Better Business Practices During Uncertain Times
By Alejandra Guzmán
Click aqui para español- > Mejores Prácticas de Negocios en Tiempos de Incertidumbre
Navigating the current environment has become a challenge for businesses in every sector. In the Real Estate Industry, one of my main focuses with the New Orleans Business Alliance, there has been a lot of uncertainty. I have been taking a close look at what is happening in the public and private sectors and consumer behavior. Ultimately, the Real Estate Industry, and almost every industry for that matter, is affected by these three areas. Without a doubt, one of the most challenging aspects of these times has been uncertainty. COVID does not have a precise expiration date. A couple of weeks ago, we did not know the presidential election results, and we still do not know if some of the consumer trends will stick for the longer term. However, it is also essential to acknowledge that there are other things that we do know. For example, we know that critical federal support will continue.
A great example of federal support is the Opportunity Zones Program. This vital tool was established by Congress as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and aimed to increase investment and revitalize communities. Since most of this program is in private hands, it offers a simple way to reinvest capital gains into distressed communities through Opportunity Funds.
There has been increased interest in investments with social impact within the private sector, particularly those promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. This interest is part of the corporate response followed by the killing of George Floyd. For example, Bank of America announced that it would be committing 1 billion dollars to economic opportunity initiatives. They understand that the underlying community and social disparities have accelerated and intensified during the global pandemic. Mastercard has pledged $500 million to help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for black communities across America. This year, several companies have decided to add Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in America, as a paid company holiday. The list includes companies like JCPenney, Google, Target, Lyft, Mastercard, The New York Times, and Nike, among many others.
PWC released a survey that shows how consumers are in “limbo” with 49% of consumers surveyed are avoiding leaving their homes, 50% are working from home remotely, 42% avoiding public transportation, and 57% practicing social distance from friends and community. Nesting at home means there is much more leisure time, leading to other consumption patterns such as online shopping, exercising at home, cooking more at home, etc. These consumer behaviors could ultimately have a long-lasting effect on how businesses operate, and because of this, many companies are currently evaluating their real estate needs.
With all of this happening in our environment, businesses and professionals could follow some best practices: 1) Base your strategy on what you do know, 2) Stay in touch with industry leaders through professional associations, and 3) Leverage business tools available to the public.
Base your strategy on what you do know.
It is easy to be overwhelmed when so many variables are in place. In this case, the best plan is to evaluate what we do know and develop a game plan based on this. As I mentioned before, we understand that some investors and corporations have an increased interest in equity and diversity. There are also federal programs that are promoting investment in distressed areas. Are you a minority-owned business? Could you serve a minority community? Perhaps you can leverage a national program.
Stay in touch with industry leaders.
There are many organizations in our community that bring together leaders and professionals from all backgrounds. A great way to stay aware of trends is to join one of these organizations or attend some events. In the Real Estate Industry, I follow ICSC and the Urban Land Institute.
Leverage business tools available to the public.
The New Orleans Business Alliance offers a suite of tools that allow businesses to understand the market. Regarding consumer behavior, the organization can provide businesses with real-time data of who their customers are in terms of demographics and consumer preferences and when and how often they visit their establishments. These reports are valuable when we are uncertain of what consumer trends will stick after the challenges presented by COVID. Visit www.nolaba.org for more information on this and other business tools.
Finally, I would add that whatever you do, don’t be discouraged. Be mindful of what is still within your power to do and do it.
Keep moving; keep being productive!