We are seeing growth in COVID-19/Coronavirus infections around the world. Some facts about the disease.

  • Unlike the flu, very young people do not seem to be at any increased risk from COVID-19.
  • Risk appears to ramp up for people over age 50. Mortality rates are 0.6% to 1.5% in general population, 80-85% of cases are mild (which is the big problem because you are infectious, but able to go out in the world).
  • The big risk is rapid spread and the collapse of hospital facilities in local regions. All efforts are directed towards slowing the spread of infection so that we don’t see a huge number of critical cases all needing hospital beds at the same time. This is what happened in Wuhan and led to the higher fatality rates in that region.

How it affects me?

As a business leader in Spain I find myself struggling to take reasoned decisions around the COVID19/Coronavirus outbreak that is spreading through the world. Over the weekend all of North Italy (16M people) went into quarantine. Last night Madrid closed all schools.

I have a training event coming up late March for our leadership team. A Vistage Chair will be travelling over from the US to run the 3 day event. Should we go ahead with the event? Should we cancel? How can I approach this decision and find a balance between emotion and reason, short term safety and long term impacts.

I find it very hard to get myself emotionally centered and make a reasoned decision. If I read the news for 20 minutes, I feel like the whole world is coming to an end… markets crashing… supply chains in grave danger…

Then I look into the illness… how serious is it? Clearly nobody wants an illness of any type… but we are lucky that this wake-up call to the global health system is not highly lethal. This crisis will prepare us and potentially mitigate or reduce the impact of a future more lethal strain that spreads widely.

How should a Small Business CEO respond?

First, leaders need to communicate regularly… I would suggest a daily update about what company policy is and what scenarios we are looking at, also what we don’t know. Even if that communication is “we have nothing new to communicate today, but we are paying close attention to what is happening” it is an important signal of leadership.

Establish and communicate Company policy – every company needs to establish a company policy that at its very least recommends the following:

  1. If you are sick, or have flu-like symptoms – do not come to work. Stay home and contact your local medical services.
  2. Wash hands regularly. Don’t touch your face. This disease (and many others) is passed from hands to mouth and nose.
  3. Wipe down work areas regularly. Shared desks, computers, personal mobile devices can gather and share the virus.
  4. Reduce physical contact as much as necessary at this time. Handshakes and kisses are out, fist pumps or elbow nudges are the replacement gesture.
  5. Encourage video conference over travel and face to face meetings. Many companies have temporarily banned any meeting of 20 or more people.
  6. Put plans in place now for remote work – think through now how the business could operate in a full quarantine.
  7. Liquidity – can you establish lines of credit, sources of financing that can get you through the next few weeks and months. As Jim Collins says “we can only learn from a crisis if we survive the crisis”.
  8. School closures? – How can employees respond if their schools close and they are at home? What is your policy? Case by case basis?

Personal and Family

Get your own house and family in order.

  • Plan for looking after kids at home if schools shut down Can you remote work or create flexibility to do your work from home?
  • Plan for the (unlikely) event you and your family can not leave your home for 2 weeks quarantine. Get in food and drinks for a 2 week stay at home.
  • Make sure your family has 2-3 months of medicine. If a loved one is taking a medicine or drug regularly, you may want to ensure a few months extra supply.

3 Important Reasons For Optimism

1. The disease is mild in most people who get it. At least 80%, most likely more, will only have flu-like symptoms.

2. Children seem particularly protected from severe coronavirus disease. Many of the sniffles and colds kids experience are due to existing milder coronavirus strains, possibly giving them partial immunity to this more serious new threat.

3. There has been extraordinary global cooperation from doctors and health officials. This is a level of globalisation that I am proud to see our leaders and doctors capable of.

Reliable Information Sources

I will continue to update this post as we learn more about effective response to COVID-19/Coronavirus.

This summer I read “The Penguin History of the World”. “The entire story of human endeavour laid out in all its grandeur and folly, drama and pain in a single authoritative book”.

Conor’s World History in 1 Paragraph

World history 9000BC to Today:

The life of the poor was shit under every civilisation. It was short, dangerous, local, painful and dependant. Greek peasant life was bad under Sparta, Athens, Macedon. Roman peasant life was bad. Indian peasant life was bad under Indian rulers, under Mongol rulers, under British rulers. Chinese peasant life was bad under every empire. Russian peasant life was bad under Mongols, Muscovy Princes, Tsars. There were very few wealthy people. Most of the world has always been very poor. Tax systems extracted everything leaving only enough for peasants to not die. Tax was extracted to pay for palaces, rarely improvements in infrastructure.

