Articles of Interest

Looking forward: Business owners using downtime to make sure they survive pandemic closures

2020/04/01

Source: Winnipeg Free Press
https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/looking-forward-569275142.html

Business owners are extremely anxious about their very survival — a new survey shows one-third of Manitoba businesses are unsure if they will even be able to reopen — but some are using the current downtime to make sure they come out the other end in better shape.

With all non-essential businesses forced to close for the next two weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be the ultimate business disrupter.

At World Trade Centre Winnipeg, which also operates the Business Info Centre (BIC) services (that was formerly offered by the Canada/Manitoba Business Service Centre), business is booming.

In addition to the export development services that WTC does on behalf of the province, it runs a myriad of business development seminars, most of them free of charge.

Remy Soubry, director of operations at Browluxe Inc., was just getting ready to go online to take in a webinar called Adapting Your Business Sales.

Her business sells a specialized line of cosmetics online and to other salons who retail it. But with salons forced to close, she’s looking for ways to adapt.

“I’m looking to figure out how to stay connected to customers and how to best navigate the conversation as it applies to the current climate,’ she said.

A number of new seminars have been added to BIC’s schedule – which are all now being offered exclusively online— and Mariette Mulaire, the CEO of World Trade Centre Winnipeg, said take-up has been brisk.

There were 54 registrations in one day for a seminar in two weeks on How to Start a Business in Manitoba. There is typically a handful of attendees for this seminar, held about six times per year.

“We are being bombarded with questions about our services and seminars,” she said.

There is obviously a lot of fear and uncertainty out there, but she said the good thing is that many business owners may now have the chance to work on their business instead of just in their business.

“For instance some are realizing they have never spent time thinking about using social media, now they have the time to do it,” she said. “When it comes to opening their own business, people are now deciding to put together a plan and start to do the research.”

Mulaire — who is getting a crash course in using Zoom, the popular video teleconferencing platform — continues to maintain a busy schedule of outreach and business support activities.

WTC’s popular Trade Accelerator Program is holding virtual roundtable discussions with business operators who have taken the program, to compare notes.

Carole Freynet-Gagné, owner of Apprentissage Illimité Inc. an educational resource publisher and translation bureau, is a graduate of the Trade Accelerator Program.

She was in Colombia on an export mission when the pandemic hit. Since she came back she’s begun to tackle some of the elements of her business that may allow her to travel less and to address things to be successful in the export scene, like protecting her intellectual property.

“That’s the kind of thing that you leave on a shelf and only do when you really need to,” she said. “So we are looking into doing that, things like reorganizing our contracts and our confidentiality agreements with subcontractors.

“Now that I have time… we are working as hard as before.”

Wayne Ludman, owner of Ludman Manufacturing, is also a CPA and a certified aircraft maintenance engineer. In addition to the small-scale custom manufacturing work his shop does, he also provides strategic planning services and finance and engineering work to a select group of clients.

He was looking forward to taking part in an alternative sales webinar.

“I’m a big fan of the WTC seminars. We help many companies retool their budget and the most important part of the budget that drives everything is the sale budget,’ he said. “We have to consider different ways to drive sales while still respecting all the current constraints that are in place.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing the most severe economic shock felt in our lifetime. It will not last forever but the business landscape is surely going to change.

Remy Soubry wants to understand what some of those new terms and conditions might look like. For instance, she understands that right now there might be a reduced amount of income that folks have to spend on things like cosmetics and she wants to understand how to adapt to be able to provide services even if it’s not at the same level as before.

“The Winnipeg community has been fantastic, coming together at this time. Everyone is feeling supportive,” she said. “We are modifying and making sure we are still able to have some income and not gouging people on the other end.”