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Business and Succession Planning for an Uncertain Future

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COVID-19 put a halt on a number of projects and business plans in the works. At ground level, many employees are now well-adjusted to the work-from-home lifestyle or the additional health protocols at work, but how has the global health pandemic impacted things when it comes to planning and succession?

Greg Hussey, President of Impact HR, has seen the ripple-effect of COVID-19 on business succession planning. As businesses around the province sprint to keep up with ongoing changes brought on by the global health pandemic, opportunities for leadership skills to shine are a plenty; but in turn, gaps in business planning and crisis management are having their own time in the limelight.

“The current pandemic has provided a leadership test for many and has, in many ways, helped in identifying future successors,” says Hussey. “The pandemic has showcased leadership potential, and highlighted development opportunity for others.”

From Hussey’s perspective, leadership and communication skills will be key characteristics companies will be looking for in future business leaders. While both are skills that have always been major attributes for anyone in the professional world, COVID-19 has placed an even more intense spotlight on these soft abilities.

“During the transition to a remote workforce, we’ve seen leaders demonstrate a keen ability to adapt while others have struggled significantly. It’s really called attention to the need of leaders to be adaptable and to develop leadership skills like communication and flexibility.”

In addition to leadership skills, being able to adapt to an increasingly modernizing professional environment is crucial. As work forces adjusts to digital environments and home office setups, adaptability paired with keen digital savviness has pronounced salience in today’s working world.

“COVID is very much forcing companies to re-evaluate their plans and revisit leadership competencies in a relatively new, remote, and digital work force,” Hussey says. “We have been living in a digital world for 20 years now, and some companies have taken too long to adapt. COVID has expedited this transformation. Companies have to adapt to the digital workforce.”

COVID-19 has thrown its fair share of challenges at business. If there is some good to come out of the pandemic, it is a push for companies to update policies and ensure they are well-prepared for whatever the future may bring.

“Generally speaking, companies are probably in better shape now in terms of business continuity than pre-COVID. COVID has forced them to adapt plans to account for emergencies and crisis,” Hussey shares. “Many of these frameworks have not been taken seriously, and now there is a spotlight on it. The pandemic has forced companies to implement proactive planning mechanisms to ensure the business is nimble and can respond to a crisis.”

It should come as no surprise that business plans have been interrupted by the pandemic. As industries scramble to adjust their approach to day-to-day operations and keep up with the evolving situation, the even greater task of restructuring and revaluating businesses is ongoing.

Though aspects of our lives seem to be in limbo, the ebbs and flows of the provincial economy never cease. Amanda Wagner, Founder and Lead Educator of The Complement, has kept busy as a consultant for local businesses, applying her skillset to help companies keep their plans on track amidst the ongoing ambiguity that is COVID-19.

Pivot has been the word of the year, and COVID-19 has shone a big flashlight on all the cracks in businesses of all sizes,” Wagner says. “Many deals and plans have been paused or halted entirely, and it created a lot of panic and fear around revenue and long-term planning. People are focused solely on surviving, when before the pandemic, so many people set out that 2020 was going to be the year to thrive.”

The global health pandemic has caused quite a stir in the local economy, and perhaps more than ever before, going digital is at the top of the priority list for those wanting to make it out unscathed. When it comes to valuating a business during these trying times, Wagner identifies the importance of having a robust online presence.

“Businesses who have relied on an in-person presence or brick and mortar offers have been challenged to look at how they can translate their work online and how to generate revenue, even if their storefront or office is closed,” Wagner shares. “Businesses with an existing online presence, a thoughtful customer experience, and a customer base that can generate revenue will be able to higher value their businesses.”

While online marketplaces have always presented stark competition for businesses around the province, COVID-19 has exasperated that challenge and those without a foot in the digital world may find themselves lagging behind.

“Companies are having to prove how they can still offer value and generate revenue, even if their doors are closed. Business owners are examining their marketing, the value they offer to their clients, and how they can keep their business fresh in people’s minds, when we are inundated with so many options available online,” she explains. “The businesses that will survive are the ones who are willing to ask these hard questions, consider what is essential in their businesses, and can build a stream of predictable revenue while ensuring that their customers are delighted and sharing their positive experiences.”

COVID-19 has presented unique challenges for entrepreneurs and business owners around the province, but those with a drive to excel are finding opportunities for growth amidst the chaos. Curtis Hrdlicka is no stranger to change or the business succession process. Hrdlicka entered the construction industry in 2013 and joined Enerpan, a Leduc-based firm specializing in design, engineering, manufacturing, and supply for multiple construction industries, as a consultant in 2016. Alongside his business partners, Hrdlicka found himself in a position to buy the company in late 2016, and they jumped at the chance.

The pandemic has certainly come with its challenges, but as explained by Hrdlicka, it has also created opportunity for innovators.

“People are starting to listen to innovators, more so than before when those opinions may have gone against the grain,” he notes. “There are people that are high agency in this world. There are people that take the way things are and look at it as a sub-section of the way the world is. You look at it as part of a story instead of the whole story,” he shares. “From the oil crash, to the economic crash, and now the pandemic. People still want to build. People still want to work. People want to get out and create opportunities in their communities.”

Navigating the turbulent waters of the global health pandemic has been no easy feat, but the business owner stresses the importance of open communication, teamwork, and community-mindedness.

“Something COVID-19 has done is expose weaknesses in our social, political, and economic frameworks that need to be re-examined,” Hrdlicka says. “You have to adapt as you realize things are changing. I think businesses will be quick to change and we will see market expansion. Businesses that look to answer a current or future need will get more of a response.”

With COVID-19 giving no indication of leaving soon, businesses continue to re-evaluate their approaches and plan for a future shrouded by uncertainty. What that future may bring is unclear, but with careful planning and a willingness to adapt, there is capacity for it to spark change and generate much needed growth.

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