EducationFuturePandemicProductivitySelf-ImprovementTechnology

Men with toilet paper headdresses: Post-Coronavirus males, displaying their hunter gatherer prowess in order to attract mates.

The title seems so simple, “how to survive a pandemic in 5 easy steps,” right? I’m sure the extroverts out there think I’m nuts. It’s true, as an introvert, this is my time to shine. I’ve never felt better. Working at home in front of my computer with my kids locked out of my bedroom has been like a dream! Sometimes I can work overtime and nobody gets annoyed at me for getting home late because . . . I’m already home! It’s a little like being back at university, but without six female housemates arguing over who should have done the dishes.

I’m only sorta surviving

To be fair, instead I get the eight-year-old picking my lock (I can hear him doing this as I type right now) and coming into my room and asking if I can purchase “violent games with lots of killing” for his iPad, and once he leaves, he leaves the door wide open, so that . . .

My four-year-old can come dancing in and announces, “I wish I still had hands!”. After a short, but strange conversation involving Elsa and unicorns, I tell her to go back downstairs to dad, but she forgets to lock the door, so that . . .

The two-year old can boisterously BURST into my room and joyously yell, “HI MOM!”, then say a few things that half make sense, try to get into several things she shouldn’t get into, climb on the bed, jump on it, come over to me and look up with her big blue eyes and ask me a question that also doesn’t make sense that ends with “mom??” and when I message dad to fetch her, she hides in my closet.

But they’re a lot cuter than my housemates were. So it’s OK. Anyway . . .

Please please please do more than just sit on your couch.

Knowing how to be by yourself in your home is, in and of itself, a great trait to have. Being able to entertain yourself is something we strongly encourage our own children to do — without TV, iPad, or phones. So why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standard?

Hobbies

I’ve got to be honest with you right now: watching Netflix is not a hobby. Sure, it can be an entertain way to pass an evening or a Sunday afternoon, but it’s going to turn your brain into mush. If you’re one of the many people who isn’t able to work from home, now is a great time to work on a hobby.

Pick up an old hobby

Is there an old hobby that you used to do that you miss doing? Just recently, I decided I’d try learning how to use a serger that I’ve had for two years, but was too intimidated to try. Unfortunately, the serger conquered me and I went back to using my sewing machine, and I ended up sewing some sweet clothes for my children for Easter.

I used to really enjoy doing seed bead work by hand, but because I’d spend about 2 hours a day commuting to and from work, I was too exhausted to do anything once I finally got the kids to bed. Now that I’m home all the time, I have a lot more energy!

I used to do beadwork before I had kids, and starting up this creative work again has been wonderful.

Is there a hobby you used to do? Something you did as a child, a young adult? Try picking that up again. You may rediscover your love for it. I know that every time I start sewing again, I’m reminded how much I truly enjoy it.

Learn a new hobby

Is there that hobby that you always wish you could do, but haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it yet? Now is the perfect time! And in this day and age, it’s incredibly easy to learn new things. There are countless youtube videos, blogs, and other resources for learning how to try out new hobbies. If you have a friend who does it already, you can video chat with them.

I enjoy knitting, but once got caught up on a particular stitch that I kept messing up, so I had a video chat with my husband’s aunt and she helped me figure it out. This weekend when I was trying to figure out my serger, I had a video chat with Pauline at Laberge Engraving (check them out!) while she tried to help me figure out what was going on with my machine. And of course there is the great Facebook network of brains!

Teach a hobby

My son has expressed an interest in sewing, so I’m helping him learn that as a new hobby, which I think is great — not only is it a fun hobby, but it’s a great skill to learn. It’s helpful that Walmart is still open — the tools and bits you might need for hobbies that you might want to pick up are available at Walmart.

Skills

I’ll admit that this is an impressive skill.

The topic of hobbies really leads me into the next topic: skills. Right now is also a good time to develop an old skill or learn a new one. If you’re not able to work from home, maybe now is a good time to try building on a skill that might be profitable now or in the near future. Do you know if you will still have a job when the world starts opening back up? What will business be like? The way we do business is already significantly different now. Having more and better skills will certainly improve your odds!

Practise a skill you already have

You might already have some great skills under your belt, but there’s always room for improvement. Do you know several programming languages? Learn a few more! Are you good at writing? Work on improving different writing styles. Are you generally good at repairing things? Break some of your household electrics and try to repair them (OK, maybe not this one.) If you’re already good at something, work hard at getting better at it. Don’t be complacent.

I don’t even have any good skills. You know like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!
-Napoleon Dynamite

Improve upon and learn new skills

My husband has always been interested in hunting, but he has really developed this new skill during the quarantine. The nice thing about hunting is that he CAN leave the house, but he remains isolated. What’s even better? He’s developing his hunter-gatherer skills! He now brings home bunnies weekly.

Food for thought: take one of your hobbies and develop it into a useful skill that can be practically applied to your life! Me? I’ve taken my sewing skills and developed them into learning how to alter clothing — that was how I made my children’s easter outfits. I converted an old dress and blouse of mine into dresses for the girls and a bow tie for my son!

