Looking through the Covid19 crystal ball

“I was looking on Amazon the other day, trying to order a crystal ball, but like webcams and laptops, they have run out,”

“I was looking on Amazon the other day, trying to order a crystal ball, but like webcams and laptops, they have run out,” Etienne Coulon joked as I asked his opinions on the Covid19 future of business during our Whatsapp call this past week from his home in France where he’s self-isolating with this family.

Etienne is the co-founder and CEO of AnotherTrail and AnotherCEO, companies that use software, emerging technologies and visibility platforms to ramp and expand businesses and business ecosystems across EMEA.  I met him at a conference back in that not-so-distant past world of in-person events. He and his co-founding business partner, Chris Reid, were presenting on future trends and I was facilitating.

I found them both engaging and thought-provoking. And funny.

And while, of course, it’s not the time to make light of this unprecedented time of uncertainty, it only takes about a minute scrolling social media through the thousands of humourous (and some not so humourous) memes being circulated to be reminded that humour is a very required coping mechanism in a time such as this.

For that reason, I laughed at his crystal ball joke and others too.  Even without his clairvoyance tool, Etienne raised some provocative thoughts as he peered out some six months to a year from when we hopefully after we emerge from our safe-homes and cocoons once again.

I share his forecasts and split them on either side of what he describes as “Phase One” and “Phase Two.”


While global recession and other macro-economic post-Covid consequences are undoubtedly on the phase one horizon, I am narrowing our focus to the some of the outcomes Etienne predicts will affect the way we communicate and connect as employees, business travellers and consumers.

“This is a reset period and it will last one to two months,” Etienne projects. “Depending on when we are released, there will be immediate questions about the summer [Gina’s note: this presumes we will have the summer). What are we going to do? Will kids go back to school?  Will some people still want to take vacations?”

Those who can afford it, may want to get as – safely – far away from the fevered cabins in which they were ensconced, but that still may not mean international travel due to ongoing border bans. Others, who lost their jobs during restrictions, are small business owners or self-employed (like myself), will not be able to go on holiday as it will remain critical to try to work on rebuilding lost capital.

1) An extended surge in remote working

Etienne also predicts that although most of us social-contact-deprived humans will want to go back to work for a few weeks, there will be a “dramatic surge” in extending remote working policies.

“Take a country like France or Ireland where many are working for American companies, things will be different. We will change our focus, our priority and way of working. Core activities will need to be restarted, but people will want to be careful and have the option to stay home.”

2) A continuation of travel restrictions

These new restrictions will not be imposed by governments, but by companies, Etienne contends.

“You won’t be able to do things the old way anymore. The concept of flying for a quick meeting or face-to-face will reduce.  I’m sure that HR departments will start to create compliance rules that will limit travel.”

3) A continuation of cashless transactions

One of Ireland’s largest law firms, William Fry, just this past week published an online paper discussing the Covid19 accelerated trend toward digital payments and currencies.

They cite several examples including an early version of the US government’s $2 trillion Corona virus bailout package that considered using “digital dollars” to get funds to individuals and small businesses faster during the cash-flow crisis.

Etienne agrees. “In regions like in South Europe, perhaps, people will still use cash.  But many will never use cash again,” he flatly states.


So, what should business leaders be doing to prepare right now? The one-word answer, according to Etienne, may prove extremely difficult for currently cash-strapped companies, “invest.”

“What people should do as we enter phase one, is to expedite the things that were missing like your production orders while infusing resources toward anticipating anticipate phase two.  For instance, I am losing money right now, but I need to invest in phase two.”

Etienne describes phase two as one in which businesses will need to elasticise their reach and forge alliances to ensure their future and expand market-reach.

The strategy he applies and urges his clients to apply is the “ART Model.”

1) Agility

“In one hour, with the right technology, I can find new partners for a company and establish a new ecosystem in one day,” Etienne explains. “Building new synergies that work together, like cogs, will enable companies to collaborate and reinvent themselves.”

2) Resilience

To survive and expand to meet Phase Two, you can’t just weather the storm, you and your team must adopt a positive attitude and pivot to meet the challenge with necessary changes or improvements.

3) Transformation

And finally, Etienne underscores how technology – which is supporting us through the video conferences and virtual meetings we are depending upon during this global shutdown – will continue to be the enabler for how companies reinvent or simplify. “It’s all about cost-reduction and optimization.”

Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie.  With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon