No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.Adam smith
World War II had a devastating impact on the entire world. Once peace set in, so did the post-war economic expansion, but certainly not everywhere. Two million estimated deaths worldwide from the coronavirus do not compare to the approximately 60 million lost during the war that occurred under even more horrific circumstances. Both numbers are tragic and should give us pause. However, both periods seem to call forth an impending sense of reparation.
2020 Wasn’t Supposed to be That Bad
A number of small business people I knew were convinced that 2020 was going to be a banner year, full of hope and possibility. They included restauranteurs, importers, and manufacturers, as well as others. Everyone was stunned when the pandemic hit, including me. I had planned to ride their coattails, providing services to help them meet their goals. When it all stopped, we originally planned to hunker down for a few months, then a year, and now who knows how long. The most profound lesson to be learned? Things change.
There’s a way for us to recover. First off, I think we have to draw from the lessons derived from World War II. I believe that most countries, including the United States, came out of it knowing that there was no going back to a pre-War normal, nor was there a desire to in many cases. World leaders and their citizens knew that they had to work conscientiously and hard to build new industries, policies and lifestyles out of the literal ashes of battle, with profound international cooperation. We’ll have to do the same. McKinsey illuminates this point in their article, ‘And now win the peace’: Ten lessons from history for the next normal.
There’s a lot of Hope in Small Business
My rather unscientific assessment of the economic landscape is based on personal observances of people taking courageous strides to establish innovative products and services to supply the new economy on a worldwide scale. The beauty of digital marketing is its global reach. In 2019, while promoting products in the geographic United States, I landed prospects and leads as far away as India. Today small businesses are limited only by their own aspirations. To have cross-border markets be that accessible is a phenomenon of the Internet Age.
Businesses helping businesses is another digital wonder. Platforms like Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, CafePress and Goldbelly are helping launch microbusinesses from homes and garages, transitioning some enterprising people out of jobs lost due to COVID. Some of these will most certainly grow into much bigger operations. It bears similarities to post-War manufacturing gains. Also, the proliferation of communications platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype, have made the world comfortable with conducting commerce without meeting in-person, expanding even the smallest proprietor’s reach to the other side of the planet, if need be.
Create the New Normal
It’s time to start recognizing what is likely to stick around if and when the virus is tamed. Take remote-learning, for instance. Studying anything online was something of a novelty a few years ago, now it’s the way it’s done, from Pre-K to Post-Doc. Even various types of therapies are conducted via screen these days, including psychological and physical therapies. Business travel and in-person contact will likely need a higher bar of justification in the near future.
Many cities have lost measurable percentages of their populations. Those who fled aren’t likely to return any time soon. They’ve established new lives that require new products and services, like lawn care and home contracting. People will get used to buying cars sight unseen directly off the Internet, an increasing trend since lockdown.
The McKinsey report posits that the trade in services is outpacing the trade in goods, with particular growth in information technology. That’s probably not going to turn around either.
The list of changes we attribute to the pandemic in five years could be startling, in my opinion, just as it was in 1950. So if you’re waiting for things to get back to normal, I invite you to start creating that normal now.