• Policy Blog

  • Blog 3 - May 5, 2020

  • For a few weeks now, we’ve been hearing about jurisdictions across the world announcing phased approaches to reopening their economies, while remaining in the dark about what is going to happen in our own backyard. I am pretty sure we all felt the collective excitement when our Premier announced Alberta’s recovery plan last week. Given the unprecedented times however, that excitement came with a big dose of uncertainty about how that’s going to happen practically.

    While some businesses (primarily healthcare providers – but also golf courses) and parks are already allowed to reopen, phase one of the strategy is really set to start on May 14th. Every business is different, but generally the first phase allows retail locations, personal care services (including hair stylists, etc), restaurants, outdoor recreation, daycares, and summer camps to reopen. The caveat for reopening is ensuring that physical distancing rules remain in place, including remaining 2 metres apart, no gatherings of more than 15 people, and wearing masks where distancing isn’t possible. Furthermore, restaurants are only able to open at 50% capacity.

    Many businesses (including gyms) are not going to be able to open until phase three of the relaunch strategy. Each phase will be measured to ensure the virus doesn’t intensify to out of control levels. Should there be signals of that, the relaunch strategy states that the government is prepared to revert back – what exactly that means is unclear. If infection levels are kept low, then the government will advance us to the next stage.

    This sounds kind of like a board game doesn’t it? Trying to navigate what is and is not allowed, how business operations will need to be adjusted, and in some cases planning for increased operating costs certainly seems overwhelming. While Alberta’s relaunch plan is similar to other provinces and jurisdictions, there are some differences. Phase one for Saskatchewan (the first to announce a strategy) involved reopening outdoor recreation activities, as well as some healthcare providers. They are set to move to phase two early next week. Manitoba has already opened many of their retail locations, as well as restaurants, museums, and other businesses. Meanwhile, other provinces haven’t announced relaunch plans at all.

    To further add to the confusion, different municipalities seem to have additional guidelines or further rules for their businesses throughout Alberta. For example, while some Calgary golf courses had tee times available over the weekend, Edmonton has decided not to open its courses. As the strategy is still fairly new, we have yet to see what will happen for retail locations across different jurisdictions.

    As with so many regulations, we need to look to our municipal government to be our guide through this. They are our direct link and support throughout these tumultuous and confusing times. Alberta’s plan still leaves us with a lot of questions – a feeling of uncertainty that has plagued business owners for months now. While the plan was just released, we can and should be creating the structure for businesses in our region to feel as secure as possible. With that in mind, the Chamber is looking forward to seeing the town’s remarks and guidelines for reopening.

    To read more about Alberta’s relaunch strategy, visit: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-relaunch-strategy.aspx

     

  • Blog 2 - March 12, 2020

  • All of the conversations about Coronavirus and toilet paper shortages has us talking about how businesses prepare for crisis situations of any variety. In our region, we are no strangers to the impacts that external forces have on our businesses. We’ve been impacted by flooding, power outages, outbreaks, and who knows what’s going to come up next. The fact of the matter is that business owners need to make sure they’re prepared for anything, so we’ve put together a guide to support you in ensuring your business is able to handle whatever comes your way.

    Develop a Business Continuity Plan

    The first step is to develop a business continuity plan. This is a defined strategy for any risks that may occur to your business – including natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, and others. It’ll help ensure that you’re able to minimize interruptions to your service and, therefore, mitigate potential financial losses. The plan details basic information such as:

    • Contact details for essential personnel, including staff, suppliers, and other key contacts (for example, landlord, security, etc.)
    • Critical business functions, service offerings, and team members/positions
    • Location of corporate records, license numbers, and other policy numbers

    Consider Potential Risks

    With any plan, it’s important to look ahead at what might be coming. In particular, with a Business Continuity Plan, a significant purpose is to consider what risks may face your business. Potential threats to your ability to operate can come from a number of places, for example:

    • Infrastructure risks including fire, flooding, power outages, or service interruptions (like to a point of sale machine)
    • Employee absences resulting from illness (of themselves or family members), personal impact of natural disasters, or other scenarios
    • Supply chain interruptions as a result of border closures, disruptions in transportation, international conflicts, and more
    • Increases or decreases in demand which can occur with unexpected products or services (like what we’re seeing with toilet paper right now)

    Develop Action Processes + Policies

    Once you have developed a list of scenarios, it’s important to be clear on what action items need to take place in any of these occurrences. Who needs to be contacted for what purpose? Who are the primary and secondary decision-makers? And, importantly, what is the communication process both internally and externally. How are you going to communicate with your team members, your customers, and your stakeholders and who is going to be the point person?

