Thoughts on Re-opening your Business by Barbara Jesson

Small Business Canada

Barbara Jesson, President, Jesson + Company

Lufthansa, Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s, Lockheed Martin – under Barbara’s leadership, Jesson’s roster of great clients speaks for itself. Barbara has consulted to Canadian Tire, SMH International, ICI International, Air Canada/Air Ontario, Lever Ponds, Enbridge, the Ontario Government, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and many others. A trusted resource for many of the world’s landmark brands, Barbara energizes and inspires the Jesson team to deliver stellar results. Before founding Jesson + Company, she worked client-side for industry leaders such as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Abitibi-Consolidated, Allied Signal and Labatt Breweries. Barbara is a lateral thinker, recognized equally for her strategic insights, creative ideas and innovative problem solving. Barbara Jesson is the past president of the Empire Club of Canada, Director of the Theatre Museum Canada, and a board member for Hugh’s Room Live.

1. How can businesses smooth the transition of reopening their business in the coming weeks or months?  

For business in general the most important issue going forward is communications with their employees and their customers.  If this crisis has told us anything, people will absorb almost anything but they want accurate information.  Governments that have done this well have risen in public opinion polling despite the change and upheaval around us.  It is really no different for businesses.  Here at Jesson, we have been working with our clients to do this. Developing coping strategies for them throughout this period of isolation and helping them to make recovery plans.  Our job is to project what the new normal could look like for them and help them to implement initiatives so that as things begin to ease they are ready. These are just a few dos:

·       Do tap into technology to hold regular meetings with your employees – engage them in your planning even if you have had to lay them off.
·       Do keep customers and key accounts abreast of your status and decision-making.
·       Do acknowledge that our situation is changing day today, but that you are updating your own positioning as quickly as possible – and do so.
·       Do reach out and share your policies and procedures for ensuring the safety of employees and customers.
·       Do show empathy for the changes that have taken place in peoples’ lives.
·       Do find ways to be kind and generous.

2. What are the differences between business operations pre and post-COVID and what is your advice to small businesses adapting to the new normal?
For us, it has been an interesting time. We have continued to work virtually and on some levels, we have been busier than ever.  All of our clients are looking for coping strategies and creative ideas for survival.  We are also, as I said, building recovery strategies.  At the same time demand for services has changed somewhat.  We are not advocating strong selling messaging now but more clients are turning to us for our crisis services.  As we begin to transition to the new normal, we are anticipating that this will shift again.  Everyone will be looking for ways to position themselves to capture market share.

Many businesses pivoted during this period to provide goods and services for a COVID economy – masks, hand sanitizers – take-out food and other ways to keep their businesses relevant.  For them, they will have to begin the conversion back to their core business.  In the beverage sector, restaurant sales plummeted but consumer sales in liquor stores and other outlets have risen dramatically. They will have to find ways to help rebuild the out-of-home dining sector. Airlines and hotels have been particularly hard hit. The good ones have already begun preparation for a new kind of consumer experience – different configuration in aircraft, management of elevator use, and other practicalities of the new normal. For businesses that have had to shut down completely, those that survive will have a big job to do in rehiring and training staff, finding ways to engage with their supply chains in new and as yet unforeseen ways. There are still bumps ahead of us.

The key in all of this is to be transparent about the challenges, open about your efforts to get things right and fair and empathetic communications with all of your stakeholders.

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