Instead of ‘doomscrolling’ — otherwise known as obsessively checking social media for negative stories about the pandemic and the economy — I’d suggest taking the time to look at a Canadian small business like Alta West Capital.
The Calgary-based alternative mortgage lender was like a lot of other companies that had to quickly equip its team to work from home. It faced the same uncertainty as everyone else. One of the big differences was that it was already grappling with additional challenges, like new industry regulations, on top of dealing with COVID-19.
Alta West Capital’s response was to innovate by creating an underwriting module in a piece of software that makes it easier to capture and manage all its customer data. It also deployed other technology that allows its team to reach out to customers and check in with the click of a button.
The result? There were no layoffs. In fact, the firm has seen a 10 per cent efficiency boost and recently had its best month ever.
I don’t just point to Alta West Capital because it’s one of our customers. It also represents a perfect example of how true resilience is grounded in adapting to reality and using whatever tools are available to continue empowering both customers and employees.
Signs SMBs Are Realistic, But Have The Right Attitudes
Despite all the turbulence in 2020, there’s actually good reason to believe Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are poised for a turnaround.
According to the most recent Salesforce Small and Medium Business Trends Report, for instance, more than a quarter of Canadian SMBs, or 26 per cent, said they were optimistic about the future. This is even higher than the global average of 22 per cent.
Canadian consumers share surprisingly similar sentiments. A poll we conducted in October showed 45 per cent of Canadians have confidence in small businesses.
This optimism prevails, despite the fact that 46 per cent of those surveyed are dealing with reduced revenue, and 43 per cent are noticing a decline in customer demand.
Rather than throw up their hands, Canadian SMBs are reclaiming the way we used to discuss “disruption” prior to the pandemic: as an opportunity to transform operations and culture in a way that brings new value to customers. In fact, one in 10 Canadian SMBs said they expect their business will have an entirely new structure.
Resiliency In Our Midst
There are plenty of Canadian SMBs that are already demonstrating incredible agility and strategic thinking. In Saint John, N.B., Rogue Coffee Company pivoted from a café to an online business offering local delivery of coffee beans and equipment. By marketing itself on social media and in other channels, its online store became so successful it has committed a portion of its sales to the local Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In Mississauga, Ont., AGS Rehab Solutions accelerated its own digital transformation. It now offers virtual assessments for the essential medical and clinical services it provides, and has kept morale high by offering gift certificates for groceries to its team.
What Rogue Coffee and AGS Rehab Solutions have in common — beyond smart use of technology and a sense of purpose anchored in people — is support from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Canadian Business Resilience Network. In partnership with Salesforce, a total of $620,000 was given through the program to 62 small businesses in the form of a $10,000 grant to assist them amid COVID-19.
Beyond their own successes, these businesses offer a great source of inspiration for other SMBs across the country, and encouragement to continue down paths some are already taking.
Digitizing customer interactions and offering contactless services, for example, is a priority for 28 per cent of Canadian SMBs, according to our research. A third are doing something similar internally, making sure their team can collaborate and access information from anywhere.
The return on investment for these efforts may come even sooner than SMBs imagine. Our poll showed 56 per cent of Canadians plan to shop with small businesses this holiday season, and one in three said it was because it’s become easier to do so as more SMBs have moved online.
While many of the technologies SMBs need to contend with the pandemic have been available for years, resilience also requires an ongoing commitment to exploring and experimenting with new tools as they emerge. In May, for instance, Salesforce released Work.com, which offers technologies to assist with areas such as contact tracing and emergency response management as SMBs reopen. There will no doubt be many other innovations still to come that will be worthy of consideration.
Technology is only one element of fostering resilience, of course. It also means investing in employees through additional training, and working hard to coach and nurture team members even when it’s not possible to be physically together.
If you can do all that while continuing to be customer-centric, the pandemic will not be the blow to SMBs we initially feared. It might be the catalyst to giving them a new, even longer-term lease on life instead.
RSVP to the #PathToGrowth LIVE
Small businesses are some of the most resilient Trailblazers. Those that innovate with new technologies are changing the game and disrupting their industries.
Join Salesforce’s Adam Kirsh, Rhiannon Rosalind, Michele Romanow and a panel of Canadian business leaders as they share how they are adapting to change and getting back on the path to growth.
Date: Oct. 20, 2020
Time: 4 p.m. EST