Hustle and Diversify:

Hustle and Diversify:

Business Unusual In The Time Of Pandemic

Sunday, June 28, 2020

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The novel coronavirus at the centre of the current global pandemic has been foremost in our thoughts these past two months, and rightly so. It's nothing like the seasonal flu, as we've come to understand; far from it. We've all watched it rampaging across every corner of the world, leaving the devastation of even the strongest of economies in its wake. Knowing what we now know about the events of 2008, there is a very real threat of, if not a full-blown world recession, at the very least severe economic disruption, especially in vulnerable economies such as ours.

And with more and more households being run by a single income stream it's important that you do not become overwhelmed by all the possibilities you may have to face, on your family's behalf, with the inevitable disturbances to your budget, which may or may not have been already stretched, brought on by the instability of COVID-19. If you have children, of course, you'd put their interests first, willing to go hungry, if needs be, so that they won't have to.

Even if you're single with neither chick nor child, there is still the temptation to hyperventilate about what the future may hold in the event of, say, a salary cut. How do you manage your personal financial goals and aspirations in the face of sudden hardship such as a job loss? How do you continue to pay your mortgage, your rent? Were you saving towards furthering your studies? Would this financial cushion end up becoming the raft you have to use to get by until you can get back on your feet? How would you deal with a setback like this?

The truth is, whatever your status, financial misfortune, not just stemming from a pandemic, can befall anybody. Sudden health emergencies, like a critical illness or even death, can happen at any time and derail your plans. There's no sugar-coating it. We hope for the best always, but we must expect the worst. How prepared you are will determine how you deal with the unforeseen.

But, what if you're not prepared as you might have hoped to be? I have an unshakeable faith in the never-say-die spirit of the Jamaican people, especially Jamaican women. It is somehow embedded in our DNA. That entrepreneurial spirit asserted itself in the early days after the virus first appeared here and innovative seamstresses, recognising a good business opportunity in the light of what they saw as an interruption in sales, began leading the way in the production of face masks. That's what's called a pivot. One local swimwear designer noted, after she recognised that this year's orders for bathing suits would be substantially decreased. For her, it was simple: diversify or deal with the consequences of a business that suddenly tanked. One restaurateur, so as to not let his strawberry supplier face ruin, bought the entire crop and flooded his dessert menu for a couple weeks with discounted cheesecake specials, which his customers gobbled up.

There are other stories of diversification emerging each day in the media: The restaurant industry, hard-hit by the virus and its attendant social distancing mandate, has found another gear after its initial stalling out, with so many now offering a wider range of services including delivery, box bundles, and kerbside pick-up.

Surviving in the time of dire economic trade winds takes some amount of creativity and innovation. Take the multinational ride-hailing company Uber, for example. It came about a year after the recession of 2008, when its founder Garrett Camp and his friends, having spent what they considered an inordinate amount of money on hiring a private driver, wondered how could the cost of direct transportation be made affordable. Simple: Cost sharing. And in this way, Uber was born and with it the opportunity of a lifetime for many people who'd lost their jobs during those harsh prevailing economic times.

Let's face it. The global pandemic will not leave any of us untouched. There are difficult financial times ahead but these times are not to be feared. Into everyone's lifetime an economic recession will at some point fall; experts say they come around every seven to 10 years. Instead of seeing them as events destined to ruin us, see whatever displacement that will occur due to this current pandemic as a reset and an opportunity to thrive.


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