History has shown that from tragedy, pain, upheaval, and anguish comes a type of strength and triumph that couldn’t be achieved otherwise. A butterfly’s wings can’t get strong enough to fly without struggling out of the cocoon. The same is true of a bird hatching from an egg. And of course, the title of this article references the famous phoenix rising from the ashes. We’ve all heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But it’s certainly hard to appreciate the struggle in the midst of it.
You may have heard this story: There was a young man walking down the street who happened to hear a dog whining and whimpering. As he approached the sound, he came upon the porch where the dog was lying. Next to the dog sat an old man. The young man asked the old man, “What’s wrong with your dog?” The old man said, “He’s lying on a nail”. The young man replied, “Lying on a nail? Well, why doesn’t he get up?” The old man responded, “Because it’s not hurting badly enough.”
Well just like that dog, there are a lot of businesses that have been lying on a nail and hurting, just not enough to do anything about it. It sounds crazy, but the Coronavirus might be the best thing that could have happened to them. Up until now, they may have been operating inefficiently or maybe persisting on marketing a product or service that was dwindling in demand or profitability. Their business model may have been aging or operating in a highly competitive environment that wasn’t going anywhere.
For some time now, higher education has taken a hit due to competition and the pushback on ever-increasing tuitions without justification or measurable return on investment. Or how about the restaurant industry, saturated in so many markets with little to differentiate them? Let’s face it, the retailers that have been relying on their storefronts while neglecting their online presences are certainly feeling the pain now. Consider stodgy corporations tying up enormous amounts of cashflow on unnecessary office space just because that’s the way they had always done things. It’s fair to say that COVID-19 has taught them all a lesson or two. These are all industries that needed change before anyone knew what a COVID was. They can keep doing the same old thing until there’s no choice but to close up shop (or be a mere shadow of what they used to be) or they can pivot.
For example the higher education institutions that offer virtual education now realize that not only can they offer students a more cost-effective education, but the institution itself can retain more profits. Furthermore, they can increase their attendance by making their education more accessible to students who may have been prohibited from attending in person due to life/work conflicts. This doesn’t mean that online education doesn’t come with its own problems that need to be resolved, but since necessity is the mother of all invention, the wrinkles are likely to be ironed out quickly
The entire restaurant industry has suffered a mighty blow. Many have been forced to create efficient curbside pickup and/or delivery services that may bode them well in the future so as to offer an option to those who just don’t feel like going out. Up until now, restaurant delivery services were provided by third-party restaurant delivery services (Grub Hub, Door Dash, Uber Eats, etc.) that cost the restaurant sizable fees. It was worth the investment for the restaurants because the assumption was that once at-home diners tried the delicious food, they would choose to dine at the restaurant next time. But with the habits that have been created in recent months (and ongoing contagion fear), many people may choose to continue to dine in. Restaurants may want to continue curbside pickup and their own delivery service in order to sustain a reasonable profit margin as opposed to feeding those profits to the third-party delivery services.
Clearly online shopping has taken on a life of its own. Those who shopped online for the convenience were already on board, but those who are now forced to engage in shopping online for groceries, clothing, and housewares will be old hats at it by the end of the quarantine period. And let’s face it, ANY company that ups their online marketing strategy and virtual product offerings (exercise classes, educational content, human connections), will be ahead of the game now and after this pandemic. But for retailers, there really is no other choice. Furthermore, limited-line retailers will need to expand their offerings in order to diversify and have any chance against online retailers like Amazon.
Corporations that had long held the belief that employees had to commute to an office to work will have learned that work is something you do, not a place you go. When they measure the results, they may notice that not only does commuting waste time and create stress for their employees, but the cost per square foot of office space does not produce the return on investment they had previously assumed. (Cisco, Zoho, G-Suite, and Zoom will continue working hard to prove that fact, for sure!)
History has shown temporary pivots in the auto industry in response to fuel prices. When fuel prices went up, manufacturers responded with compact cars and hybrids. When fuel prices decreased, the SUVs returned. A permanent pivot came with the gas crisis of the 70’s and the advent of the locking gas cap. Before that, gas was so inexpensive that people cruised up and down streets just for fun. No one could have conceived that someone would siphon gas out of an automobile if accessible. Smart companies will pivot not only as a reaction but also proactively for the long term health of their business.
As John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” The only thing we have the power to affect is what is in front of us. This is true not only of individuals, but of businesses as well. Furthermore, there is pride and satisfaction in taking action, especially when it’s clearly easier to give in and give up. Optimal Station continues to be committed to pivoting with and for our clients, now and in the future.