Montreal’s Shady Elhami on Pandemic Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

pandemic opportunity

In just a few months, the global pandemic forced more digitalization of business than the previous five years.

Companies across the world have accelerated the digital transformation of their customer interactions, supply chains, and internal operations, according to the McKinsey Global Survey of business executives.

Additionally, the “share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years,” according to the McKinsey report.

The report also questioned executives about the long-term impact of the changes. In response, they said that funding for digital initiatives increased more than any other aspect of their business, including increases in costs, customers and the number of employees in technology positions.

Whether we’re talking about entrepreneurs looking to the future of an existing business, or someone trying to turn their idea into a product or service — the learning curve just got steeper.

But as Montreal-based businessman Shady Elhami says: Any successful entrepreneur already knows that with challenges come opportunities.

In every pandemic-related obstacle, there is an opportunity to innovate more than the competition and secure a place for yourself and your business in the new global marketplace.

Digital transformation

Digital-based companies were already in the position to reap maximum benefits from a global pandemic that kept most of us indoors most of the time.

The behemoth technology companies that dominate the U.S. economy — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, among many others — have flourished during the pandemic, seeing double-digit growth.

At the same time, Shady Elhami said, companies that quickly embraced new technologies have survived and even thrived as many of their competitors fell victim to the rapid change in business caused by COVID-19.

Embracing telecommuting and off-site customer service have allowed many businesses to successfully pivot, adapting to the new normal.

“Many businesses will not successfully adapt to the new normals of digitalization,” Elhami said. “If you can see how to adapt an old business model to the new normals of the post-pandemic world, then you have a real opportunity to build something successful.”

Rise of investing

One of the biggest finance stories of 2020 was the resilience and continued growth of the stock market, even as small businesses struggled and millions of people remained unemployed for months — or longer.

The stock market crashed, but then recovered in record time, buoyed by optimism about a strong economic recovery once vaccines are distributed and COVID-19 finally ends its stranglehold on day-to-day life.

That optimism has drawn millions of new, younger investors to the stock market. According to NBC News, JMP estimates the brokerage industry added more than 10 million new accounts in 2020. Of that, Robinhood alone likely represents about 6 million.

“It’s never been a more important time to invest in the stock market,” Shady Elhami said. “Even when so many other aspects of business have become more difficult, the stock market has become more important than ever to long-term survival — and success.”

Socially distanced work

Initially, many of us bemoaned the shift to remote work. If you’re a parent, it’s certainly a trickier proposition.

But after a year of quarantine, it’s become clear that remote work is here to stay, even if everyone was vaccinated tomorrow.

Businesses have seen the savings from not paying for office space, often in expensive downtown areas. Workers saved money from not commuting, and will not want to leave the comfort of their home office, even once it’s safe to do so.

This cultural shift actually makes it easier to get a business off the ground, Elhami said. It means that you can more easily hire qualified workers, no matter where they’re located. The rise of technology to accommodate socially distanced work means that communication is easier than ever.

“This is not a time to be afraid of change, but a time to embrace it,” Elhami said.