strategy.
A financial consultant for a troubled company is being asked to recommend changes that will correct past errors—and almost always the company will retain the bad management that caused the problems in the first place. No consultant recommends the owner/CEO be fired and replaced with someone halfway competent—because it is the owner/CEO who hired you.
So the consultant recommends the same ol’ “improvements,” holds a bunch of meetings, writes a report—and leaves with a check. Knowing that nothing will change and soon the company will be bankrupt. It’s just a game; because the one recommendation that makes sense is not an option.
Today we are in a financial situation for all businesses that has never been seen before. There is no historical reference. There are no proven methods to form a basis to establish a game-plan. Even firing the current management would not fix this problem.
The businesses that are thriving right now (Amazon, Walmart, Netflex, Instacart, Dominos Pizza, Clorox) will dominate the recovery. Every other business will be on the ropes. While I believe that to be true it is not based on any analysis of past experience because there is no data from the past to use as a basis of forecasting the future. My best guess is that staying at home becomes the new normal. We give up freedom and unlimited options for security and comfort.
Meetings, the true lifeblood of so many businesses, become less frequent. Sure you can teleconference but you need good equipment and patience to make it work without glitches. It might start to occur to everyone that the point of the meeting was no longer relevant. Plus everything is so depressing. The owner/CEO never listened anyway.
Business activity will change forever, our interactions with fellow humans will not be the same, congregating will become taboo. Nothing will stay the same.
While that new world might fit me—for many it will be difficult. Human connections had become more tenuous before the coronavirus; but after, they will become frayed to the point of breaking. What that brings may be worse than the virus. Let’s hope not.
For a rather bleak analysis of the science behind the modeling for this pandemic and how that will impact reality going forward read this Defense One article.
Ignoring the top portion of this blog, I think my best attribute as a writer is my humor. Every book I have written, even the droll Muckraker series, has humor.
One of my favorite series of books was Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. I couldn’t wait to buy the next book (often in the overpriced hardback version) to read the latest exchange between Spenser and Hawk. It was just great. Often these books had a very thin (I’m being kind) plot, but the dialog between the two characters was worth the price of admission.
I’ve tried to capture some of that goodhearted but pointed humor in the exchanges between Ray Pacheco and Tyee Chino. Their relationship grew in the books, and I think in the last book in the series (so far) Four Corners War reached close to the level of Spenser and Hawk—maybe not there yet; but getting closer.