Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Life must find a way to continue, even during a pandemic.

 

For those hoping to get married, or sadly for those faced with the loss of a loved one, having to navigate these important life-changing events in this COVID-19 world may appear exceptionally more difficult.

 

“I really feel like the rug has been pulled out from under all our couple’s feet because they’ve been planning this beautiful day for so long,” says Vanessa Davis, Executive Special Events Consultant for Pearle Hospitality, referring to those faced with altering wedding plans at the company’s many well-known properties which includes the Cambridge Mill and Whistle Bear Golf Club. “The part that I’ve been hearing that is the hardest for people has been the not knowing.”

 

She estimates COVID-19 has affected at least 500 weddings planned at Pearle Hospitality properties.

 

“In March and April, we were under mandated closures so there really were no options,” says Vanessa, adding that changed a few weeks ago.  

 

As of June 13, indoor wedding and funeral venues were allowed to operate at a maximum of 30% capacity, with outdoor ceremonies limited to 50 attendees. Receptions remain limited to the 10-person restriction. 

 

And for both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, those attending must follow proper health and safety advice, including practising physical distancing from people who are not from the same household or their established 10-person social circle. 

 

These changes mean couples looking to marry are now faced with making new decisions and left asking many questions.

 

“What will it be like? That’s a really challenging thing people for people to deal with right now,” says Vanessa. “It’s very emotional for them. They’re weighing a lot of positives and negatives because it’s not what they originally wanted.”

 

She says some have decided to postpone until they can stick with their original plans, while others for personal and even cultural reasons, are choosing to go ahead and hold a smaller gathering.

 

“They may decide to have a virtual ceremony they can share with guests near and far on the planned wedding day and have a reception at a later time,” says Vanessa. “I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. It’s whatever they’re going to feel the most comfortable and happy with.”

 

Virtual ceremonies have become a popular alternative for not only weddings, but also funerals as industry experts do what they can to ensure their clients’ needs are met.

“One of the jobs of a funeral director is not just helping people co-ordinate a funeral that’s unique and personalized, but to provide them with all the information so they can make an informed decision,” says Jon Rolleman, Managing Funeral Director of Coutts Funeral Home in south-end Cambridge.

 

When it comes to planning a funeral during COVID-19, he and others in his industry have also quickly learned to pivot in wake of strict health restrictions.

 

Through the course of the pandemic, Jon says many clients chose direct cremation or immediate burial for their loved ones due to the uncertainty of the situation, while others chose to have a limited number of immediate family members take part in a visitation.

 

“They still got to have the closure they wanted, and I think some people weren’t even expecting to have that opportunity,” he says.

 

Like those in the wedding industry, Jon says his business practices have also been modified to provide more virtual options including a webcast of the burial service.

“It’s nice to be able to provide that to the people who otherwise couldn’t come,” he says, noting Coutts Funeral Home also ensures through its online condolences system the bereaved know who attended the virtual service. “That way they can still reach out individually and still have the support they need.”

 

For additional support, Jon says his clients also can utilize a compassion ‘helpline’ on the Coutts Funeral Home website that provides 24-hour access to a variety of services, including certified grief professionals and psychologists. The service is offered through its parent company Dignity Memorial. 

 

“We have some really amazing benefits from being part of a such a large network of funeral homes,” he says, adding they have seen an increase in usage of the helpline during this time. “It’s nice to know it’s there and we get to offer that to our clients.”

As well, clients of Coutts Funeral Home can also make arrangements online, however, Jon says many still prefer the more ‘personal’ touch of a face-to-face meeting.

 

“We leave it up to them,” he says. “We prefer in person because there is so much more of an individual connection and that’s a big part of what we do.”

 

Despite creating new options and working within the ongoing restrictions, Jon says his key role and that of his team has remained the same throughout the pandemic.

“Obviously, our job is more empathy and compassion than anything else and making someone’s difficult time easier and the way we approach a family has never changed,” he says.

 

And with new safety protocols in place, which includes very specific physical distancing rules at visitations and following a series of guidelines, such as collecting information for potential contact tracing purposes, Jon and has team have learned to adapt very quickly.

 

“Personally, I’m very adaptive so it didn’t stress me out,” he says. “A big part of my role has been making sure I get all this information to my staff and help them manage the changes quickly and make sure their comfortable with the new systems.”

 

They keep the capacity of mourners at 50 invited guests if a service is requested to take place at a church, or in a cemetery, which Jon says is quite manageable. 

 

“We want to do our part for the community,” he says, referring to keeping people safe. “It’s a real balance to be able to give families what they need.”

 

Jon says the need for a funeral is imperative in the grieving process and feels sorry for those who decide to forgo that option. 

 

“People are justifying things in different ways for what they’re doing, but they’re really depriving themselves of what a funeral is and what it stands for and how it helps,” says Jon. 

“They’re depriving themselves of that opportunity, so I’m concerned about people’s mental health going forward.”

 

To rectify this issue, he hopes to be able to offer an ‘open’ memorial service, perhaps several, for those clients who have lost someone during the COVID-19 crisis and chose not to have a funeral.

