May 2020
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The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
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Courtesy of Covid-19 - It's a New Virtual World

 

Courtesy of Covid-19 - It's a New Virtual World

Whether we like it or not the world of small business will never go back to normal. We may think it will but Covid-19 has changed more than just the economy; it has changed the way consumers think and act. Sure, we all knew that the spectre of Amazon was looming over small business and that more people were beginning to shop online but it was at least somewhat limited to specific types of items with things like books, gadgets, video games and small electronics topping the list. But now, the cat is firmly out of the bag and almost anything and everything is being purchased online out of necessity. Not everything is being delivered to our door of course; stores such as Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Lowes, Canadian Superstore and hundreds of others are offering curbside pickup. Retailers everywhere are playing the new and not-so-fun game called: Online Catch-up.

Many small and micro-businesses have a website, but far fewer have a full e-commerce site. This means operating in the new self-isolation, social distancing reality has been tough. The reality is that if you do not have an online presence, now is the time to play the catch-up game.

Consumers are quickly getting used to shopping online for many things they may have avoided in the past and it's not just shopping. We know consumers were already moving toward online shopping; now, that gradual trend will become a stampede. Whereas before the pandemic a minority were having their groceries delivered or ordering wine from a local wine store and having it shipped to their home, now those services are overwhelmed. Grocery stores are quoting delivery in weeks not 24-hours as they were prior to Covid and a major wine emporium is quoting a month or more. Several weeks ago, it was hard to find someone you knew who had tried visiting a doctor online; today these services are crazy busy. Today, people are even buying cars online and having them delivered to their home. Realtors are carrying our virtual tours of homes for sale. Gyms and fitness centres are offering virtual sessions. The list is endless; wherever possible companies have quickly switched to online sales and service and virtual interaction.

If you are a small business pinning your hopes on waiting out the storm until things go back to normal, don't hold your breath. While a sense of normalcy will occur once restrictions are lifted, we won't see everything ease until a vaccine is found. And, even then consumers will not return to what we used to call normal. The new reality requires business owners to be more innovative than ever before. Finding a new way to interact with customers is going to be imperative. If you as an owner or manager are less than tech savvy, now is the time to play catch up and fast. Ask yourself, how can your company meet the new needs of people in the current pandemic situation? The companies who succeed will be those who are the most flexible, innovative, and willing to adapt.

Those restaurants who are offering takeout and delivery are surviving. One small-town gourmet pizza restaurant reported having five drivers working and said they were unable to keep up with demand. Another independent hardware store quickly got a limited online store up and running albeit with a fraction of their inventory featured. They offered curbside pickup. Complementing this was a concierge service whereby customer could call in and discuss their needs with a "personal shopper," make purchases and have them delivered or pick them up. Ask yourself, is there anything I can do to meet the needs of my customers, even if it's not exactly what I used to offer?

Think about how you can adapt what you sell to the new digital, virtual world or you might simply have to close up shop. If technology scares you or building a full e-commerce site is beyond your means, try creating a limited list of your most popular products and mail or email it to your customers, or advertise in local newspapers, telling them you are open for business and they can call in their orders and get curbside pickup or offer delivery.

Despite the massive detrimental effect Covid-19 is having on the economy, and especially small businesses, some companies will rebound quicker than others. Some will have suffered less, and in a post-pandemic world they could actually find themselves stronger and more ready to face a new world where bricks and mortar and face-to-face interaction is no longer the most successful, or at least only way to do business.

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Courtesy of Covid-19 - It's a New Virtual World

 

Handling the Stress of Covid-19

During these strange times you will find yourself in one of three situations: You are single-person business with only yourself to worry about (and perhaps your family); you have employees that are still working in some capacity (possibly remotely); or you have had to lay off some or all your employees. It doesn't matter which category you fall into, you are likely facing a great deal of stress. In this article we'll briefly look at some of things you can do to reduce your own stress, and that of your family and employees.

