I’ve interviewed dozens of Canadian entrepreneurs during the pandemic. Their three key areas of focus are 1) The mental and physical health of family and company employees, 2) safety for all, and 3) maintaining business operations. Many decided to pivot part or all of their business model to adapt to the changing times…some towards new business opportunities. I’ll share three real-life stories: 

 Lara Smith is the Founder of Lusomé in Calgary 

Lusomé manufactures luxury sleepwear for women and we had our best year ever in 2019. We won the most awards, we received the most media accolades, and we had the longest lineups at our trade show in New York. But sadly due to COVID-19 hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of inventory was made nearly useless. We knew we needed to move fast to control our destiny! 

Call it a pivot, a silver lining or tactical opportunism…here is what happens when you brainstorm ‘how we can help’ with your super smart 20 year old son. Technology is at the root of what we do. We wanted to reengineer our technical fabric normally used to make luxury pajamas to give people what they need now. So when the world was imploding we gathered the brilliant textile gods that built Xirotex (Xirotex is the technology brand that powers Lusomé) and gave them the challenge. Build us the most comfortable mask with the highest protective quality and voila! Xirotex Health was born. 

Elaine Gerrie is the Co-President & CEO of Gerrie Electric in Burlington 

“We were deemed an essential business so we couldn’t shut down. We supply electrical and automation and we need to keep product flowing to manufacturers, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and contractors. As well, we have an important role to play in keeping power and product going to benefit key environments such as hospitals, utilities and production.  

Moving to curbside pickup was a big pivot for us: our counter folks had to go back to the old-fashioned way of doing things. Remember Consumers Distributing, where you ordered from a catalogue and picked up your goods? It is all about getting orders ready and packaging quickly instead of self service by customers. We needed a more robust system so we streamlined many processes and eliminated some steps in our web orders to mimic a typical counter order for pickup. Another big challenge was eliminating cash handling and enabling credit card processing without physical contact. This added more work when customers came to the counter for pickup but it was good practice for us. All of this was drinking from a fire hose! We threw more resources and focus at e-commerce and that was a good idea. We’ve seen an increase of at least 200% in that side of our business.  

Kristen Gale is the Founder of The Ten Spot in Toronto 

“We’re North America’s largest and most successful multi-service beauty bar. As a franchise organization, I couldn’t just put our operation on pause. For three months we operated with zero revenue and everyone at head office worked overtime – we were full tilt! We needed to immediately come up with our plans for when we reopened. Fortunately we already had a great brand reputation – we were already known as “the clean place” and our guests were ready to be pampered!  

In terms of our pivot, when nail bars closed our online business increased. This had always been something that was a ‘love to have’ if we weren’t so busy but now COVID made it a priority. We worked hard to create a more substantial extension of our brand with The Ten Spot Beauty Line. We created more brand awareness via social media (everything became Insta!) and this gave us another revenue stream from e-commerce. I’m really proud of what we did and how we handled this transition as a team. Our franchises embraced the change we all pulled together and our nail bars are healthy. 

Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance, focusing on real life financial behaviours and providing global insights into how smart women think and communicate. Barbara is an advocate for women, for diversity, and for financial education. In addition to her Rich Thinking® research, Barbara uses her proprietary research skills to work as an Executive Interviewer on a project basis for global financial institutions seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their key stakeholders, both women and men. Barbara is a frequent interview guest on TV, radio and print, both financial and general interest. She is a contributor to the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor website. For more information about Barbara’s research, please see www.barbarastewart.ca.