Cute little gremlins.

Education

As they say, knowledge is power, and I don’t know about you, but I like power. And I’m sure you think that sitting around watching documentaries on Netflix is educational, but I’m sorry, folks, but not every documentary is good, and Tiger King is not really educational.

However, there are scores of websites out there offering some pretty amazing free and significantly discounted educational courses right now. You can learn very serious things and very silly things. You can get a good education in something that will support that skill you are learning or developing!

I can hear it now though, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Ah, but you can. I once had a dog who was old and I taught her “go away”. Was that new? Yes. Was it a trick? I think so. It was certainly useful when she was annoying me begging for food at the dinner table.

Studies have shown that constantly learning through life is one of the best things you can do for your brain, so even when you’re not in pandemic mode, pursue learning!

Resources

Here are just a few sites you can check out:

Prepare for a new world

What world do we even live in now?

We will need some serious hunter-gatherer prowess when the world opens back up? I don’t know. We may need better Walmart prowess. But you know, unlike my hunter-gatherer husband, Walmart doesn’t sell bunny.

Tasty tasty Peter Rabbit

A new Renaissance?

In all seriousness, what do you think things will look like? We may still need to remain more isolated than we were before. People will have to be far more careful than they were before. What are new industries that can come out of this? How can YOU be a phoenix rising from the ashes?

Some say that the Renaissance occurred because of the Black Plague. Is it possible that we could have a new Renaissance come out of this global event? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with optimism, because this is quite a serious war we are fighting here, but having hope for the future is important too.

Going social

You know what else you’re going to have to prepare for? Being social again. It might be a shock to the system. Make sure you have a plan so you don’t overdo it. Plan to see family, plan to see close friends, plan to reengage with society slowly but surely. You may be surprised to discover that there is something to this whole introvert thing.

Prepare for death

You might die. In fact, you will definitely die.

Not to be a downer, but it’s also possible that despite doing all these great things, you might die. It’s OK though, because everybody dies eventually, and the sooner you accept that and deal with the reality, the better. Once you have prepared yourself for death, you can better live a full and complete life.

Speaking for myself, I don’t particularly want to die, but I’ve come to terms with it. We talk about it with our children, so our children aren’t afraid to talk about it with us. We don’t need to hide from death, and we don’t hide it from our children.

The children issue

If you have children, give them some credit. They are capable of having these kinds of discussions. They can talk about death, disease, pandemics, and all these issues that we like to shelter them from. We can be honest with children and still shelter them at the same time. Don’t be afraid to tell them your concerns, but remind them how you will always do everything within your power to protect them.

There’s a lot of death in my family. (Don’t feel sorry for me.) Fun fact: this is exactly where I will be buried!

Be practical

It also doesn’t hurt to prepare for death in more practical terms. What will happen if you die? Will your family be burdened with the cost of dealing with your body, burial, and all that stuff? I’m speaking to myself on this one too! We’ve purchased our plots — we did so when we lost a baby 8 years ago, but beyond that, haha, good luck kiddos, you’re going to have to deal with everything else!

If there’s one thing that was particularly memory about my grandfather’s death (aside from him, you know, dying . . . with his jaw hanging open), was as soon as it happened we called Neptune Society and they took care of everything. We didn’t have to worry about anything. Well, I pushed his mouth back up and sorta tried to hold it there to see if it would stay closed. But aside from that.

Conclusion

So there you have it, there are your five simple steps of how to survive a pandemic. I think it can mostly be summed up as: don’t sit on your bum watching Netflix all day. DO SOMETHING.

BusinessFutureGovernment

Thank you for shopping local sign

This is based off of a Facebook post I made over the weekend:

Let’s go over some of the things that the federal government has promised to help small businesses and the arbitrary restrictions they have put on it, likely to prevent abuse, but in reality those arbitrary restrictions prevent businesses that actually really need the money from getting it. Please note, I am glad these efforts are here, but they are nowhere as much as is necessary to help small businesses.

First, the Canadian Wage Subsidy: Covers 75% of salaries for up to 3 months of business.

However, you need to have a 30% drop in revenues from your business. So companies like Perks, which are working night and day to keep their revenues up… well they get screwed. Worse, they actually end up worse off because they hired someone to provide the new service (delivery) so they are spending more on employees, and with the new delivery service they were able to keep their revenue drop from going as high as 30%.

delivery

So a business, that needs that subsidy the most, which is actually doing things to adapt to the economy, and could use it and is CREATING JOBS ends up worse off. While a business that has a 30% drop and isn’t doing anything at all to try and stem it, would be able to get 75% of their salaries paid for. So, if their salaries are 40% of their expenditures (which is a really low amount), it is 100% in their interest to ensure they keep that 30% drop in revenues. Do you not see how this causes more problems than it solves?

Second, the Business Credit Availability Program is basically a free cheque to the banks.

