While many Canadian businesses struggled under the weight of lockdowns, evolving restrictions, inventory shortages and shifting demand, many thrived in this period of uncertainty as they uncovered new opportunities, adapted products and processes and pivoted their business models. Here are six common themes that enabled business owners to meet the new and fluctuating challenges they faced.
1) Embracing New Digital Delivery
Statistics show that online shopping in Canada doubled during the pandemic as consumers stayed in and shopped from home. For businesses to survive, they had to be online – or get there in a hurry. Here are stories of how even traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses were able to pivot to meet the new digital reality.
2) Reaching New Customers
For businesses that shifted to online channels for the first time, they were able to reach customers they had previously not had access to. Soul Studio, for instance, has fitness class participants join from as far away as Australia, whereas they were previously limited to a local base. Surmesur developed a whole new corporate client base when they pivoted to masks and Medi-Secur expanded their offerings to new businesses that were suddenly in need of PPE.
Plus, other businesses shifted from wholesale to retail audiences as stores and events shut down.
3) Keeping Current Customers Close
While many businesses deftly shifted or expanded their customer base, many others found success by keeping their current customers informed, offering as much live interaction as possible and going to extra mile to make sure they were doing OK.
“We started to use technology to do the mundane “sales” work for us…and our sales and marketing teams did the heavy lifting, going old-school and actually “talking” with our customers and developing one-on-one relationships. The payoff has been tremendous – we’ve more than made up all of the ground that we lost during the initial phases of COVID-19,” says Matt Bialek of Blast-Off Fireworks.
Vernon Teach & Learn, meanwhile, offered one-on-one help to customers looking to entertain and educate young children home from school.
- Read how owners of Le Prieuré focused on live customer contact even when their dining room was closed
4) A Pivot in Production
All of a sudden, Canadians had no need for office wear. Hair salons were required to close. PPE shortages made headlines. For businesses that relied on pre-COVID-19 routines and lifestyles, the future was decidedly uncertain. But resourceful business owners found a way to shift what they made to meet the changing times:
- Read how Surmesur pivoted from made-to-measure menswear to supplying the province of Quebec with face masks
- Watch how Medi-Secur found a unique way to keep essential workers equipped with PPE
- Read how AG Hair pivoted all manufacturing to hand sanitizer when salons shut down
5) Adapting to Employee Needs
As small business owners faced challenges and uncertainty, so did the people working for them. Many owners had to furlough employees, some had to quickly hire or retrain, and all had to keep up a constant stream of communication as the environment changed often.
Landyachtz, for example, reached out to all their employees to see how they could manage with reduced hours before implementing a plan that would work for everyone. Muttluks, meanwhile, signed their employees up for courses and webinars to boost their education while times were slow. Others pivoted to virtual workplaces.
6) Supporting the Community
If Canadians have learned one thing over the past 18 months, it’s that we can endure tough times if we come together and support each other. Many businesses found or elevated their purpose with work dedicated to lifting up other entrepreneurs or community members.
- Discover how The Goods leveraged donations to provide meals to essential workers and vulnerable members of the community
- Watch how 852 Curbside Collective brought independent businesses together to offer contactless food delivery and pick up
Small business owners deserve a round of applause. Not only have they weathered an unimaginable storm, many redefined their businesses to meet the changing needs and buying habits of Canadians.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.