Entrepreneurship in Crisis

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Entrepreneurship in Crisis

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

It’s hard to believe that something so small that it can only be seen through a microscope can bring the world to a standstill. The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has already made its mark in China, Italy, and Iran and continues its sweeping development throughout the world. Rapidly, solutions are being proposed and tested, with all of society engaged in searching for a way to stem the tide.

Though COVID-19 is a human-oriented problem at its core—it has affected the health and well-being of tens of thousands of people—so much more is involved. Like a small pebble dropped in a pond, the ripple effects of one problem can cause waves on every shore it reaches. One of those areas that the ripples have reached is businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.

People are at the heart of businesses; they make their own businesses thrive through hard work, and they make other businesses thrive through consumerism. If people cannot work due to poor health, fear of catching or spreading the illness, or quarantines, the business they own or work for suffers. When they cannot work, people have less or no disposable income to buy, causing other businesses to suffer loss. Many entrepreneurs are scrambling to salvage their businesses that are caught in this vicious cycle.

Yet, we see some key areas where entrepreneurship can actually take the reins, leading in this time of crisis and showing more than just the resilience to come back, they need to show the innovative strength to forge forward. Entrepreneurship depends on innovation, and innovation at its core is about seeing a need and filling it, about coming up with solutions, about finding new ways to do things. These solutions, these new ways will not only help businesses survive; they will help them thrive and possibly even open up whole new opportunities by being first movers. Innovation can be the fire and the spark that ignites the flames of progress, even in times of crisis. 

But as humanity is in a current crisis, it’s humanity, that humane culture, and ideology, that is needed more than ever within businesses. A “people” problem must be addressed, showing care and concern through humane business practices about the very people who may be suffering as much as anyone else. A worldwide health crisis levels the playing field as microbes have no bias or concern about who they infect, and entrepreneurial owners and managers do well when they apply the golden rule of treating others how they would like to be treated.

The concept of human entrepreneurship holds the belief that innovation and the financial prosperity of a business goes hand in hand with the humane treatment of those who are the heart and soul of the business—its employees. This is the recipe that can help entrepreneurship, not just weather the storm but come out standing. 

There’s a common saying that people like to use during hardships like we face today: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

With the widening of the Coronavirus, the epidemic has increasingly mounted pressure on the global supply chain, abruptly driven deep dips in the stock market, and gradually infected the working population. As the Coronavirus strikes fear in the public and introduces more uncertainty to business, it has left business professionals, the global market, and the rest of the world paralyzed.

However, through the gravity of the situation, a good entrepreneur knows not to let a serious crisis go to waste. Now, at face value this sounds exploitative; however, the underlying insight is wise. The lesson here is not to suggest entrepreneurs seek to profit from others’ misfortune, but rather to realize the new opportunities to innovate in ways they could not before.

Innovation and invention is the mother of necessity. Even though it may be dire, there is still an opportunity to be forward-looking. The world is forever in need of entrepreneurs who can observe the immediate needs of society whilst look beyond the public’s field of vision. From the invention of the blood transfusion in 1913 to the invention of the vaccine in 1955, to the invention of robotic surgery in the year 2000, the world cries out again, in 2020, for strong innovation backed by humane entrepreneurial practice.

article written by:
Dr. Ayman ElTarabishy
Deputy Chair, Department of Management
The George Washington University
ICSB Executive Director