 

“At least people who didn’t do anything can have a more formalized service,” says Jon, adding funerals are a celebration of life and are no longer ‘traditional’ as they once were. “Funerals are much more personalized and unique. Our job now is to give clients all the options so they can make informed decisions that are right for them.”

 

The same sentiment holds true when it comes to planning a wedding, especially during a crisis like COVID-19.

 

“My biggest piece of advice is that whatever they decide to do it’s going be great,” says Vanessa. “If the couple decides they want an intimate ceremony with 10 of their closest people, their other friends and family will understand. And if they decide to wait another year and do the party as planned, that’s a beautiful idea too.”

 

For more, visit pearlehospitality.ca or  dignitymemorial.com

 

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A proven, but not widely used technology, is giving one Cambridge business the opportunity to pivot its operation during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Angus Audio, which provides a wide variety of technical services for theatre, music and corporate events, has shifted its focus in another direction. Under the banner of a new division called Angus Industrial, the company is focusing attention on the distribution of ultraviolet light disinfection systems suitable for a variety of workplaces, such as loading docks, production halls and offices.

 

Angus Industrial has joined forces with Luixbel, a Belgium-based company, to provide two disinfection systems designed for surface and air disinfection. 

 

“It’s a pretty high science, but at the same time, they’ve made it easy to understand,” says Marshall Angus, noting much of the same technology his company uses to calculate beam fields for lighting up events comes into play.  “You can pretty much kill off any surface virus or bacteria, based on a math equation.”

 

He says ultraviolet light technology has been around for a long time. 

 

In fact, the germicidal properties of sunlight were first discovered in 1877. But it wasn’t until 1903 did Niels Fensen win a Nobel Prize for his use of ultraviolet light to combat tuberculosis, did the technology first come into play. A few years later, the first drinking water disinfection system using ultraviolet light began operating in France. After that, the technology changed little until tubular lamps were developed in the 1930s, and by the 1960s, UV disinfection was becoming more widely used in commercial applications.

“It’s pretty cool stuff,” says Marshall, noting that educating people on the properties of UV disinfection is key.

 

He says the systems they distribute, which range in price from $1,000 to $1,300, are ideal for a variety of applications, especially in a production line situation where they can be operated safely between shift changes and on average take about 15 to 20 minutes to ‘cleanse’ an area. 

 

“They would just become part of the cleaning process you already have in place,” says Marshall.

 

One system, the B Direct II, uses light bulbs and must be operated without anyone in the room for safety reasons. The other system, B Air, can be operated safely with people in the room.

 

“The bulbs will only have to be changed once every couple of years,” says Marshall, adding each system comes with a variety of safety features, including motion sensors and alarms. “If someone comes into the room, the system will shut off.”

 

He says the systems could also help build consumer confidence in a company’s products.

 

“There’s stuff coming off trucks covered in plastic wrap and you don’t know where it’s been. You can put a couple of lights in your loading dock to clean the skeds before your employees even touch them,” says Marshall. “And if you buy something from a particular warehouse, you now know it’s guaranteed to be clean coming out because of the process they have in place.”

 

He says this is a product that should have already been place years ago, even before the pandemic.

 

“But there wasn’t a market call for it then,” says Marshall. “It’s a proven technology that has been used in the medical industry, however, the units in the medical field can cost at least $30,000 which makes them unattainable by small businesses.”

 

But learning to make changes in business can be necessary, which he says he has witnessed firsthand in his own industry since the arrival of COVID-19 has seen most of the events Angus Audio handles cancelled or postponed.

 

“There have been a few different things pop up,” says Marshall. “But we don’t think this industry is coming back probably before the summer of next year.”

 

To combat this, besides the UV disinfection systems, he says Angus Audio has also been providing studio space at its Turnbull Court headquarters for companies wishing to create more professional online productions and content.

 

“People are being really inundated with streaming content right now and a lot of it is not good quality because it’s off a web cam,” says Marshall, adding Angus Audio has the equipment and expertise to polish any project. “We can also interface the system with other platforms, like Hopin, and run it with multiple people.”

 

Visit angusindustrial.ca or angusaudio.com to find out more information.

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Like many other business leaders, Valet Car Wash’s Mike Black found himself forced to make some hard decisions when COVID-19 struck.

 

“As things started to close down and we started to navigate our way through this as a business, we had to layoff about 100 employees which is something we’ve never done in 30 years,” he says, referring to the business he began building on Eagle Street North back in 1990 which has now grown to include eight additional locations.

 

Luckily, he was able to continue to operate portions of his business with a reduced workforce. However, not all wanted to continue working due to personal reasons, which Mike says was a difficult choice for them to make.

 

 

“We respected and understood that,” he says, adding those who did continue to work would be instrumental in keeping the business going. 

 

Mike decided some action was needed to recognize these employees.

 

“I said to my managers, ‘I will make sure the employees that stuck through this and allowed us to keep our doors open and still have a business when the other employees come back will be compensated and I will figure out away to thank them’,” he says.

