Is the Way We Do Business Permanently Changing, I Don’t Think So


Is the Way We Do Business Permanently Changing, I Don’t Think So

I had a discussion yesterday with a senior member of the management team of a company that has been hard hit by the pandemic. His customers are related to the air travel industry and naturally as air travel goes, so goes his bottom line. Frankly he is reeling and struggling to save his company.

He told me that his frustration comes from what he sees as a great shift in business travel. He felt that businesses were permanently moving from face to face meetings and therefore companies like his, that rely on business travel, would continue to suffer and must hunker down and make severe internal changes for their survival.

He then added parenthetically that he himself was personally frustrated by being ‘locked down’ and was looking forward to ‘getting out there’ and in fact had taken a couple of trips recently.

I mentioned that his software company was full of people who were in the generation and business sector that were familiar with and had the tools to work from home and use communication techniques including Zoom and Microsoft teams as a manner of course. Although he wasn’t located in California, he might as well have been from Silicon Valley. He agreed.

I pointed out, however, that it was curious that major high tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google had continued their physical expansion around the country building large office complexes to house their employees. I wondered, if his concerns about a paradigm shift in how we were going to do business was correct, why these monster corporations were continuing their physical expansion.

Was it possible that managers were doing more than reading Inc. Magazine and Wired and understanding that face to face conversations were extremely important and the innovation that took place around the water cooler could not be duplicated online. My wife is a former senior executive with the American Red Cross. She traveled extensively for the company. She told me that there was no way Zoom would replace the face to face meetings in which she participated. “It is simply not possible to communicate the same way online as you do face to face. It may take some time for companies to realize this, but they will.”

Travel will be back sooner rather than later. United Airlines just bought a number of 737 Max from Boeing. Delta announced that it was doing away with its “middle seat open” policy next month. Every flight I have taken in the past two months, and every flight anyone on my staff has taken, has been full.

My concerned friend above acknowledged that the TSA numbers were up this past month, the highest level since early last year.

Is travel ‘back’ to levels of 2019. Nope. But is the trend in the right direction, a resounding yes. State after state are loosening their social distancing requirements. Some say this may be happening too quickly, but it is happening. People are beginning to take action. They are simply tired of not being able to act like people. Schools are reopening, and that will allow moms and dads to go back to work in the office. The opening of restaurants will see valet operations reopen and garages begin to refill. Luncheon meetings will be back. On street parking will be back and cities will see their revenues increase.

Mark my words people want to return to normal, not a ‘new’ normal, but face to face, hand shaking, discussion, argument, innovation, bouncing ideas, and camaraderie. And its happening.


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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