BC Roundtable on Crisis Leadership in the Midst of a Pandemic

NEWS RELEASE – MAY 14, 2020 – BC ELO supporters gathered via Zoom on May 13, 2020, for a “roundtable” regarding leadership in the midst of the challenges created by the present Coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Richard Goossen chaired the roundtable which included people from various businesses and industries, leaders of non-profits and those involved in leadership at higher education institutions. Depending upon the industry, some businesses and organizations have been hard hit, whereas others are maintaining the course and even growing. 

A crisis may expose cracks rather than create them. One marketplace leader noted that the pandemic may be, “less of a cause and more of a catalyst. Things that were already happening are happening faster. People, companies and organizations that have moved online are doing huge business online. Churches that were struggling before are failing fast. Churches and ministries that were meeting the needs of people and having points of contact with people are rapidly growing right now.”

How are companies coping? The co-Founder of a software company explained that while his company is maintaining revenue, they have had to rethink various strategies, such as their marketing plans. “We had 70 one-day events that we were hosting around the world—but then we cancelled everything. We had to figure out how to move all of our events, which is our major marketing spend of the year. How to do all that online and not lose that outreach? We've subsequently done many, many webinars. I wouldn't say it's been completely as successful. However, a comment that keeps coming back from people is saying we never would get to your actual events but we were able to tune in. So we're reaching a different set of people.” 

Some companies have been fortunate to benefit from the current situation—including the irrational run on toilet paper! One roundtable participant was a transportation company President & CEO is in the food transport business specializing in temperature-controlled products. This includes grocery, food and beverage and related products (such as toilet paper) for large chain stores. The company operates primarily in Western Canada. He said, “March was our busiest month. The toilet paper thing was madness; we were getting calls from major supermarket chains on my personal cell phone at 9:00 p.m. to book trucks to deliver toilet paper.”

One issue for business leaders is whether they are adapting on a temporary basis or whether they are making long-term changes to the way they do business. The President of a marketing company explained that one outcome of the crisis for his company is that it is, “changing the way we think about geographic boundaries. We have three separate offices, but we discovered that many of us actually love working remotely. We're using Zoom all the time. We're doing Microsoft team collaboration and doing daily huddles.” Companies may start to rethink their office space needs.

In any time of change and disruption, there are inevitably opportunities for innovation. One Mergers & Acquisitions consultant explained that “It really has been a division of winners and losers. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, a good team and you are sufficiently motivated I think there's going to be a huge amount of opportunities. I just would encourage everyone to look at it how do you actually turn this situation into a growth opportunity.”

In a similar fashion, the principal of a development company sees opportunities. He always reminds himself that “creativity is the currency to success.” He explained the importance of careful implementation. “We need to find a balance between growth and being smart with keeping cash on hand. I'm a growth-minded person and we want to take advantage of the opportunities. We keep hustling and keep pushing and keep trying to be focused on growth. Then we have to come out the other side ahead of the curve with momentum.”

Just as businesses need to adapt, so do churches. One pastor said his church is working to embrace the challenge. He said he is grateful that a number of years ago the church was forced to go online and that they have several small groups that have always been the backbone of the church. What has he learned during this time? “When the pressure is on you find out what's inside of an organization, whether it be a company or church or an individual.”

The church also needs to be very strategic at this time. Pastors and churches, like businesses, need to engage in careful strategic planning. “I think we've kind of broken it down into a six-week cycle: build, measure and then ask, ‘what did we learn?’ Then we're building again. I think if we if we lean into it, this can be a great opportunity. Whether a church or a company I think is an opportunity to really meet the needs of the community and help make the community a better place.”

Along with churches, Christian higher education institutions have been impacted. One Christian higher education leader noted that his institution needs to make significant adjustments to deliver education to students. He wants to keep things in perspective. “We are asking the question what we will look like in 2030 and 2040? Christian higher education is changing and being transformed. If we don't change, we can't keep fulfilling that mission. We want to have a redemptive business influence. We want to ensure that we have a long-term Kingdom impact.”

One issue is about having the proper perspective on the present situation. Do we simply get through it and then hope to go back to normal? One participant used the following analogy about the pandemic. In the beginning, people felt like this was a blizzard and we're going to have a couple of snow days, maybe a couple of weeks and then we will be back to work and we can handle that. Then they quickly realized that this isn't just a blizzard; this is winter and this is going to last for several months. Now people are starting to realize that this is more than winter. This may be an Ice Age with long term consequences and we have to get ready to handle this situation for the next couple of years.

In short, there were many great insights from varied perspectives. This was the third and final roundtable in Canada, with previous events recently held for supporters in Manitoba and Ontario, respectively. In total, about 75 Christian business leaders from across Canada were able to collectively provide great input on how Christian business leaders are dealing with the pandemic across Canada.