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Business Resilience

Business Resilience During COVID-19

The Startup Canada team at the 2019 Leaders Summit.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the economic climate, making it increasingly difficult for SMEs and Canadian entrepreneurs to thrive. As the uncertainty of the pandemic continues, resilient entrepreneurs have shifted their focus – implementing innovative strategies and tools to keep them afloat.

Digital Transformation

The past year has created opportunities for small businesses to increase their audience through digital technology and adapt innovative ways to reinvent their business model. Some ways to embrace digitalization include:

  1. Social Media and Digital Marketing. Being active on social media helps you build meaningful relationships with key stakeholders in times of uncertainty. Startups can accomplish their marketing goals and connect with a wider audience through digital marketing.
  2. Flexibility. Flexibility has become an important part of the push for digital spaces and work environments. Employees have the autonomy to work from any place at any time, and we are now able to connect with people beyond our usual network. Stats Canada reported that at the beginning of 2021, 32% of Canadian employees aged 15 to 69 worked most of their hours from home, compared with only 4% in 2016.
  3. Better Investments Towards Technology. With the significant push towards digitalization, organizations have been able to adapt to this change at a rapid pace. According to Mckinsey, respondents stated that their companies were able to adapt to digital change 20-25 times faster than usual.
startup canada attendees
Attendees at the Canadian Export Challenge, now called Startup Global, prior to the pandemic.

Emphasis on Community

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s the importance of community and care. Businesses that emphasize community initiatives are more likely to succeed long term. A survey from Deloitte found that 87% of executives believe companies perform best over time if their purpose goes beyond profit. The common nature of entrepreneurship is that there will be highs and lows – in those low moments, you can look to your community for support. 

  1. Utilizing Community. While being wary to not dilute your message or lose authority, partnerships with local, national, or international organizations operating in the same sector can strengthen connections to the community, expand customer bases overnight, and assist in reallocating resources where most needed. For underrepresented entrepreneurs – such as women, LGBTQ2+, Black, Indigenous, and rural founders – Chambers of Commerce and other targeted, specialized support organizations exist to help.
  2. Giving back. Many startups don’t have the luxury of giving back to their communities in the form of capital or monetary action. However, founders can get creative in their attempt to give back to other SMEs, including sharing staff expertise, sharing capital-heavy subscription services or workspaces, offering your time and advice, and making your support known through your various platforms – scream it from the rooftops!

Embrace Innovation

COVID-19 has disrupted and fundamentally changed the way many businesses operate in Canada. Many weren’t fully equipped for this drastic change, however, this had led to the emergence of new and innovative ways for ventures to adapt to the new normal.

  1. Skill Building. Virtual Communication tools have created an avenue for businesses to offer educational workshops and panels, featuring advice and mentorship. According to a Mckinsey report, 69% of respondents have seen an increase in skill-building during the pandemic as a result of digital learning panels and workshops.
  2. Agility. We’ve seen an increase of ventures adjusting to the needs of customers during the pandemic. Companies like VitalTracer, Co-Founded by Azadeh Dastmalchi, launched a medical-grade smartwatch that measures all vital signs and provides cardiac monitoring, while also serving as an early-stage COVID-19 prediction solution.

Although the pandemic has left entrepreneurs and small businesses vulnerable, there has been a large drive towards transforming the business landscape, impacting positive change for years to come. Businesses have shown immense resilience in the face of adversity, and are now equipped with the necessary tools to better deal with future challenges.

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