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Business Beat - Good news for businesses, yet another transition

February 15, 2022 at 8:00 pm

The REP Program is gone, and the masks come off in a few days. The relief of this business owner was immediate. I felt as though an elephant had been lifted off my back and not just in my business, but all aspects of my life—pure relief.

The day after the announcement that the REP Program was over I woke to the thought, what now? Are customers coming back right away? Is everyone still nervous and waiting until masks come off? What about the month after this? Are spending patterns changing? How do I keep staffing and ordering without the information I need? I had been so focused on the relief of not having to check (or talk about) QR codes and not keeping up with masks the day before that I hadn’t thought about what the immediate “after” would be for my business. Oh sure, our team had talked about post-COVID, but after spending the last two years in survival mode, putting band-aids on things and the goal line always moving, it was all of a

I'm not a professional business advisor so for whatever it is worth I still feel the relief but I also came to some other conclusions that I have shared below.

Ask for what you need.

I hope all businesses can feel confident in asking what they need from their customers for the next couple of months. Do you need a little time to build up your staff? Just throw it out there and let the community know. Do you need time to find new vendors for products that you can no longer get from your previous vendors? Tell your customers you are working on it and let them know when you have it sorted. Whatever it is, tell them the truth, and I think they will understand.

You did what you had to do.

I keep hearing, “I should have (fill in the blank here)” I know it is hard but try not to do this to yourself. From one day to the next, we had no way of knowing if we were even going to be able to stay open for business, much less make complex, long-term decisions. Don’t beat yourself up about any decision you had to make through COVID. There was no handbook for this and nobody to help us plan or adapt these past two years. If you got through this and still have any version of your business left, you succeeded. We all did what we had to do, with the information we had at the time. We had to keep going.

Staff appreciation day is today.

Thank the staff standing in front of you today because they have gone through it with you. Talk to your team openly and ask what their hopes are for work in the months to come. Don’t make any promises, but you can write down reasonable requests as goals to meet along the way. When you know what success looks like, make sure they understand too and then explain it will take time.

Leave it in the past.

Our businesses were privately and publicly attacked; we were accused of things we never dreamed of and heard things from favourite customers that we never in a million years expected to hear. We were thrown under political busses that left us in shock and disbelief. We were losing money and time, emotionally raw, couldn’t get any answers, dealing with numerous operational issues, staffing issues, and exhausted from working extra hours. And because of all this, anger became an easy place to land. Several business owners have told me that the most challenging part of the last couple of months is just trying not to be angry and that resonates with me. I remember after fourteen months of COVID, one of my staff said, “You just need to keep things the same for a while.” I thought my head was going to explode because, of course, I longed for that too. In December, I had someone come into the theatre who wanted to know how I would be accommodating people who didn’t want vaccines or who didn't want to have to provide a negative test because the cotton swabs used for testing contained carcinogens and could cause cancer. (Insert head explodes thing again here.) On a weekly basis for 19 months I dealt with changes in staff, income, changes for rates for services and products and changes in the availability of services and products, changes in clients, changing clients needs, COVID, AHS regulations, managing social media attacks, being a friend and parent in the time of COVID, losing a parent, a spouse that was now home all the time, etc. The world around us was changing constantly, and I, like so many other business owners and managers, had no choice but to react instead of plan. I’m sure all business owners have similar, painful stories, and as hard as it will be, leaving this stuff in the past will be good for us. Leaving this stuff in the past will be good for our staff and good for our community. I keep repeating silently; it was just a crappy time for everyone. It was just a crappy time for everyone. It was just a crappy time for everyone. This little mantra helps you forgive them and yourself for whatever mistakes you made too. We have to move forward together because honestly, it was just a crappy time for everyone.

Take a hard look.

Pick a slow day to sit quietly, stare out of a window with a good cup of coffee and be very honest with yourself while writing a list; What is worth saving? What isn’t worth saving? What do you love doing at work? What do you hate doing? What pays you for your time? What doesn't value your time? What does your gut tell you? It is a challenging exercise for sure, but now is the time to get rid of whatever doesn’t apply proper value to your time, empower your staff or fill your bank account. This exercise has been historically hard for me, but after the past two years, believe me, I am getting better at it. Again, whatever you decide to mark off your list, don’t beat yourself up; just build yourself a new path forward.

Don’t work too fast to “get back to normal.”

Our world has forever changed. “Pre-COVID” business should be a memory, not a goal. As business owners, we have to face the fact that our customer's expectations, needs and wants have permanently changed. We have to embrace the fact that our clients have new needs. Rushing to get back to the way it was before isn’t going to help us get to where we need to go. My son had a 1st-grade teacher who taught me, “In praise of slow, off I go,” and I feel like this is the best approach we can have right now to figure out what our customers want and need.

All businesses need time and space to recover in their way. You can do it because this part isn’t the hard part. 2020 and 2021 taught us about tough times. 2022 will teach us how resilient small businesses can be.

Wendy Rairdan

Owner Rairdan Services, Inc.


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