Eight Ways To Emerge Stronger From The Crisis

With the pandemic easing, it’s time for businesses to square their shoulders and aggressively move toward a digital-first strategy, says Paul Roehrig, Head of Strategy at Cognizant Digital Business & Technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken millions of lives and triggered trillions of dollars’ worth of economic wreckage. And while news regarding vaccines is encouraging, now is not the time for the world to turn its back on safety measures proven to help slow the spread of the virus.

Nevertheless, vaccines are taking hold at various rates worldwide, and there is every reason to believe the grip the coronavirus has held on the world for over a year is easing.

Early in the crisis, we explored steps businesses should take to eventually emerge from the pandemic in a strong position. We believe that advice has held up, and that now is the time for forward-looking companies to accelerate digital initiatives.

Eight ways to catalyze post-crisis gains:

A year ago, “becoming digital” was seen by many as a desirable elective, but now — in our new world — it’s mandatory. The most common questions from business leaders from every industry and region have been: “I get the theory, but where do I start? What specific steps can I take today to ensure a healthy tomorrow?” These eight critical tactics will help:

1) Modernize data

It’s more important than ever to turn data from a liability into an asset. Companies that haven’t gotten control of their data are already behind, and the new economy will make it harder to recover. It’s no longer justifiable to pay to maintain terabytes (or more) of data and then not use it for business outcomes.

Improving decisions and experiences — and growth — with applied intelligence is infinitely more difficult (or impossible) without data that is relevant, accessible, secure and used to improve decisions or customer experiences. A data audit — figuring out what data is available, being accessed and for what purpose — was a no-regret decision 13 months ago. Now it’s a condition for survival.

2) Unshackle from legacy applications 

Roughly $3 trillion of economic value per day still runs on COBOL. That’s a staggering reliance on a programming language dating back to 1959. Going forward, business pressures will make it unsustainable to be trapped by this heritage software. Consumer relevance, faster time-to-market and cost savings have never been more important.

Many companies feel trapped by their legacy software, but there are new tools, processes, engineering methods and partners to help unlock value that is trapped in data centers. The first step is a complete software audit to understand which applications make the most sense to modernize, which should be left alone and which can be turned off.

3) Modernize how employees work

Remember going into an office? Getting on a train? The TSA pat-down? We’ll do all that again, but ideas and practices about how we work together will never be the same. The pandemic shock accelerates the imperative to be able to work from an office, the home, the car, the … well, anywhere! Today’s employees seek the same high-quality experience as a consumer using the best software.

Old, difficult-to-use interfaces and systems hinder how employees interact and collaborate, and store and exchange information. Seamless, secure connections across web, mobile, voice, collaboration systems, platforms and processes have made great strides during lockdowns. We aren’t going backward, so the time is now to extend the modern employee experience.

4) Modernize consumer experiences

In just a few painful weeks in 2020, elegant, secure, scalable online content and commerce went from critical to essential for every consumer-facing industry. Content has always been important, but with more transactions online, the ability to deliver that content to the right person, at the right time, in any place, via any device, via beautiful software is now and forever a business imperative.

Regardless of industry, expectations for engagement have shifted. The immediate reaction for too many businesses was to throw cash at front-end consumer-facing apps. A better bet is to take a step back and understand how the lifecycle of demand can be changed longer-term. That starts with deeply understanding how human wants and needs are likely to unfold in line with specific products and services.

5) Engineer software for the new economy

Every modern business needs software that can be built quickly and scaled effectively to deliver modern (human-first) experiences across the value chain for employees, partners and customers. It’s not necessary to be better at software engineering than Google or Microsoft, but it is necessary for every company to become more software-centric.

Tools, engineering methods and technologies already exist to help an enterprise become a better bank, a better insurer, a better retailer. This requires rethinking how core IT teams are structured, how they work and how they are incented, plus reevaluating the partner ecosystem critical to the business. Every major company is building software all the time, but it’s now time to explore new methods. Starting small can show near-term progress while mitigating risk.