8 Lessons from World History

The earliest written records are cave paintings from 65,000 years ago. The earliest written culture is 9000 years ago (7000 BC Sumer & Mesopotamia). (History can only begin when we have written records, otherwise it is just guesswork.)

  1. Civilisation rises and civilisation falls: there have been major losses of technology over the last 17,000 years. (This was something of a surprise to me as I realised that I had an untested assumption that innovations don’t disappear from civilisation).
  2. Geography matters a lot. The physical location and terrain of a nation shapes the people. Ireland, Britain, Japan – island nations.
  3. Agriculture allowed wealth creation. Agriculture allowed population growth and the first wealthy individuals (kings, emperors). A king without wealth will soon not be king.
  4. Fragile: Until 1500AD most empires, kingdoms, cities were only 1 or 2 poor harvests away from collapse.
  5. We need a common enemy An Empire without a common enemy will collapse from internal divisions (Rome, Mongols). A common enemy can create an empire or a nation (Greeks vs Persians, France vs England)
  6. Absolute power is the norm The separation of church and state, and limitations on political power are not common. Absolute monarchy that unites political, military and religious power is extremely common.
  7. Guttenberg changed everything. The availability of the printed word changed how we live more than any other change in history. How will the internet & AI change the next 1000 years?
  8. I like my life: I would prefer to be me than any Pharaoh, King, Emperor, Pope, Tsar of the last 17,000 years. The Sword of Damocles is real. (I would prefer to be king than peasant, but that is a different comparison).

The Penguin History of the World

The entire story of human endeavour laid out in all its grandeur and folly, drama and pain in a single authoritative book.

J.M. Roberts, CBE, published The Penguin History of the World in 1976 to immediate acclaim.

Odd Arne Westad, FBA, is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics.

Here’s the book The Penguin History of the World on amazon.

Professor Nuria Mas recently delivered a session on the Global Economic Outlook at IESE Business School.  Lets look at what’s going to happen to the global economy over the next 30 years.

Here’s the summary in bullet points and some photos of the key slides.

The Global Economic Outlook to 2050

  • US and Europe are going from 50% of world GDP to 25% in 2045; China and India will make up almost 50% of World GDP by 2045.
  • The western middle classes are the only major population category that has seen no improvement in GDP per capital over last 30 years; most poor grew 17%, 50 percentile grew 76%, richest 1% grew 65%
  • USA is first ever nation with increasing GDP and reducing life expectancy- major reductions in life expectancy are white 45-55 years old.
  • The biggest likelihood & impact (can damage people & institutions) major events are climate events, and cyberattacks.
  • 9000 net new babies born every hour. Mostly in Asia.  (15,000 born, 6,000 die;  Europe’s contribution is 182 babies net per hour… that leaves 8,818 from other parts of the world)
  • Unfunded liabilities are huge in western economies
  • Major job losses are on the middle income jobs.
  • It is not globalization but technology (job automation) that is leading to the loss of middle class jobs in advanced societies
  • USA, Japan, Germany have lots of debt; but they owe most of it to themselves. Spain owes 86% of its debt to foreigners. Ireland’s total debt is 7x it’s GDP.

Some of the Data & Graphs from the Event:

India and China are growing to become 50% of the world GDP by 2045.

Here’s those 9,000 net new lives per hour.  You can see the areas with major population growth coming in the next 30 years, and the areas that will not see population growth.

The Economic centre of gravity is moving east… to rest between India and China.

The 2 major world risks are Climate (all the green dots) and Cyberattacks (the purple dot).

Job losses in western societies have been predominantly on mid-level skilled jobs.  High skilled work and no-skilled work have not been affected as drastically.

US – rising mortality even as GDP per capita is rising.  This has never happened before.

There’s lots of debt out there.  It is more complex than this graph, but the next generation will be shouldered with lots of debts made for this generation.

Is your job at risk?  Recreational therapists, Dentists and Athletic trainers low risk of automation.  Retail salespeople, accountants and telemarketers will almost certainly be replaced by technology.

The 3 best paid, least vulnerable jobs are CEO, doctor and dentist.  

That’s the next 30 years.  Are you ready for the changes?