Turning Lemons into Lemonade to Survive


In a TV news production meeting a few years back, a very self-absorbed managing editor accused me of using too many “clichés” in my business stories. To which my Executive Producer responded, “Sometimes using a cliché is the best way to visualize an otherwise boring business story”. That gives me the excuse to lead this article off with a perfect cliché, “How to turn lemons into lemonade”.

And that certainly is the right way to approach the question, “What can I do to pivot my business career from disaster to success in our crippling coronavirus environment”? The answer may be surprisingly simple. Take stock of the skills you employed during the good times. Then match them to the rapidly changing demand for goods and services in our new coronavirus business environment.

One dramatic change is more employees are working from home, a dynamic that may last for years. Apple employees in the U.S. will continue to work from home until 2021. Google announced it will allow most employees to work from home through June 2021. Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest employer, just announced it has extended its work-from-home option for all workers until at least August 2021. Twitter and Square are letting most employees telecommute indefinitely. Facebook is allowing some employees to apply to work from home permanently, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said half of the company could be remote by 2030. Uber  will allow its workers to stay home until at least July 2021.

You see the seismic shift here? Many workers with mobile skill sets will be working from home for the foreseeable future. According to Hilary Godwin, Dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, “with the increase in digital technologies and the realization that some industries can easily continue without sending staff across the county or across the globe, business trips will be reduced for people in most industries”. She added that work-from-home routines have accelerated the adoption of technologies such as Zoom that would not have happened otherwise.

And therein lies business opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs such as tech expert Ken Knotek. For years, Ken was part of a team that set up internet access for huge corporate events in the Bay Area and around the country. It was a busy, intense, and stressful business, especially when gremlins shut down the internet for thousands in the convention hall. But even more stressful for Ken now is “What do I do since the convention business has dried up and will not return any time soon”?

Ken quickly realized that many new “stay at home” workers (potential customers) were not equipped with the technology required to successfully operate their businesses “remotely”.  Some needed to install a business grade network to manage the increased use of Zoom, telemedicine (in case of a family sickness), and streaming services. This network consisted of gear with enterprise grade capabilities and installed by an expert. So, he, along with his colleague Christine Colon, created Camber Integration.com and ProHomeWiFi.com to satisfy customers’ home and office high tech needs.

Ken knew that potential customers wanted to improve their networks by ordering more bandwidth and purchasing expensive routers (including mesh networks) with the promises of an easy and stable installation. But what they were really missing is the technical networking skills to go at it alone. (Ever buy something from Ikea?) By example you can buy a $60 router or an $800 router but without advanced features and expert configuration it is hard to tell the difference between the two. In this “wild west” age of high-tech innovations there are scores of scammers out there to take advantage of customer naivete.

I know from personal experience just how many scammers there are out there. I have been burned multiple times by so called “experts at home office systems” who did shoddy work and overcharged me. Here is a red flag. If the vendor does not provide a detailed summary of charges, you are being ripped off. Full disclosure here–Ken has been my trusted home office tech consultant for years.

And “turning lemons into lemonade” need not just be the mantra for high tech experts. My niece’s husband Matt is an excellent carpenter specializing in both home and office construction. After those jobs disappeared, Matt set up his own business helping homeowners construct or remodel their own home offices. There are as many job opportunities in our new GIG economy as a creative mind with marketable skills can muster.  By example, my speaker’s bureau agent wants me to pivot to giving virtual presentations at online events. So, I am now busy squeezing those lemons to sell my lemonade.

(Brian Banmiller is a national Business reporter for CBS News Radio, writer and public speaker. The former television business news anchor in San Francisco can be reached at brian@banmilleronbusiness.com.)

Brian Banmiller

About Brian

CBS News Radio national business journalist Brian Banmiller has spent more than 40 years in the news industry, covering business, politics and the economy on television, radio and in print. Currently, his “Banmiller on Business” reports are delivered to an audience of millions nationwide.

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