Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates gave an interview for LinkedIn This is Working. He answered questions about how the business will operate after the coronavirus and how to be prepared for it. That’s what he said
A new norm has appeared in the world, and it seems to be with us for a long time. This is the nightmare I warned about. I spoke at TED and wrote articles in scientific journals about which technologies to invest in to quickly respond to epidemics. Now everything depends on the speed of response — how we diagnose and develop vaccines.
The United States, unfortunately, did missed an opportunity to respond quickly in February, and now the USA cannot cope with it like Taiwan or South Korea. Those who made a lockdown on time can now observe that the incidence curve has stabilized at the same level. But this does not mean that quarantine can be ended. You need to wait until the number of cases will be such that everyone can be controlled.
People were not ready for such a rapid spread of the disease and for the economic consequences. It is a mistake that the whole country does not take emergency measures. We could act in every state in our own way if we prohibited the movement between them. But we are all in this together.
In fact, it is very difficult to produce a vaccine – it usually takes 5 years. For example, we have a tuberculosis vaccine trial for 8 years, interrupted by this epidemic. We need not only to make the vaccine itself, we must make sure that it is safe and it will work for a large number of people. Now it looks like the Covid-19 vaccine will need around 18 months. There are about 100 different initiatives in the world, 8-10 of which are promising. We are funding research to continue to use these searchings for malaria vaccines and to be prepared for the next pandemic.
Unfortunately, even moving at full speed and accepting the danger from side effects and making production processes parallel to several manufacturers, this still cannot be done faster than 18 months
And until that time, life will not return to normal. You can start to open something partially. The US may start reopening in early June if things go well. But this is more likely to be “semi-normal” than a return to what everyone is used to.
There will be no large public gatherings or even crowded restaurants. Workers will return to factories, construction, schools. But when it comes to other industries, in particular the hospitality, sports, and real estate industries, recovery will take much longer.
There is huge uncertainty in the economy. Will people want to travel? I doubt. Will they want to go to restaurants? Will they even think that buying a new home is an appropriate thing? So even when the government says that everything will be in order, we cannot expect demand to recover.
The world is changing in the long run. The COVID-19 pandemic digitizes the whole world. There are a few things, such as business trips, which I doubt will ever return. Microsoft has gone virtual shareholder meetings even before the pandemic. As many other companies are starting to follow this model, they are unlikely to want to return to personal meetings of shareholders.
With the advent of new software innovations, the situation will change. What is a virtual courtroom? What is a virtual legislature? Now there is a chance to create something that is actually more efficient and better than before.
How to adapt? As an example, let’s say you run a restaurant. Until the limitations of social distance are easened, you need to make sure that you have a reliable delivery service. Stop asking yourself if you want to go this route. This is no longer an option. At the moment, it you start delivery or close at all.
Just creating a service does not mean that people will come automatically. Take sure that your website has delivery options. And don’t forget the power of content marketing: work on creating YouTube videos that show how you cook some of the most popular dishes. Show your personality. Do not worry about people who steal your recipes and prepare your dishes instead of ordering: some will and some will not. Your customers are those who will not.
As another example, let’s say you focus on conferences and events. Are all your performances canceled? Is your company responsible for events? Yes, everyone goes online. But not everyone has the opportunity to deliver a good show. Although the logistics of virtual conferences are very different from the live ones, a lot of work remains to be done behind the scenes. Get to know the technology, features and effects that make your conference stand out from the competitors. Then make some free ones so you can hone your skills and create a portfolio. After polishing your skills, use this portfolio to start selling your conversation or conference services to a huge new market of online training and events.
Even if your business does not belong to one of these industries, I hope this will give rise to some ideas. The key is to redirect your efforts and use your time wisely. Because it is very likely that this is a new norm. And the faster you adapt to this fact, the more chances your business has of surviving and possibly succeeding.