Corporate Social Responsibility and the New Normal - Covid-19 and Coronavirus

As a business owner, a technology solutions company, normally my work would be onsite and consulting. The lockdown changed all that and successive errors by the UK government has helped to destroy my business. Brexit Dithering > IR35 further restrictions = Client confusion and panic > Covid reaction.

The camel's nose doesn't need to venture too far under the tent, visitors to my blog know that my posts are strongly against lockdown based upon the science and economic reality of such measures.

What do you do if you want to keep your business when government is doing everything to destroy it?

This is a begging the question fallacy. We don't know government is trying to destroy your business, however, it feels like it. Even the business loans are simply an inflation of the money supply pushing wealth towards the larger organisations and away from smaller businesses. 

A very simple example, many small businesses won't bank with the big four - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest. Online banking. Because my company still banks with one of them, it was fairly straightforward to apply for a bounce back loan. Others not with these banks will find it infinitely harder. Note, am not advocating banking with these guys.

Embracing the "new normal"?

Notice that "new normal" is an oxymoron? Oxymorons are not enforceable and we as businesses should be challenging it. Many elements of change does need to be challenged, and many elements should be embraced. Take a typical pub - the toilets are disgusting, customers don't wash their hands, probable that underpaid and overworked restaurant staff may let the odd phlegmatic excretion end up in a meal.

Then we can consider offices. Having worked in investment banking, there is something alive in these places. Then, in other investment banks and other offices there have been periods of lacklustre boredom. Many colleagues are dull, the conversation is inane, nobody even utters a swear word. It had already reached the point where you couldn't tell somebody to fuck off, say they are hopeless. Heaven forbid you commend somebody on their attire. Commending staff for good work also brings about challenges and we end up in a sterile vapid existence.

We can posit that a new normal isn't without some benefits, but let's be frank. Letting staff work from home more, keeping toilets clean, having higher standards of running a business and making the customer feel more comfortable didn't need a plandemic.

Understanding what it is really like to run a business

My business Info Rhino Limited is a technology company. It's main work - before the government removed rung after rung from the ladder of enterprise, was delivering consultancy and software development to enterprises. This meant it was onsite work. I have employed remote developers and this is harder than interviewing them in person. I don't have a premises where clients come to the site and thus many of the challenges from B2C are not there.

I have seen every "normal" business line eradicated by the following;

  • Government delay and dithering over Brexit.
  • Government's prolonged attack on consultancy through increasing the weight of IR35 legislation.
  • Government's complete shitshow in its handling of the covid-19/coronavirus pandemic, undermining small businesses forcing many to close.
  • Monopolisation by bigger enterprises. The EU has attempted to level the playing field by raising anti-trust actions against the Googles, Microsofts, Apples. Naturally, it is portrayed as anti-American.

Running a business is like driving a car with one hand opening an ice-cream, the other hand steering, trying to look ahead whilst your kids are fighting in the back. You want to look ahead but daren't. In my particular case, it has been a case of accepting that whilst consultancy can be lucrative, the industry is facing a barrage of attacks which means consultancy is pretty much dead. These large enterprises are forced into hiring large monopolistic expensive consultancy or hire permanent employees they don't really want.

What does business mean in a covid society?

Business relies upon a physical or virtual product. Physical products are limited in their supply, whereas virtual products are typically more scalable and can attract more customers for lower investment. Service based economies, such as the UK may sell physical products to consumers but at the source of the supply chain are real people producing real products.

This isn't to pretend we should be at brass tacks business, but instead something more sinister is afoot. Much of the brass tacks business no longer has markets to sell into. I simply will buy what I need. Only holidays which are comfortable shall I take. I won't go to restaurants which enforce ridiculous rules, I won't go into supermarkets which makes me wear a mask. 

More worrying for governments is there are ways to make money outside of brass tacks business where tax revenue is low. It doesn't just mean trading stocks, but there legitimate ways in which those with entrepreneurial skills will ask the simple question - 

Is it worth running my business in a covid society?

Many can approach most things with a fair slice of nihilism - I do. The "why is the sky blue? Why..." framework can be useful in understanding real significance.

  • Why do I want to run a hairdressers?
  • Why do I want to run a local cornershop?
  • Why am I running a chiropractor practice?
  • Is it worth becoming a dental practitioner?
  • Do I want to run a local fruit and veg stall at the market?

