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Want your business to thrive after COVID? Start here

The BC Chamber of Commerce and UVic's Gustavson School of Business join forces for a six-week training program focused on helping small and medium-sized companies build a better workplace culture, stronger teams and a superior customer experience.

The BC Chamber of Commerce and UVic’s Gustavson School of Business join forces for a six-week training program focused on building a better workplace culture, stronger teams and a superior customer experience

As COVID-19 rages on, businesses in B.C. and elsewhere put themselves at risk by forgetting to plan for the future. Just ask Mark Colgate. “With COVID, there’s often a chance that we’re not thinking, What happens after the pandemic?” says the Professor of Service Excellence at UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. “We’re running around like headless chickens.”

To help you take a step back and avoid that fate, Gustavson has teamed up with the BC Chamber of Commerce to offer Building Resilience to Thrive. The six-week online training program aims to help small and medium-sized businesses reduce the negative impact of COVID, revamp their workplace culture, build stronger teams and create more value for customers. Colgate runs its one-hour workshops with assistant teaching professor Brian Leacock, a fellow member of Gustavson’s Service Leadership Program team.

The spark for Building Resilience, now delivering the first of three rounds, was a recent survey by the BC Chamber and its C19 Task Force of chambers of commerce throughout the province. Almost 60 percent of respondents said they wanted to offer unique training to local business members, explains BC Chamber interim CEO Dan Baxter. In response, his group secured $500,000 from federal agency Western Economic Diversification Canada. Thanks to that funding, the program costs just $35 for BC Chamber members and $70 for non-members.

“Anything we can do to help build up those small business owners and to help them support their employees, that’s ultimately good for B.C. and B.C.’s economy,” Baxter says.

For participants, Building Resilience to Thrive provides training on “how to be motivated in the face of adversity, how to be knowledgeable as business leaders but also then take that knowledge and pass it on to their teams, their employees, so they can build on their peak performance,” he adds. “And, of course, [they] get access to some really cutting-edge science-based tools that strengthen their resilience and the resilience of their team.”

Strive, Build, Create

The program has three main themes: Strive, Build and Create. The first part spans diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias and emotional intelligence, says Colgate, author of The Science of Service: The Proven Formula to Drive Customer Loyalty and Stand Out From the Crowd.

“If you have a diverse and inclusive company, and people understand their unconscious biases, employees are going to be more successful,” he explains. “And emotional intelligence is this idea that leaders who have high emotional intelligence can help employees be successful, because they’re reflecting on their own behaviour, they’re increasing their ability to empathize and have social skills, and they’re helping their employees grow and be more successful.”

Part 2 covers building stronger teams, whether it’s by coaching employees or displaying cultural intelligence. “Most of British Columbia is a melting pot of people from different backgrounds, different cultures,” Colgate says. “So how to you help people work effectively together in a team when they all have different points of view, different backgrounds, different perspectives?”

The final part of the program focuses on understanding strategy, getting more creative and improving customer service. “How do you deliver a world-class customer experience?” Colgate asks. “How do you design a system so that you’re continually focused on the customer experience, you’re recognizing employees when they deliver a great experience to their clients, you’re coaching people to deliver on a great experience, and you have clear metrics in place?”

Building Resilience to Thrive gives businesses a framework for raising their game, Colgate stresses. To that end, the program includes a set of resources that participants can put to use. “Ninety-five percent of what needs to happen happens after the workshops,” Colgate says. “I think those resources are far more important than the workshops themselves.”

No. 1: stay calm

For companies wrestling with the uncertainty created by the pandemic, Colgate points to the work of entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author Leonard Brody. Brody observes that major disruptions like COVID are a constant, from the First World War to the global financial crisis.

“There will always be disruptions,” Colgate says. “And what the research shows is that when the disruption ends, things go back to normal 15 to 24 months afterward. In fact, the average is usually about 16, 17 months. So most things will go back to normal much quicker than people realize. And so what [Brody] says is, No. 1, stay calm.”

Businesses should also ask themselves if they can emerge from COVID better off, Colgate suggests. “[Brody’s] research shows that companies going into the pandemic who weren’t that successful can come out way further ahead than those who were winners going to into the pandemic. Some winners going into the pandemic will come out as losers because they forgot to invest, they forgot to think about, Well, what do we need to do differently?”

The winners are doing two key things, according to Brody: investing in technology and using it differently, and staying ahead of regulation. “They understand that government regulation will change, and they should understand what’s happening and be ahead of that,” Colgate says.

Of course, pulling through COVID is no easy task. “Yes, we’re in the middle of a pandemic; yes, it’s a struggle to survive,” Colgate admits. “But can you see your way to the other side? If you start thinking now about how do you grow your employees, if you think about how to build stronger teams now, if you think about how to create more value with your clients when we’re in this pandemic, when you come out of it, you’re going to be further ahead than the organizations who aren’t doing this.”

The second round of Building Resilience to Thrive runs from January 12 to February 16, and Round 3 takes place from February 24 to March 31. To register, click here.