Sunday, August 16, 2020

Country Mouse or City Mouse?

My buddy James Altucher made a blog post: "NYC IS DEAD FOREVER...HERE'S WHY." 

It is really good. I don't want to hijack my own blog - but you should really read it. In fact, why not go read HIS BLOG FIRST, and them come back here. It's OK, I'll wait. 

[ Playing Jeopardy! Music....... ]

Welcome back! That was pretty amazing, right? James is wicked smart. Now, the way I see it, he is either 100% right, or 100% wrong. I don't see a middle ground here. And, I don't think that his above linked blog post is only about New York City. I think that it fits Orlando, Chicago, pretty much ANY major center of population in the world.  

I was born in 1960, and I remember when Disney World had its grand opening. The Orlando area (heck, all of The Sunshine State) was transformed because of Disney. Just think of the number of people that would fly in and out of Orlando Airport every day, pre-COVID. And now...I have no idea if Orlando is going to make it. To make the "business model" of Florida work, you need lots of people flying in and out of the airports. Both Orlando and New York City rely on tourism for a large part of the annual revenue. If people ain't flying - then tourism is dying.

It looks like up to one-third of New York's small businesses may be gone forever. Not just restaurants, but small businesses across the board. Even though new places continue to open, this is an incredibly challenging time for restaurants. The shutdown, reopening at reduced capacity, and concerns for health and safety have forced many to close their doors permanently. So many business models need X people or greater, just to break-even. Restaurants and Theaters and Airlines are the most obvious examples of this. 

Broadway in The Big Apple is now dark. AMC Theaters, the world's biggest movie theater chain said that it has substantial doubt it can remain in business after closing locations across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic. The problem is that without VOLUME, without enough people attending shows, the business model fails. Reopening with a reduced capacity is not a sustainable option.  

Columbia University, an amazing Ivy League School in the heart of the city, is going 100% online. K-12 schools, colleges and universities throughout the Tri-State area are struggling with going back to school. ANYONE that knows me, knows that I love, love, LOVE Zoom. But one of the things that I also love is NOT using Zoom. There is a time and a place for online - anything.   

Yes indeed, Midtown NYC has reopened, but it is still a ghost town. I live around 25 miles west of this exact location shown here. I could normally leave my home in Northern New Jersey at around 10:20 in the morning, and easily be crossing this street before noon for a "lunch 'n learn" with vendors, clients and sponsors of I have not been in the city (for any reason) for many months. There is just no reason for me to go into the city, as of August 2020. 

When I grew up in Cedar Grove, New Jersey (before moving to Florida) going into New York City was an adventure. Mostly, because going into "the city" was like taking your life into your hands. It was not safe! In the 1980's over 250 felonies were committed every week, making the New York subway the most dangerous mass transit system in the world. When I was growing up, you would have to have your head examined to walk the streets of New York City, much less Times Square. 

Last week, we recorded a really great video podcast with Rita McGrath of Columbia University. Her new book "Seeing Around Corners" represents a new approach to strategy formulation and management in a digital world. Recognizing and acting on inflection points is the central reason why leaders need to see around the corners of their business, the industry and customers. McGrath defines an inflection point as a single point in time when everything changes irrevocably. Disruption is an outcome of an inflection point. Could there be a bigger example of this than COVID-19? I don't know if anyone could have predicted what we are now experiencing with the pandemic. We had the Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza virus. Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people - about a third of the world's population at the time - in four successive waves. How did they stop the Spanish Flu? The most effective efforts had simultaneous closed schools, churches, and theaters, and banned public gatherings. This would allow time for vaccine development and lessened the strain on health care systems. 

I am not as pessimistic as my friend James. I do think that New York (and Orlando, and Chicago, and.....) will bounce back.  I think that humans are social creatures, and that we shall find a way to live closer than six feet apart. But I also think that it shall be a slog. It will take years to get back to anything that looks like pre-COVID, not months. And I think that the long-term damage will be much higher than anyone could have predicted. 

I do invite you to Join as we have both free and paid memberships. When and where can help you to thrive, not just survive in the COVID-19 world, we shall do so. After all, we are all living, learning, working, playing - in the clouds. While wearing a mask. 

New York City - 1918

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