Of course, very few people have ever thought about running a business. They are employees, many are multiple layers away from ever communicating with a customer. Others work in the ever expanding government sector.

To give an example - how many software engineers have put a website online? I would never employ a software developer who isn't prepared to showcase themselves and yet, I would hazard a guess at perhaps 99% have never hosted their own website.

We have multiple generations of scaredy cats completely dependent upon the pursuits of a few go-getting entrepreneurs.

The pressure of government and local government

Businesses face ever increasing regulation. Remember when the EU was laid as the destroyer of small business? We ain't seen nothing yet in terms of what the UK government will do it.

Businesses are genuinely confused, but always bearing the brunt of any latest regulation. More importantly, these regulations don't seem to protect the consumer because the minute a regulation is created an industry finds a way to flout it. Here is an example in businesses bearing the costs of new regulations purely related to having a business online;

  • Data Protection Act.
  • Cookie Policy.
  • GDPR.
  • Coronavirus regulations.

Ignoring whether each of the initiatives has a benefit for the consumer, let me explain what these things take to implement;

  • Review of security policy. Publication of this policy. Training of staff.
  • Modifications to the website, either code and/or policies.
  • Consultation with experts - legal firms, consultancies.
  • Changes to the usability of the services. For example - cookie policy now involves reducing the user experience for no actual improved protection for the consumer.

There is a cost. Indeed, if you are a small business turning over £50k a year (2020), can you afford to run a business and then have a legally compliant website? Imagining you are a small textiles producer - with ever increasing costs, can you afford this?

A self plug here - does have a strong understanding and access to legal expertise to know what it truly means to have a compliant website. Very few website development companies - especially overseas companies know what it takes to be compliant.

The ambiguity of most government guidance

Recent legislation on coronavirus (Covid-19) is ridiculously unclear. The guidance has been left open to interpretation to make it easier for government to apply their interpretation of the rules. All this does is add further confusion to businesses causing them to take the strictest line - the precautionary principle.

Where does government leave most business with the response to covid?

Not only "up the creek without a paddle" is an understatement. Most wouldn't even leave their door if there was a cloud in the sky, let alone thinking about going paddle boating.

Who would want to run a business during these "unprecedented times"? Who would embrace this new normal?

I don't consider myself left or right wing, but as almost everybody else likes to label themselves as such, I can use these outdated terms.

The left, are preoccupied with thinking employers and capitalists are evil, missing the point that big monopolies supported by big government are the problem. There really does seem to be an infinite money tree which government keeps shaking but unless it gets to brass tacks business there is no business.

The need for authenticity more than ever

"Hello sir, how are you keeping in these uncertain times? I trust you and your family are well?"

Nothing pisses me off more than fake sincerity. First of all, most of us are suffering more than ever because of governmental response to coronavirus. The numbers are highly inflated and many are profiting through widespread suffering.

My business will have a policy much more inline with trying to let people enjoy their life, to succeed, to not live in fear, exist without oppression. Info Rhino has a new product to be launched within around 12 weeks relating to freedom of speech and censorship resistance. The aim is to empower people to create their content outside of social media.

A prediction and solution on where business will have to go

This is becoming a pivotal point, not only in business, but in society. For decades we have had safety layers added, mostly the promise by politicians that they will do all the heavy-lifting. The promise that society will function well providing opportunity and fairness for those who meaningfully engage in it. When infrastructure is needed, capital will be deployed in the right cost-effective way. Our society will have great healthcare. 

Instead our country is decrepit, that we indignantly believe it to be amazing denies belief. The UK can only flourish if we reduce the power of government. You wouldn't put the school prefect as the centre forward - yet we let nerds, politicians run our lives for us.

We must surely recognise all politicians to be nothing more than self-serving liars. Incredibly, they are fooled into thinking they get to do what they want if in power, and realise they are nothing more than puppets to real power hierarchies and the deep state.

Many businesses will die, many will have to think outside of government. There are markets with people no longer wanting every element of their lives being interfered with.

One angle I will absolutely be pursuing is doing increasing amounts of business on the blockchain. More incredibly, contracts can be programmed into the money itself. Many detractors will claim that cryptocurrency isn't real money that government holds all the aces. If you made it this far and still think this - think again.

Government has excelled in revealing its scant regard for humanity, the individual and whilst many sheep get carried along with it - many are finally coming out of their trance to wonder what is next.

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