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Reinventing your company in times of crisis: The bright side of COVID-19

Navigating the Unexpected


The high degree of uncertainty and the business disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis has put high pressure on small and large organizations across the country. The pandemic has made it necessary for many companies to adapt their business models quickly, in order to weather the crisis, or in some cases to survive. Others have used the pandemic as a way to walk the talk on their corporate social responsibility, offering them an opportunity to increase their brand value.


We are seeing a mass experimentation at a monumental scale. To cope with the crisis at hand, many companies have had no other choice but to take a hard look at themselves, and quickly readjust or identify new sources of revenues that they may not have previously considered.


Upsets in the business environment can create pivotal opportunities for companies to reinvent themselves and innovate. By proactively adapting to their new business environment, businesses can ride out the upheaval brought on by the pandemic and not only recover faster but emerge stronger and more resilient.


A Call for Industry Mobilization in Times of Crisis


The government has called industries to action and the business community has answered their plea loud and clear, stepping up to join the fight against COVID-19. Close to 3 000 manufacturers and supply chains across Canada reached out to offer their expertise and capacity in an effort to offset a shortage of critical medical supplies needed to combat the virus. While some have rapidly scaled up production to meet the new increased demand, others have modified their operations in order to manufacture essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices.


Some response efforts from Canadian companies playing their part include:  

Well-known hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer Hockey has repurposed its facility in Blainville, Quebec, to start creating face shields for medical professionals. Bauer has also made its design public so that other manufacturers can retool and produce them quickly.


Thornhill Medical, a Toronto-based ventilator manufacturer, has expanded its ventilator production tenfold to meet demand, scaling from at most 50 ventilators per month, up to as many as 500.

Labatt is shifting the production of its brewery facilities across Canada from beer to hand sanitizer. The sanitizer will be donated to support Food Banks Canada, essential workers and front-line staff in restaurants, in regions where the facilities are located.

Canada Goose has started producing medical gowns for healthcare workers across Canada at its Toronto and Winnipeg factories and plans to open its other six facilities to assist in production.

Their proactive actions have not only ensured business continuity but have positioned them as key partners in the efforts to slow down the pandemic.


“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” ― Albert Einstein

Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Solutions


The pandemic also presents opportunities to repurpose beyond manufacturing. Companies of all sizes are finding innovative ways to generate revenue, to ensure business continuity and to improve their resiliency. Some examples include:


From Hotels to Crisis Centers


With travels at a standstill, the hotel industry has turned towards welcoming brand-new types of customers. Many hotels have started to pivot to crisis centers, either converting their hotels into quarantine shelters for international travellers, or welcoming relocated patients in order to provide hospitals more room for COVID patients. Other hotels have also modified their target market offering to provide discounted accommodation to healthcare workers so they can remain isolated from their families.


Employee Redistributing and Outsourcing


In these challenging times, countless businesses have been forced to close their doors and to temporary layoff many of their employees. However, a few sectors such as essential retail, telecommunications, and IT, have faced a sudden surge in demand.


Some companies have come up with an ingenious way of shifting employees from their original function to support either a new department within the company or leasing them to another company altogether. It is the case of some McDonald’s employees who have been supporting retailer Aldi to cope with the customer rush.


This flexible avenue can sometimes represent a win-win situation:

  1. The host company directly accesses a pool of resources, skipping the recruitment phase and allowing them to respond faster to the spike in demand.

  2. The employees maintain an income during the crisis.

  3. The lending company can retain the employment bound and avoids additional layoffs, allowing them to bounce back quicker at a later phase.

There is an App for That

With people spending on average 20% more time in apps during the COVID-19 lockdown, it is not surprising to see that IT-based companies have been quick to adapt and grasp new opportunities.


It is the case of iMerciv’s new pedestrian navigation app, a software that advises users in real time to avoid busy streets and therefore avoid COVID-related risks.

In partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart, Maple, a Toronto-based start-up, has launched a virtual care service, to help patient be diagnosed for minor ailments and provide prescription. This service is expected to help relieve burdened clinics and emergency rooms.


#strongertogether


The crisis has also offered businesses an opportunity to truly test and prove their core values. In some cases, it has also given them a platform to further showcase their corporate social responsibility efforts and their brand values. Whether by paying it forward, under a Buy-One-Offer-One scheme, or simply by offering their support to the essential workers, businesses all around the country are putting into practice what it means to be Canadian.


The bright side


Although often by sheer lack of choice and a strong desire for survival, the bright side of the current crisis we are facing is that it has forced many organizations into mass experimentation leading them to innovate.


Time will tell whether businesses that temporarily repurposed will keep some aspect as they move into the next phase, but the operational learnings will for sure enable long-lasting transformational change. We can expect organizations to be more agile and resilient to future external shocks.


What lessons have you learned during the crisis so far?