COVID-19: How the Big Firms Weather the Storm

COVID-19 is affecting everyone: personally, as a family, a community, a business and globally.  In this article we take a brief look at how some firms are faring better than others.

In this kind of crisis climate, the bigger corporations with more resources seem to be managing better, in particular, the tech giants. For example: Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

Shares of Amazon hiked up almost 30 percent this year from massive increases in online deliveries.  Given the increasing need for cloud services, Microsoft also benefited enjoying a 9 percent increase.  Apple is an interesting case as its product is not necessarily an essential product and right now demand is higher for those offering essential services.  However, once Apple 5G is launched it is anticipated profits will soar.

Overall, as most are realizing, the process of re-opening the economy will take much longer and be much tougher than shutting it down.  Even if some states re-open they will not necessarily be able to function at normal levels since they often depend on other states (that have not yet opened) for their products/services.  Today, companies are often terribly reliant on firms and individuals nationwide – and even worldwide – for completion of product.

COVID-19: New Type of Purchasing?

Markets are moving in new directions.  The demand for digitalization is growing at an extraordinary pace in the age of social distancing.

BlueJeans – one of the world’s largest videoconferencing, screen sharing and video calling companies with around 15,000 customers – is being bought out by Verizon for approximately $400 million. According to Business CEO of Verizon Tami Erwin:

 “As the way we work continues to change, it is absolutely critical for businesses and public sector customers to have access to a comprehensive suite of offerings that are enterprise ready, secure, frictionless and that integrate with existing tools.”

BlueJeans will be built into Verizon’s 5G offering.  Since companies such as Zoom have faced hacking issues and the New York City Department of Education told workers not to use it, other rival companies are now seeking to profit from the new business opportunity.

Staying connected while working from home

Munear Ashton Kouzbari Offers Bosses Direction on Managing a Team Working from Home

Most of us spend a substantial portion of our waking hours at our workplace. Or at least we did before the corona pandemic upended our lives and forced us to spend all our time at home. Managers and employees, CEOs and support staff, are all navigating this new reality. Munear Ashton Kouzbari offers insight for bosses and administrators looking to weather the transition to remote employment successfully.

Have your Resources Ready

The 21st century is ready for working from home. There are so many free or low-cost options to establish and maintain a virtual office team.  Sit down with your tech crew and review your specific needs. Then you can select the set-up that is most suitable for you and your employees. Some managers mistakenly believe that they can rely exclusively on email to communicate with workers. You’ll want to use some kind of chat platform for regular check-ins and maintain an “administrator only” channel for updates.  Make sure that all the internal platforms and files that employees need to do their jobs are available outside of your office network.

Munear Ashton Kouzbari recommends the best tools for your business

This whole work-from-home thing happened very quickly. Few employers had time to properly train staff on using all the remote tools. Tech support will likely need to do some online training sessions, or even one-on-one calls, to guide people through the new processes. It will take time, but it is worth the investment.

Also, if practical, let employees take office equipment home. Laptop computers might be obvious, but office chairs, screens, keyboards, and even desk lamps can greatly enhance the home office experience.

Be Clear and Reasonable

Just because your team is now scattered, it doesn’t mean you should not be clear about what is expected of them. Set well-defined parameters of acceptable behavior and gently remind everyone that working from home is not a pseudo vacation. If you had weekly meetings in the office, maintain that schedule in a virtual forum (zoom, workspace, etc.). Attendance, and reasonable attire, should be mandatory.

BUT, keep in mind that many of your workers will also be juggling childcare during the pandemic. While most workers can stay task-focused while in the office, school and daycare closures have most parents struggling to find a work-life balance. When scheduling online meetings and calls, give plenty of advanced notice and ask for optimal times. Give as much leeway as possible on deadlines and understand that most parents will be putting in a lot of late-night hours once the kids are asleep.  

Maintain the Positive Office Environment

One of the reasons social distancing is such a struggle for most of us, is because we are social beings. As bosses, it is important to maintain a friendly and positive office culture so that employees enjoy coming to work and spending time with their colleagues. Now that working from home is the reality, your teams are probably missing each other, which can have a tangible impact on output. Use the tools mentioned above not only for work-related meetings but also to simulate kitchenette camaraderie.  Encourage colleagues to connect and consult with one another.

Encourage everyone to work together, even when they are apart

Communicate Regularly

When you and your staff are working remotely, keep the lines of communication open. Now that they can’t just pop their head into your office, make sure they know how to find you—and that you want to be found. Touch base with each member of your team on a regular basis. Whether you call by phone, ping them on a workplace platform, or initiate a video chat, take the time to genuinely express interest in how they are doing. This reality isn’t easy for anyone. Show them that you care about more than just the bottom line.  Your workers are likely to surprise you with their resilience and motivation to do well in this less-than-optimal situation. Use this time to uncover hidden talents or interests in your employees that didn’t necessarily come across in the regular work environment.

