Time to recognize the threats businesses face

As of now, about 20% of all businesses have permanently closed due primarily to COVID-19. The most obvious closures are in our largest cities.

New Orleans seems to be the hardest hit, according to multiple reporting sources. Most of the rest of the larger urban centers are reporting that, on average, between 20% to 25% have closed. That is bad. By the time government got around to helping most of them, it was too little, too late.

Another 20% of American businesses are doing all right; some would say “better” than before the virus and perhaps because of it.

Adversity, calamity, hardship and shock can be a way to see new things, find new markets, find new opportunities and just forge ahead.

What makes the difference is leadership. Some owners and managers rise up in the face of the impossible and set risk in its place to go on fighting against the odds.

It is not so that all businesses that fail are poorly managed. But, I believe many are, based on my experience as a business improvement consultant.

I have met many managers who, in good times, can evince a profit from their business but are not made of the stuff to survive major error, market shifts or protracted internal problems. These managers only do well when their markets remain fat.

Between the 20% that have failed and the 20% that are chugging along there is a middle 60% that is trying to hang on. Some of these businesses are, on average, larger than those that have failed.

This means that as more businesses fail, more employees will be permanently terminated. This is something that will catch everyone’s attention in 2021 if the virus continues on unabated.

The vaccines being put forth now might just save the day. We really hope for that because I believe we have reached a critical point in our national business capacity.

If it goes on unabated for much longer, we could hit a point where critical services and manufacturers might not be able to function. That would make us very vulnerable to other countries of questionable motives and morals.

This is something that President Trump just seemed to understand at a deep level.

It is, I believe, the real driver behind the reason he fought to keep our businesses going when everyone else was singularly focused on individual needs.

The vaccines will have saved us. Trump was right about that, too. His “warp speed” program, someday, will be recognized in business schools as the real singular miracle that saved the American economy — and possibly America itself. It is not a matter of whether or not the president was hated or loved; it is a matter of time and concrete numbers.

The truth of this will play out in the next 12 months.

We will either take the vaccines and nurture our businesses back to health or continue to decline to a point beyond our economic failsafe.

Now that we have the miracle-fast vaccines, it is all up to us to recognize the realities, threats and opportunities that lie before us as a nation.

The sooner we all recognize that this is our country, our life, our future and our hope, the sooner we might just find a way to come out better than before China’s surprise arrived on our shores.