6) Virtualize core work

The total impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will take years to become clear. However, one irrefutable shift is the new requirement for companies to modernize core process work. Middle- and back-office work that is slow, labor-intensive, expensive, opaque and unchanging is no longer allowable. Nearly every organization we know of can improve supply chain management, HR, finance and industry-specific process work.

Notably, the pandemic unlocked virtualized medical care as medical workers used technology to provide at-home solutions or even in-hospital solutions more safely and effectively. And that’s just one example. Automation, applied intelligence and worker enhancement have all moved from “helpful” to “critical” during the COVID crisis. Now is the time to begin exploring which points on the value chain make the most sense to modernize today.

7) Modernize the cloud foundation

For years, IT has been chipping away at costs by moving work to service providers and pushing centralized computer loads to the cloud, but that was really just Phase One. The unprecedented economic downturn has shone a spotlight on how much more can be done, and how rapidly. Threadbare arguments against reducing IT costs — e.g., by more aggressively moving into the cloud, deploying cost-effective software-as-a-service platforms, reducing operating costs of non-core work – must be overruled. We recommend a pivoting from, “What can we move into the cloud?” to, “What can’t we move to the cloud?”

8) Make every space smart (and safe)

For years, sensor-enabling industrial equipment has improved productivity, reduced downtime and paved the way for more “as-a-service” business models. In the post-pandemic economy — as demand evolves and our expectations and concerns about staying safe in public spaces remain top of mind — nearly every company that operates in physical space will have to adopt the same philosophy.

COVID accelerated the development of technologies that assess occupant health and help us maintain safe distances, clean surfaces, etc. This takes a coordinated solution linking sensors, analytics and software. Business leaders must continue to be proactive in applying instrumentation, analytics and software engineering to make every space intelligent, less expensive to manage, more comfortable and safer.

To learn more, read our report “From Chaos to Catalyst,” visit the Digital Business & Technology section of our website or contact us.

Paul Roehrig is Head of Strategy for Cognizant Digital Business & Technology. He is the Founder and former Global Managing Director of the Center for The Future of Work at Cognizant. Along with Malcolm Frank and Ben Pring, he is a coauthor of What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data and Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business. Paul’s most recent work is Monster: A Tough Love Letter on Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future, which he co-authored with Ben Pring. He can be reached at Paul.Roehrig@cognizant.com.

Source: Eight Ways To Emerge Stronger From The Crisis

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For Small Businesses, Recovery from COVID Could Take Years

Latresa McLawhorn Ryan knows well the havoc that COVID has reaped upon small businesses of color in the Atlanta area and believes the effects of COVID are likely to hang over these businesses for some time. She also knows that small businesses of color can bounce back if they get the right kind of assistance.

“We’ve lost a lot of businesses, some that were really anchors in their community,” said McLawhorn Ryan, executive director of the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, a nonprofit organization of community investors, advocates, and activists that supports Black-owned firms. She added that the casualties have included yoga studios, restaurants, and other businesses that rely on high traffic and face-to-face interaction. “It will take three to five years, depending on the sector, for businesses to recover from the impact of COVID.”

Because small businesses of color are an important driver of employment and asset building in their communities, the COVID-related business failures send a message throughout the community that perhaps it is more vulnerable to market forces, McLawhorn Ryan added.

The Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Kansas City published a recovery guide in late 2020 to offer strategies that can help small businesses of color bounce back from the COVID crisis. The guide begins by discussing the state of small businesses of color before the COVID-19 pandemic, placing these firms’ challenges into historical context.

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Entrepreneur-In-Residence Scott Shigeoka talks with economic experts and small business owners about overcoming hardships and their message of hope for recovery after COVID-19. Robert Brown, Sr. Director of Business Analytics at GoDaddy, breaks down Venture Forward, a multi-year study looking at the impact of micro and small businesses on the American economy. Resources for Small Businesses: Venture Forward study: https://www.godaddy.com/ventureforward Up-to-date info on COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov

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A second section provides recommendations for communities looking to assist small businesses of color in the areas of credit and capital, education and training, policy, and community support. The final section shares tools for communities to develop an entrepreneurship network focused on small businesses of color.

Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic led a January 14 panel discussion with Southeast community leaders discussing ways to support small businesses. The webinar focused on the need to establish networks that can deliver resources and coaching.

Issue number 1 is funding

Janelle Williams, a senior adviser in the Atlanta Fed’s Community and Economic Development group who wrote the recovery guide with two Kansas City Fed advisers, said businesses owned by nonwhites face especially daunting challenges to regain their footing, with access to funding and credit topping the list.

“There are still structural barriers that limit small businesses of color from securing the capitalization needed to sustain and scale their businesses in a valuable way,” she said.

Much of the funds approved by U.S. lawmakers last year under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help businesses preserve employment did not reach the smallest companies and many firms owned by people of color. For example, a Federal Reserve Bank of New York analysis found that PPP loans were given to just 20 percent of eligible companies in states with the highest densities of Black-owned firms. In Fulton County, Georgia—which includes the city of Atlanta—a total of 20.8 percent of businesses received loans from the program. In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, just 15 percent of eligible firms obtained PPP funds.

In mid-January, a third round of PPP loans opened. Small business owners of color are hopeful that more funds will reach them this time. A portion of the $284 billion approved for small businesses in the December 2020 COVID relief legislation was set aside for firms with 10 or fewer employees and lenders that cater to underserved communities, including minority-owned banks and community development financial institutions.

Small businesses of color face barriers that make it harder to gain access to capital. They often lack relationships with traditional banks and access to social networks that could help them learn about and apply for available loans. Most entrepreneurs of color don’t have family wealth that could be used to start a business.

Other factors hinder the success of nonwhite small businesses. Williams noted research showing that in the six southeastern states that are part of the Atlanta Fed’s coverage area, small businesses of color are overrepresented in sectors such as food services and retail that have been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic because of required lockdowns, social distancing guidelines, and lower demand for goods and services.

“There is a need for a broader conversation around addressing barriers to entry for small businesses of color that seek to access higher-growth industries that are moderately insulated from market pressures,” Williams said.

Different approaches to financing

The tougher path to viability that small businesses of color face has been well documented. A 2017 report from Prosperity Now, a public policy nonprofit group, notes that deep and persistent patterns of racial discrimination against business owners of color have resulted in greater loan denials and higher interest rates for loans they do obtain. Those financing outcomes result in lower profit margins and limit the opportunities for businesses of color to build thriving enterprises.

The Reserve Banks’ recovery guide notes that the needs of small businesses of color call for financing methods that are nimbler and more accessible to help level the playing field. Those could include interest-free loans, loans with rates that start low and gradually rise, deferred payments and longer repayment time frames, and flexible underwriting terms. Many community organizations consulted in developing the recovery guide “shared that grants, forgivable loans, and patient equity capital will be needed” to help these businesses spring back, the report states.

Williams said the pandemic has challenged the funders that support small businesses of color to think about the kinds of financial assistance that would be meaningful and to understand that some types of aid may not help. “Small businesses of color already are debt averse, so asking them to incur additional debt is a challenge, especially when many rely on their personal income to stay afloat,” she said.

To address these issues, community stakeholders have begun to embrace alternate financing solutions, Williams said. She noted that philanthropic groups were offering program-related investments that provide capital at lower interest rates, while community development financial institutions were introducing funding products that include opportunities for credit enhancement.

The Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative launched a COVID relief fund last year that has provided money to at least 65 small businesses and 18 nonprofits, mainly located in the northwest, southwest, and southeast parts of metro Atlanta where residents’ health and personal income both suffered acutely. The program offers loans that include flexible terms, a six-month grace period, and 30 months of repayment. Through three rounds of grants and two rounds of loans to date, the nonprofit group has dispersed about $800,000 to Black-owned businesses, McLawhorn Ryan said.

The grants and loans have helped in many ways. One restaurant, for example, used a loan from the nonprofit to acquire a food truck that enabled it to sell in different communities and expand its customer base, she said.

“All of our loans were accompanied by specific technical assistance—it helps to have capital, but it also helps to have access to expertise to help think through how to get to the next stage or how to manage cash flow,” McLawhorn Ryan noted.

McLawhorn Ryan said it’s important for funding partners to keep offering funding and general support that will enable small businesses of color to recover and advance to the next phases of development, and she cautioned against a return to business as usual over the next few years.

“This is a new economy, and therefore it requires a new perspective,” McLawhorn Ryan said. “If we are intentional about creating inclusive products, inclusive opportunities for businesses to thrive and survive during this time, we have to be dedicated to the tools that are needed to create a truly equitable environment.”

Staff writer for Economy Matters

 

Source: For Small Businesses, Recovery from COVID Could Take Years – Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

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Dinámica Comercial y China, Parte 3: Una comparación entre Estados Unidos y China

September 20, 2016

Este último artículo de una serie de tres partes publicado en Economy Matters aborda el flujo comercial entre China y otros países del resto del mundo, y lo compara con el flujo comercial de Estados Unidos. ¿De qué manera han cambiado estos patrones comerciales a través del tiempo y con respecto a los tipos de bienes?

A Dinâmica Comercial e a China, 3a Parte: Como Comparar os Estados Unidos e a China?

September 20, 2016

Este último artigo de uma série de três da Economy Matters examina os fluxos comerciais entre a China e o resto do mundo comparando-os aos fluxos comerciais dos Estados Unidos. Como esses padrões de comércio mudaram ao longo do tempo e entre quais tipos de mercadorias?

Economistas do FED de Atlanta Investigam os Mistérios da Economia Chinesa

September 8, 2016

A China é a segunda maior economia do mundo, mas ainda é desafiador entender totalmente sua economia. Uma equipe de economistas do FED de Atlanta está trabalhando para abreviar esse desafio. Economy Matters conversou recentemente com a equipe sobre este trabalho.

Atlanta Fed Economists Probe Mysteries of Chinese Economy

September 8, 2016

China’s growing economy has increasing influence on the economy of the United States. Economy Matters talks to some Atlanta Fed economists who are working to better understand China’s economic data.

Economistas de la Fed de Atlanta investigan misterios de la economía de China

September 8, 2016

China es la segunda mayor economía del mundo pero entender su economía es un desafío. Un equipo de economistas de la Fed de Atlanta está trabajando para dilucidar este desafío. Economy Matters conversó recientemente con ellos acerca de su trabajo.

Are Lemons Sold First? A Discussion of the Mortgage Market

August 18, 2016

The housing crisis made clear that not all mortgage bonds are equally good investments. But what can we learn today from how mortgages are offered for sale as investments? The Economy Matters podcast talks to an Atlanta Fed economist to find out.

Coming to Our Census: A Look at the Atlanta Fed’s Research Data Center

July 21, 2016

The Atlanta Fed is home to a Research Data Center (RDC), which gives qualified researchers access to data available in few other places. In this Economy Matters podcast episode, Julie Hotchkiss, director of the Atlanta RDC, discusses how the facility enables research that otherwise would not be possible.

Part Chart, Part Science: The Evolution of Economic Indicators

July 14, 2016

Just as the economy has evolved over many decades, so too have the ways economic activity is measured. What was once perhaps a key metric might now be only a marginally useful vestige in an economist’s toolbox. Economy Matters looks at some newer tools and how they help assess the economy.

Small Businesses Look to Alternative Funding Sources

June 16, 2016

​Many options are available these days for financing a small business, and this story looks at some of them.

Keeping Up with the Gazelles, Part 5: For Gazelle Founders, Hiring Goes beyond the Resume

June 16, 2016

All businesses seek the right hires, but for a small business, having the right employees is arguably even more crucial. The fifth and final installment of Economy Matters‘ Gazelle Project talked to some founders of gazelles—or fast-growing small businesses—about the role of hiring in establishing and building a business.

ECONversations Explores Aging’s Impact on the Economy

May 26, 2016

​The number of Americans 65 and older will increase by 66 percent over the next two decades. This article offers highlights of a recent ECONversations webcast in which two Atlanta Fed research economists discussed the economic and fiscal implications.

Senior Housing Industry Aging Gracefully

May 26, 2016

The surge in the population of older Americans is fueling the growth of “senior living facilities” to house this population. Economy Matters looks at this nascent industry.

Dinámica del Comercio y China, Parte 2: El Mundo – Espanõl

May 2, 2016

¿Cuánto importa y exporta China en los mercados globales y que tipos de bienes intercambia? La segunda entrega de una serie de tres partes de Economy Matters describe el comercio entre China y el resto del mundo en las últimas décadas.

Trade Dynamics and China, Part 2: The World

May 2, 2016

How much does China import and export globally and what types of goods are exchanged? Economy Matters charts China-world trade over the past few decades in the second of a three-part series.

A Dinâmica Comercial e a China, 2ª Parte: O Mundo – Português

May 2, 2016

Quanto a China importa e exporta globalmente, e que tipos de mercadorias são comercializadas? A segunda parte da série de três artigos da Economy Matters faz um mapa da participação chinesa no mercado mundial nas últimas décadas.

German Central Banker Says Euro Economy Gradually Recovering

April 19, 2016

The European Central Bank loosened monetary policy to boost the euro area economy. But that brings economic risk, said a German central banker at a recent luncheon at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Economy Matters offers highlights of his presentation.

Health Care Sector Projected to Expand

April 14, 2016

Medical demands of the increasingly aging population will boost the health care and social assistance sector, contributing substantially to the U.S. labor market. This Economy Matters article investigates where the jobs will be and looks at the balance between aging patients and an aging workforce.

Where Have All the Teen Workers Gone?

April 7, 2016

If you remember the job you held as a teenager, you might be part of a dwindling group. Fewer teens are entering the labor force today, and Economy Matters looks at some of the factors behind the decline.

The State of the States: Uneven Recovery and Tough First Quarters

March 18, 2016

How have states fared since the end of the recession? This Economy Matters article looks at state-level GDP data to find out.

Among Ugly Houses, Ours Is Prettiest

March 17, 2016

​ Soon after the release of Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short, some Fed economists wrote an analysis of the book for the Atlanta Fed’s Real Estate Research blog. Read about them here.

Keeping Up with the Gazelles, Part 4: Social Capital—The Battle Cry of the Gazelle

March 10, 2016

Founders of small businesses always have a vision for what they want to achieve, but they don’t always have all the answers. Economy Matters talked to some founders of gazelles—or fast-growing small businesses—about the role of mentors in establishing and building a business.

A Brighter Picture: Measuring Regional Variation in Labor Utilization

February 23, 2016

By some calculations, labor resource utilization rates across the United States still have not returned to prerecession levels. But according to this story in Economy Matters, the Atlanta Fed’s ZPOP measure paints a brighter picture.

Taking the Temperature of Real Estate

February 18, 2016

Regionally, the real estate sector has been important to the economy and has acted as a bellwether for other sectors, such as employment. In the new episode, two Atlanta Fed experts discuss real estate—and whether we’re in a new bubble.

Ask the Expert: An Interview with Stephen Kay

February 11, 2016

With the U.S. labor force aging and baby boomers moving into retirement, pensions have garnered much attention in recent years. Economy Matters spoke with an Atlanta Fed pension expert about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Economists’ Views of The Big Short

February 4, 2016

​ Soon after the release of Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short, some Fed economists wrote an analysis of the book for the Atlanta Fed’s Real Estate Research blog. Read about them here.

U.S. and China Trade by the Numbers

February 4, 2016

​ Just as every picture tells a story, numbers can also be quite telling. Economy Matters has selected a few interesting integers about the trade relationship between the United States and China.

A Dinâmica Comercial e a China, 1ª Parte: Os Estados Unidos – Português

January 28, 2016

Quão atrelado ao desempenho econômico da China está o desempenho da economia dos EUA e o desempenho das economias em todo o mundo? Esta primeira parte de uma série de três artigos da Economy Matters lança uma luz sobre essa questão.

Trade Dynamics and China, Part 1: The United States

January 28, 2016

How tied up in China’s economic performance is the performance of the U.S. economy and the performance of economies around the world? This first installment of a three-part series in Economy Matters sheds some light on this issue.

Dinámica del Comercio Internacional y China, Parte 1: Los Estados Unidos – Espanõl

January 28, 2016

Cuál es el grado de asociación de la actividad económica en China y el desempeño de la economía Estados Unidos y del resto del mundo? Esta primera entrega de una serie de tres partes en Economy Matters arroja algo de luz sobre esta cuestión.

Lockhart: Economy Achieving Liftoff Conditions

January 14, 2016

In a recent speech, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart observed a number of improving economic barometers. Can a monetary policymaking move be far behind? Economy Matters summarizes his remarks.

Expecting Solid Growth, Lockhart Focusing on Inflation

January 14, 2016

Setting monetary policy requires an understanding of current conditions, but it also takes into account how policy changes reverberate down the road. Economy Matterslooks at recent remarks by Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart about considerations that go into the policymaking process.

Going Inside GDPNow

January 14, 2016

Since its 2014 debut, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow tool has compiled an impressive track record in estimating changes in the gross domestic product. In this episode, Atlanta Fed economist Pat Higgins, the creator of GDPNow, discusses the tool, how it works, and some of the challenges involved in measuring the economy.

Keeping Up with the Gazelles, Part 3: Financing the Herd

December 23, 2015

Founders of small businesses face innumerable challenges, chief among them financing. Economy Matters talked to some founders of gazelles–or fast-growing small businesses–about how they financed their endeavors and how financing affected their business strategies.

Of Cars and Capital Flows: Mexican Central Bank Leader Discusses Auto Production, Global Challenges

December 17, 2015

Mexico, one of the largest trading partners of the United States, has been experiencing significant economic changes. A representative of Mexico’s central bank recently visited the Atlanta Fed to discuss some of them, and Economy Matters recaps his remarks.

A Story in Charts: Who Works for Minimum Wage?

November 12, 2015

Most minimum wage workers work part-time. This week, Economy Matters tells a story of minimum wage workers in a series of charts.

Keeping Up with the Gazelles, Part 2: Why Gazelle Founders Set Sail

November 12, 2015

There are as many reasons for founding a business as there are businesses. Economy Matters talked to some founders of gazelles, or fast-growing small businesses, to learn their reasons for setting out on their own.

The Death of a Reserve Currency

November 12, 2015

The Dutch bank florin—the dominant currency in Europe during much of the 17th and 18th centuries—lost its reserve currency status during the period 1781–92. In this Economy Matters podcast, Atlanta Fed economist Will Roberds talks about the rise and fall of the currency and what lessons it holds for today’s central bankers.

Atlanta Fed’s Hotchkiss: Don’t Be Overly Alarmed by Shrinking Labor Force

November 5, 2015

Some economists have been fretting about the declining labor force participation rate. But how big a source of concern should it really be? Economy Matters looks at a recent examination of some trends to draw conclusions.

The Relationship between the Minimum Wage and Rates of Youth Drinking and Driving

October 15, 2015

If a young person gets a raise at work, could the extra money lead to increased reckless behavior such as drinking and driving? A new Economy Matters podcast discusses Atlanta Fed research into the question.

Atlanta Fed President Lockhart’s Economic Narrative Considers the Long View

October 15, 2015

Setting monetary policy requires an understanding of current conditions, but it also takes into account how policy changes reverberate down the road. Economy Matters looks at recent remarks by Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart about considerations that go into the policymaking process.

Tools for the Armchair Economist: Taking the Pulse of GDP

October 1, 2015

Gross domestic product, or GDP, is an important measure of the economy’s health. However, official figures are released with a delay, posing challenges in gauging current conditions. Economy Matters explores the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model, which provides several real-time forecasts each month.

Gender Equality Is Smart Economics, Expert Says

October 1, 2015

Economists often base decisions on efficiency, but does this sort of decision making consider its gender impact? Economy Matters sat in on a recent talk by an academic who discussed the question.

