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COVID-19: Business Trends to Watch

By Vince Lewis

Over the past ten weeks, I have had many business owners and entrepreneurs ask the same question, as things begin to open up around the country, “What will business look like in the Covid-19 era?” The fundamental framework we were operating under just over two months ago has completely shifted. Part of the shift is certainly about changes in the economic environment, another part will be a shift in socio-cultural and business model trends that will require all entrepreneurs and business owners to adapt to a new reality.

In the Crotty Center, we are looking at five potential medium and longer-term trends that entrepreneurs should be considering as they move their ventures forward.

Business Models Built on Density

Many business models are built on human density, getting a lot of people together in close quarters or in close contact with other people. For some period of time, those business models will need to be reconsidered. Due to physical distancing and the need to keep people further apart revenue potential for these businesses, in their current model, will be reduced. Their capacity could potentially be cut. This will require owners to re-think pricing strategies, and perhaps explore new ways of executing on their current business or re-thinking the entire business. The bottom line is if your business or idea is built around getting a lot of people together in close proximity, your model will likely be disrupted.

The Way We Work

Physical distancing can impact more than just business models, it is also impacting how we work. The immediate response by many businesses around the country was to ask employees whose jobs are conducive to it to work from home. Shifting millions of people from going to the office every day to working out of their homes will cause some employers and many employees to consider the value of physical office space. The increased adaptation of video conferencing platforms has helped people to learn that they can stay productive, even while working from home. Working remotely is not the only thing we may see more of, we also may see staggered schedules to ensure there are not too many people in the office at the same time, fewer face-to-face meetings in small conference rooms, and other modifications to ensure the safety of both employees and customers. Some of these changes will be temporary, but some could take on some permanency as time goes on and we all become accustomed to them.

Our Lives Online

Over the past several weeks more and more people are learning to do more things online. Whether that is getting together with family spread across the country on Zoom, ordering dinner via DoorDash, or grocery shopping online for pick-up, many who would have not utilized these tools in the past are utilizing them today. Although many will likely go back to their old habits once they can do so, just as many will likely adopt these new habits as standard practice. These changes will put increased pressure on brick and mortar retailers that were already reeling from increased online competition, and force others to improve their online experience as consumers become more discerning. The longer physical distancing is the norm the more entrenched new habits will become making them the new normal. 

Dining Out

One of the immediate changes we have all had to face was not dining in at our favorite restaurants. There is some reason to believe that one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy may take a little more time to come back. With business models typically built around density, and margins that are tight, many dine-in restaurants will have a difficult time maintaining revenues and margins with a potential of a decrease in seating capacity. Combine this with millions of people becoming accustomed to food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash, along with a little trepidation about eating out in a crowded restaurant, and there is significant potential for disruption. Dining in at our favorite places is not going to go away, but it is likely to be more expensive, due to owners trying to recoup revenues from lost capacity. Restaurant owners may look more to carryout and delivery to supplement revenues. The increased attention in these areas will likely improve the quality, speed, and reliability of these services as restaurants and delivery services look for improvements to gain a competitive advantage.


Another hard-hit segment of the economy has been the travel industry. Cruise Ships, hotels, and airlines have all been severely disrupted. Part of this is the density issue, another large part is businesses learning that employees can effectively connect without the expense of traveling across the country or around the world. Combined with the likely increased inconveniences that will go along with air travel and we are likely to see more business people opt to use digital tools to accomplish connections that previously required airline tickets and hotel stays. The disruption to leisure travel may be even greater, fewer people are likely to want to visit crowded tourist sites or hop on a cruise ship until they believe the risk associated with these activities has been somewhat mitigated. Although some pro-sports are talking about returning, any big events with lots of people in attendance are not likely to happen until 2021, further reducing the demand for leisure travel. The short-term changes in human behavior can have long-term consequences for an already highly-competitive industry. The end result could be fewer ships at sea and fewer planes in the air until consumers are ready to venture back out.

The Bottom Line

Often disruptions such as these lead to new innovations and increases in entrepreneurial activity. Business owners and entrepreneurs in these industries, as well as many others, will need to adapt and remain flexible going forward. Business model innovation will likely be key as models that were once reliable and profitable become harder and harder to maintain. All of these potential trends and the resulting impact provide unique, real-world learning opportunities for all of our entrepreneurship students. Our Flyer Enterprises’ students will learn first-hand the challenges business owners will face in complying with physical distancing guidelines in FE’s retail operations. Our Flyer Consulting students and the students consulting with our Entrepreneurship Capstone Clients will need to develop new solutions as client needs shift, and our Micro-Company students will need to look at new ways of starting and building their businesses in the new normal.

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