As a series of workshops and sessions focused on relaunching and retaining businesses in rural Alberta wraps up, we are reflecting back on one of the most challenging periods for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic started, it quickly became apparent that SMEs would be one of the hardest hit groups from multiple lockdowns & loss of income.
Thus, the Building Business Resiliency project was born.
“Resilience is not about overcoming, but becoming.” – Sherri Mandell
Throughout the pandemic, small business saw a significant decrease in business as multiple-month lockdowns were announced. Working with multiple stakeholders, three Community Futures office teams brought together resources supporting mental health, education and coaching to aide in the recovery of SMEs in our communities.
Putting Entrepreneurs First
In the first 3 months of the program, a task force was created to research what business owners were experiencing including how Community Futures could help.
Part of the project included one-on-one coaching. Coaches were selected based on their mental-health-first approaches. As the project progressed there was exponential growth in the number of recipients asking for coaching, almost quadrupling the one-on-one sessions in the first quarter.
“While Community Futures gave me a chance to relaunch my business, Community Futures gave me the tools to relaunch my confidence. My coach showed me that COVID was an opportunity in crisis. It was a time when the even tougher get going. It was a time to join the Community Futures ZOOM Meetings, get involved with other like-minded businesses and charities.
To embrace the positive and visionary. I started dreaming again. Dreaming of what my business will become.” – Margot, CF coaching client.
Building Business Resiliency
While one-on-one coaching was readily available to all project clients, group workshops were also available to assist in the development and growth of SMEs. Through these workshops, clients were mentored and educated on a variety of topics including human resources, mental health, accounting and bookkeeping, resiliency and e-commerce.
The coaches assisted in navigating entrepreneurs and their teams through the adversity of the past year.
"The experience of working with so many small business owners and entrepreneurs through the program facilitated by Community Futures Highwood has been AMAZING. It has been such an incredible journey to walk with real people, with real families and running real businesses, who are also facing real challenges in the midst of a very real global pandemic. Together we have had many laughs, shed many tears, created and solidified many business strategies, protected and grown employees and even revenue, and learned the skills for resilient mindsets and businesses. These have been some of the most unforgettable moments of my coaching career, and I will be forever grateful." – Abe, Community Futures Coach.
One of the key successes from the program is that through adversity entrepreneurs took the time needed to identify and observe opportunities in their business that were usually overlooked.
Most notably, through feedback from the Community Futures coaches, participants of the program truly personified the message that “through the greatest struggle, comes the greatest peace”.
Created as a direct response to the impact of COVID-19 on many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), this project was a collaboration between three Community Futures offices, as well as many local stakeholders and a specially created task force. The goal of this project was to provide much needed mental health, workshops and business coaching to support the recovery needs of affected business owners.