Soulaima Gourani


Soulaima Gourani is a virtual keynote speaker and co-founder of the Silicon Valley-based software company "Women Reignite Inc." She is a YGL/Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and named #30 in the world by Thinkers50.

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The world after Covid-19

Welcome to the New Normal! 

What Will the New Normal Be for Businesses?

The world navigates crises and disruptions constantly, but never in our lifetime have we experienced such an abrupt change to our daily lives as we have in the last month. In a matter of weeks, we have been forced to change our routines and adapt to a new normal. The sudden shifts that our country experienced in such a short time frame has left us asking a plethora of questions and grappling for answers that are in as short of supply as toilet paper. It has us wondering if we’ll ever be able to invite people into our homes, our offices and our stores again. It leaves us pondering if America will return to what it was or if it will be reshaped into something completely different.

The fallout from COVID-19 for business owners is especially uncertain. We are facing a situation with far greater complexity than any other time in history, even surpassing the Great Recession of 2008. Business owners are being thrust into the world’s largest virtual social experiment where millions of people must learn online, share their knowledge online, and work together online. As jarring as this change is for businesses, it’s also an opportunity for companies to get creative and seek out new ways to address their customers’ needs.

For businesses and industries to recover and thrive in these uncharted waters, they must not freeze and hunker down. Instead, they must move forward and develop new models to be ready for what’s to come.

Businesses Must Embrace Technology to Move Forward

Although technology is all around us, before the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses didn’t use technology to their advantage. They relied on tried and true business models that required in-person interactions. These methods of reaching customers and clients are a moot point now with shelter-in-place restrictions throughout the country. The pandemic is shifting the paradigm of how we connect with our customers. And now, we must rely on technology to reach consumers, virtually.

Lately, I’m enjoying witnessing how teachers, yoga and meditation studios, hairdressers, doctors, and all other business owners are using online tools and platforms to stay connected with their customers and continue to profit during these unprecedented times.

We have all had to become more tech competent. It’s safe to say that any love-hate relationship we had with our mobile devices and iPads or tablets before the pandemic has dissipated. Businesses have had to improve their online platforms and create communities for their customers.

How Will Entrepreneurs Recover from COVID-19? 

No one can predict what the world or its economy will look like a month or even a year from now, but one thing I’ve learned from past recessions and financial uncertainties is that having a flexible mindset is critical. I know this is easier said than done, but from my experience, flexing your business’s hustler muscle will prepare you for the future. If anything, this recent crisis has taught us to figure out where there are gaps and vulnerabilities in our businesses. It’s shown us that having a reliable and safe IT platform is crucial to maintaining constant, uninterrupted relationships with our customers so we can be there for each other when we can’t be with each other physically.

Dara Kennedy, a TV Journalist and Business Consultant, states, “It is hard to imagine businesses recovering from this pandemic only to continue doing business the same way. I think many entrepreneurs will look to restructure and expand their brand and footprint, which could even propel businesses to more success. This is an important time to be creative, to work on new ideas, and find new and expand streams of revenue. As a multi-faceted entrepreneur, I can first-hand speak to the survival tactics needed to preserver on the other side,” Kennedy continues “If entrepreneurs want to face the recovery head-on, they must capitalize on the time we are all now afforded to act on the myriad of ideas that tend to pop-up at the oddest times. Create tangible plans to activate as soon as the economy re-opens and be ahead of the rebuild.”

Crises like COVID-19 are challenging, mainly because there is no deadline. The waiting is the hardest part because we don’t know how long we’re expected to wait. We don’t know when life will resemble something that makes sense again, but human nature is resilient. By being patient, learning how to grow and heal together through this personal and economic crisis, we will come out of it stronger. We’ll discover that we can endure the marathon because there is a finish line.

