As Corporate Training Lead at BCIT, and Program Head for the Advanced Diploma in Business Management, it’s Amy Fell’s job to help new and aspiring business leaders succeed in the marketplace. But within the last year, that marketplace has transformed significantly—and perhaps permanently.
It’s why uncertainty is the first word that comes to mind when she thinks about what BC business owners faced during the pandemic, and what they’ll have to navigate in the future.
“Uncertainty is still the main challenge in many ways,” says Amy. “Externally, businesses have had to navigate changing customer needs, supply chain disruption, precarious work situations, and job losses. Internally, they’ve had to adapt to changing safety requirements and enable remote work—developing new skills in the moment, and honing them hour by hour.”
Yet, she maintains that change is good. “We generally resist change and prefer to set up a routine that can sustain us over time, but the pandemic forced everyone to reboot and refresh,” notes Amy. “It also gave the gift of time—time to really reflect on our future in terms of work and life, and how to balance what matters most.”
As a result, Amy believes there are immense opportunities for entrepreneurs hoping to establish new companies as the economy returns to a steadier state. Here, she shares some of the trends emerging leaders should be thinking about as they envision and build their businesses.
Modern business models are digitized and distributed
Digital transformation was one of the biggest challenges brought on by the pandemic. Many companies had no choice but to bring their technology infrastructure and capabilities up to date—and they had to complete these projects in a matter of months when they normally could have taken several years.
Now, businesses that are launching post-pandemic have a better idea of the systems and practices they need to have in place if they want to succeed.
The expanded role of e-commerce is here to stay
Everyone is talking about the growth of e-commerce across all industries. “I’ve been having conversations with colleagues about online ordering, and those businesses that adopted it say they will continue. They have made the transition and now rely on the service,” says Amy. And it’s safe to assume that consumers, who became well acquainted with the convenience of curbside pickup and delivery, have come to expect it.
People want to work from anywhere
“Top talent now expects remote work or hybrid work, and the path to establishing the standards and best practices outside of a global pandemic is yet to be determined,” says Amy. However, she notes that students at BCIT now know what it’s like to quickly pivot to working virtually, and that this provides valuable context for when they start their own businesses. “They’re primed for the market, and can navigate this in a really smooth and informed way.”
It’s essential to embrace community and sustainability
While it’s true that the pandemic dealt a devastating blow to many small and medium-sized businesses, it also helped people everywhere appreciate how vital these companies are to sustaining vibrant, self-sufficient communities and economies.
As BC settles into a new normal, business leaders have a dual opportunity. Not only do consumers want to support companies in their own neighbourhoods, but environmental stewardship and social engagement are quickly becoming key differentiators for companies.
Consumers are thinking globally by buying locally
The pandemic didn’t just negatively impact small businesses. “Closure of big box operators has created market space for new, local operators,” says Amy. “Consumers also seem to care more about the where, what, and how of their purchases, and are asking more questions now. Gone are the days when they just grabbed the cheapest option available.”
Social and environmental responsibility are critical
Amy has also observed that here in BC and around the world, entrepreneurs are looking to offer products and services that are good for people, communities, and the planet. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also the right kind of publicity, attracting the right kind of investment.
“The businesses that are going to thrive are those that are paying attention to signals of change, and reaching out, working with, and connecting to their community,” says Amy. “Entrepreneurs have realized that what’s good for everyone is also good for them.”
Embracing change: Nisga’a Employment Services
When the pandemic forced economic activity to pause in BC, it provided an unforeseen opportunity for organizations to focus on upskilling, reskilling, and education. The Nisga’a Nation seized it.
“Nisga’a Employment Services approached BCIT because the nation has a number of people who were business owners and operators who wanted to use that time to build their capabilities and take their companies up to the next level,” says Amy. “Others had lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and were looking to branch out and take things in a different direction.”
In response, BCIT ran two cohorts through a two-week entrepreneurship program, bringing together seasoned business operators alongside brand new entrepreneurs. Everyone in the program identified a local need, and planned how they would provide a local solution.
“It took them all the way through the pro forma process, so that they could set out all components of what they’ll need to build a business plan,” says Amy. “Many of them are looking to get up and running in the Nass Valley, where the Nisga’a Nation is located, and then expand to Terrace and across Northern BC. There’s so much development in the north right now, so it’s primed for that.”
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Supporting tomorrow’s business owners
In today’s reinvigorated, post-pandemic economy, new entrepreneurs know what to expect. They understand that employees and customers need to be able to engage virtually, they realize they need to show leadership in social and environmental responsibility, and they know they need to be resilient in the face of uncertainty. Now they just need the right skills to take advantage of the opportunities that are already there.
There are many programs at BCIT designed to help students excel as entrepreneurs. Talk to an advisor to find out which one is the best fit for you or, if you already have an established business, check out our Corporate Training services. Our interactive workshops, led by BCIT faculty and industry leaders, are designed to help you realize your organization’s potential.