What’s the Game Plan?
Strategy is everything when it comes to reopening your business.
As Canadian businesses scramble to get back up and running, there’s bound to be more than a few starts and stops. Retooling on the fly is hard work. There is no playbook, no precedent and no way to predict the future, so having a solid back-to-business plan—and a Plan B—is your best way forward.
With so many financial and operational challenges to wade through, it may seem difficult to know where to start. Begin by taking stock of everything. Focus first on a review of staff, customers, suppliers, revenue and the latest public health recommendations to understand the full picture. What is the view from above?
“Step one is figuring out if your business can even reopen,” says Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). “Making sure you’re not off-side with government rules is of critical importance.”
Kelly’s team has fielded more than 27,000 calls during the pandemic from small business owners struggling to navigate the new business reality. Keep yourself informed by monitoring federal and provincial government rules for reopening, as well as Health Canada and provincial health authorities for insight on COVID-19 issues in the workplace.
While you’re assessing, orient your goals to reflect what is happening. What is your new reality? Determine how to meet the new requirements and make your business thrive, and also verify what government resources are available to help.
“Step two is pulling your team back together, which has sadly turned out to be more complicated than anyone originally thought,” Kelly says.
“As the wage subsidy wasn’t ready early on, many business owners were forced to lay off workers almost right away. Now they’re calling them back and finding some of them hesitant to return. Some of that is a result of their personal safety concerns—we just spent three months telling people to stay home.”
Other factors include public transportation and childcare issues, plus growing competition with the CERB benefit, with some employees choosing the CERB over going back to work, regardless of the fact that this is a big no-no. Be clear with employees about your new workplace safety protocols, while also preparing for work refusals. Do you have a recruitment plan?
Once you have a handle on staff, you can then focus on reopening in a realistic and achievable way. There will, of course, be new problems but also new opportunity. Look for growth in places you didn’t expect or hadn’t thought of before. Connect with colleagues in your own field as well as business people you know in different arenas. Research trends within your own industry in other regions in Canada, as well as in other countries.
“Step three is the biggest challenge of all—bringing your customers back,” Kelly says. “Two thirds of business owners are worried their customers will just continue to stay home.”
The New Normal is not just a catch-phrase. In order to supply what’s demanded, you have to keep up with the changing tides of your customers’ tastes, values and wants.
“We see restaurants focusing on delivery and pickup options, and curb-side service from other retailers. Personal trainers have moved out of the gym to online. Business owners have had to make a major pivot during the pandemic and some of the changes they have undertaken are going to be long-term changes.”
Kelly feels that many businesses are employing technology in creative new ways to take their businesses in new directions.
“There was a lot of experimentation during the pandemic, and some of those experiments will have paid off and will continue to work.”
Being flexible is the best defence, particularly when the prospect of second and third waves means pandemic conditions could be with us for some time. As well, don’t be afraid to change your mind: If something isn’t working, discard it and try something new. In other words, fail fast and move on.
As you plot your next several moves, remember to take it slow. By aligning your planning, people, suppliers and customers, you can stay agile, stay focused and stay in business.