Startups Post COVID-19

COVID-19 is pushing companies to operate in new ways rapidly. As businesses juggle a range of new challenges― customer retention, real-time decision-making, workforce productivity, and security risks―leaders must act quickly to address immediate systems resilience issues in order to lay a foundation for the future. In a recent interview with U.S Politician and Connecticut State Treasurer, Shawn Wooden mentions “Entrepreneurs operating venture stage companies are used to operating with the discipline of knowing how much cash is available until the next benchmark is achieved and the next financing round can be raised. The ‘best’ companies entering this downturn are probably well capitalized for the foreseeable future and will continue to be able to access more capital, although likely at a higher cost. Most, if not all, venture companies will need to lower their burn rate in the near term to stay afloat until the path to recovery becomes clearer.

The stronger companies should take advantage of opportunities created as competitors weaken or fail. These opportunities may be recruiting better talent or increasing market share.”

Wooden also mentions that “In general, entrepreneurs are resourceful and, barring the need to spend an insurmountable amount of capital to develop a product or service, have found a way to keep their companies afloat or use the downturn to start a new venture, that allows them and their companies to emerge in a better position. Some will fail, of course.”

Wooden also shared his belief that companies of all stages and types will have to spend the time to rethink their business models in a post-COVID world and take this time to strengthen the business for the long-term. For example, recent supply chain disruptions may cause more companies to near-shore or bring production back inhouse. Most companies have been forced to work remotely. This may prove beneficial as some companies have learned how this has worked, which may allow those companies to consider having more employees working remotely – leading to real estate and other overhead savings while increasing a company’s ability to attract and retain talent that might otherwise not have been able to work from the company’s physical office(s).

The Future of Travel Post COVID-19

Will we find new ways to travel and enjoy experiences?

According to Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer, Brand USA “Travel isn’t just an industry; it’s part of the human condition. Whether to find oneself, experience another culture, or just relax and unwind, the desire to discover the world is hardwired into our DNA. One of the most inspiring responses to this situation has been people around the globe actively dreaming about the places they want to explore once they have the opportunity to do so. How will people travel post-COVID-19? Passionately. And with a greater spirit of exploration than ever before. To new destinations or places of nostalgia. Humans are storytellers. During this time, we’ve leaned on our GoUSA TVstreaming network to continue sharing travel stories through the perspective of intriguing characters. GoUSA TV allows Brand USA to use the power of entertainment to keep our destinations top of mind for when people are ready to book again.”

On the other hand, according to ongoing tracking by the Harris Poll, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States continues to climb, Americans have started to fear to venture too far away from home and being in tightly confined spaces. The Poll also states that only one-third of Americans (33%) say they’ll stay in a hotel and barely a quarter (28%) will be ready to fly within three months of the COVID-19 curve flattening. As a result, it is safe to assume that it will also affect the way we travel, at least in the near future.

According to Lisa Burns, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council, “We are hearing and expecting that there will be a larger emphasis on outdoor, open-air attractions and destinations. I believe outdoor trails; water activities and camping will be very popular. We also predict that some form of social distancing will remain for the foreseeable future, which means people will be traveling in smaller groups and visiting off-the-beaten-path destinations. I think we will see more intimate events pop up before large festivals and concerts get re-booked. Burns continues, “As we come out of the pandemic, I believe people will need added value and incentive to travel. With so many people impacted by the current economy, they will be looking for deals and packages. Plus, people are getting very comfortable with being able to access great content at the click of a button and virtually visit destinations all over the globe, so it is very important that we offer value as a lure to visit.”

 Will We Find New Ways to Be Together? 

Recently, on my Facebook page, I asked what people are missing most right now. The majority answered, “To give the world a hug.” We miss each other. That much is clear, but do we dare to be together again sooner, or are we safer together virtually?

During any crisis, it’s hard to see the good. Yet, if we consider how much we’ve come together in the past few weeks, we can feel positive that our communities will heal. Already more people are coming together virtually, which is wonderful for people who normally wouldn’t be with their loved ones or friends because of chronic illness, transportation issues, busy schedules, etc. COVID-19 has forced us to find ways to be together safely and to combat loneliness using technology.

Our communities will thrive once again, but one thing is certain. We will not return to the world we once knew because too much has happened too fast. The United States will slowly get back to normal over the next six months, but it might not look the same. America will reinvent itself. Will your business be ready to embrace the new normal?


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