Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

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 Ontario Chamber of Commerce has been working behind the scenes with local Chambers since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure the needs of 

the province’s business community are met. Besides weekly ‘town hall’ meetings allowing Chambers to connect with various provincial and federal leaders to obtain firsthand information, the OCC has been advocating government on many issues to assist businesses during their time of need. And as Ontario begins to reopen its economy, there are many changes ahead regarding the way business will be conducted. 

 

We recently chatted with Ontario Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rocco Rossi about the effects of this crisis and what lies ahead for businesses:

 

 

 

Chamber: What role has the Ontario Chamber of Commerce played during the COVID-19 crisis?

RR: We serve as a conduit between businesses and various levels of government so we’re giving them the best advice as to where the real pain points are. As they (government) have been putting out policies, we’ve been actively advocating for changes, adjustments, and then communicating as clearly as we can, to our members, who, quite frankly, have been overwhelmed by this crisis. I think they’ve (Chamber network) been incredibly appreciative, particularly the smaller ones because the smaller the Chamber you are, the fewer resources you have. You literally are wearing every hat. We were very quick out of the gate with an online tool that all our Chambers could share and build on for their own members and customize to meet their needs.

 

Chamber: What do you see as the role of Chambers at the local level, especially as Ontario moves towards reopening?

RR: Chambers have multiple roles and we’re seeing examples of it everywhere. One, is sharing stories. The Cambridge Chamber has been fantastic about raising the issue of franchises and raising the issue that some owners are paying themselves through dividends versus income so they’ve been falling through the cracks, and we’ve been pushing on that. Cambridge was a big part of the push in saving main street and talking about rent subsidies. You also have Chambers like Newmarket that are working with their local governments to create programs helping to encourage shop local and building networks of retired businesspeople to help SMEs navigate their way through this. Chambers are playing an absolutely critical role. 

 

Chamber: Are you satisfied with the response to the crisis from the provincial and federal levels of government?

RR: Governments have been moving at a pace far faster than they ever have before. Oddly, for many, it still won’t be enough because this has gone on longer than anyone has anticipated and in a world with no vaccine, and a required and appropriate slow reopening, there will be more damage and loss. But we’re doing everything in our powers to ensure to keep as much as the economy afloat as possible. As a society, we need to have that recovery at the end of this. The only sustainable solution to all of this is economic recovery. Government cannot continue to print money indefinitely. They’ve done some remarkable and extraordinary things which we agree are important to do, but wow, the numbers are eye watering at this point and will only continue to grow. So, we need to start bringing those unemployment numbers down. We need to start opening businesses appropriately and safely so that we will be able to pay taxes as opposed to the need for more government support. That’s the ultimate way we get to the other side of this.

 

Chamber: Is the right course of action being utilized for Ontario’s reopening? 

RR: I will say, to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, ‘It’s the worst possible reopening plan, except for all the other reopening plans’. The bottom line is we’ve all sacrificed, some sadly and tragically with their lives. We have to do this right the first time and so it has to be slow, we applaud the government for that. We don’t want to have spikes that will take us back to a total lockdown because that would be deadly for our psyche, for our confidence, and for our economy. So, we want to do this properly and to do that we need more testing capability, we need more tracking and tracing, and we need more access to PPE that goes beyond our healthcare workers that have, rightfully, been the focus up until now. If you’re going to open up businesses and build confidence, that PPE is going to be seen more in businesses and training for our employees so that again, both the employees and consumers have confidence that every step that can be taken is being taken. Until we have a vaccine, we will be co-existing with COVID-19. No one can promise, without a vaccine, that there will be zero future infections and zero future deaths because that is not attainable. What should and must be attainable is zero tolerance for incompetence and zero tolerance for doing things too quickly. If we have the training and the PPE, and the testing, tracking, and tracing, anytime it flares up we can quickly put that fire out. 

 

Chamber: What is an important takeaway for business owners from this crisis?

