by J. David Phillips, C-Level CMO Associate
These are strange and unprecedented times for businesses. As all of us anticipated, a potential recession had been looming over the Canadian economy even before the coronavirus hit. But the virus changed everything. It is still too early to foresee the state that the economy will be in when this crisis ends or changes form in some way; but there is one thing we do know for sure...business must continue.
In the early days of the virus in Canada, panic ensued. Many businesses were paralyzed, not knowing how to proceed in this “new normal”. Even our governments were caught at a loss. But time and insight have enabled us to regain our sea legs and press on. Today, companies are starting to learn new ways of doing business, retooling as necessary to help fight the virus, and coming to terms with a new reality that may be with us for some time. Those companies that spend this time planning, building their network, reflecting on and improving their products or services, reaching out to customers and partners, building awareness, and seeking out new markets are the ones most likely to have a competitive edge in our “new” economy.
Here’s the good news. This is not a natural recession. A recession happens when, for a variety of reasons, demand drops over two quarters, which it will, and operating capital diminishes on the supply side, thus reducing supply. After a while, demand begins to grow again, thus powering a recovery. By contrast, this is an improvised period of “suspended animation”, entirely unprecedented in our time. Therein lies reason to be optimistic about the future. Demand has not declined. On the contrary, demand is growing rapidly as I write. People are spending time at home, thinking about repairs they want done, new things they want to buy, shopping even more online. Travelers are thinking about their next trips. Folks are tiring of wearing the same clothes every day. This is the time for us all to think and plan exactly how to come out of the gate running. Thankfully, our governments are taking bold steps to ensure liquidity in the marketplace to keep us afloat in the meantime. It isn’t nearly enough, but we have every reason to believe that more support will come as needed.
That said, this relief is coming in the form of debt. Businesses that take advantage of these programs will have to pay this money back, unless specified as forgivable. Therefore, we must ask, “Will it be enough to go back to business as usual when we get back to it?” Many will answer “no”. So, what then? Business growth will become a priority. This means one or more of a number of options:
business cost cutting,
customers pay more,
customers buy more,
new or improved products,
Regarding the first two options, it is very hard to grow a business when cutting costs, other than trimming waste. And, given that we will all be in the same boat coming out of this crisis, what are the odds, really, that our existing customers will be willing to buy more or pay more? There is no question that product improvement, potentially involving a price increase, is one way to squeeze more value out of existing customers, and even potentially to gain new customers. But would it be enough? That leaves us with market expansion. This is not to say you shouldn’t be looking at streamlining for greater efficiency, or seeking greater value from each customer. But seeking to grow your pie – properly executed - is a highly effectively means of accelerating the growth and prosperity of any business. One way to expand your market is by developing new products or services. This is a great way to grow your business, but it can be costly, and perhaps difficult to execute in a world of social distancing.
Finding new markets for your products or services is not a natural habit in the Atlantic region. But new paradigms require new approaches. Export opportunities abound. Our governments, for all their faults or strengths, have built a solid, bold and reliable infrastructure to support businesses wishing to export their products and services abroad….from the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) to Export Development Canada (EDC), which provides insurance protection for exporters to minimize risk.
Organizations like C-Level Executive Solutions have developed innovative, peer-reviewed programs to provide support to organizations large and small, that believe their product or service is strong enough to compete in global markets. C-Level can even conduct a product and company readiness assessment to help you prepare, every step of the way, for doing business in the international marketplace. Our senior executives are well equipped to minimize the trepidation of business expansion, working with foreign markets, and dealing with the red tape, such as it is these days. Canada has strong trade agreements with countries and regions across the globe, not just the US. C-Level is uniquely positioned, not just to help you get on the road to export markets, but to identify potential foreign customers for your products or services.
There is, and will be, no better time to do this planning, prepare your business, take full advantage of our government export infrastructure and support system, and head on out into a big, bright world of opportunity and growth. The world is your business.