COVID-19 and its effect on businesses

Posted on: April 14, 2020
Covid-19 and Business
Covid-19 and Business
COVID-19 and its effect on businesses

For this special episode of the Rise Up Podcast Adam and Joanna take a closer look at how COVID-19 is and will continue to impact businesses in Canada – along with strategies to cope with this new reality.



Joanna: This is the Rise Up Podcast, a show about the speed of innovation in business. We talk to leading thinkers, industry experts and researchers about the future of business in the great white north.

Adam: Hi I am your host, Adam Smith and I am the CEO of Rise Up Strategies and I am joined today by my faithful colleague Joanna Riley. In today’s podcast we are going to delve into the very timely topic of COVID19’s impact on business. But in this podcast we are not getting into the fear, or even the shaming. No, We are going for results. Our intention is to hope right over the static, the misinformation and the general chatter into something insightful and hopefully useful for you and your business. And it’s part I of our Series – Go Remote! where we reimagine work in the COVID19 era. 

Joanna: Yes and all the adjustments we are making: remote working, video and teleconferencing, collaborative tools. Some people are very comfortable here and some have arrived kicking and screaming. But by now, everyone has begun to realize that business as we know it has changed and the way that we deliver every product and service must also change. There isn’t a business around that isn’t currently or hasn’t already revamped their product or service delivery models. So, how do you nail down your service delivery model in COVID19 world? Is it a fair bit of soul-searching or careful consulting with a crystal ball or is there more logical facts and figures behind this?

Adam:  Well, there isn’t a business model in the world that hasn’t been disrupted. Countless businesses are in free-fall at the moment where others are doing their best to scale as quickly as they can. You know, I was reminded of Zoom teleconferencing. They saw their daily meeting numbers grow by 2,000%  while at the same time trying to stave off concerns about users privacy. Now video conferencing platforms are the obvious case study for learning how to scale in times like this. But there are countless other businesses that must both scale and pivot. How quickly can a manufacturing plant, for instance, go from making car parts to making ventilators? Let alone the variability of predicting how long this pandemic will last or the number of ventilators that will be needed. What we can say with some certainty is that the market for car parts is going to slump so do you fight by pivoting and scaling or is this the time to flight, you know, where you scale down quickly, reduce costs and try to wait out the storm?

Joanna:  As far as companies who have decided to fight, what does that wow factor look like as a  service delivery model? You know, one that rocks.

Adam:  Well, I mean, let’s face it. For the first time, in my lifetime at least, we have been asked to look out for the greater good. There’s an emerging sense of responsibility and for me the companies making the lasting impressions are the ones taking this greater responsibility the most seriously.

Joanna: Doing good for the greater good, seems to be a recurring theme.

Adam: I find myself more and more drawn to businesses that show nimbleness in times of crisis. You know those that can get a message out that demonstrates they are capable of adapting while providing real value to society at large. For example, Google and Facebook. 

We can argue their broader social value another day perhaps, but in times of crisis the public health insights they generate from their rich data sets is unlike anything the world has ever seen. From the biggest companies to small and mid-sized who are doing everything from giving away food to the needy to converting distilleries into hand-sanitizer producers, these are the companies that I will remember when this is all over. 

Joanna: Even in Ottawa, our TopShelf distillery comes to mind.

Adam: That’s a great example. 

Joanna: From a practical standpoint, how long does this take to execute? I mean, this is a daunting task to imagine. Most people design their service delivery models around their product or their client or both but not some unknown entity. So how do you make something that was never designed exclusively for the digital space and turn it into a virtual reality and in a timely manner?

Adam: Those are very good and complex questions. Look, I’ve been involved with many many crisis situations before that disrupt everything from supply chains and other fundamental  business models disruptions. My observation is that it’s like a muscle, the more an organization practices and prepares for the unexpected, the better they become at responding. The project manager in me is always tempted to describe a case of adaptation in terms of scope, cost and time. In other words, what is required to adapt the business model? What are the available resources and how quickly do you want to get it done? Let’s face it, unless you are government, you’re constrained by all three and you can’t compromise on quality.  But the truth is, as the late Peter Drucker would say, culture eats strategy for breakfast so even the best plans require strong confident leadership and motivated workers. 

Joanna: For sure. How long does it take to get a COVID19 plan up and running though?

Adam: I can only speak from experience and I can tell you Rise Up Strategies has turned around comprehensive plans in a matter of hours. Ha! In one case that you will remember, we were in full implementation mode with a sizable team the morning after the client’s CEO gave us the green light. 

Joanna: Yes, we were burning the candle at both ends. But the strategy is the strategy but doesn’t this need to be a bit more human, I mean, at the heart of this struggle are human lives and I’m curious, what strategy do you need for dealing with staff, clients, more of the human side? 

Adam: Hmm, I mean, tough questions, but ultimately that’s why we take the time to sit down and listen to our clients and allow them to get personal and real. We are all in this together and the more we can listen to our clients the better we can move them through this to the other side where their brand and their staff come out better than before.

Joanna: Exactly.

Adam: Now, it’s been said before but there’s a necessity these days for authenticity and it’s nearly impossible to fake it. In crisis, some people step up to the challenge and others sit back and take note. That is what you want from your company’s brand and you as it’s leader.

Joanna: There is so much noise out there. So. Much. Noise. How do you make your voice heard above the screaming?

Adam: Oh yeah, the static is real. All of the news has taken a backseat to this pandemic. So for me, you start with message discipline. With patience, consistency and the appropriate resources, you can cut through the noise.

Joanna: That’s a great idea. Message discipline.

Adam: Then make sure your message is delivered in stereo. Leverage every resource at your disposal. Clients, staff or perhaps volunteers and donors can help amplify your compelling message. 

Joanna: Making sure everyone is on the same page.

Adam: But the wild card is timing. You know, you’ll know this Joanna, I married the daughter of a mechanic and one of the things she always says is “a car has to be driven for at least an hour a week”. I was reminded yesterday when we went for a drive as a family, just stayed in the car, we didn’t leave the car. But while you’re driving the car, sometimes it’s helpful to just shut off the radio and just listen to the car. Listen to the rattles, perhaps the knocking noises that you hear. It’s a similar analogy when it’s the fire hose that we consume content with these days. Make sure you take a break. You know, contemplate your business, listen for those rattles and the knocking. It’s sometimes in those moments when you identify where your attention should be focused whether through opportunity or putting out fires and then you have to be ready to move with lightning speed and take full advantage.

Joanna: Yep, recognizing opportunity in crisis is sometimes half the battle, and that’s our job.

Adam:  Exactly. You know, it’s unrealistic to expect CEOs and other executives to have all the skills and expertise to deliver in times of crisis in times like this. As experts in the digital consulting space we help companies and organizations thrive in times of disruption. 

Joanna: That’s a great final point. Thanks for joining us. Rise Up Strategies is a Canadian-based consulting group with offices in Ottawa and can be found online at riseupstrat.wpengine.com and in the usual places on Twitter @riseupstrat and on LinkedIn.

Adam: See you next time.