The world we suddenly find ourselves in feels surreal – a bit like stepping into a sci-fi movie from the 90’s, and yet here it is, playing out right in front of our eyes on our social media rolls and in our neighbourhoods. Overnight we’ve all had to radically change the way we live, work, school, shop and do business. It’s scary to read about large, established businesses filing for bankruptcy, to see the Rand fall to over R19 to the dollar, and about South Africa’s new junk status. But from the ashes rises the phoenix, so what positive lessons can we learn so far from this global crisis?
Perhaps the most prominent that comes to my mind is prudence. Something that seems to have become lost, even considered boring and narrow-minded in the modern world. The world before Covid-19 was one where more is never enough, fast is too slow, and where we were all victims of the break-necking pace that life and society has somehow come to expect of us. Made to believe that more equals productivity, we worked too hard, exercised too little, filled our children’s schedules with one structured activity after the next, planned our holidays a year in advance to some exotic destination, and lied awake at night thinking about how we can make more money to keep on affording that life. Instead of being prudent and investing for a rainy day, businesses that flourished focused their resources and energy on further increasing their size and profits. Large-scale events featured on everyone’s agenda, and large organisations were flying executives in from all parts of the globe for 2 or 3 day-long visits.
With half of the world now in some form of lockdown, we are forced to take a step back and re-assess ourselves. Despite the initial disbelief when we learned about the lockdown in SA, we all eventually had to accept it. Whether we liked it or not, we had no choice but to change our behaviour. Suddenly instead of flying we are doing business meetings through Zoom, instead of going to the gym we are doing virtual exercise classes from the comfort of our homes, instead of sitting in hours of traffic we are working from our home office. Instead of spending our hard-earned money on stuff, we realise that we don’t really need all of that. Suddenly we are home schooling our children and spending more time playing and interacting with them than ever before. Just in the past week my two boys have learnt to make their beds, cook, unpack a dishwasher, operate a vacuum cleaner, play Rummi, read more books, use the garage wall to improve their tennis shots and build the biggest blanket fort I’ve ever seen. Would they have done any of these things if we had still been stuck in our old life?
From a business perspective AdMarula has of course been affected by the lockdown just like every other business. Many of our clients in the travel industry have been hit hard, some even doubt they will survive. This is tragic. The retail industry, which was already struggling before this crisis, is fighting for survival and we will no doubt see many brands and shops disappearing from our malls in the near future. On the flip side we have seen businesses take amazing initiative to make certain products and services available to customers during this difficult time. From crisis often comes innovation. Online food delivery services, health stores, e-commerce, finance and tech clients are finding new ways to expand and adapt their offering to benefit clients. It really is amazing what can be achieved when the situation is dire. Someone else put it perfectly: “Companies and publishers who can work together to help bring solutions, products and services to people functioning in this new world will come out on top. In our industry, we have a chance to really help people stay healthy, happy and productive right when they need it the most”.
Looking at myself, I now think twice before going to the store, and instead chose to order food online. I value space and distance and hygiene. I appreciate our beautiful blue South African skies and see every new day as a gift. I realise that as long as I have a roof over my heads, food on the table, and my loved ones around me, nothing else really matters. I realise that perhaps our life was too busy, and our priorities not exactly what they should have been. I realise how stressed I often felt, when I am now forced to operate at a slower pace. I realise that it’s rather nice not to hear any traffic outside my window, and that I actually enjoy having a wide, open schedule for the next few months. And perhaps more than anything, I appreciate my freedom.
My final thought is how amazingly adaptable the human race is. When it really matters, when we have no other choice, we CAN turn things around and drastically change our behaviour in basically no time. We CAN find solutions where we never saw them before, and we DO have the intelligence and insight to learn from our mistakes. I’m sure that when this crisis is over we will all look back and miss the time we were forced to slow down, and maybe we will all come out of this with some positive changes and healthier habits.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep innovating!
Danie Gross – CEO