It was at this point he says came his ‘aha moment’ and devised a plan.

 

“We used the wage subsidy (CEWS) to pay every employee who worked from March 16 to May 3 and a special COVID compensation ‘bonus’ of $4 per hour on top of their regular hourly rate,” he says, adding he did not reduce their regular wages. “We calculated all their hours worked during that time period x4 and whatever that amount came to, we purchased gift cards of their choosing.”

 

Mike says the employees could select up to three different cards, with the only stipulation being they could not be VISA or MasterCard gift cards.

 

“I wanted to give them something that helped the economy at the same time,” he says. “It really wouldn’t do much good if it just sat in a bank account.”

 

Approximately 50 employees utilized the cards in a variety of ways. For example, Mike says one purchased new beds for her children, another a new couch for her living room, and another who is studying photography bought a new camera. As well, another purchased a variety of foods from Zehrs to create a special meal and treats, something that employee had not done in months since the COVID-19 crisis began.

“It’s been great to hear those stories,” says Mike, adding these purchases are a great way to stimulate the whole economy. “It works the whole supply chain.”

 

He describes it as a ‘win-win’ for everyone.

 

“The employees are happy, and it’s kept us in business,” says Mike. “When you have multiple locations, you really depend on your staff.”

 

Valet Car Wash Cambridge is located at 2396 Eagle St. N. (behind Greg Vann Nissan), or visit washmycar.ca for more information. 

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What do you expect to find when you return to work after being isolated for the past few months by COVID-19?

 

Chances are it will not be the same workplace you left behind, says Human Resources consultant Frank Newman.

 

“If you just assume it will be like walking back into the office it’s not going to be that way because everyone’s expectations have changed,” says Frank, who has more than 40 years of experience in human resources to draw from and has spent the last six running his own firm called Newman Human Resources Consulting.

 

He compares the COVID-19 crisis and what we have dealt with as being similar to what astronauts face returning from space while learning to readjust to the Earth’s atmosphere.

 

“We’ve all been in the safe ‘cocoon’ of our ‘spaceships’ and suddenly we’re exposed to another environment,” says Frank. “Companies will have to take this very seriously.”

In terms of working under new guidelines and policies to ensure physical distancing, he expects many workplaces will now operate within a ‘blended’ work culture with more people working from home than ever before.

 

“You’re going to be in the office one day and half the people will be there, and half the people won’t be there,” says Frank. “It’s going to be very challenging for companies on how to manage their culture because we’re so used to having everyone in the office.”

 

Building trust, he says, between not only the company and its employees but between the employees themselves, will be key in effort to make this shift work.

“We’re going to not only have to have the right physical safeguards, but better processes in place as to how we communicate with each other. What will be the expectations if I’m working from home and my colleague is in the office? Do they have to respond to my emails in 15 or 20 minutes?” says Frank, noting there will likely be physical changes in offices also when it comes to sharing resources. “Are people even going to be comfortable putting their chicken pot pie in the microwave to warm up knowing others use it?”

 

He says it is inevitable there will be employees who may be petrified at the thought of being back in the workplace and others who will be completely callous, perhaps not respecting physical distancing guidelines or refusing to wear a mask.

To prevent these situations from escalating, Frank says there are a few steps companies can take ahead of time.

 

“They should provide as much advanced communication as possible to let everyone know what the rules of the road are,” he says. “Then they really have to figure out what’s the rhythm of work they want as people come back and how it applies for those working at home and the people working at the office.”

 

Frank says managers should aim to meet with their team, whether in person or virtually, at least once a week once people start to return and even ahead of time.

“It’s important for managers and other people to check in with their colleagues,” he says, noting some employees will be dealing with mental health issues. “We’ve all been through so much turmoil with this and some may have suffered severe losses during this time.”

 

Franks says enhanced benefit plans will be a big help to not only current employees but as a great incentive to recruit new employees. Also, he said ensuring new recruits have a space at home to work could become part of the norm during the hiring process should another lockdown occur.

 

“We need to be prepared for this at any point in time,” he says, adding companies may also be expected to reimburse employees for equipment to work from home, such as laptops and enhanced internet.

 

Frank also recommends the creation of ‘time free zones’ for those working at home, allowing them a period to complete tougher tasks uninterrupted by emails or virtual meetings.

 

“We’ve been absolutely deluged with communication at this time,” he says, referring to the numerous emails and regular Zoom calls many people working at home have been dealing with. “It’s actually draining our productivity.”

 

For more information, contact Frank Newman at 519.362.8352, or visit www.newmanhumanresources.com

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The effects of COVID-19 continue to test our economy, but the fiscal uncertainties surrounding this unprecedented crisis has not stopped many local businesses from reaching out to help others.

 

From local food banks, to frontline workers, to seniors and those with disabilities, the Cambridge business community has come forward to ensure those in need during this pandemic are not forgotten.

 

“The Cambridge community has always been exceptionally supportive of the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank and they’ve stepped up for us in a way like we’ve never seen before,” says Dianne McLeod, the food bank’s interim executive director. “We’ve had lot of different restaurants donating products to us, whether it’s milk or eggs; stuff we’re not typically able to offer to everyone.”

