There’s no overstating it: we live in uncharted times. Since the second week of March, the spread of COVID-19 in North American has changed our daily lives drastically. With orders from the Prime Minister to ‘self-isolate’, borders closing, and toilet paper being stockpiled in the homes of Canadians, business owners and employees across the country are feeling the economic effects of the pandemic.
In this time of great uncertainty, I wanted to share some practical tips that we at Bluetrain are learning from our clients in this uncertain time.
Get a Grip on Your Finances
The pandemic will have an impact, but it’s important for you to understand just how much of an impact. Record your expenses, how many cancelled orders or contracts you’ve seen, insurance responses and other costs (like lease payments!) to get a better idea of what the road ahead might look like. Our client CommAlert has partnered to create the covidcontinuity.com, an extremely useful site full of resources to help businesses manage during the COVID-19 Crisis.
Pivoting to the COVID-19 Economy
The reality is there are some businesses closing their doors and some that are cutting back. And then there are some, like Chartier Restaurant in Beaumont, who are pivoting their business model to stay above water in this new COVID-19 Economy.
I say this knowing that for many businesses, this may not be possible. However, it is worth exploring if there are any ways to pivot your business for the digital/COVID-19 Economy.
With customers being in self-isolation at home, former casual users are now very active digitally and are also looking for ways to support their favourite businesses. Pivoting to service this “COVID Economy” can be a lifeboat at times like this, when your business might otherwise be drowning.
Consider your product or sales process: can your team give digital quotes/consultations with video conferencing? If you offer a service, is there any way to translate that to a digital service offering?
How about delivery? This is not only for food services. If you’re a mechanic, like our client Revolution Motors, who is offering mobile service and key drop offs for clients who are hesitant to come into their physical location. If you own a fitness studio, can you live stream workouts for members and even rent out the needed equipment from your empty studios to clients?
If you are able to pivot, be sure that you communicate this to your customers (as many will just assume you’re closed). If your business hours have changed, update your Google My Business listing and post that you’re still open. If you’re offering delivery, curbside, or mobile services, put an announcement banner on your site, post the details on your blog, leverage your social media channels, and send an email to your customers. If you are still open, people want to know!
Again, I know that these digital services may not replace your brick and mortar business and the expenses that come with it, but it may help to lessen the blow of this crisis.
Note: with all of these pivots, the health of your employees and customers is of the utmost importance. Please refer to Health Canada’s latest COVID-19 Prevention Resources.
Change The Way You Work
In addition to allowing for remote work (which we will talk about a bit more later) there are other options for employers to keep their employees even when business is slow. Explore work-sharing programs, as well as Government Wage Subsidies, Grants, and Tax Forgiveness from the Government of Canada’s Economic Response Plan.
Share Work From Home Resources
If you are able to have employees work remotely, it will be an adjustment if they’ve never done it before.
As a full-time remote worker, I know that the adjustment from in-office to remote work can be difficult at the best of times. Working remotely amidst the COVID-19 Crisis has a whole other barrel of challenges: having scared kids and worried partners at home, or being in complete isolation can hurt anybody’s productivity. Arming your employees with all the resources, like lending out equipment or sending them tips for remote productivity, is the best way to ensure that they’re still able to work and feel engaged.
There are also plenty of remote work companies, like GoCoach, who are offering a free course on remote employee management training in response to the crisis.
Be Social (In a Socially Distant Way)
Even though you and your employees might be working remotely, human connection is more important now more than ever. I know, before the crisis we always joked about “meetings that could have been an email”, but with your employees being cooped up by themselves or with their families, it’s important to feel connected: don’t hesitate to have a video call rather than a Slack message or email. Google is offering free Advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing from now until July 1st, 2020 to help enable the best video conferencing for your business.
Engage Your Audience
Even after a few days of being in self-isolation, I was seriously craving human interaction. Your clients are no different: many businesses are taking to Instagram Live to engage their community (even when their message could have been just in a post). Not only is this reassuring for your customers but seeing the people behind your business can motivate clients to support your business through this time.
If you had events or workshops cancelled, think of ways you can digitize that experience for your audience. Hold a webinar or livestream your event like the Brass Monkey, one of Ottawa’s biggest live music venues, is doing. For the next few weeks, they are live streaming gigs from local bands with a one man technician team.
Laying the Groundwork for the Future
I know it doesn’t feel like it right now but eventually, this crisis will calm. While it may not return to business as usual, you can still set the stage now for the best possible business recovery in the future. Consider having your employees upskill during this time with online courses (Google Academy has free courses, and there are a number of online learning companies opening up their classes or offering free trials), or distance learning. Or, compile a list of business tasks and goals that you have been putting off and that you can focus on now. At Bluetrain, I’m working with many of our clients to implement their 2020 strategies and create optimized content for their websites. So, once Google has indexed and crawled these pages, in 3-6 months we will have improved their ranking for your desired keywords.
Keep Your Employees and Customers Safe
In the midst of this pandemic, the health of you, your employees, and your customers are the most important thing. If you know there is no way for your business to operate safely at this time, the government has announced an Economic Response Plan with up to $82 billion in direct support for Canadian workers and businesses. The Alberta Government is also offering Corporate Income Tax Changes and utility payment deferrals to get businesses through this. While these plans are still taking shape, they are releasing new resources and funding every day.
As a business sorting through this new reality ourselves, we know we need to come together to overcome this challenge. Our team is working to support Canadian businesses in any way we can — if you’re still open for business, let us know!