With the emergence of the new coronavirus or COVID-19, we entered into a new world of fear, panic, uncertainty, and confusion that will likely become known as “the coronavirus era.” We know this is just the beginning of this new era, and we don’t know when it will end.
The attack of the coronavirus was so hard and devastating that it caught almost every leader and country off-guard and put a stop to everything all around the world, except it had only begun to kill people and destroy economies.
The time of this recording is mid April 2020, and we are still in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic tragedy. The number of infected people is climbing close to two million, and close to one hundred thousand people are contracting this virus every single day.
At the time of this recording, close to eight thousand people are losing their lives to the new coronavirus pandemic, and these numbers are growing exponentially by the hour, not even by the day. These numbers are just the official government reports that are likely much less than the actual numbers. Many countries are hiding their numbers for whatever reason.
For instance, many are skeptical about China’s coronavirus reports. China placed a strict quarantine over Wuhan for two months and, all of a sudden, reported that there is no new case of coronavirus in China. The coronavirus didn’t stop in Wuhan and spread almost all over China at the same time it was in Wuhan.
About eighty percent of people who get the virus have very mild symptoms or even no signs and symptoms at all. These non-symptomatic people walk healthy and spread the virus. Now the question is, where are all those people who were infected and didn’t go into a strict quarantine like in Wuhan? We might expect another big surprise from China.
At the time of this recording, most businesses are closed, and people are locked down in their houses by a strict quarantine. No one knows for sure when this quarantine will end, or when the coronavirus pandemic will be over.
In this article, I am going to talk about the impacts of the new coronavirus or COVID-19 on businesses, mostly small to mid-size.
I will address the magnitude of destruction and what you can do to minimize the damages of the coronavirus outbreak to your business, or even use the coronavirus pandemic in favor of your business to grow it.
To give you a better understanding of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, let me compare it to the most recent deadly pandemic, the Spanish flu, that occurred about one hundred years ago. The Spanish flu came right at the end of World War I and killed about fifty million people in three waves over two years.
The bulk of damages and death happened in waves two and three, which were believed to be due to the mutations of the Spanish flu virus. The mutation created a new version of the virus that attacked the immune systems of people who had built up an immunity to the original one.
Based on current news, there are already at least three confirmed strains or versions of COVID-19 right now. Mutations make controlling the virus very hard. A virus mutation could potentially start another pandemic like the late Spanish flu.
As I mentioned, the late Spanish flu came right at the end of World War I, when the world was a complete mess. The war had already ruined countries, cities, economies, and jobs, killing twenty million people and wounding another twenty million. The virus in those days could have potentially killed another fifty million people.
In contrast, the new coronavirus came right at the peak of a booming market, at least in the US. Right before the coronavirus pandemic (only two or three months ago), unemployment was historically low, and one of the biggest challenges of many businesses was finding new employees or keeping their current ones. Minimum wage rose up from less than ten dollars to more than fifteen dollars in just a few years in some states.
The booming market enticed many professionals and technicians to start their own small businesses with little to no knowledge and experience with business, management, and marketing. Those small to midsize businesses survived and even grew because people had money to spend, and there was not much need for expert business and marketing knowledge and experience.
But the new coronavirus pandemic is going to change everything. The predicted unemployment rate is thirty percent based on US government reporting. To give you an idea of just how bad the situation could be, let me remind you that the highest unemployment rate in US history was 24.9 percent during the 1933 great recession. The unemployment rate of the 2008 recession was only ten percent.
At the time of this recording, more twenty million U.S. citizens filed for unemployment, and this number keeps growing every day. Unemployment removes money from people’s pockets and reduces their purchasing power.
Adding to unemployment is the fear and panic of getting or giving the coronavirus at businesses that have close contact with customers, like in restaurants and beauty salons or at dental, medical, and chiropractor facilities. The fear and panic of contracting the coronavirus prevents people from shopping while they may have money and can afford to buy.