 

But financial donations have also been coming in to allow the food bank to purchase some much-needed supplies for the 100 or so clients it serves daily, and Dianne credits many local businesses for this valuable support.

 

“We have all been so affected by the COVID-19 crisis and even though as a business have had our challenges, we all want to help those who truly need help,” says Christina Marshall, Director of Business Development at Gaslight Events Company Inc. which operates Tapestry Hall.

 

Her company, through its Tapestry Hall Delivers program which offers healthy meals via delivery and curbside pickup, has been donating $1 from every order to the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank and The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

 

“We have had two very solid weeks of the food delivery services, which means two weeks of orders that are supporting the food banks in our region,” says Christina.

 

But tasty dishes are not the only way the food bank has benefitted. Funky t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘Eat, Sleep, Quarantine, Repeat’ have been popping up all over our community on social media thanks to a charitable partnership between MitoGraphics and Cambridge Centre Honda.

 

Since mid-April, the two companies have sold dozens of the shirts for $20 each, with every cent from each sale being divided equally between not only the food bank, but Trinity Community Table, Cambridge Shelter Corporation (The Bridges), and Women’s Crisis Services Waterloo Region.

 

“A friend in Peterborough who owns and operates a Honda dealership was creating t-shirts and I loved the idea,” says Cambridge Centre Honda’s Nicole Pereira, explaining how the idea came about. “I thought if Peterborough can make this happen, so can Cambridge.”

 

With the expert help of MitoGraphics’ Kristen Danson, the women went to work creating their #QuarantineTees in several colours and through the power of social media have started a virtual movement of support.

 

Originally, they had hoped to sell 50 of the shirts but during a pre-launch weekend sale in mid-April wound up more than doubling their sales.

 

“We both love our community and think the people of Cambridge are awesome, so it’s not surprising that we have received such great support,” says Nicole, adding the t-shirts have now been sold as far west as Alberta and on the East Coast.

 

She says the four charities have been great at promoting the shirts on social media and that one local store, Once Upon a Child, has also been selling them via its online store.

 

“There are so many great examples of businesses giving back to our community,” says Nicole.

 

For Golfplay’s President and General Manager Steve Harris, giving back seemed liked the best thing his business could do since it was required to shut its doors along with thousands of other Canadian businesses back in March.

 

“There are lots of needy organizations,” he says, noting after sitting idle for about two weeks, Golfplay fired up its stone pizza oven in its Ironwood Bistro to try a new approach. “I thought, we’ve got a perfectly good pizza oven so why not sell pizzas and give some of the money to charities?”

 

They tried doing it one day a week and gave $10 from every pizza sold, starting with the Cambridge Memorial Hospital and The Bridges shelter. They quickly sold out and began doing it three nights a week (Thursday to Saturday), selecting different charities each week to benefit, including Grand River Hospital, St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation, Family & Children’s Services Foundation, and more recently the Sunnyside Foundation.

 

Orders for pizzas and other menu items are taken online for fast and easy curbside pickup.

 

“We just kind of go around,” says Steve, referring to how the charities are selected. “All of them could use help because their fundraising events have been cancelled.”

He says working with charities is also a good way to foster new relationships and potential spinoffs down the road when restrictions eventually ease.

 

“This has sort of helped increase the awareness of what we do here. People at least get the chance to sample our food,” says Steve, joking many people may not think of getting great pizza from a place called Golfplay.

 

“We’re trying to build a business and trying to give something back in the process,” he says, describing the situation as a ‘win-win-win’ for all involved. “The customers win because they feel good about helping others, we win because we get more exposure and the charities win because they receive some money in the process.”

 

Support among those in the business community is crucial says Christina, especially as the recovery process begins.

 

“By banding together and helping each other get through this, we show our strength as a community economically and socially,” she says. “If a business closes, the employees lose their income and that means other businesses do not benefit from that person’s buying power.”

 

Keeping that in mind, Tapestry Hall’s Delivers and HIP Developments have formed a partnership to create the Feeding the Frontlines program. On the Tapestry Hall Delivers’ website, customers have the option to contribute to the program which aims to see $5,000 in meal vouchers distributed to essential workers in Waterloo Region, including those working in healthcare, shelters, and grocery stores. On the site, the public can nominate businesses where essential workers are busy.

 

“They are doing the hard work in this community,” says HIP Developments President Scott Higgins. “We are just trying to find ways we can say thank you and make their family lives a little easier.”

 

Christina agrees and says these workers have gone into work each day to ensure the rest of us have the things we need.

 

“We wanted to do something kind to say thanks,” she says. “A stress-free meal may not seem like a lot, but when you have had a long and sometimes scary week at work, one less thing, like cooking a dinner or meal planning, can help ease that stress.”

 

Easing stress for others is what prompted Driverseat Cambridge owner Sean Mulder to follow the lead of the company’s Calgary office and offer a ‘shop and drop’ program free to seniors and those with disabilities. Those in need of groceries can call, or text Driverseat and will be provided with a link that allows them to fill out a grocery order.