    Many of the scenarios you’ve identified may be able to be managed using one plan, however, it’s advantageous to play out each scenario to ensure that any mitigating factors are considered. This also provides an opportunity to implement any technological or staffing measures you can put in place in advance of a crisis. Taking these actions will allow you and your team to proceed through any of these events without questioning the next decision or spiraling into panic or inaction.

    Team Buy-In

    Inevitably, something will occur that has the potential to harm your business, and you may or may not be there to handle it yourself. For that reason, it’s important to ensure that each of your team members is familiar with the Business Continuity Plan – including where it is located and when the threshold is reached that it needs to be consulted. This will provide comfort in a potentially chaotic time, empowering your team to take action and providing you with the knowledge that the correct steps will be taken.

    Review + Revise

    An often-ignored part of the process is the follow up after an event. To confirm that your team is prepared for the next scenario, a debrief of the previous occurrence is critical. Take a look at how much of the plan was actually followed. Where were there gaps? What could have been done better? Was something overlooked that needs to be addressed? Once you’ve considered these, make sure that you update your plan with what you’ve learned so that each crisis becomes easier and easier to handle.

    Ultimately, it comes down to a few simple, yet continuous, steps:

    • Plan: as much as you can, develop a plan for any scenario in advance of it occurring
    • Do: follow through with the plan
    • Check: both throughout the process and when the crisis is over, check on the implementation of the plan and whether or not it’s working
    • Act: identify and take any corrective action

    The calmer you and your teams can remain in the face of a crisis, the smoother the experience will be for you, your staff, and your customers.

    References + Resources

    The Canadian Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 │ Pandemic Preparedness for Business

    Calgary Chamber Emergency Preparedness

    BDC 8 steps for planning your emergency and disaster plan

    Town of Okotoks Emergency Preparedness Planning Statement

  • Blog 1 - Feb 5th 2020

  • As a business owner, you are affected by the choices made by government in a number of ways. The business tax rules change – you have to adapt; labour regulations are amended – you have to adjust; that’s not to mention any changes to personal taxes, industry standards, and the list goes on. It’s hard enough to run a business, but then to keep up with the everchanging policies and regulations can feel like a mammoth task.

     

    For a business owner to even consider adding on the extra burden of advocating for the policies that best support their business and employees is borderline absurdity. However, without someone advocating on behalf of the business community, owners can end up feeling like puppets – constantly having to react to someone else’s whims.

     

    This is actually part of the reason why Chambers of Commerce were created. From a larger perspective, the purpose of chambers is to support local (be that regional, provincial, or country-wide) businesses. The most commonly known part of that is to provide networking opportunities, yet as the organization grows its ability to support its members grows alongside it. Advocating on behalf of chamber members with government and other organizations becomes a critical role for growing chambers.

     

    The Okotoks & District Chamber of Commerce has gone through a series of changes over the past number of years and is now at the place where we can prioritize advocating to government on behalf of our members. This is an exciting new step in the service that we can provide and is why we have now hired Alex Zabel as Policy Coordinator. One of her first priorities is running a committee intended to identify areas of municipal, provincial, and federal policy that are a hinderance to doing business. From there, she will research, develop, and advocate for the policies that the committee recognizes as priorities – a critical piece of grassroots policy development.  

     

    This new position is a clear demonstration of the growth of the Okotoks Chamber, and our commitment to serving our members at the highest level possible. We are a community organization dedicated to bringing business together and supporting the community, and policy advocacy is another way that we can serve our members.

     

    If you’re interested in hearing more about, or participating in, the Business Advocacy Committee, or if you have any questions or comments, please contact policy@okotokschamber.ca.

  • IMG_5878.jpg
  • Alex Zabel 

    Policy Coordinator 

    403 938 2848

    policy@okotokschamber.ca