COVID-19 has forced hundreds, if not thousands, of business owners to reimagine their business plans. Whether that meant closing their doors, trying to apply for the various government funding programs, or pivoting their plans to ensure they survive – local businesses have proven resilient. As such, over the course of the last few weeks, we have partnered with Edmonton-based business owners to discuss how they have been navigating through the changes the world has seen due to COVID-19. This virtual panel has provided great insights and garnered motivating conversations about how their businesses adapted over the last few months. Our panellists also shared with us how they plan to pivot their business plans moving forward. Here are our top 5 takeaways from their views on Business Recovery:
1. Employee Mental Health & Well-being
Prior to COVID, there was minimal awareness or support put towards mental health in most offices – if there was any at all. The forced isolation and having to adjust to a major change in our way of life was not easy and really took its toll on people’s emotional state. Makeshift offices, lack of home/work separation, kids at home and the abrupt stop of face to face social interaction left many people struggling to adapt and find balance. HR Managers & company leaders had to shift towards checking in with the team more often to see how their workers were doing mentally. They realized the importance of ensuring their health plans come with mental health support and had to source out additional resources to ensure employees were being taken care of in a new digital norm. This leads us to our second takeaway.
2. Office Culture
Every business owner knows that employees are their most valuable asset – most often they are the ones communicating with your clients and being the face of your business. Therefore, ensuring the team stays connected in fun and interactive ways is crucial to keeping company morale up, especially when face-to-face contact is all but nil. Remote work has forced us to get creative, not only for collaboration but also to keep the social culture alive. Seeing as how working remotely could turn into a longer-term or hybrid solution we need to change the ways that we figure out staffing, hiring, and onboarding new employees while staying true to the company culture. Our panellists recommended virtual happy hours, virtual office tours when it came to bringing on new hires, care and wellness packages, fun team challenges over Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or any digital communication platform your business uses). It is not impossible to build or maintain your companies’ culture without physical interaction. It simply requires a little bit of innovation. Leading us nicely into our third takeaway!
3. Adoption of New Technologies
In general, many people can be change-averse, especially when it comes to their daily routines. Managers were uncertain their employees would have the same productivity and focus working from home, and employees were accustomed to being monitored daily in the office. The rapid shift that the pandemic caused changed what we were used to leaving us very little choice but to adapt, adjust and improvise. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other collaborative tools quickly became essential ways to stay connected to your colleagues and clients and to help keep the social aspect of workplace culture alive. The quick shift to adopt these technologies was a great way to propel those who previously changed averse and show them that the work would still get done and the culture and connections could still happen. These new technologies also allowed businesses and workers to be more efficient in their everyday work lives. Meetings no longer drawled on, and the new technologies may have shined a light where certain gaps were otherwise not evident.
4. Finding Efficiencies
In order to ensure businesses could maintain a healthy level of operations, owners had to take a hard look at their cash flow, their overheads, and evaluate where they could make certain cutbacks. Striving to be more efficient is something we normally do, but when circumstances shifted rapidly and the outlook on the future became more uncertain, it was crucial to “trim the fat”. Evaluations analyzing overhead costs had to happen and unnecessary spending had to be scaled back. Processes also had to be re-evaluated and tightened up so time could be best utilized. Not only for the business’ sake but also so that the business owners could retain levels of staffing and ensure service needs/commitments were being met.
5. New Forms of Business Development
Since most people have since adapted to meeting virtually, it has become much easier to connect with prospects. The ability to experiment with technology and have the freedom and flexibility to line up more meetings with leads throughout the day without having to travel was a huge benefit some of our panellists saw. Business owners saved time and money on travel, and meetings no longer took up a good portion of their days – leaving room for other crucial tasks. However, the hard part was forming as strong of a connection that otherwise could come naturally when meeting face to face. Picking up on non-verbal cues became a challenge, and distractions could still come into play. If one is not already a psychology major, picking up on body language is difficult enough, now throw in a video call? This leaves business owners and business development (BD) departments faced with another hurdle to tackle: reading body language via a screen. Especially with new people, establishing that rapport and getting the gauge of interest is more challenging than it once was. However, our panellists found that although non-verbal cues provided a small setback that they were still able to connect with prospects. By combining digital marketing efforts, providing agendas ahead of time, and having a clear model/understanding of what their prospects are looking for the business owners were able to remain competitive.
Thank you to our four wonderful panellists for taking part and being so open with sharing your struggles, and triumphs. If you’d like to get in touch or learn more about our panellists, visit them below:
Shabir Ladha CPA, CA, FEA, Partner KBH Chartered Professional Accountants
Alyson Hodson, President & CEO zag
Darren Rawson P.Eng., ICD.D, Corporate Director / Principle Ozone Advisory Group
Chris Brady, Business Development Manager Solut