By Thomas Kostigen
As businesses begin to reopen around the world, it’s worth figuring which survived most effectively. Notice the word “survived” not “thrived.”
Business such as Amazon and Netflix are the poster children of the coronavirus lockdown era. The proliferation in binging television programs and films during stay-at-home orders, and the ease of ordering products, including groceries, make Netflix and Amazon, respectively, short-term winners. But what about other, not-so obvious companies?
Beyond the fortuity of operating in the right business sector (nonpublic-facing, essential) which other factors comprise a “good” business in these times? To be sure, society won’t be on lockdown forever, especially as the weather gets warmer and people are being allowed out of doors more and more, many tiring of holing up inside and watching the latest, must-see program. Likewise, as restrictions lift more will likely be hungering for in-person shopping experiences and the simple pleasure of picking items up off the shelves, or browsing through racks, as opposed to unpacking boxes for goods.
COVID-19 consequences may have hurt a huge swath of businesses, but it has also provided a hyper focused analysis of how good and bad companies manage operations. And this is great insight to long-term investment possibilities. A financial advisor can certainly point you in the right direction and discuss which companies got it right and which got it wrong in dealing with business disruptions. Customer service and public relations are good tells. Still, your own personal experiences could be a guide, too.
A recent grocery store experience left me sour on a big chain’s employee training: Mid-way through ringing me up, the cashier took off his gloves and mask. Why? Because he felt like it. Was there training advising not to do so? No. Employees were figuring things out on their own.
A recent retail experience put me off another well-known outlet: After browsing, choosing, and getting the correct sizes of items, I put them in the shopping cart. Only after inserting all my payment details did the company inform that they would not be able to ship because warehouse employees had been let go. Conversely, a recent email from an airline has me quite bullish on their stock. A video as well as text material showed in detail the steps the company is taking to cleanse planes and service customers more safely. The content was educational and was presented in a very easy to understand manner. It gave a sense of comfort and at least the impression that the health of their passengers was its foremost concern.
It’s also a good time to vet if companies are planning to leverage their post-COVID openings for the better of the planet. Some companies are learning big lessons from telecommuting and reduced operations, and realizing this is a fast lesson in sustainability. Cleaner air and water are examples that can be seen and embraced.
Whether a company happens to have the right goods or services at the right time isn’t something that can be exactly predicted. How companies manage when they are out of favor is telling because eventually, they will get their due. And that’s when you want to own their stock.
Thomas Kostigen is a contributing writer to MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor, the premier matchmaker between investors and advisors. Thomas is a best-selling author and longtime journalist who writes about environmental, social, and governance issues.