Two Steps from Failure

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An estimated 200,000 business closures have occurred in each of the first two years of the Covid19 pandemic. These are closures that happened because of Covid19 that would not otherwise have happened. In a typical year, absent Covid19, approximately 600,000 businesses will close their doors. But is that a distraction from the true cause of business failures? 

For every action there is a reaction. Unintended consequences also fall into the mix. Has the medical urgency to find a cure for this infectious disease earned the responsibility for business failures, possible inflation, unemployment growth, political malfeasance, and increases in poverty? More importantly, are these consequences more severe than the disease? The debate will last beyond the crisis. The simple and innocent idea to create a “safe distance” of six feet between people in lines wherever they gather, even temporarily, may have the greatest impact of all on business survival. 

Humans are social creatures, as much in America as anywhere on earth. The act of greeting by a handshake, a pat on the back, or a hug is a communication style society uses daily. Absent the eighteen-inch distance between individuals our communication success suffers greatly. By increasing the minimum distance between us to six feet, a mere two steps, totaling about fifty- four inches the intimate distance necessary for thousands of activities we do every day, will bring businesses and personal interactions to a halt. Without it thousands of businesses will fail. 100’s of thousands already have. Is that a fair trade-off for the scientific experiments to stop the pandemic? 

Very difficult questions must be answered when deciding on next step responses to something as serious and widespread as a potential pandemic. For some the correct response can be devastating. Then the response becomes one of situational ethics. What is right for one will be wrong for another. 

Anyone who believes they have the answer to the process of resolving our current world-wide dilemma knows that there can be large scale suffering in choosing that answer. The decision makers know and suffer greatly in selecting the best possible solution. Our public responsibility is to appreciate the difficulty these decision makers have in selecting the best option. Our greater responsibility is to select individuals we can confidently identify as the most qualified to hold the title of decision makers. 

Greg Henderson is the retired founder of the Southern Oregon Business Journal. A University of Oregon graduate and a six year U.S. Air Force veteran, he spent nearly 30 years in banking and finance. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications concentrating on some 20 industry sectors. Contact him at 

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