 

“It’s kind of cool. We’re the third location to test this out,” says Sean, adding having fewer people going to grocery stores means less points of contact to spread the virus. “This makes great sense.”

 

Driverseat chauffeurs, many of whom Sean says are doing this on a volunteer basis since many only work part time for the company, do the shopping for the customer using a preauthorized payment system and then deliver the groceries following strict physical distancing guidelines. Currently, Driverseat is offering this at a few stores but expects that will increase as the program expands.

 

“A lot of our posts on social media have received a wide reach and from that, we’re getting quite a lot of people calling and messaging us,” says Sean.

 

He says since a huge portion of Driverseat’s regular services have been scaled back considerably since the lockdown began, this has allowed the company team to stay connected. Also, Sean says it has been a boost for those in need and are isolated on their own.

 

“It gives people peace of mind. We’re a person they can talk to,” he says, adding clients can call the chauffeur if they have special requests that may not be on the grocery list, or if they forgot to add something. “They’re not just punching information into an app; with us there’s a voice you can talk to.”

 

Sean admits even though businesses are facing challenging times it shouldn’t prevent them from lending a hand.

 

“There’s a huge need in our community and if you have the means or the time, you should do something,” he says.

 

Christina agrees, especially when it comes to assisting the non-profit sector.

“If you have the chance to help those that are helping others, isn’t it the right thing to do?” she says.

 

At the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, Dianne says she is thrilled by the extent of generosity from the business community which has included free security service and the creation of safe work stations for staff to work with clients at the front of the building thanks to the donation of free reno work.  As well, she says the local CAA office has deployed its vehicles to pick up food bank donations from the grocery store bins.

 

“No matter what people’s struggles are, they’re still considering us and donating to us which helps us keep going,” says Dianne.

 

Contact Information:

 

For information about Tapestry Hall Delivers, visit www.tapestryhall.ca

 

To order a #QuarantineTee visit www.cambridgecentrehonda.com/community-fundraiser/

 

For information about Golfplay, visit www.golfplay.ca

 

Contact Driverseat Cambridge at www.driverseatinc.com, or call 226-241-3736

 

For information about the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank (which now has community donation bins set up at St. John’s Anglican Church in Preston and PetroKing in Hespeler), visit www.cambridgefoodbank.org

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Physical distancing and thoroughly washing your hands are ways for the general public to battle the spread of COVID-19.

 

For manufacturers looking to find ways to help fight the battle by retooling their operations to create much-needed medical supplies such as masks and face shields, collaboration is the key way says Steve Mai, CEO and President of Eclipse Automation, one of many local companies stepping up to the plate.

 

“It really helps if you build networks,” says the Eclipse founder. “Don’t work in a bubble, get out there and do it.”

 

 

The Cambridge-based company, which has been an industry leader in custom automated manufacturing equipment for 20 years, recently inked an agreement with Harmontronics Automation in China to manufacture, sell and distribute its automated N95 vertical flat fold respirator mask production line system in North America. As well, Eclipse also signed an agreement last week with Irema Ireland to access its N95 and FFP2 mask product designs and technology, including respirator designs, specifications, and manufacturing process for exclusive use in Canada.

 

These agreements will provide Eclipse the opportunity to rapidly create automation systems to support the design and assemble these important medical supplies, plus pave the way for a domestically produced N95 respirator.

 

Ultimately, Steve has a goal to produce vital life-saving protection products domestically.

 

“We shouldn’t be losing sight of the fact that we have a definite problem in quality of what is coming in through the supply chain,” he says. “I want to know there are masks produced in this country that have every element of the supply chain controlled.”

 

He admits the overall process has been taking place at a slower pace than he’d like, taking into consideration the strict regulations in place to have a mask receive NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approval, but notes Eclipse has not lost sight of  its end goal to ensure these supplies get into the hands of those who need them most. According to a recent media release, Eclipse expects to be first-to-market domestically by early July and plans to ramp up to make one million units per week.

 

“This is what we do for a living, this is not a secondary thing we’re trying to get into,” says Steve, describing the company’s decision to enter the battle against COVID-19.

He says the company, which employs approximately 800 people among its locations in Cambridge, U.S., Europe and China, has used a foundational approach by building on its core competencies to reach its goal.

 

He recommends other companies wishing to retool should consider doing the same.

“They’ve got to be careful not to overextend themselves and stay with what they know and focus on their core competencies,” says Steve, adding working with others is also important.

 

“We’re learning about a completely different network than we’re used to,” he says. “I’m seeing people sharing their ideas and being quite open.”

 

Since Eclipse undertook this major endeavour back in March, Steve says he has connected with many businesses that he has never had contact with before and expects to see these new relationships only strengthen.

 

“There’s some decent networking that’s going to come out of all this,” he says, describing the numerous phone calls he has had with various business leaders. “It’s really been amazing. I can’t wait to meet them in person.”

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As the days turn into weeks in the battle against COVID-19, it’s imperative for businesses to adapt to this new reality.