Imagine you own a restaurant, and one of your customers coughs or one of your employees coughs and becomes positive for coronavirus. Such an incident could close the business for a period of time. Needless to say, negative feedback, a bad reputation, and other dilemmas could follow such an incident, deterring more people from your business.
For a while, businesses will have another parameter to be reviewed for, and that is the coronavirus. Any negative feedback or rumors that indicate your facility is not clean or sanitized, or that your employees are not clean or taking measures to protect against the coronavirus, can potentially reduce your already shrinking customer base. If you have ever ran a business, you know how cumbersome it would be to remove negative feedback from social media or Google reviews.
At the time of this recording, about close to one million Americans have contracted the virus. The population of the US is about three hundred and fifty million, meaning only still less then one percent of Americans have gotten the virus so far. However, we still have more than ninety-nine percent of people at risk of getting infection. We still have a long way to go with the coronavirus.
I believe brutal, bloody, and unfair competition will be the biggest challenge of businesses post-coronavirus. The number of customers has already declined dramatically, and businesses have to compete for their own share of a small customer pool.
Adding to the competition is the dilemma of an increasing number of lawsuits. Pesky lawyers will try to prove that a customer contracted the virus because you didn’t have enough soap in your soap dispenser, or one of your employees forgot to put on a facemask.
The media and social media could create a big problem for many businesses, too. Unlike during the Spanish flu, when news and rumors could take weeks or months to travel from one place to another, news and rumors of the coronavirus will be flashing on the screens of people around the world in an instant.
Human instinct is geared towards giving priority to avoiding danger rather than gaining benefits. That is why we are more sensitive and responsive to bad news than we are of appreciating good news. So, in the coronavirus era, true or fake news or a rumor somewhere in the world can affect your business instantly.
About a month ago, news in Hong Kong reported that two dogs got the coronavirus, and one of them died because of it. The immediate response to that news was to escalate it to the poisoning and killing of dogs in some countries, specifically in Lebanon.
Another report that was subtle, but critically important, was that a female tiger got coronavirus from a zoo worker who was infected in New York zoo. They realized this when the tiger developed a dry cough. Many people didn’t know that tigers cough, let alone dry cough. The immediate response to this news was to hide endangered animals in zoos in many countries.
Imagine there is a news report or rumor that some cows or chickens got coronavirus somewhere in the world. What if the news or rumor reports that coronavirus stays much longer under the nails, and nail salons are among the riskiest places to go? The next day, when you account for your profits, you will notice the immediate impact of that news on your business.
We are still in the honeymoon phase of the coronavirus era. The government’s stimulus checks keep many people and businesses afloat for a few months, but it won’t last forever. The harsh reality of bills, expenses, rent, mortgages, and so on will hit people and businesses hard soon. The coronavirus didn’t put a pause on these aspects of life and business. Expenses and unpaid bills keep piling up despite no income for the majority of businesses and people.
I am not a big supporter of the idea that a vaccine can rescue our world once and forever from coronavirus. It takes at least twelve to eighteen months for a vaccine to be ready for the market, provided everything goes well. Considering the mutations and seasonal habits of the flu, we may have to make several versions of vaccines whenever there is a new mutation somewhere in the world. The coronavirus proved that it is so wild and contagious that it may kill thousands of people and stop everything again before scientists make another vaccine.
Remember, there are numerous viruses that science hasn’t been able to provide any long-lasting and efficient vaccine against, like the flu and the common cold.
The hope for a medication that eradicates coronavirus is not promising at this time. We hardly have any medicine that can kill viruses. HIV, HPV, Herpes, the common cold, influenza, cold sores, chickenpox or shingles, and almost all other viral infections don’t have any reliable treatments yet.
If you follow the news of WHO, World Bank, United Nations, and other national and international financial agencies, you will notice that they also try to warn and prepare us for a tough economic time.
Unfortunately, there is no cutoff date for when the coronavirus pandemic will be over. There is no doubt that we have to live with this virus for years to come.