MBA Research
With a focus on high school and post-secondary educators and administrators
Not-for-profit, research-based support for all Business Administration educators: entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality, management/administration, and marketing.
 

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Current Articles and Discussion Questions Focused on Business Response to Pandemic

  • With the jobless rate high, consumers are beginning to cut back at the grocery store. This means a shift from brand names like Kellogg's to private label brands such as Walmart's Great Value. Take this opportunity to ask students to explore private label brands.
    • Ask students to think of private label brands they're familiar with, then ask them to conduct some internet research to determine which company owns each brand. Prompt students to discuss their findings. Were they surprised?
    • Ask students to predict how COVID-19 will affect future sales of private label brands. What factors would make consumers switch back to name brand items?
    • Besides price, what other factors do consumers take into consideration when making purchasing decisions at the grocery store? 
  • Can a tulip business blossom during a pandemic? Five business partners (and best friends from high school) were poised for success in their first year of owning a tulip farm—until COVID-19 changed everything and threatened to quickly end their venture. This group wasn't having it though. Read about how new lines of business and new ways of connecting with customers grew out of social distancing barriers.
    • Ask students to discuss the characteristics that have allowed the Tulip Town business partners to pivot and adapt during a global pandemic.
    • In what ways were Tulip Town business partners at a disadvantage with the rise of COVID-19? In what ways was the pandemic an advantage?
    • How are companies connecting with customers in the midst of social distancing barriers? What are some examples?
  • And what about college? Should incoming freshmen start or delay? Can universities survive the financial impact of COVID-19?
    • How will the future of higher education be changed as a result of the pandemic? How are universities and students planning to adapt?
    • Ask students to reflect on and discuss what they would do if they had planned to start college in the fall and they were told the courses are only offered online. 
    • How will universities manage the financial ramifications of COVID-19? What types of decisions will they need to make?
    • Ask students to discuss their own experiences transitioning to online learning. What do they enjoy? What would they change? How does it alter their learning experience?
  • Tesla, Inc. owner Elon Musk is threatening to move manufacturing from CA to TX, where COVID-19 health regulations are not as stringent. 
    • Ask students to discuss whether government should have the right to close businesses. 
    • How have differences in local restrictions on nonessential businesses played out over the duration of COVID-19? What issues have arisen? Is there a better option? Imagine the government shut down businesses nationwide instead of leaving decisions to individual states—what would this look like?
    • In the struggle between commerce and public health, which takes precedence? How do the balances change over time?
    • How has Tesla's reputation affected the media attention it has received? Would a local mom-and-pop retailer gain the same consideration as Tesla? Could Tesla be acting on behalf of these smaller businesses that are struggling to survive amid the economic downturn? 
  • Disney's financial losses are significant. But this article points out there are bright spots (Disney+) because Disney has a portfolio of products. How do companies decide when to stick to their core business and when to not? This Forbes article discusses factors to consider.   
    • Ask students to discuss the ways in which Disney has implemented the BRAVE framework.
    • What are some examples of companies that have decided to branch out when they should have focused on their core?
    • What other factors should a company consider when deciding how and when to expand their core business?
  • Peloton pivoted and is thriving. Why has this brand been successful when others have not?
    • What are common themes among businesses that are thriving during COVID-19?
    • Ask students to make predictions about how Peloton will adjust when gyms reopen.
    • What could Peloton do to hook these new subscribers so they aren't tempted to leave when gyms reopen?
  • Simon Properties is preparing to re-open its malls. An article and accompanying questions touch on logistics, operations, and more.
    • Ask students to imagine they are a business owner in one of the 49 newly reopened malls. What considerations would they take when deciding whether or not to open? How would they determine staffing procedures? Would they implement any additional precautions? 
    • How are retailers adjusting to diminished sales? What kinds of changes can brick-and-mortar stores make to stay relevant and keep business afloat?
    • Has COVID-19 expedited the fall of large department store chains like Neiman Marcus, Macy's, and JCPenney? What changes can these companies make to stay in business? 
  • Hindsight is...2020?? These questions challenge students to think about how a small restaurant could have prepared for COVID-19 had the owner known about it in advance.
    • Thinking back to December 2019, if the owner of a small restaurant in your city had a crystal ball and could see that a pandemic was coming, what could she have done to prepare? 
    • What decisions could local school districts have made to get ready for COVID-19? What about local hospitals and health facilities?
    • In what ways could local, state, and national governments have prepared for the pandemic if they had advance knowledge of its coming?
  • What will cities look like after the pandemic?
    • What kinds of changes can we expect as cities transition post-COVID-19? Ask students to discuss both positive and negative adjustments. Which changes appear to be long-term and which are simply short-term measures?
    • Are there certain characteristics that enable a city to better adapt to the "new normal"?
    • Ask students to discuss the future of transportation.
  • The grocery business is booming—right? This story highlights the "COVID journey" of a popular food co-op in Park Slope, NY struggling to find its footing in a booming grocery economy. Their first step? "Furloughing" their 17,000 "member-employees." This is an in-depth look at a small business struggling with the daily challenges of COVID-19. It will also give students a fun view into the world of co-ops—a business model that may not be talked about frequently in classrooms.
    • Ask students to brainstorm ideas the Park Slope Food Coop can implement to improve operations and boost sales during their COVID-19 journey.
    • Compare a food co-op to a traditional grocery store. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? How do they differ in size, flexibility, adaptability, funding, business model, etc.?