 

Many are now using videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Cisco Webex, and GoToMeeting as a method to not only keep in touch with their co-workers but as an important tool to conduct business.

 

Mastering this technology is key when it comes to marketing your business says Mike Jennings, president of the Cambridge-based digital marketing agency MoreSALES.

 

“A lot of companies will judge you based not only on your ability to communicate but your ability to use technology well,” he says, explaining tech-based firms, along with banks and insurance companies, are more willing to work with organizations that are comfortable with technology.

 

Mike says Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote, ‘the medium is the message’, still holds true, especially in today’s technologically advanced business world.

 

“Marketing is really about building trust as quickly as possible so the more you can look competent and communicate your message clearly and efficiently, the better,” he says. “That’s where Zoom can really be a benefit to companies.”

 

Mike says his company had used GoToMeeting in the past but switched to Zoom approximately two years ago after finding it more reliable and easier for clients to navigate.

 

“We’ve been using it ever since and we’ve also been using it as a marketing tool,” he says, referring to the way Zoom allows his company to present ideas to clients through screen sharing and webinars.

 

However, Mike says prior to the arrival of COVID-19 his staff often didn’t use the video portion of the platform which can take up a great deal of bandwidth unless there is good connectivity. And while some companies have been scrambling when COVID-19 struck to find ways for their employees to work from home, that wasn’t the case at MoreSALES.

 

“Our staff has been able to work remotely for years so it wasn’t a cultural shift at all,” he says, noting in 2016 his company switched to a smaller office footprint.

 

When it comes to using Zoom, or other videoconferencing platforms, Mike is a firm believer that “familiarity breeds confidence.”

 

“Getting really familiar with the platform is important because it makes things go a lot smoother,” he says. “So, get familiar with the platform and learn where all the buttons are.”

 

He says getting to know how to use the ‘mute’ button can be key during an online meeting or discussion. 

 

As well, being aware of what may be in your background is also important.

“Nothing is worse than people seeing stupid stuff there, and it’s distracting,” says Mike, adding common sense should prevail.

 

Also, he says camera position is another big consideration a participant in a videoconference should think about before joining the group.

 

“It’s all about camera work in a sense. Ideally, the camera should be pointing dead on or pointing down,” says Mike, adding the same principles people use when trying to take that ideal selfie can be applied in this situation.

 

And when it comes to ‘Zoombombing’, a concept which has seen a recent surge of hackers and jokers interrupt online discussions, he says there are steps that can be taken to discourage unwanted ‘guests’ from joining.

 

“You can set up a password and email it to those only in the meeting,” says Mike. “You can also set up a waiting room and participants can be accepted before coming into the meeting.”

 

Most importantly, he says do not advertise your Zoom meeting on social media to ward off potential hacking.

 

He believes using platforms like Zoom will likely become the norm for many businesses once the crisis finally ends and people become more comfortable with the technology.

 

“If you know what you’re doing and you’re able to quickly adapt your process to video marketing and video calls, and still communicate clearly and well – and not have clutter in the background and fumbling with buttons and being useless with technology – that goes a long way,” says Mike.

 

Here’s a few Zoom tips that may help:

  • Use a Zoom-generated meeting ID, rather than your personal ID;
  • Have attendees register to attend to dissuade crashers;
  • Select one or more alternative hosts to help you manage the meeting in the event of an issue;
  • Discuss potential issues with your co-hosts and create a plan to respond to technical difficulties or other disruptions;
  • Disable the option for attendees to join before the host and enable the option to mute participants when they enter the meeting;
  • Control screen sharing during the meeting;
  • Close the door if you can between you and anyone else in your living space, or use headphones;
  • You can also download the Zoom app to your phone and go audio-only;
  • Automatically schedule meetings – and let people know about them;
  • Create recurring meetings with saved settings and one URL;
  • Record the call as a video.
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Just a few short weeks ago it literally was business usual for everyone.

 

But as the scope of the COVID-19 crisis began to unveil itself all businesses, both big and small, were immediately faced with making some very tough decisions.

 

“When we initially heard everything what was happening with COVID-19  we decided to adjust to the situation and maintain a very safe environment,” says Christine Grant, co-owner of Modo Yoga Cambridge, noting reducing class sizes at their Ainslie Street North studio and introducing even stricter cleaning protocols were the first steps.  “But as the situation developed and we realized we had to close our doors it was incredibly emotional. You almost feel like you’re failing the community when you say, ‘we have to close our doors’.”

 

Mike Hruden, general manager and co-founder of Four Fathers Brewing Company said the moment the province first announced the closure of non-essential services it resulted in near panic.

 

“We had a very crazy day in retail because people thought everything was closing,” he says, adding that concern subsided once a revised short list of closures was announced.

 

But like all business owners they quickly realized they would have to switch gears to operate in this unprecedented economic reality.

 

“You can try to be a trendsetter but you don’t know what’s right or wrong, or what you can or can’t do, so we really paid attention to what the government has been posting,” says Mike, referring to the steps his business has taken.

