Our CEO and founder Tony Nash joins the Business Matters for an hour of discussion on Dominic Cumming, recent headlines in the USA, people in restaurants, government stimulus, opportunities in the pandemic, how careers and schools have changed, and what sorts of things are they buying online?
A related QuickHit episode, which you can watch here: We’re not going to normalize.
We talk to the BBC’s Politics Correspondent, Rob Watson about what Dominic Cummings’ future may hold. With our special guests Sushma Ramachandran, of the Tribune in Delhi, and Tony Nash, of Complete Intelligence in Houston, Texas, we talk about how India and parts of the United States are easing their lockdowns. We also look at how many people are looking to change careers, whether forced to or not.
BBC: What do you feel about Dominic Cummings, especially in Texas or the USA?
TN: I don’t think anybody is surprised by this, that politicians have one rule for themselves and another one for everyone else. Britain is not exceptional. What it shows is that we actually have a vibrant media that will report on this. That is the positive thing coming out of this. Every country has a politician that breaks the rules, but not every media in every country is brave enough to report it.
BBC: What are the headlines in the USA? What’s grabbing people’s attention?
TN: It’s an ongoing news cycle of trying to shame the states that open up. It’s really tiring, quite frankly.
BBC: When you say “shaming,” who do you refer to? I thought they all went up?
TN: They are planning to. But the early states when there’s an outbreak, there’s a very huffy approach to pointing to places like Texas, where I live, and saying that we’ve done it wrong, and saying that places with extended quarantine have done it right. Although, the incident rates in places like Texas are lower than in other places like New York or California. What’s really hitting in the media here is really trying to shame states, which are pretty much the southern states that are opening up first. There’s a stereotype that southerners are just stupid. And so it plays into this coastal narrative that southerners don’t know what they’re doing. Although the incidence in these states is lower than the coastal states.
BBC: What about the businesses that are opening up again? The restaurants, and staffing? Are there people around?
TN: It was a long holiday here, and I just took a short trip. The hotel I went to in, the restaurants I went to, said that they are understaffed. And although you see a number of 25-30 million people unemployed in the U.S., what these business owners have been telling me is that they cannot get the staff to come back because there’s a temporary unemployment kicker. So the longer people stay out of work, the more they get. They get an additional kicker from the U.S. And these are temporary. These will go away over time. In most cases, these are voluntary unemployment because they are making more money on unemployment than they would be going back in there job before.
BBC: Sounds like that it’s a problem that will be sorted out?
TN: It will over time. But there will be a lag. I think when people are accustomed to making more not working, they will question themselves as to whether or not they want to go back to their job, which is not a bad thing questioning their vocation. These are all good questions to ask.
BBC: Do you think the government will try to help green industries and take a leap role in new economies. Like new ones, as a result of this pandemic?
TN: I think we have. We have subsidies for green industries since, I think, 1997. It’s possible that there new ones as a result of this pandemic. I have a very different view around the revitalization of economies. The fact is governments stopped economies around the world. This is not a market failure. So I don’t care if you are a capitalist or a socialist system. Governments closed businesses. So if governments closed businesses, businesses have the responsibility and the accountability to restart those businesses. Because if they don’t, we’ll see civil unrest and political risks in ways that all these governments have not considered before they closed their economies down. I don’t think that this is a capitalist-socialist issue. It’s a fact that the government intervened to halt the economies around the world.
BBC: In what direction will they regenerate the economies or bring economies back to their level before?
TN: People are not really happy with the level of stimulus that they are receiving, because, at the end of the day, people are pointing at the government for stopping this. And if you isolate people for too long, they get really restless. We are facing real political issues and social unrest issues, unless governments, regardless of the economic structure in the economy, we will face real problems.
BBC: For entrepreneurs, is this a good time to start a business?
TN: I think it’s a good time for people to change direction, because any future potential employers, if you say, “I changed direction in the wake of COVID,” no ones going to question your motivation. They are going to understand that this was the time that everyone reassessed. For businesses that I’ve built, I built a business unit for The Economist. And one of them saw our most rapid growth during the last recession in 2009, very rapid growth. I think there are a lot of opportunities if you play it right. But it’s also a good time to start over.
BBC: Where would you put your money on? If you want to change career?
TN: I would put it on me. I run a business. I think we’ll see a lot of food startups. I hear a lot of people talk about food startups. Within 18 months, a lot of those will be out. But they will learn new skills. People are also going very local, which is a good thing.
I think people have been able to slow down. They realize that they wanted to focus on small things. I’m not sure how long this will last but this is good for a lot of people.
BBC: What will be the role of universities now? Will people think it’s a waste of time? Will the role of schools change?
TN: I think the role of universities has traditionally been to teach you how to think, not necessarily how to do. If universities are then focused on how-to-think activities, that’s a much better role for them. I don’t think vocational training is the best use of money for universities. They are moving toward helping people how to think, not how to do.
I run a company. I don’t need somebody with PhD. I just need somebody with very basic skills that they can learn through online courses and some practical evidence of what they do. In a lot of these things that are very vocationally-based, you don’t need a degree. You just need to know how to do it.
BBC: What have you been buying on a lockdown? We’re not going to shop as much as we used to?
TN: For some reason, we purchased two new skateboards. Like everyone else, we are no different on gardening. All of these have been fantastic to go very local and spend time with neighbors.
Will we go back to the stores? I don’t think we’ll do as much shopping, but I think we need the social interaction of shopping. There’s just something about the social interaction of shopping, which is necessary to our human condition. I go to Walmart here, and there’s just an element that’s necessary.