By Lindsay Stewart Glor
With customers in 42 countries, the team at Saskatoon-based SalonScale Technology had to stay ahead of the pandemic, paying close attention to changing rules and restrictions across multiple borders. “It’s like surfing,” says co-founder Alicia Soulier. “You need to stay on top of the wave.”
When infection numbers began to rise in the United States, and 80 salons closed in California, Soulier adjusted their advertising plan to focus in other regions, and documented the change in their financial plan. “I’ve added a third column to my financial plan, a COVID-19 column,” says Soulier. “It helps with transparency and can properly explain to investors if a dip was associated with COVID-19.”
Identifying how a business has been impacted by COVID-19 can help paint a clearer picture of its current state, just as reviewing past financials can help establish a financial baseline.
“There was a lot of fear and a lot of panic in the beginning,” says Cheryl Baldwin, president and CEO of Winnipeg’s BCP Business Services. “Now is the time to regroup and figure out how to move forward.”
Entrepreneurs need to do a deep dive into their financials to get an honest picture of where a business is, says Jill Earthy, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre in British Columbia. “A lot of entrepreneurs are pretty burnt out from pivoting and adapting, but it’s hard to operate in limbo mode. You need to understand the current situation, decide where you want to go, then adapt to that new vision.”
Once an entrepreneur has up-to-date financials, Baldwin often has them work out a variety of possible scenarios, starting with their worst-case.
“It’s helpful for an entrepreneur to plan how they would respond to the worst-case scenario,” says Baldwin. “Then look at the most likely scenario and work through that. Once they have worked through it in their head, and on paper, it often makes them feel better to see it isn’t so bad, and they can plan to move forward.”
How far to plan into the future is up to the entrepreneur and can depend on industry and seasonal cycles. Earthy recommends establishing short (90-day), medium (three-to-nine month), and long-term (three-to-five-year) plans, then look at cash flow and what grants, loans, and government programs can be accessed. Being able to commit and “sit in the planning” is important, says Earthy, but making the time can be daunting.
“This necessity of women taking on additional childcare and elder care cuts down on the number of hours they can devote to their business to cope with economic issues related to COVID-19,” says Nancy Wilson, founder and CEO of Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce. That includes the ability to look past cash flow into acquiring new business and pursuing new revenue streams. The unpredictability and very real fear of failure caused by the pandemic continues to take an emotional toll that can be tremendously isolating, especially when entrepreneurs don’t want to burden employees or family.
“It can be difficult to lean in and be vulnerable, especially during a crisis,” admits Soulier. Reaching out to a business group or industry-specific network can help, as can linking with members of Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada, which offer supports for entrepreneurs.
“Everybody has to do what works best for them, what gives them peace of mind in this crazy time,” says Baldwin. “What’s important to remember is that you don’t need to do it alone.”
Lindsay Stewart Glor
Lindsay Stewart Glor is the communications manager at the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada, which works with women’s enterprise support organizations across the country to champion innovation, broaden expertise, and enhance collaboration.