2020 has come, and has brought with it a plethora of new challenges - the most pressing being the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus disease has certainly made its presence felt, not only in terms of fatalities, but also by forcing some of the world’s leading economies to a halt. This has raised a lot of questions about whether this disruption to our everyday lives will lead to an economic recession, and how much different members of society are going to be impacted by it.
Here at Speer, we believe that there is one group in society that is uniquely capable and conditioned to not only endure the potential upcoming crisis, but God willing, help support society through it.
We’re talking about entrepreneurs.
Think about the principles of running a successful company during a recession. What comes to mind? Saving money? Operating cheaply? Adapting to the market by making quick decisions?
All of these principles are the bread and butter of entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own businesses. And while other companies will be looking to integrate these principles into their corporate structure in order to survive, entrepreneurs already have these ideas ingrained into their bones, courtesy of the Lean startup methodology.
Being a successful entrepreneur also requires a degree of versatility that isn’t really expected from individuals with more traditional, 9-to-5 jobs. If the worst case scenario does happen for the entrepreneur, and they are forced to shut down their startup, it’s likely they’ll be able to add value somewhere else. In more traditional roles like sales or marketing, finding a new job in a recession could take months or even years. But for an entrepreneur, finding a new job is in many cases the same as creating a new one.
With regards to tackling COVID-19, we’ve seen the community come together in amazing ways. Perfume and deodorant companies are repurposing their supply chains to manufacture hand sanitizer, university laboratories are producing lower-cost respirators and masks, and governments have set up grants and initiatives for scientists and researchers working on COVID-19. Slowly but surely, steps are being taken to set up infrastructure to tackle this pandemic.
However, there will inevitably be gaps in this process; researchers can be expected to synthesize hand sanitizer, but what about its distribution? Companies can repurpose their manufacturing lines to make respirators, but for how long can these be donated, or sold at a loss? If anyone, entrepreneurs are best equipped to identify and fill these industry gaps, and judging by the amount of funding and grants being offered by them, governments and nonprofits agree.
The heart and soul of entrepreneurship has always been solving meaningful problems. Although we tend to get distracted by the lifestyle, the power and the promise of overnight wealth - those are all simply byproducts of entrepreneurs hyper-focused on solving important problems. Many major companies were actually born during challenging economic times! Thomas Edison launched General Electric in the 1890s, IBM was started in the 1896 slump, Disney emerged in the middle of the Great Depression, and Apple at the end of the dot-com burst in 2001. History is rife with inspiring precedents of entrepreneurs taking the lead during challenging economic times.
At the end of the day, the horrors of what we’re facing are undeniable. This disease, in just a few months, has challenged us on every level. It’s challenging us as individuals, in terms of our discipline to abide by the quarantine regulations and practice social distancing, and our resilience as we try to support our families both emotionally and financially. It’s also challenging us as a society; our ability to coordinate large-scale efforts and mitigate the spread of this disease across geopolitical borders. It’s a messy process, and we’ve unfortunately already seen a lot of casualties.
This pandemic, as horrifying as it may appear, has highlighted many areas where major societal improvements can be made, and significant growth (both technological, and societal) can take place. Perhaps that’s the silver lining; that crisis brings the opportunity to change, and making changes is the only real way to prevent future viruses from shutting down society the way that COVID-19 has.
Afterall, while we are all products of the past, we don’t need to be prisoners of it.