What History Can Teach Us about E-Money

October 1, 2015

Could government-issued and privately issued electronic money coexist? Based on the 1914 to 1934 experience in the United States, the answer is yes, according to an Atlanta Fed working paper. Economy Matters summarizes the paper.

A Story in Five Charts: Who Works Part-Time?

September 24, 2015

More than three-quarters of all part-time workers in the United States choose to work fewer hours. The remaining quarter are involuntary. Economy Matters tells you who the part-timers are and their reasons for working part-time.

Keeping Up with the Gazelles, Part 1: Is the Herd Thinning?

September 17, 2015

Young, high-growth companies—sometimes known as gazelles—have traditionally been an important source of job creation, but the number of U.S. start-ups is in long-term decline. Economy Matters looks at the impact a diminishing herd of gazelles could have on the employment market.

Tools for the Armchair Economist: What’s Your Number?

September 17, 2015

Track your own personalized level of inflation with myCPI, a new calculator from the Atlanta Fed that tailors the U.S. inflation measure to individual circumstances. Economy Matters introduces this tool for the “armchair economist.”

The Government’s Conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

September 17, 2015

When the U.S. housing market swooned in 2008, the housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became distressed and entered into a government conservatorship that was intended to be temporary. In this Economy Matters podcast, Atlanta Fed economist Scott Frame discusses the circumstances leading to the ongoing conservatorship.

How Was Steve Jobs Unlike Mark Twain? A Conversation with Economist David Galenson

September 10, 2015

Conceptually creative people do dramatic things, while experimentally creative people just keep working away, eventually accomplishing great things. Economist David Galenson posits two types of creativity, and argues for more research.

Tools for the Armchair Economist: Atlanta Fed Adds Wage Growth Tracker

September 3, 2015

Healthy wage growth has been an important missing ingredient in an otherwise strengthening economy. But recently, the Wage Growth Tracker, a new tool from the Atlanta Fed, showed a sharp rise in wages. Economy Matters introduces this tool for the “armchair economist.”

Ask the Economist

September 3, 2015

Atlanta Fed research director Dave Altig recently sat down with Economy Matters to discuss productivity, technological innovation, and the reasons he feels optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy.

Getting to the FOMC

August 20, 2015

All eyes have been on the Federal Open Market Committee as the central bank’s main policymaking body considers when to raise the federal funds rate for the first time since 2008.

The ABCs of the FOMC: Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart Discusses the Policymaking Process

August 20, 2015

Not many people get the opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. But in this debut Economy Matters podcast, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, a voting member of the FOMC, takes us behind the scenes, describing how participants conduct deliberations, reach consensus, and cast votes on setting national monetary policy.

Wage Growth Is Intertwined with the Fed’s Dual Mandate

August 20, 2015

Wage growth matters to the Fed. Wages and broader labor costs are crucial to both components of the central bank’s dual mandate: price stability and maximum employment.

How Much Can Monetary Policy Do?

August 20, 2015

Through 2014, a range of indicators suggested that the underutilization of labor market resources gradually diminished. But how much labor market slack remains?

The Smallest of Small Firms: How Are They Financed?

August 20, 2015

Every business has to start somewhere, and most start with one employee. New Atlanta Fed research—summarized in this Economy Matters article—looks into how these firms—known as nonemployers—obtain financing.

Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Rethink Talent and Leadership

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Startups and scaleups worldwide are facing a make-or-break moment with coronavirus, a health crisis with vast and unprecedented economic consequences. Each entrepreneur is in a unique situation, whether they’re well-funded, planning their next funding round or struggling through the uncertainty.

As a result, founders are turning to their VCs and mentors for support and conversations are, unsurprisingly, centred around cash. In the UK, while £81m has gone to startups that haven’t received investment previously, there’s been a 31 percent decrease in deal numbers compared to the same period last year—so it’s a pressing issue.

But cash alone only presents half the story. As startups seek advice on how to weather the storm and find positives in the situation, the conversation broadens. To survive this period of instability, growing businesses should look toward the key cornerstones of success: talent and leadership. After all, the best founders never waste a crisis and now is a good time for them to refocus.