RR: One of the big things we’ve seen through all of this is to uncover and highlight even more so the digital divide in Ontario. Those who’ve been able to make the transition to be able to do more of their business online have actually been able to weather the storm stronger and those habits being created now – even my parents who are in their eighties are now shopping online – are not something that’s going away. However, it underscores the need for the infrastructure for broadband to be everywhere because right now, too many communities, individuals, and businesses don’t have access to broadband. If they are going to recover and participate in the economy of the 21stcentury, that infrastructure has to be there in the same way that in the post-war period a network of highways and other infrastructure was required to rebuild and grow the economy. 

 

Chamber: What advice can you offer SMEs?

RR: Make sure you’re thinking about how you can safely reopen. I know you’re worried about cash flow; I know you’re worried about debt and worried about meeting that next rent cheque, but the reopening is beginning. Those that plan everything out so that when they do reopen consumers and employees will want to go there, are the ones that are going to thrive in this next stage.

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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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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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Self-isolation. Social distancing.

 

These are terms that have now become part of our daily life in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, which is causing anxiety worldwide both socially and economically.

 

But ensuring we maintain good mental health amidst this trying time is vital, says Angela Englander, a registered psychotherapist and trauma specialist who operates Ways to Wellbeing Therapy in Cambridge and Tillsonburg.

 

“We need to be reaching out to each other now more than ever,” she says. “We really need to be connecting with our community.”

 

Angela, who specializes in the treatment of all of types trauma, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), says what we’re dealing with is very similar to what the world experienced during the First and Second World Wars.

 

“We’re getting isolated and starting to get scared of each other,” she says, adding that in the years following the COVID-19 crisis we may be faced with a large number of people dealing with PTSD and a variety of mental health issues. “Many people appear to be having an acute traumatic stress response right now in that they're hypervigilant and full of adrenaline and flooded emotionally.”

 

Angela says nightmares and trouble sleeping are just a few of the common reactions to trauma people may be experiencing.  She has, however, noticed that some of her clients who are dealing with PTSD seem less concerned since many already often live in self-isolation.

 

“They’re saying, ‘the rest of the world is living like us now, and that’s kind of validating’,” she says, adding there are others who fear society will break down as a whole.

 

“People are concerned about becoming ill, experiencing pain, suffering, starving and having their neighbours and people around them turn on them, with riots in the streets.”

 

Angela says the long-term effects of PTSD could include headaches, flashbacks and mood swings.

 

“I think there will be a lot of mental health fallout but I hope the government will step up to fund psychotherapy so people can heal,” she says.

 

Currently, OHIP does not cover the cost of psychotherapy.

 

To combat these fears and anxieties surrounding COVID-19, Angela recommends not only reaching out to a professional for coping strategies and support but by creating a daily routine of self-care.

 

“Maintain routine and focus on your accomplishments,” she says. “Stay connected to others through social media or Skype or by phone.”

 

She says deep breathing, stretching and yoga are also good methods to boost good mental health.

 

“And now that we may not be distracted as much by our work, we can start connecting with more of the community,” says Angela. “This could be our golden opportunity to turn things around.”

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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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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has a brand-new online look.

 

The Chamber’s new website offers visitors a fresh and vivid digital experience as they access information on the many learning programs, incentives and events we offer that benefit our local business community.

 

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer a new site that is easy to navigate and still provides our Members with the valuable information they’ve come to expect,” says Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

With a click of a button on the home page or from the ‘events’ page, Members will be able to easily access and manage their own accounts using a simple username system. They will not only be able to update their profiles to add or delete employees but will also be able to pay bills online.

 

“This feature will be a huge benefit to our Members and streamline our operation so we can concentrate on what we do best: helping businesses grow and prosper,” says Durocher.

 

The site itself is much brighter and colourful and contains fewer links which in turn will make using it a far more engaging experience for visitors.

 

As well, a new mobile site is included which means much clearer access on all digital devices.

 

“We have no doubt users will find this feature a huge bonus,” says Durocher, noting how much communication is conducted on smartphones.  “It’s important for all businesses to adapt to the latest trends.”

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