COVID-19 outbreak, first identified in Wuhan City, China, struck the world at the end of 2019 and was declared a Global Health Emergency in January 2020. Ever since then, there have been more than two million deaths worldwide, and the toll continues to rise. Under these circumstances, countries had to make a trade-off between saving lives or saving the economy.
Naturally, human lives and well-being became the first pick, so movement was restricted and economic activity minimized. Entrepreneurs, now, are juggling between protecting their employees and businesses amidst uncertainty and crisis. For multinationals like Dell, the problems started with their global supply chain. Simultaneously, small firms such as Oyster are affected by the changing news and information. No matter the size or industry, each business has its baggage of problems- imposed or worsened by the pandemic.
Does this mean a grim future for the business world?
To answer this question, WeDevelop conducted semi-structured interviews with businesses in the United States. Some of the respondents were:
- Alberto Arias – Director Global Head HX/CX Transformation at Dell, a Texas-based multinational company that repairs, sells, supports and develops computer and related products and services for over 183 countries.
- Fermin Morales – COO and Co-Founder at Oyster: an in- transportation DOOH company in Dallas, Texas, that gives digital advertising services to small and middle enterprises.
These companies narrated their journey of resilience, innovation, and success in COVID-19- but it was not plain sailing. The companies were tied-down by low cash-flows, disruptions in the supply chain, employee safety, and demand uncertainties.
Remote Business Works
At the start of the pandemic, the first stumbling block was whether the employees, particularly the field staff, can work remotely or not. According to Alberto Arias:
Companies sought different solutions to this concern. At the start of the pandemic, Oyster chose to work from the office, but soon ‘realized that they could work remotely and maintain the modalities.
Dell, from the start, had set out to work from home. The key to this decision was to acknowledge how ‘severe and important this crisis is.’ It moved thousands of its employees to their homes in the first two months and rolled in medical safety nets for them. However, the transition was a bumpy ride. The company had to negotiate things like high-speed internet and better health insurance in several regions of the world. It also had to deploy thousands of work stations and improve cyber-security to protect the company from vulnerabilities.
Added to this, Dell along with the rest of the industry, was affected by supply chain disruptions. Companies had to plan in greater detail, having to track from tier one down to tier four. No longer was it sufficient to plan for semi-finished resources from a tier-four supplier and pass them on to the Q1 provider to create the end product. Therefore, Dell along with many other organization, had to rethink the supply- chain, inventory and field labor force, not only for Dell but also help its customers plan ahead. Today we see a clear movement to everything as a service (aaS) in direct correlation to today’s demands.
Save and Invest Right
The second significant problem for the companies was cash flows. COVID-19 made companies reevaluate where to invest and what budget cuts are necessary to retain employees.
In the case of Fermin Morales (Oyster), they decided to make ‘lean changes to grow in business and manage prospects’ and did so by reducing spending and avoiding risks.
Think More of the Future
The companies also worry about the demand for their products- after the pandemic. Oyster requires higher sales to wave off the additional cost in these times. To overcome these hurdles, they have brought innovation in their work, learned new skills, and strengthened themselves ‘more naturally and organically.’
This is What They Learned
These experiences, amidst the pandemic, have helped these companies learn valuable lessons and grow. Dell has identified the need to ‘humanize technology’ and be obsessed with all things human. Oyster understands that creating a balance between helping and selling is the right way to do business.
This is What They Preach
Through their journey of hardship, resilience, and success, here is what these companies have to say to other businesses.
Dell representative Alberto Arias advises that companies should take decisions from an outside-in rather than inside-out view. It means that rather than focusing on increasing efficiency, capability, and optimizing financials, they need to see what is happening in the consumer world. Added to this, they should avoid pit traps of failure for human experience. In his words, these pitfalls are:
Apart from Dell, other companies, too, have wise words to offer. Oyster urges firms not to be afraid of innovation and thinking out of the box- especially now.
Is the Future for Business Still Dark?
It is not an understatement that COVID-19 is among the worst crisis of the 20th Century. It has landed the world in a state of socio-economic topsy- turvy. Yet- companies such as Oyster and Dell are pushing forward and not giving up. Their journey from hardships to evolution promises businesses a resilient and hopeful post-pandemic future.
- Interviews performed by WeDevelop during November 2020, in reference to the research project COVID-19 and Businesses.
- Cennimo, D. (2021). What is COVID-19? Retrieved 22 January 2021, from https://www.medscape.com/answers/2500114-197401/what-is-covid-19.
- Coronavirus Update (Live): 98,153,807 Cases and 2,101,919 Deaths from COVID-19 Virus Pandemic – Worldometer. (2021). Retrieved 22 January 2021, from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus.