ISBE Member – June Blog

Why following the advice of ‘business leaders’ in this pandemic is the wrong thing to do

Adrian Ashton – 13 May 2020

The current pandemic is having lots of unexpected ‘side effects’:

  • we feel simultaneously relieved that the government is offering support to sustain wages, whilst at the same time panicking about if we’ll have any customers to trade with as we emerge into the strange new world that comes after lockdown…
  • when we’re out for our exercise, we want to show solidarity with our fellow human beings whilst at the same time viewing them with mistrust (after all – they may have the virus!)
  • and then we see large firms turning over their manufacturing to start to produce much needed medical equipment and supplies, and food chains offering free meals to NHS nurses; which makes us wonder if we should try and do the same, but are paralysed from the uncertainty over how we would pay for that, when all of our order book has been wiped out, and suppliers are all shut down.

… is it any wonder we feel constantly tired, confused, and anxious?

The good news is that this is entirely rational and normal – think about ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’:





Maslow states that we can’t progress to our ‘next level’ until the one below it is satisfied – and in times like these, when we’re constantly fearful for our safety and psychological well-being (Will I get the virus? How will my business survive?), it’s surely to be expected that we wouldn’t have the motivation to be more altruistic or be able to engage with thinking about anything beyond the next 24 hours at a time.

But the bad news (because Maslow isn’t your ‘get out clause’) is that it doesn’t have to be this way – we can choose to be otherwise, and we should, if we want to mitigate the coming recession (

Most importantly, we need to avoid trying to stockpile what cash we had at the start of all of this, despite what we’re being apparently counselled to do by all the experts (

Our economies are based on trust and confidence (aka ‘smoke and mirrors’) – and recessions are caused when we feel nervous that people aren’t spending. Which means in turn, we spend less, which causes others to feel that they have to spend less… (you get the idea). Now put a recession against the backdrop of a wider crisis event (widespread flooding, or global pandemic), and you quickly get the idea that recessions are very easy to be accidentally created. So, we can try and avoid them by helping each other remain confident in our futures – and how do we do that? By keeping orders placed with our suppliers; by bringing forward investment plans to help others keep their businesses going; and by not trying to find the cheapest price, but the price that will either help support others’ livelihoods or will most help our local business community to keep going. And this is because our future as a business isn’t just down to what we do: helping other enterprises continue will strengthen the wider economic eco-system we’re all part of, and mean we therefore have a better chance of getting through this too.

Logically this makes sense, but it flies in the face of ‘accepted wisdom’ of business experts who are all telling us to tighten our belts and avoid spending money where we can.

And this doesn’t require us to be any more courageous than you already are. We just need to be braver for 5 minutes longer…


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