An eye-opening observation about COVID, the economy and business. Like the rest of us who've been taking "stay home and stay safe" seriously, I had only minimally experienced, first hand, how the shutdown has impacted so many industries.

What an eye-opening observation about COVID, the economy and business since I’ve been out and about for 2 weeks after selling a home. COVID has made the real estate industry a bit tricky to navigate when trying to avoid infection. Like the rest of us who’ve been taking “stay home and stay safe” seriously, I had only minimally experienced, first hand, how the shutdown has impacted so many industries.  

While taking the time to decide where I want to live next, I’ve been trying to do “normal” things like I used to do before mid-March 2020 when “shelter-in-place” was the rule:

  • Eating at restaurants
  • Staying in hotels
  • The travel industry
  • Using room service
  • Getting a haircut from my hairdresser

What’s different about the risk of COVID in October 2020 vs. March 2020?

Not a damn thing. It’s still as serious a threat as it has been since early 2020. The only thing that is really different is people are told to wear masks. Here in liberal Silicon Valley, mask-wearing is really no problem—people are willingly complying. Outside Silicon Valley, compliance is not as good, making it riskier and prolonging the damage.

As I’m “out and about,” my risk of contracting COVID is much higher than when I was “sheltering-in-place” at home. I think about that added risk a lot and how long it’s going to be a big concern for me. 

In terms of vaccine availability, we need to plan for late 2021 for enough COVID vaccines to be available in the U.S. Our “new normal” is going to be our normal for well over a year. That’s a big consideration for me being “out and about.”

Our only protection from COVID in the short-term/near-term is handwashing, social distancing, and wearing a mask. Do these things for yourselves and others around you. It’s the only mitigation protocol we have today. And ask others to do the same.

Eating At Restaurants

In California, dining out has meant eating outdoors at socially-distanced tables. That may be changing—there is some talk of indoor dining at 25% of normal capacity. Frankly, the risk of indoor dining is how the air moves and who is near you. I may continue to do take-out and, if possible, eat outdoors. I encourage you to tip well—restaurant teams are hurting financially.

Staying In Hotels

This past week, I got a great rate at the Doubletree Hotel at the San Jose Airport. It’s an older but decent property. The hotel wasn’t bustling with travelers as would be normal for the airport location. No surprise there.

The food available at the hotel was refrigerated in a glass cooler and had all the imagination of a Canteen food machine. Huge disappointment. But, one has to eat, and that’s all there was with minimal staff.

The hotels in Silicon Valley are empty. They are quiet as there are not many people around. Hotels are struggling. 

Travel Industry

On the weekday I stayed at the Doubletree, I heard one private jet take off at 6:10 a.m. And, then I heard one commercial jet take off at 6:30 a.m. Normally, there would be five or 6 jets lined up at 6:30 a.m. ready to take off, but not that day. The next commercial jet took off at 7:15 a.m.

The post-COVID world has decimated commercial air travel. And that accounts for why hotels are empty, Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers are struggling, restaurants are closing, airline employees are losing their jobs, etc.

This economic impact of COVID is upsetting jobs on a scale we can’t imagine. Congress needs to step in and help.

There are giant holes in the economy that only the government can fill in the short-term/near-term. As the mayor of Durham, North Carolina, says: “If Congress doesn’t’ pass significant relief and recovery, state and local governments will founder, and our most vulnerable residents will suffer the most.”

Cal Cunningham, running for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, writes: “NC is counting on Congress. This can’t be a partisan issue.”

Room Service

I ordered a plate of nachos for dinner at a fairly popular high-end hotel down in Pismo Beach. All I’m going to say about it is, it was dreadful, inedible.

If you’re going to offer a product or service, make sure you can execute well on that product or service. If you’re short-staffed and quality supplies are not as easily available, offer something different that you can still execute well. Give people a reason to come back and keep buying. 

Getting A Haircut

All hair salons in California closed in mid-March. I’ve been seeing the same hairdresser for over 13 years. 

I reconnected with my hairdresser for the first time in 6 months this past Friday. She had no income that entire time. Somehow, she survived. She is one of the lucky ones.

She tells me business is very slow—people are slow to return to their normal hair maintenance routine. Maybe they have figured out alternatives. I would think it would have been difficult to get an appointment. She asked me to try to come back sooner than my normal. I will. I tipped her very well yesterday. My business is not as severely impacted as is hers. 

Conclusion

COVID is not a hoax, and it’s not like the flu. It’s not going to just disappear, and there is no cure yet. COVID is having a profound impact on our economy, people’s lives, and businesses. It’s having a profound impact on consumers and their experiences. It’s having an impact on the lives of those suffering from the loss of a loved one and those suffering from the infection and recovery. This is not the time to let your guard down. As a business owner and consumer, ask yourself:

  • What can we be doing better that will favorably impact customers?
  • What can we do to increase the loyalty of our customers, both new and existing?
  • What can we be offering our customers that they would really want that we aren’t offering today?
  • What do we need to be doing to take care of our employees and making them feel appreciated?

Thought for the week:

“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” – Sir Richard Branson


Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, author, and blogger based in Silicon Valley. He's been in the front row for the birth and evolution of Silicon Valley, the innovation capital of the world. Since 1992, Dave Gardner focuses on making the complex simple around people, process and technology. Dave is the author of Mass Customization: An Enterprise-Wide Business Strategy - How Build to Order, Assemble to Order, Configure to Order, Make to Order, and Engineer to Order Manufacturers Increase Profits and Better Satisfy Customers.

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