Guest Editorial – Peterborough Chamber 2021 Board Chair Joe Grant, LLF Lawyers
If you are like me, all those internet memes we consumed over the last six months trashing 2020
convinced you on some level that flipping the calendar January 1 was going to herald in a great change and that all the frustration, isolation, and uncertainty that we ascribed to last year would somehow disappear – or that at least the troll’s foot would ease off the gas a little.
While there is certainly cause for optimism, it is apparent a couple of weeks into 2021 that a new calendar has done little to alter our state of frustration, isolation, and uncertainty. I would argue that our level of uncertainty is at an all-time high.
As members of the public, we are all unsure about:
The virus itself – How fast it will spread and if it will mutate again;
Rollout times and long-term efficacy of the various vaccines;
The long and short-term impact of lockdowns on the economy; and
When our children will return to school.
Arguably, nowhere is uncertainty more prevalent than in the business community. In addition to the uncertainty felt by the public, the business community faces additional layers of
Uncertainty surrounding government support for business; uncertainty about whether your
sector is going to be supported, to what extent and for how long;
Uncertainty surrounding employees – Whether or not laid-off employees will still be available
after restrictions affecting the business have been lifted; and Rapid changes to our regulatory environment – In Ontario a colour-coded tiered system of progressively stricter measures based on trends in Covid numbers was instituted. Many businesses adjusted and expended a lot of money based on our region’s colour, only to be put in a lockdown with little warning – a lockdown with an uncertain end.
Uncertainty is compounded by the fact that our faith in our ability to predict the path of the virus and its effects has been tested. Some prognostications in March had the pandemic petering out after a brief lockdown, but also had the stock market tanking, house values falling by 20% around this time and our economy falling into a deep and wide recession.
Despite all the uncertainty and challenges, we are seeing a lot of examples of
resiliency from business owners. Owners are
adapting quickly by adopting new business models,
tweaking service delivery, or even starting new ventures.
I spoke with a local bar owner on one of the last days before the latest lockdown and I asked him for his thoughts about the impending restrictions. His response was a shrug while he exclaimed, “Hey, it’s a new business every month”: from a bar with glass partitions to operating exclusively as an outdoor patio to a takeout restaurant and beer delivery service. This is the type of drive that needs to be supported.
My vision for 2021 is not sexy – but these are not sexy times. I want our members’
businesses to be as resilient as possible and I want the Chamber to be there to support them as much as possible.
Resilience and overcoming uncertainty in this environment begin with good information. In an era with easy access to so much
misinformation and partial truths, and with the
constantly, it is imperative that our members have
access to accurate and timely information so they can make important decisions about their businesses.
The COVID-19 Business Portal on the Chamber’s website is an excellent resource. It
contains information about compliance that is factual and easy to understand. We need to ensure this is maintained and additional information and resources are added as the events and
trends of this year dictate. We also need to absorb the feedback of our
membership to ensure any gaps are addressed.
The programs that we
provide may also be altered as this year plays out. The topics we explore, for example, may need to be tailored to issues and
challenges that we are not aware of yet, but will be important to helping our members to be as resilient as possible.
I would like to commend Stu and the Chamber staff for doing such a great job of leading by example. We have been able to put the government wage subsidy program to its intended and proper use; we have pivoted to online meetings; and we have tweaked our Business Excellence Awards to a virtual platform in spectacular fashion. Our business model has not fundamentally changed, but we have shifted where we have needed to shift and from my vantage point have done so very smoothly.
On the other side of this, whether that is somehow April, or sometime past my term as Chair, I want our Chamber to be viewed as an organization that helped our membership and our
community be as resilient as possible. Whether that is simply surviving, altering business plans or taking advantage of new opportunities that these unprecedented times may present.