As we all figure out how to work through the current corona crisis, it is worth viewing this period of working from home as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Digital teams and communities are effective. Productivity, engagement, and even business growth can be obtained, even remotely, when managed correctly.

Starting a Business in 2020: What to Know

In this video, Foundr CEO Nathan Chan, the CEO of Foundr gives a brief introduction to his TOP 5 most profitable online business ideas for 2020. First, use current skills you have and sell it as a service If you are a designer, a videographer, a copywriter, a nutritional advisor etc.: go on to one of the many freelance sites out there and sell yourself. Start a side hustle. Ask yourself what are the skills you have and then go out and sell those skills as a service. Sell your skills to businesses. You can also teach the skills you have. Online courses are becoming increasingly popular.

How Technology Can Help You Tackle Personal Finances

Money management is complicated. Our lives are very busy, and it’s hard to have the time, energy and knowledge to keep on top of every dollar we spend and invest. You become a much smarter consumer, however, when you can keep track of these items. You certainly want to know how much money you are making, where and how you are spending and saving, and ultimately what and with whom to invest.

Thankfully, modern technology offers opportunities to learn about money and the economy, and how to stay on top of your personal needs as they change. There are many ways to use technology today to learn more about investing and budgeting, and to understand ways to save and earn for your future.

Educational Videos

One great way to become a more knowledgeable money manager is to learn from one or more of the companies that produce free educational videos, like this Youtube channel from Fisher Investments, to give consumers more information and know-how to help towards your personal financial success. There are videos of this sort available from many sources, and they offer an incredible resource to enable you to become better educated and to learn from those in the know. Do your own research, watch tutorials, and listen to podcasts to gain financial literacy. Understanding market trends and volatility allows you to have the information, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.

Software Programs and Apps

A critical aspect of managing your cash flow is your ability to plan and organize. Many software programs and apps are available to help you manage your money. Using technology resources can make establishing and maintaining a personal budget easier, faster and more accurate. Cumulatively, these tools offer insight into your spending habits, send warnings as you near your budget boundaries, remind you when payments are due, and more.

With the wealth of technology available today, everyone can find a way to become more financially savvy, and to have programs at their fingertips to help with their financial journey. Look for online resources and technology tools to help you to do your job better. And of course, if the task gets overwhelming or these tools just aren’t enough, you can always reach out to a financial adviser for further assistance.

Business Activity: US

Economies, businesses, GDP, revenue – all encountering a reduced pace of movement.  America seems to be faring somewhat better – thankfully not yet feeling the impact of the interest rate cuts from central banks.  According to figures from the US Commerce Department however, concerns over international trade issues are undermining business activity in the nation.

According to a recent WSJ article however:

“a private survey of business activity separately indicated a slight uptick in U.S. business activity in October, up from earlier lows.”

Still, even though there are real concerns for a recession, other data is indicating that America’s economy is faring well, “reflect[ing] economic strength.”

In addition, last month unemployment fell to a 50 year low and there was a hike in retail sales more than anyone anticipated in August.  According to BCA Research Chief US Investment Strategist Doug Peta:

“While the survey data have been steadily disappointing expectations, hard data have been a source of positive surprises. The labor market remains vibrant enough to exert downward pressure on the unemployment rate, and services continue to expand despite the contraction in manufacturing, both here and abroad. The expansion has slowed, but it’s not finished yet.”

Consumer Views on US Economy

America’s economy is currently not in as poor state as some of the commentators are suggesting. When one looks at numbers of hiring, wage increase, and consumer spending the situation is far from bleak. In fact hourly wages increased.

According to the government’s job report at the beginning of this month, employers in America are actually adding jobs.  True, it’s at a lower pace (hiring at 130,000 jobs in August), but it is still happening.   Unemployment figures remained stagnant (as for the last 3 months) at 3.7 percent.   This is almost the lowest number for unemployment in 50 years.  Plus, the longer the good unemployment rate continues, the better for employees as bosses may have to adjust how they work to ensure longer-term growth.  In other words, they will have to provide better packages for workers and invest in training, equipment etc.

Average hourly wages increased by 11 cents last month which marked a 3.2 percent escalation from 2018 figures. Indeed, according to PNC chief economist Gus Faucher:

“With slower, but still-solid job gains and good wage growth, households will continue to spend. The U.S. economy should avoid recession.”

US consumerism is looking good also.  The highest jump in consumer spending in five years was witnessed in the 2019 April-June quarter.  July looked good as well.