Key Advice To Small Business Owners For 2021 By Mairead Lavery

Mairead Lavery

Mairead Lavery – President and CEO, Export Development Canada

Since joining Export Development Canada in 2014, Mairead Lavery has put values and ethics at the center of her leadership approach. Appointed President and CEO on February 5, 2019, Mairead set out three pillars for her leadership: Champion for Trade; Environmental, Social and Governance Responsibility; and Inclusion, Diversity and Equity. These values are the centrepiece of her – and EDC’s – business agenda.

Under her direction, EDC has pursued ambitious objectives, achieving unprecedented growth, and helping more Canadian companies do business in 200 markets around the world while generating over $100 billion in trade and investment annually. In 2020, EDC became a major contributor to the Federal government’s COVID-19 economic response, helping deliver billions of dollars in liquidity to companies across Canada.


The best of times, or not: three principles for success.

In the best of times, the business has risks. Then there are times like these.

EDC is in the risk management business, using our financial and knowledge solutions to help companies, particularly the small- and medium-sized, to grow internationally. In March of 2020, the Government of Canada temporarily expanded EDC’s mandate, allowing us to work with non-exporting companies as well – only the second time in our history this has happened. This kind of thinking, looking beyond traditional roles and practices, is an illustration of the kind of agility many Canadian businesses have exercised in this crisis, and many more will have to exercise before it’s over.

That would be my first principle for navigating these kinds of times: be agile.

The second is finding strength in your community. This might come in the form of inspiration – learning from the companies that have pivoted from pre-pandemic roles to meet new challenges, found new ways of doing business, or gain new customers. Or it could come in the form of emergency financial help through Government of Canada programs. In a crisis, our community is there for us.

Third, and I think, the most critical principle is this: put your people first.

Early on, we knew we couldn’t hope to deliver for EDC’s customers if we didn’t look after the health and safety of our employees. We transitioned to working from home, offering allowances for office equipment, workspaces, and wellness. We added flexibility to our health-care services, vacation and leave policies, and offered new resources for our managers working in unprecedented times. Our employees were confronting risks they had never seen. This was our way of helping them, so they could help you.

Agility. Community. People.

In the best of times, these are good rules for any business. In these times, they’re essential. 

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