By HPA Founder & Managing Director Sumeet Goel
How quickly things change.
Just three months ago, none of us would have thought we would be here today – in terms of health, social issues, politics, or even the economics of it all (markets hitting all-time highs – who would have guessed?).
When quarantine/shelter-in-place orders were announced in the U.S., it was clear there was a need for improved connection in the era of social distancing. We immediately launched our Tuesday TouchPoints series, starting with a more lighthearted look (from yours truly) on What to Watch while stuck at home.
Over these past three months, we’ve attempted to bring you thoughts and perspectives on how the global health crisis impacts us both in the near term and on a permanent basis. Our contributors have been phenomenal, lending their experience and expertise to topics as varied as the educational system, restaurants, retail , and financial services. We capped the series last week with an in-depth Q&A with our colleague and biopharma expert Derrell Porter around the ins and outs of Coronavirus and the intersection of race and healthcare.
In true pandemic roller coaster fashion, even as these pieces were published in real-time, disruption came swiftly, at times in just a matter of a few days after publishing, shifting the landscape and our perspectives. Moore’s Law be damned, we’re now operating under a new paradigm where change happens overnight.
In circling back with our contributors and getting their thoughts on the impacts of these rapid changes, several common themes emerged:
- Change is constant: People have always said this, but now it’s in our faces, and even more so than before. The change you thought was coming is (really, truly) here, and only the nimble will survive and thrive.
- Forget what you know: To that end, throw out your historical lens. As hard as it is to do, it’s time to embrace the unknown.
- Flexible betting: It’s impossible to know what/how/who will win – all we know is that the way you won in 2019 is not the way you will win in 2021 and beyond. Place your bets across the table, and remain flexible enough to double down on the best hand or two.
We’re hearing similar themes in our conversations with clients. For many of them, as for us here at HPA, mid-March ushered in six weeks of upheaval. The market had crashed, Corona had hit our shores, quarantines had started….and everyone was scrambling to figure out how to #WFH, join Zoom calls, and juggle home schooling with work and kids and cooking, all while trying to pivot, think creatively, and batten down the hatches at work. None of us had seen anything like this before.
Then in early May, just as folks had adjusted to the work/home schedule, figured out what it meant to quarantine, and saw the impacts on their business, we saw an emergence from the bunker, so to speak. Since then, as the broader markets have rebounded from that initial crash to reach new highs (which I still can’t fathom), our clients have circled back to engage on a plethora of needs.
We’re hearing a few common themes in those conversations:
- The hall pass: For our large public clients, many are taking 2020 as a license to invest and place bets; the market is already assuming a down year and won’t punish you for that, so why not double down on investments that can pay off in 2021 and beyond? The cap ex and resulting impacts on your cash flow and EBIT will not have the same impact on your valuation as they would at any other time.
- Pivoting: During the hunker-down period, several clients were able to pivot quickly to counteract core business impacts, leaning into the needs of the new normal, whether it be in professional services, manufacturing, technology, food & beverage, consumer products – you name it. The crisis forced change that otherwise never would have happened – and now they need to figure out what to do with their newfound business opportunities – are these temporal or permanent?
- Human capital: Your Boomers & Gen X that are the leaders-at-large at many companies are not wired for the #WFH environment that has been thrust upon us. But the Millennials and Gen Z are, and they may like it. How do we wrap our heads around what the new workplace looks like, and what’s the impact to our business, processes, operations, infrastructure, PP&E (no, not PPE), etc.?
We’ve had conversations with our clients on all of these fronts – if any strike a chord with you, please do reach out – we would be happy to share what we’ve heard and be of any support we can.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these weekly Tuesday TouchPoints – we’ve enjoyed pulling them together and hearing from you on how they’ve resonated. Of course, we will continue to publish contributions from our group of several hundred experts, and would love to introduce any of them to you, whether for a ‘real’ business need, to just to connect and network.
For now, I’d urge you to check out all the interesting content, and think about how it applies to you and your organization. Our world is changing daily – whether on the business, societal, political, economic, personal or other fronts. My two cents? Keep that in mind as we continue to navigate 2020 and beyond.
And remember to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi), and that while change on any level may feel daunting, “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind” (C.S. Lewis).
Be healthy. Be safe. Be loved.