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April 30, 2020

Chaos in a Post-Yesterday World!

Summary:

With “place” eliminated as part of the value provided by your office, will you compete as well in a virtual market as you did on your Main Street?

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

“When one thing is different, it is change; when everything is different, it is chaos!”

Yesterday, Corona was a beer. Today, Corona is still a beer but is also a disease, a pandemic. It is the reason I’m at home typing this article, and you’re at home reading it. If the Civil War was the defining event in our county in the 1800s, and the world wars, Korea and Vietnam were the defining global events of the 1900s, then corona – the virus, not the beer –will be the defining event of 2000-2020. If you consider worst-case scenarios, this coronavirus crisis may just be it.

I question whether the worst of these worst cases is not the disease but our reaction to the real and imagined threats. Time will tell. 

For perspective, consider the following:

It was October 1962. I was a sophomore in high school. Coach Blanco was our teacher. He was sitting on his desk facing south. Tension was in the air because the U. S. Navy was going to confront the Soviet Union that day over its deployment of ballistic missiles in Cuba. In the previous weeks, we had prepared for such a contingency by practicing nuclear bomb drills – literally getting under our desks and covering our heads with our arms and hands. 

Coach said, “Boys, if you see me get off this desk and crawl under it, you do the same because that means I’ve seen a mushroom cloud.” Nervous laughter followed. Thank God we never needed to act on his instructions.  

Since that time, the U.S. has fumbled through the Vietnam conflict (which in retrospect should never have been fought) and avoided nuclear war. We finally declared victory in Vietnam and withdrew. Decades later, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Berlin Wall came down. We have been blessed. 

See also: 10 Moments of Truth From COVID-19  

Shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of John Kennedy (Nov. 22, 1963), Lyndon Baines Johnson became president. The Great Society followed, with a set of programs that aimed for the total elimination of poverty and racial injustice. Some progress was made, but real challenges remain.

Today, our country and the world are threatened by the coronavirus and the nearly complete shutdown of our malls, schools, Main streets, manufacturing, commerce and social lives. The U.S. has gone from a booming economy to an economy that has gone down in a boom.  

I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll offer the following six questions for your consideration. Consider these strategic planning issues to be pondered as you plan your future, next week, next month and next year(s). Obviously, this is not an all-inclusive list.

  1. Tomorrow – who will be your clients and prospects?  
  2. What will be their wants and needs that you are positioned to address?
  3. Since the virus crisis eliminated “place” as part of the value provided by your office, will you compete as well in a virtual market as you did on your Main Street?
  4. As technology and the growing Gen X, Gen Y and future generations become more enamored with each other, does human touch (like a good neighbor or your local agency) lose value?
  5. As technology allows us to provide service that is fast, hot and cheap, will clients tolerate current commission levels, will coverages be quoted net of commissions or will commissions become negotiable? 
  6. What is your greatest nightmare about the agency business? Is it closer to or further from your horizon than it was on last New Year’s Eve?

After the assassination of JFK, the journalist Mary McGrory said, “We’ll never laugh again,” and Kennedy aide Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously replied, “Mary, we will laugh again. It’s just that we will never be young again.”

If I might be so presumptuous: After our coronavirus experience, we will laugh again, and the young will still be young, but we will never feel invincible again.  

See also: Rethinking Risk Management in a COVID-19 World  

My friend Mark attributes his success to “waking up scared to death every morning!” Do you? Should you? Or will you remain in your comfort zone of yesterday, dumb, fat and happy?  

Place your bets on tomorrow!

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About the Author

Mike Manes was branded by Jack Burke as a “Cajun Philosopher.” He self-defines as a storyteller – “a guy with some brain tissue and much more scar tissue.” His organizational and life mantra is Carpe Mañana.

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