COVID-19: 5 inspiring initiatives for your SME

The COVID-19 crisis seems to have ignited the creativity of several businesses that were fighting—if not struggling—to survive in the last quarter. From a brilliant idea to a new product launch, a completely revamped business model, or a plant automation, innovation comes in various forms. Trends to partake in to take your SME to the next level!

1) Diversify your production, like Pur Vodka did

Several businesses have used the crisis to reinvent themselves. It’s what led Pur Vodka, Québec’s own world-renowned alcoholic beverage producer, to start making hand sanitizer. Although their main business remains the production of spirits, the company has used its expertise to diversify its offer. Its installations, adapted for alcohol processing, are already equipped for bottling, labelling, and shipping, after all!

Hockey equipment outfitter Bauer, whose innovation facility is located in Blainville, has also adapted its production lines. The team at Bauer successfully began making medical equipment, joining the ranks of other manufacturers who got the government’s authorization to make masks, visors, and blouses for hospital staff.

The multinational corporation Becton Dickinson and Company, which has facilities in Québec, is developing diagnostic tests. It recently redeployed its resources to produce a molecular test that provides a COVID-19 diagnostic result in under two hours. By adjusting their production lines, these three organizations worked toward meeting current needs at a time when there was a significant shortage in protective equipment and screening tests.

2) Adopt telework: follow in Shopify’s footsteps

According to a June 2020 study by Global Workforce Analytics, 76% of employees want to continue working from home several days a week when the sanitary crisis is behind us. In March, employers quickly came up with a contingency plan to keep their activities afloat. And since then, telework continues to grow in popularity, making it easier to reconcile professional and family obligations, thus improving quality of life for employees.

Several businesses in downtown Montréal have confirmed that telework was there to stay. KPMG and Sun Life are making good use of this, and young Toronto stock exchange star Shopify is taking it to another level. Their offices will remain closed until 2021, becoming a “digital company by default.” “The centralization of offices is complete,” said Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify, in a tweet.

If you’re thinking of taking this route (in which your employees are asked to work from home for longer than anticipated), know that Videotron Business offers collaborative, simple, and safe solutions to help your team gain productivity.

3) Add a sales channel: Metro and Saputo did it!

A recent survey by OVHcloud revealed that 48% of Canadian businesses were not prepared for the technological changes resulting from COVID-19. However, some companies were already in the midst of a digital transformation prior to the pandemic.

One example of an innovation that was struggling to take off is the home-delivery of groceries. For Metro, however, the consequences of the confinement were a major catalyst. Online orders more than doubled over night, forcing managers to increase their delivery service. The addition of such a service has also helped grow Metro’s sales this past quarter.

Dairy processor Saputo also adapted to the current context. Seeing a decreased demand for its products—what with food services and restaurateurs suspending their activities—the Québec company launched a new initiative, The Saputo Fridge—an online shop. Consumers can now buy available products for a low price and enjoy quick delivery for just $5.

4) Make buying local easier: think Panier Bleu

Due to a shortage of goods and restrictions on movements between regions, more and more individuals seem to value buying local since March. Faced with the closure of various stores, consumers can now count on Le Panier Bleu, a government initiative that promotes local producers. The lepanierbleu.ca website helps find nearby businesses that are still selling their products during the crisis. For now, it isn’t a transactional platform, but this virtual space contributes to the local economy.

Businesses need to privilege the use of local suppliers in their supply chain. If you depend solely on one supplier based in China and this supplier is unable to ship your orders, your production line will suffer. Instead, buy local, signing an agreement with a local supplier for parts that have become unavailable due to the closing of borders.

5) Be open to new technologies: notaries are making the jump

According to the above-mentioned OVHcloud survey, nearly 66% of companies consider that COVID-19 would have had a lesser impact on their organization if a more robust digital strategy to manage their operations online would have been implemented from the outset. Another reason to anticipate a second wave and grab the bull by the horns…

In April, an industry known to be more conventional proved to be very flexible in adapting to the current context. In order to sign a notarial deed in just minutes on a technological support, Notarius and the Chambre des notaires have teamed up to make the ConsignO Cloud signing platform available to interested members.

This allows notaries to sign a notarial deed remotely. Most of the time, notaries are required to identify the client before them by means of two pieces of ID before proceeding. Well this new tool, combined with the free Microsoft Teams software, makes it possible to check the person’s identity and sign documents electronically. It’s the perfect solution for the current social distancing measures!

As the manager of an SME, you should consider any technological tool that may improve your profitability and ensure the longevity of your activities in these difficult times. In 2018, the Business Development Bank of Canada (the BDC) indicated that only 19% of Canadian SMEs had decidedly integrated the digital culture into their activities. This needs to change! The COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity for a true relaunch!

What if COVID-19 accelerated your strategic plan?

Certain brands also stood out in terms of communication in the middle of the pandemic. Toy manufacturer Mattel developed a series of healthcare worker figurines to benefit the #FirstRespondersFirst fund. Soft-drink giant Coca-Cola stopped promoting its products on various social platforms to give visibility to different philanthropic organizations, such as the Salvation Army. These are strong actions in response to an exceptional situation. What can you do on your end to transform your SME, maintain jobs, and invest in your growth?

Look at the current crisis as an opportunity for strategic awareness. Whether it’s by adding a product to your current product line, officially adopting telework, or focusing on your digital transformation, there are many examples of Canadian companies that have shown courage and flexibility. Contact your partners of trust and get inspired by these initiatives to drive your business!

Also read: 5 tips for making working from home more permanent . . . and more productive

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