Coronavirus. It is all anyone can think of or talk about. I’m writing this on Monday, and the NYSE had to halt trading this morning due to the massive stock sell-off. I also just got an alert on my phone that the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has been diagnosed with the virus (the PANYNJ is the agency that oversees the three major NY area airports, the bridges, and tunnels connecting NY to NJ, the PATH rail system, and the largest marine port on the eastern seaboard).
As most of you know, you can’t find hand sanitizer anywhere (or even the ingredients to make it at home — rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel), toilet paper is selling out, and people are just, in general, acting like it is Armageddon. I’m not as stressed. It is a highly contagious flu virus. Yeah, if I get it I’ll feel like hell for a few days, but it will be over. No one in my household is at risk of serious complications, so we’re treating it as business as usual. But things are going to be weird across the board for a few weeks or a couple of months.
My biggest concern is, as a small business with only a handful of employees, if just two or three people catch the virus, my business will be effectively shut down for three weeks — probably a week of sick and two weeks of quarantine before they can come back to work. That could be pretty devastating not just on cash flow, but also because we would be the trade holding up major projects and causing delays (although I would think most clients would understand, but you never know).
That said, I’ve been talking to people about what this means long-term for our business and industry as a whole. I’ve come up with a few ways I think things will change, some of which can even be quite beneficial.
More Diligent Cleanliness
Just as it is common practice to either remove our shoes in a client’s home or, more commonly, put on booties, we may start to see the practice of putting on masks and gloves become the norm when walking into a home. While it probably won’t be a major impact to business, it is more things to stock and marginally more time to enter and exit a home. However, it could also be another point of differentiation, just as wearing booties can be. Clients appreciate when we respect their home by putting on booties, so maybe they will start to appreciate it when we respect their health as well with gloves and masks. I hope this doesn’t come to pass — I hate wearing the masks and the gloves are just too hot — but we’ll do what we have to do.
Less Personal Contact
I was always taught growing up that a strong handshake is critical to good first impression. I don’t think a strong fist or elbow bump holds the same status. I have plenty of clients who give me a bro-hug or a kiss on the cheek when we see each other. I hope this personal connection isn’t lost, but if this pandemic continues for long, it maybe be the case
I can only imagine what is happening with the supply chains for the manufacturers in our industry. Getting product out of Asia, and China in particular, must be impossible. I feel for the supply chain and sourcing teams. I wonder if this will lead more companies to bring manufacturing back home so their entire business isn’t thrown into a tailspin by disruptions to the global supply chain. It would be a great thing to hear if companies decided to bring some manufacturing home. I do not know what that would mean for pricing and margins, but would likely be great for our economy and for inventory positions. I am not holding my breath that this will become a reality, but I can always hope!
What do you see as possibilities for long-term impact, good or bad, for our industry?