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Businesses need to think short-term survival, long-term success
COVID-19 has migrated across the globe and mutated along the way. Authorities have reacted with rules on everything from masks to how many people can be in an elevator. Fast food joints stayed open while outdoor garden centres were shuttered. And the rules, like strains of the virus, keep changing.
With little advance notice, they can be told to change how they operate or even to shut down.
So how do you plan? Or do you plan at all?
“It’s been more important than ever," said Kevin MacIntyre, vice president of marketing for BoomersPlus.
Typically, the employment services company connects retired professionals with businesses needing contract workers. But through the course of the pandemic, it has started a free virtual advisors program in partnership with the New Brunswick Association of CBDCs, Nova Scotia Regional Enterprise Networks and the Halifax Partnership. Those partners are finding small businesses or even not-for-profits in need of experienced advisors.
Advisors meet online with business people to collaborate and strategize in four to six virtual meetings over one to three months.
" We've been pretty busy through this whole pandemic," MacIntyre said, alluding to the level of demand for the free program.” The Nova Scotia-based service was on track to help over 500 businesses in 2020 and plans to help even more in 2021.
"The reality is, in 2021 we'll be in recovery mode,” MacIntyre said, so he believes there will be an even bigger need for advice and assistance in planning this year.
Present vs. future
Planning in 2021 boils down to looking at the present and the future.
"Some small firms are looking right in front of themselves, because they have to in terms of survival," MacIntyre said. "The other ones are saying, when the market comes back, what new markets do I need to be in? What new service offerings do we need to have? What does the team have to look like?"
Businesses may not know what the landscape will look like a month or a year out, but they need to plan for it now, said MacIntyre.
"If you have the time now, this is the time to do it."
Downtime can be a blessing because there are fewer distractions and an organization can work on its long-term vision and help the here-and-now.
BoomersPlus dedicated a lot of time in 2020 to building new relationships in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and in Western Canada, and MacIntyre suggests it’s something all businesses should make time for.
"If you have some downtime, you can build new relationships, which is going to further help you when the market comes back strong," he said.
"when the market comes back, are you ready to scale?"
- Kevin MacIntyre
Companies also need to think about how much they envision scaling back up as the economy rebounds.
"Whatever business you're in, you might have pulled the reigns back on your business and let people go, cut expenses to the bone," MacIntyre said. "But when the market comes back, are you ready to scale in order to capture the market share that you want?"
BoomersPlus' work with companies and non-profits in Atlantic Canada through the virtual advisors program has been rewarding, in some cases connecting professionals at the other end of the country with East Coast businesses needing advice.
"The matches have been very rich, and the reason for that is because we have thousands of folks in our database across the country, and we can find some pretty seasoned and experienced talent to help a small business that's struggling," he said.
As for sectors where planning will be particularly crucial in 2021, MacIntyre suggests any business with a stake in tourism will need to think hard about their operations.
Tips for business planning in a pandemic:
• Take advantage of downtime to plan ahead.
• Think about what new services or products will be needed.
• Look at what new markets can be served.
• Consider what skills your team will need post-pandemic.
• Establish new relationships to create new opportunities.
• Envision how you'll want to scale operations as business activity heats up.
Andrew Robinson is a business reporter in St. John's.