  • The use of artificial intelligence to fight the spread of COVID-19 in some countries brings up important ethical issues.
    • Ask students to discuss where the line is drawn between privacy and public health.
    • Regarding Bahrain's 'BeAware' technology, consider the effects and implications of this registration on infected and non-infected individuals. What are the ethical responsibilities of this app's collection database?
    • Ask students to consider additional ways artificial intelligence can help fight the spread of COVID-19. What are some of the ethical ramifications of these practices?
  • Tyson Foods ad in the New York Times warns of possible meat and poultry shortages. Discuss supply chain issues and pricing with students.
    • Ask students to discuss ways in which these supply chains can be adjusted to better serve the nation's meat demands.
    • What other products are students noticing shortages of in grocery stores? How are consumers adapting to limited supplies?
    • Ask students to discuss how they believe pricing will be affected by pandemic-induced shortages.
  • Top trends that we hear about from business executives across the country always include an emphasis on the globalization of business. This article highlights how quality-control problems in China impacts other countries. Read about how China's struggles with COVID-19 have made tracking and maintaining quality manufacturing processes more difficult. 
    • Ask students to brainstorm ways companies can protect against scammers and con artists taking advantage of desperate situations.
    • Discuss the consequences of supply chain transparency, or lack thereof, on all aspects of production, distribution, and quality control. What are the resulting domino effects or chain reactions?
    • Consider the various types of intense pressure Chinese companies are experiencing, both internally and externally, in the business arena and the health and welfare sector. How can we see these tensions play out on the global stage?
    • What lessons can we learn about the impact of global crises on business operation and matters of health and safety?
  • Learn how a North Carolina furniture factory's transition to domestic manufacturing, using a lean manufacturing model, helped put them in a position to devote part of their operations to making masks, gowns, and hospital cots for use in hospitals desperate for supplies. The article highlights the reasons behind going domestic and challenges encountered by this furniture company, EJ Victor, located in Morganton, North Carolina.
    • Ask students to discuss the impact of the furniture company's decision to transition to domestic manufacturing. What costs and benefits did they weigh before shifting their operations? How has this decision played out in their favor? 
    • Bennett mentions becoming a "solutions company." What does he mean by this?
    • In what ways can brands build better relationships with their customers now? What are some examples of ways in which brands you follow have connected with their customer base?
  • Advertising during a crisis. When people are forced to stay inside, they watch about 60% more content than usual—and brands are taking note. This article discusses the delicate art of advertising without appearing to capitalize on a crisis.
    • Consumers are receptive to brands' COVID-19 advertising strategies, but actions speak louder than words. In what ways can businesses do their part to give back during this time? 
    • Consider the morality of advertising during an international pandemic—in what ways do ethical responsibilities and priorities change during a crisis? How can a company aim to fulfill both its financial goals and its social responsibilities?
    • Discuss the rise of mission- and cause-based marketing. What components make an effective advertisement? What are some examples of compelling COVID-19 advertisements?
    • Ask students to consider any "tone-deaf" advertisements they have noticed recently. What went wrong in the messaging? Did the company own up to its mistake? What changes would have made a more effective commercial or piece of advertising?
  • Leadership in the time of COVID-19. Marriott CEO addresses his employees using authentic, candid style. Video and article available.
    • How does Arne Sorenson demonstrate leadership in crisis? 
    • What elements of his messaging hold particular weight? 
    • Were you convinced Arne Sorenson truly cares for Marriott employees? Why or why not? Give examples.
  • From fashion to essential. Learn how companies are getting into the mask-making business (including High School of Business™ alumni Moore Collection) to keep their businesses afloat. They have a chance to win big government contracts—and potentially boost their brand—but they have to be careful not to overstate the effectiveness of their masks—or market them for use in health care arenas.
    • Ask students to discuss the impact of a business's flexibility on its ability to adapt to a crisis. 
    • What elements make a business adaptable to crisis? How can businesses effectively plan for future hardships and challenges?
    • Explain the different ways, both positive and negative, COVID-19 has affected the fashion industry.
    • Ask students to discuss Prestige Ameritech's decision to not ramp up their hospital-grade mask production any further. How does the COVID-19 situation differ from the H1N1 swine flu outbreak? Do you support the CEO's reasoning? Why or why not?
  • It seemed like progress in the autonomous vehicle area was crawling along for awhile—until the need for contactless deliveries suddenly rose with COVID-19. Now, more companies are finding a renewed push to perfect the driverless technology.
    • Ask students to discuss the ways in which Nuro will need to adapt when quarantine policies end and businesses reopen. How can they prepare for these changes now? 
    • Ask students to brainstorm how businesses are impacted by driverless delivery technology. Who is affected and in what ways?
  • Perhaps the current toilet paper shortage is not the result of panic and hoarding. An author considers the dichotomy within the toilet paper industry in "What Everyone's Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage."
  • Oakley has developed a protective shield that will be mass-produced and provided to first responders and front-line medical workers.
  • Small-business owners join tens of thousands of individuals in all 50 states (and at least 12 other countries) in Teddy Bear Hunts—a fun and comforting way to entertain children during the pandemic.
  • General Motors and Ford both shut down North American manufacturing and also announced plans to help make critically needed ventilators to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
  • As restaurants are urged to shut down or transition exclusively to delivery and takeout, some are finding creative ways to keep their doors open and help feed their communities.
  • Loose definitions of which businesses are "essential" result in creative ways to keep doors open. One example is JoAnn Fabrics.