I think we are at risk of making this situation economically worse for ourselves than it already is. I’m talking about lack of confidence. I thought this during the 2008 crash. The news channels will focus on the negative, the sensational, the catastrophic – it makes them seem more important, they used to say ‘it sells newspapers’, although in this digital age they’re becoming less relevant now. No-one seems that interested in putting things into context, to report good news stories. So, we spiral into gloom and despondency. That is NOT going to help keep our economy going. It’s not going to generate income and jobs for people. It’s not going to give one the right attitude to successfully adapt to the changed situation.
We, as a nation, indeed as a planet, have a choice: do we sit at home and worry about how bad things are and hope that they will get better – or – do we say to ourselves ‘OK, this is really bad, I’m going to get up off the ground, dust myself down and then put all my effort into adapting my business to cope with this’?
I would say it is in your own self-interest to do the latter. Indeed, I would go further that it is our duty to our colleagues, our clients, our neighbours, our town, our country to do so. If everyone chooses to do this, chooses to find a way to trade, then the damage to our economy is likely to be much less and we will much better prepared for the ‘new norm’ afterwards (whenever afterwards starts).
I wrote ‘choice’, because our attitude to stuff that happens is about the only thing about which we ultimately have a choice. You might be a natural pessimist, but you can choose to adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude. If you are a Brit reading this, you can draw on national references like the ‘Blitz or Dunkirk spirit’. If you are from another country, there will be references from your culture from which you can draw for inspiration.
In this crisis, we have many more tools to help us trade that were not there in past crises or would not have been there if the Coronavirus crisis had hit say 20 years ago. In 2008 the challenge was lack of liquidity. We have liquidity in the banks now. The challenge that we face is social distancing. But we have technology that allows us still to see and talk with each other. We have electronic banking. We have digital signatures. We have search engines to enable people to find people, businesses to find businesses. I know that some areas are very badly affected by the shutdown. In the UK the vast majority of our economy is in the services sector. A large proportion of that can still trade. The government is providing 80% of income for furloughed staff. As they won’t now be spending on travel, so they may well be in a cash neutral position. So, these people are cushioned and have income to spend. Indeed, if they do spend some income, they will be helping the economy keep turning, thus making it more likely that jobs can be retained.
I was shocked to read a post from a senior partner of a law firm in which he wrote that he was using his enforced resting time organising the screws in his shed! Sorry – in my view he should be using his time to speak to people, research and wrack his brains for ways to maximise opportunities for his business to adapt it to the current circumstances.
So, this is a call to arms! Business people, employees, workers, families – we are all in this together. Let’s find ways to do business. Call people up. Zoom them. People buy from people. Be inventive. Do things differently. People will be more open to working differently than they were before. I spoke with the owner of one of our client law firms this week. She said to me: “Ingemar, if you’d talked to me about working paperlessly before this crisis, I would have closed you down. Now, all my arguments are blown out of the water. What use is a paper file in the office to me now?”. There are restaurants doing home deliveries, businesses altering what they make to what’s in demand: PPE, hand sanitiser. Adapt and survive.