Pandemic panic hit our Moncton-based, 18-person, marketing and communications agency around noon on March 16. That’s when it became clear that almost everyone we did business with was going to be seriously affected in a negative way. Some were going to drown through no fault of their own. Some might be able to tread water and survive. Some, over time, might even find a way to thrive but only with significant and difficult adjustments, pivots, and reinventions.
We stood on the same precipice.
At BrainWorks Marketing, we made a boldly optimistic choice (no surprise there—that’s the DNA of our corporate culture after all). We decided we would find ways to thrive through the chaos. Not just for ourselves, but so we could put our creative talents to work helping other businesses survive—even if we had no revenue to support our efforts.
And so we did.
Give-in or push forward?
As the economic realities set in, our primary thought was: we have 18 families and over 40 clients counting on us—how can we move forward without letting them down?
We needed to see our way through the fear and chaos. We needed to develop a new way of thinking and acting. We needed a plan that would allow us to evolve, adapt, and hopefully continue to grow. We needed to embrace the uncertainty.
Our plan was both ambitious and thorough. We committed to:
- Maintain an optimistic outlook, regardless of what we encountered.
- Stay extremely focused on our commitment to clients, results, and service.
- Embark on an energetic, never-ending business development blitz.
- Plan to break-even (at the very least).
- Move to an online format, internally and externally.
- Develop new online offerings including evolving our strategic planning services to be completely virtual.
- Manage cash very, very carefully and cut all unnecessary expenses.
- Pay all accounts payable as soon as possible. We knew that paying our bills was critical to our supplier ecosystem.
- Collect accounts receivable on an urgent basis but be as flexible as we could.
- Renegotiate any debt to best terms possible.
- Take an immediate hit on all bad debts. The original loss exceeded $100,000 in a 48-hour period based on clients in the travel, events, hospitality, and foodservice industries who were way beyond shaken to their core.
- Move any video projects we could to animation and re-edit existing footage and material.
- Be “always open”, 24/7. If a client needed something, we were going to do whatever we possibly could to deliver.
- Leverage our skills, energy, processes, and knowledge to help past, present, and new clients.
- Launch a provincial campaign (at the request of Moncton’s economic development leaders) to offer free support to local businesses. Our “Love for Local” campaign was launched, has already reached over 500,000 citizens—and that’s just the beginning! To date, we’ve donated over $200,000 in cash and services to the Love for Local campaign.
- Continue to pay-it-forward as highly active volunteers meeting all of our philanthropic commitments.
What we didn’t plan for was THE BIG LIFT.
Notwithstanding all of the above, combined with our extremely loyal and helpful clients as well as our dedicated suppliers and a team that pushed above and beyond even our bravest expectations, the simple truth is that nothing impacted our ability to stay in business more than the federal government’s supports for business. Canada’s Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) in particular was, and continues to be, a total game-changer. Not only were we able to avoid layoffs, we even hired two new team members in June. Our full-time employment level is the highest it’s been since we launched this company just over eight years ago.
The pathways ahead remain far from clear for many businesses and for entire sectors. Re-building the Canadian economy will probably be the work of a few years, not a few months. Like you, we love Atlantic Canada and now is the time for all of us to really support each other.
Whatever you’re going through, whatever challenges you’re facing… we’re here for you, and so are others.
We’re inspired by your East Coast resilience. •