 

Sadly, he says Four Fathers Brewing had to layoff its kitchen and taproom staff but continues to offer free local delivery and curbside pickup at its Guelph Avenue location. Takeout, delivery and curbside pickup are steps many local restaurants and eateries have now undertaken as the crisis continues.

 

“The first thing which has taken off and seems to be appreciated by the local community is free local delivery,” says Mike, noting it began as a March promotion but has been extended.

 

Although most of Four Fathers’ orders are coming from Cambridge, he’s also seen orders come in from Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph.  He says they are looking at extending the service to Fergus and Elora.

 

“It’s just something that allows people to stay inside and when we deliver, we put the box at the door and stand back and greet them,” says Mike, adding  similar safety protocols are in place with their curbside pickup which has jumped to at least 70 orders last week alone compared to the five or six they saw a month.

 

“There’s a lot of change happening right now, so you have to take it day by day,” he says.

 

Christine and her business partner, Emily Drouillard, agree and say thinking outside the box and being open to any ideas to assist customers is key.

 

“So many businesses have already made that shift,” says Christine, referring to online services now being offered by numerous local businesses, including food and supply pickups and fitness classes. “Don’t think about ‘what I’m not able to do in this situation’, but ‘what can I still do?’.”

 

She says business owners must realize that offering the same service as they did before is nearly impossible.

 

“You just have to do the best you can right now. You can sit and sulk, or you can get up and figure out how to move forward,” says Christine.

 

In their case they were fortunate the Modo Yoga community, which includes more than 70 studios worldwide, was able in just a few days time launch an online network offering numerous classes from around the world.

 

“It was pretty amazing,” says Emily, who says the Modo Yoga community initially had plans to launch this network in the fall but quickly decided to step up the process when the pandemic struck. “Four days going into this there were no videos but the whole community rallied together to send off videos and make content available, so now there’s hundreds of videos and it’s updated daily.”

 

As well, Modo Yoga Cambridge offers two live classes daily on its Instagram account, which are saved for future viewing to ensure followers can practice with their favourite instructors on their own schedules.

 

“It’s been a big learning curve for us,” admits Christine, explaining instructors themselves are learning to adjust conducting virtual classes. “But the response has been great and the support from the community has been wonderful.”

 

Emily agrees and says community support is vital to getting through this crisis.

“What we’re seeing is how responsive our community has been to this shift,” she says, adding very few businesses were prepared for something like this. “Nobody really has a choice in the matter.”

 

But businesses themselves are also doing their part to support the community, including adapting their services to help the healthcare industry.

 

At Four Fathers, Mike says they’ve created a batch of beer which is being sold over the next few months to benefit the Cambridge Memorial Hospital in its fight against COVID-19. He’s hoping to raise at least $4,000 through this fundraiser towards the purchase of needed medical supplies, including masks.

 

“We’ll give them a donation and they can buy whatever it is they want from their donation list,” he says.

 

For local realtor Scott Bennett, who works at the ReMax Real Estate Centre on Hespeler Road, giving back to the community has resulted in a growing movement. Since late January, when COVID-19 was only a threat to Canada, he began a campaign of creating and delivering emergency hygiene packs to those in need, including seniors and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

 

To date, and with the support of the Cambridge Rotary Club, ReMax and volunteers, his campaign has resulted in the delivery of at least 400 kits each containing hand sanitizer, antibacterial hand soap, non-latex gloves and disinfectant wipes.

 

“There’s been such a big response from the community,” says Scott, who receives messages on Facebook regarding residents who need kits.

 

“I’ve been doing quite a bit of running around. A lot of the products are hard to find now,” he says. “I’ve had some store managers who call me when they get in a new shipment.”

 

The kits are packed at Fiddlesticks Community Centre where Scott is now including homemade disinfectant wipes created by liquid Lysol soaked in cloth purchased online in bulk.

 

“We drop off the kits on the porch and there’s no contact. I’m really surprised by the demand and the need,” says Scott, adding his real estate work hasn’t slowed down. “I’ve actually been pretty busy with that lately. I thought a pandemic would slow things down.”

 

He says conducting even more virtual tours has become the norm and that great care and the necessary precautions are being taken when showing clients’ a home.

“It’s not the ideal situation but a lot people have to move because they’re closing on other houses,” says Scott.

 

It’s expected our current situation may not change for several months, but in the meantime, staying connected and healthy is important.

 

“We feel now more than ever it’s important people keep moving their bodies and connecting with friends,” says Emily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am a small business owner based in Cambridge, Ontario.  Along with my partners, we operate two manufacturing operations employing a total of about 25 people.

 

I am proud of all of the response of our political leaders to this crisis on all levels – local, provincial and federal.  They have taken a sober and analytical approach to the immediate needs of the citizens of this country.

 

Their willingness to commit funds, resources and support to our front line workers, small businesses and all in need will get Canada through this ordeal.

 

As a business owner, my top priority is always looking ahead to determine how I can not only succeed; but avoid unexpected disruption to my team; and minimize our potential for risk of any kind.

 

This is where I think the business community needs more support from our leaders.