We all need to realize that it's not business as usual, but what is it? Take a long, hard look at the situation you find yourself in and don't panic. In our first article this month, we talked about some of the things you can do to get through these tough and turbulent times. This is a time when you as the business owner need to step up to the plate. Your company, even if it's a one-man-band, needs leadership like never before. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the situation or fool yourself into thinking that it will all be over soon and all you need to do is wait it out.

It's important to take stock of your current position and avoid any knee-jerk decisions. Many retailers quickly laid off staff before realizing that all the new reality needed was a new plan, not shutters on the doors. Many have since reopened, albeit in a limited capacity. The large wine emporium mentioned in the previous article is reporting steady business with online orders and curbside pickup which is keeping its employees busy and bringing in much needed revenue. They may not be doing as well as before the pandemic but they are surviving and keeping customers satisfied and employees safe.

Once you have taken a long, hard look at where you are and what your options might be, do some research and make a plan. Without a plan you are in danger of letting quickly changing circumstances control you and your business.

If you have employees put yourself in their shoes; see the situation from their perspective. Do the same with respect to your family. Ask yourself, if you were them what would you like to know? How would you expect your boss/spouse to perform? Provide them with as much information as you can and if you can't answer a question, admit it and assure them that as soon as you know the answer you will share it with them Avoid providing partial information. There's nothing worse than being told something good or bad might be happening but not having the details. Remember, uncertainty and not knowing cause more problems than even bad news. Without a reliable narrative, people tend to create their own. When they do that you lose control. Provide regular updates to both your staff and your family. Be honest with everyone you deal with – this is not a time to play games.

Be consistent. Don't say one thing one day and go in a different direction the next – that's why you need a plan. There's an old saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." In these days of uncertainty be careful not to overreact or underreact to the point you unnecessarily endanger the future of your business.

Finally, be upbeat. There's enough gloom and doom around to last a lifetime. Yes, things are bad but spend a little time focusing on the positive things such as the strength of your team and new lessons learned. Compliment staff on a job well done. Sure things are tough, and it's okay to acknowledge that, but at the same time show your faith in the long term future of your business. Aim for a happy mid-point between realism and being optimistic, one that sees you and your team as stronger than before this dreadful virus threw us all off balance.

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Courtesy of Covid-19 - It's a New Virtual World

 

Coach's Corner - What's Next?

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." — Serenity Prayer

We are now living in strange and challenging times. It is something that we haven't experienced as a local, national or global community. We are all affected both in our personal and business lives. The impact of the global pandemic is huge and the sacrifices are immense.

In his book, "The Five Things We Cannot Change," David Richo elaborates on the fact that everything changes and ends, things do not always go according to plan, life is not always fair, pain is part of life, and people are not loving and loyal all the time. The first four of these certainties holds true for all that is happening around us today.

"When things don't go according to plan, plan according to how things go."
― Kayambila Mpulamasaka, Owner and Co-founder at GroundXero, BrainStorm MediaWorks

By accepting these "givens," we allow ourselves to move forward, to think about the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead and to plan for success when we actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This will end and things will be different when it does. We can already see how things have changed within the last month or so. Some businesses have adapted to the changing times with working at home, offering products and services online including pick up and/or delivery options. Meetings and social gatherings are being held virtually. We see how people are being mindful of physical distancing when out for a walk and in grocery stores. We have seen continuous adaptation as we make our way through this as individuals and as a community.

It has been shown that businesses and individuals who are successful at the end of stressful times, have taken the opportunity to reflect on where they want to go when the crisis ends. They have adapted during the crisis and started to think ahead, making plans for the future. They have thought about how to position their business for success.

What are our next steps? How can we effectively use this time to ensure that we emerge stronger as people and as businesses? What does your business look like at the end of COVID-19 crisis?

"A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power."
― Brian Tracy, Author of the Gift of Self-Confidence.

Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach, Motivated Coaching

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Community Futures Alberni-Clayoquot
4757 Tebo Avenue, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8A9
Phone: 250-724-1241 | Fax: 250-724-1028
info@cfac.ca
www.cfac.ca

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