Post Corona – From Crisis to Opportunity

By Scott Galloway; reviewed by Chris Wendel

Published by Portfolio/Penguin Books, 255 pages, Nov. 2020

In a Nutshell: “Post Corona” takes stock of the flaws in our economic system while charting the course recent upheaval will take us next.

Author’s Quote: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

The impacts of COVID-19 are being assessed as we slowly rise out of our bunkers in 2021. Hunkered down in isolation, the way we consume, purchase, and live has changed dramatically in the past few months. For those who can afford it, take-out food options are now important, moving us quickly toward convenience and contactless transactions. The same can go for working from home, which is now a viable option for many and accelerating tough decisions for employers, employees, and commercial real estate owners.

Trying to assess exactly where we are right now and how we will move forward is the mission taken on by Scott Galloway in his recently released book “Post Corona.” A business school professor, author, investor, and podcast host (who isn’t these days?), Galloway is also well versed with how things work in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley. His previous book “The Four” challenged how internet giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google became so entrenched in our daily minds and lives.

“Post Corona” examines businesses and industries that now struggle to survive and others well positioned to weather the storm. Galloway explains that business’ cash reserves or companies with a low variable cost structure such as Uber (versus Hertz) or Airbnb (versus Marriott) can survive sales decreases up to 80%. This doesn’t bode too well for retailers and restaurant with low profit margins and increasing overhead costs.

Large tech giants quickly increased their market shares shortly after the pandemic took hold. Amazon is an example of this growing disparity that Galloway reiterates throughout the book. He points out that Amazon is now well poised to make strong inroads into another area of post corona uncertainty –  the health sector, with its immense customer base and recent unveiling of its online pharmacy.

Galloway focuses in on the sudden COVID-related upheavals. He points out the parts of our economy that changed dramatically in just a few weeks following the onset of the pandemic, making leaps that normally would have taken a decade (i.e., online retail sales increased 10% in early 2020. Historically, this takes 10 years). Again, he emphasizes how these shifts favor those already with capital and resources.

“Post Corona” also lays out a prognosis for the American college education system. COVID-19 may finally be the tipping point for traditional four-year colleges. After decades of tuition increases without significant upticks in value, colleges need to quickly change their value proposition to students (and parents). Galloway offers solutions, such as private colleges with large endowments being taxed for not increasing admission levels and universities increasing their enrollments while shifting to a more hybrid (online/in-person) model. Colleges not realizing these changing expectations may no longer exist.

Written in a time of flux, “Post Corona” does an admirable job of presenting multiple strategies to follow. Submitted to its publisher in September of 2020, “Post Corona” has a definite “building the airplane as you fly” element to it. Reading the book now, it’s remarkable how well it has held up with the accelerated changes that have occurred since.  It’s worth noting that the book’s emphasis on tech juggernauts dominating the marketplace fails to fully acknowledge smaller companies like Zoom and Peloton that have grown tremendously in the past year.

For predicting the next steps, Galloway offers both uncomfortable truths and potential opportunities. “Post Corona” also points out many flaws and inequalities, magnified because of the COVID-19 crisis. Fortunately, Galloway makes an impassioned case for readers, businesses and government to make a concerted effort to make immediate corrections that, over the long term, will benefit us all.

Chris Wendel is a business advisor with Northern Initiatives, a Community Development Financial institution (CDFI) based in Marquette, Mich. Northern Initiatives provides money and know-how to businesses throughout Michigan. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at cwendel@northerninitiatives.org.

 

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