14 CEOs on how to reopen businesses in the coronavirus economy

Viewed in Fortune.

The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted vast damage on the global economy.

Equally concerning, if history is any guide, this damage is not over yet.

During the Spanish flu of 1918, for instance, it was the second wave of infections that ultimately proved the most deadly and damaging.

This history has given rise to a somewhat obvious and sensible trepidation: “No one wants to show up early for the post-pandemic party,” as Fortune’s Andrew Nusca writes in this article.

Nusca and his Fortune colleagues sought input from 14 Fortune 500 executives on the vital question of just how businesses should go about reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They collected some useful input.

V-curve recoveries

Ford CEO Jim Hackett says the company envisions V-curve recoveries in which conditions improve only to worsen again before finally permanently improving.

Ford executives have responded by taking pay reductions and “tried to protect as many jobs as we could.”

Hackett says the company is looking for guidance from the federal government on what it sees as it believes will be its staged reopening process.

Accelerated online sales

At clothing retailer Gap, CEO Sonia Syngal says the company has seen one bright side from the pandemic: accelerated online sales.

Yet, the company also ceased paying rent for its stores that were closed under public health orders. Syngal says the pandemic has given rise to increased demand for casual clothes as a result of the pandemic, another positive amidst the otherwise damaging pandemic.

Like Hackett at Ford, Syngal is looking to government for assistance in aiding the company’s safety as it commences the reopening of its 3,000-plus global retail stores.

Rethinking our supply chain

At pharmacy retailer Rite Aid, CEO Heyward Donigan says the coronavirus pandemic, like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, will prove a basis for permanent changes in society.

“We’re rethinking our supply chain. We are not going to allow ourselves to ever be in short supply of gloves, masks, or hand sanitizer,” she says.

Permanent changes in society

The CEOs of Hilton, Qualcomm, Duke Energy, Synchrony, Delta Air Lines, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Starbucks, Kohl’s, Wells Fargo, Macy’s, and Cisco also offer their thoughts on what the cornavirus had done to their businesses and how they are making their way back as the economy begins to repair.

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