 

The question of when we should re-open for business is open for debate.  The leaders in Canada, USA and abroad have differing opinions on this matter. 

 

There is only one question on my mind – what is required for me to do business in a way that will be safe for my team, clients and supply chain?  This is the question that must be answered prior to our return to regular business.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that the scientists of the world will determine when it should happen; using the tools and expertise available to them.  It brings me comfort to know that our Canadian politicians are being guided by science in their decision making process on these issues.  

 

However, there is another component to this decision that I think we are neglecting.  Whenever we return to work, it will be to a new business landscape.  There are new risks, new considerations and a higher expectation from the community for business owners to provide a safe working environment.  As a community, we need to determine what will be required to have in place prior to a return to “regular” business. Until we have a vaccine / “herd immunity”, do workers require masks to be safe?  Do we need to require hand sanitizer at entry points to work areas and require all team members to use?  In Taiwan, there are some common practise expectations for citizens that have allowed them to maintain a very low infection level of COVID without restriction on children being at school, or businesses operating normally.  What can we learn from their example that can help us to prepare to resume our work?

 

If Toyota, Honda, or even my business or a local hair salon re-opened in two or four weeks without making any adaptations to how the risk of COVID transmission is controlled; how will we have made progress against this disease?

 

The saying “time heals all wounds” has never resonated with me.  Time doesn’t heal all wounds; but time does offer us the opportunity to prepare for what is coming at  us next.  We know that the economy will have to resume prior to COVID being completely eradicated.  The question is – what will we as a community do to mitigate the risk of another peak of infection as we make that return to the new normal?

 

There is no question that children will have to return to school; I am less concerned about when that happens than I am about what the plan is to keep them safe and healthy once they are there.  We have the example of how Taiwan has made this work; kids wearing masks and having plastic cubicle style dividers between desks during meals.  Will we use this time to learn from their example and adapt our own action plan for what is required to be in place prior to resuming their in class education?  My hope is that we do. 

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is starting to gather experts and business owners to start this discussion.  I am proud to be a part of this discussion; I look forward to learning and planning together with others to determine how we as a business community can plan to get back to business.  This is new territory for everyone – consumers, business owners, employees, politicians, government, youth and seniors.  If we can agree on the supports that are needed to re-open in a safe manner, the time spent until that happens can be spent planning and making the required changes to how we do business to accommodate the new reality we live in.  If as a community we neglect this opportunity to plan and adapt, we are destined to repeat this cycle of the pandemic again in the not so distant future.

 

This is work that our Chambers of Commerce, professional associations, industry associations, regulatory bodies or governing standard registrars, perhaps the labour unions and school boards are well poised to do.  They have connections to business in their sector, a communication channel with a broad range of companies in a vertical market, and the support of their members.  If we all pressure these organizations in our own industries to get to work on our behalf, we can start planning for the future.

 

It’s time to change the question from “when can we re-open” to “what is required for a safe and healthy re-opening in my workplace to get through this crisis”?

 

Let’s get to work.

 

Kristen Danson

Managing Partner

MitoGraphics Inc. / Swift Components Corp

519 240-4205 Direct

 

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The impact of the COVID-19 crisis is affecting all of us in countless ways.

 

But for the most vulnerable in our community, the impact is even greater.

That’s why Dianne McLeod, interim executive director of the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, is urging everyone to help.

 

“Even if you only put an extra can of something in the donation bin at the store that would be fantastic,” she said, noting the food bank driver has been picking up donations daily from the grocery stores.

 

The food bank, which normally assists approximately 1,600 families a month, has been providing its clients with pre-packed hampers of donations since the crisis ramped up and has seen many of its supplies dwindle quickly.

 

As of Wednesday (March 18), Dianne says the food bank was running low on many staple items, including peanut butter as well as pasta and pasta sauce.

 

“I’m not sure about next week,” she admits.

 

Dianne was grateful to receive some donations of perishable foods from local restaurants who’ve decided not to provide takeout and close their doors due to the crisis.

 

“They’ve been sending their stuff to us, which is great,” she says, adding the food bank also purchased $8,000 worth of supplies. “Unfortunately, some of the things are not available to purchase at all.”

 

Among the donations needed are rice, canned fish, child friendly snacks, canned fruit, soups and stews, and oatmeal.

 

Besides buying supplies, the food bank has also altered its hours of operation and now offers its community lunch in a ‘come and go’ format rather than a sit-down meal.

 

But it’s the clients that can’t make to the Ainslie Street South facility that are causing Dianne great concern.

 

“One of the biggest ways to help us right now is to check on your elderly neighbours and bring them some food,” she says, explaining the food bank has altered its in-take system to make it easier to get supplies to those in need.

 

In terms of emergency planning, Dianne says the food bank was already well prepared thanks to its former executive director Pat Singleton who put plans in place during the SARS and H1N1 crises. This includes providing the necessary emergency equipment.

 

“Everyone is feeling safe down here,” she says.

 

For information about the food bank, including a link to make a financial donation to Canada Helps, please visit  https://cambridgefoodbank.org/blog/

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