The vision could be great, the founders innovative and cash readily available, but without strong leadership and world-class talent, businesses can’t continue to thrive in this climate. How to look after and manage teams during this time, as well as understanding what staff cuts to make and how, are important considerations that startups are looking to VCs for support and advice on.

A conservative approach. 

Any business plans that organizations had in place ahead of the pandemic are now likely to be irrelevant. Businesses need to start from scratch with a clear view of their burn rate and shouldn’t be afraid to rip up the rule book and abandon existing plans. Startups already doing this have looked to renegotiate their office rents, contracts with providers and suspended online advertising, for example.

Reducing such costs is sensible in a challenging fundraising environment. Deals have slowed down and the Pitchbook European VC Valuation Report points toward a decrease in early seed rounds. New investments certainly have stopped and great companies always get funding, but many investors are focusing on how to support their existing portfolio. The crisis isn’t over yet and, with further outbreaks still possible, now is the time to be conservative.

Again, however, never waste a crisis. Take this time to streamline your focus, understand strengths, evaluate your position, and abandon non-essential projects. This crisis could be a good opportunity to make those pivots and big changes you always knew you needed to make, but didn’t due to a lack of bravery or time. Let’s not forget, a conservative approach through a crisis doesn’t mean standing still.

Strong leadership during a crisis. 

Communication and leadership are fundamental skills that should run alongside a revised business plan. It’s likely that startups will face difficult decisions during this time, which could include laying off staff, scaling back the business, or even pivoting offerings to respond to the crisis. Above all, it’s critical that employees are kept informed of the latest developments and how they will impact their work.

During my time leading the team at Huddle through the economic crash of 2007 to 2009, we made the difficult decision to make some drastic team cuts, including senior staff, to make ends meet. To navigate through this crisis and ensure productivity was front of mind, we focused on bringing the remaining team together, being totally transparent, keeping busy and focusing on what had to be done. In the long-run, this made our team stronger, bolstered by the bunker spirit.

Strong leadership emphasizing clarity in communication and transparency where possible will avoid confusion and distrust. Employees are likely anxious about their jobs, as well as their responsibilities outside of work, so it’s vital to support them wherever possible. Having open and frank discussions about the business will also build loyalty and trust. Beyond this, establish and communicate a realistic vision and achievable goals which engages the team and inspires everyone to be productive.

Hiring and firing.

Even when business is operating as usual, recruiting the right people who are invested in a startup’s mission and are passionate about its offering is essential for success. When recruiting new hires, a founder should reflect on the following questions: is this person going to help us meet our goals and mission? How do they fit in with the existing team? Will they add value? Finding the right staff and then investing in their training and development is critical for long-term success. It ensures loyalty and prevents high employee churn rate, which prohibits disruption. As a result of COVID-19, candidates will vastly outnumber the number of available positions, which makes it even more essential to invest in the recruitment process.

Of course, for many, hiring isn’t an option right now. Organisations throughout Europe are taking advantage of furlough schemes and using government support where possible to avoid making cuts. Germany has offered significant short term financial support to startups and the UK’s furlough scheme is supporting.

In terms of new hires, a survey of UK startups revealed that 49 percent have frozen recruitment and 32 percent have slowed down hiring to account for negative revenue predictions. Many companies are also making the difficult decision to lay off staff to preserve capital. Beauhurst estimates that 615,000 startup and scaleup jobs were at severe or critical risk due to COVID-19. For founders making the tough decision to let team members go, it’s critical to act quickly, cut hard and cut ones. It’s hard, but also vital to get it right the first time. Making staff cuts more than once damages team morale and results in uncertainty and anxiety.

Startups should be looking toward their VCs for support beyond cash. Yes, conserving capital is critical right now; the lack of clarity with coronavirus is challenging and forcing businesses to make significant cutbacks. Ultimately, however, if founders fail to recognise the importance of strong leadership and finding the right talent alongside a conservative business model, businesses risk losing out even further.

By: Alastair Mitchell– Partner at EQT Ventures

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