The late British historian Arnold Toynbee uttered very powerful words that are worth of our reflection as many businesses fight existential battle in the wake of Covid-19. He said, “Great civilizations are not murdered. They commit suicide.”
Last weekend I missed two important items on my shopping list in a major supermarket. As the floor attendant was explaining to me that they had just run out of stock the manager, who is my friend showed up. I engaged him on the subject and he regretfully told me that the management had given instruction to him to reduce stocks by a big margin due to current economic situation.
He admitted to that it is not easy to reduce stocks “the way they want” without hurting customers. Nevertheless, the management decision had to be implemented.
Now think of this unusual situation in unusual times: business is low and one response is to cut down on orders, which result in frequent sell outs, customer frustrations and loss of revenue.
That said, many firms have adopted several strategies to survive Covid-19 epidemic. They include cutting down on operations, reducing employees, cutting salaries and reducing cost of essentials such as marketing and sales promotions.
Some took anticipatory measures way long before consequences of Covid-19 hit their business. They simply did what other firms, both locally and globally were doing. This reminds us of popular tale of a man who sold hotdogs by the highway. The man had a hearing problem, so he had radio. He had trouble with his eyes, so he read no newspaper.
But he sold delicious and high quality hot dogs.
He put up signs along the highway proclaiming how delicious they were. He stood on the side of the road and cried, “Buy a hot dog! Buy a hot dog!”
People bought them in large numbers. Everything went on well until his son completed college came home with the news. His son said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio? Haven’t you been reading the newspaper? There’s a big recession. The European situation is terrible. The domestic situation is worse.”
Where upon the father thought, “Well, my son has been to college; he reads papers and listens to the radio, he ought to know.”
So, his father cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his advertising signs and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs. And his sales fell almost overnight. “You’re right, son,” the father said to the son, “we are certainly in the middle of a great depression.”
All economic pointers currently show that Covid-19 has a devastating effect on businesses. However, majority of the firms will not be ‘murdered’ by the epidemic. They will ‘commit suicide’ by making the wrong decisions.
Every cloud has a silver lining. There are numerous opportunities brought about by the epidemic but unless we avoid herd mentality may miss out. Wake up and work!