The banks get to decide who gets it, and they have tightened up, not loosened their lending standards. Especially since, in the words of a banker I spoke with recently, we are expecting most businesses applying for loans to fail, so we are going to end up rejecting the majority of them. Literally does nothing for the small businesses on Main St.

working

As well, it requires your NoAs and your tax returns to be completed and up to date and _no taxes owing_. Which completely counters the governments’ program of allowing businesses to not pay taxes for the next while to keep their cashflow up.

So, basically a cheque to the banks with absolutely no assistance to the businesses that need it most.

Third, the Canadian Emergency Business Account.

Unfortunately I cannot completely speak to this one that much. However, the restriction that payroll needs to be 50k-1mil actually kills it as a useful loan (assuming, of course, the banks don’t add more restrictions) for most small businesses. Many business owners pay themselves outside of payroll, and try to keep their payroll as minimized as possible. So while there may be 100k+ in revenues in any given year, it wouldn’t be hard for them to keep their payroll below 50k, especially if they hire subcontractors. Commonly these businesses are also the most agile, so yeah. Sucks to be them.

So, again… useless. This time for businesses that are best suited to try and weather this type of disaster.

All 3 programs, while they work for some, so many will slip through the cracks by the arbitrary restrictions that they really don’t do what they are supposed to do.

My advice:

  • Make the 75% for all businesses that are equal to last years, or have reduced revenues. A company could be equal to last March’s revenues, but had expanded employment to compensate. Punishing those companies is literally punishing the successful companies, it’s absolutely stupid.
  • Force the banks to remove restrictions on the small business lines of credit (under 100k) or at least to severely dial them back. Possibly by offering some form of loan insurance.
  • Open up the CEBA to all businesses that have above 100k revenue, regardless of payroll.
  • Open up tax credits for businesses that are implementing unique technological or other solutions to provide their services in this time. Such as Perks adding delivery to their system, or an art gallery finding a way to offer their art online, or a private school developing online learning tools. Similar to SRED, but more broad-based.

There are probably other ideas a well, but the current plan looks good on paper, but fails almost everyone who needs it and who would be the best businesses to succeed at this time.

CommunicationMarketingSEOSocial Media

Medical masks

Things sure happen quickly, don’t they? Right now in Alberta “mass gatherings” can’t have more than 50 people attending it, unless it’s for an essential service.  Lots of companies, especially tech companies like ours, are having their staff work remotely.  No one has any idea how long this will last either.  Two weeks?  Two months?  Longer?  With that in mind, it’s time to dive into the options you have for marketing when more and more things are cancelled and shut down.

Advertising

a billboard advertisement

Depending on the form of advertising you’ll see different results.  As people drive less and self-quarantine more physical and radio ads will have less impact since the most common place to listen to the radio is in the car and obviously someone who’s staying at home isn’t going to see your billboard.  But if a form of advertising is likely to be seen by those trapped at home, then it will definitely still be as effective as normal, or even more effective in some cases.  If you provide something that people are still likely to search for, Google Ads are a good idea.  So a restaurant that does delivery?  Definitely a good choice.  But there are other searches that are less likely to have great results.  I need some car repairs done.  But at least until I’m done quarantining myself I’m not going to bother Googling my options.  In short, if you provide something people need, putting your extra marketing budget into advertisements can be a smart choice.  Otherwise there’s probably a better option for where you can put that extra cash.

Social Media

What better time to build a social media following then a time when pretty much everyone is stuck at home?  especially when over 50% of people using social media to check the news.  Putting in the effort to boost your social media following now means that you’re likely to see results immediately.  Even better, as you increase your following you’ll see more increases both short term and long term as your social media presence snowballs.  And unlike advertising, you aren’t just putting yourself in front of someone who you hope wants to make a purchase right then and there.  So if you provide a service that people aren’t really looking for, but you’re engaging with potential customers on social media, they’re more likely to see you on social media when they *are* looking for your services later on.

Search Engine Optimization

Google logo

Search Engine Optimization is always important, but it’s also the only option on this list that doesn’t have short term effects (normally).  That means that for a lot of businesses it has to take an unfortunate back seat to the other forms of marketing.  You want a return on your dollar now and not in several months.  So a time when you suddenly have more money to play around with in your marketing budget is a great time to finally tackle your SEO.  And the lack of short term results isn’t as important when the short term benefits for marketing are down across the board as people self-quarantine more and more.  In other words, while the downsides to putting your money in SEO are still there, they aren’t as noticeable right now whereas the benefits are still as strong as ever.

Deals on Products

Sale

Finally, depending on what you provide now might be the time to offer some deals.  A great example would be some of the phone companies in the US.  I’ve heard of several that are either increasing the data they’re giving to all their customers for free or even in some cases temporarily giving customers unlimited data plans.  Now obviously, being larger companies they can afford things like this.  Don’t run yourself and your business into the ground trying to look like a hero but it’s still important to recognize the effect that offering help in times of crisis can have.  Obviously, there’s the fact that it will certainly be easier to sleep at night.  That doesn’t really impact your business though.  What does impact you is the goodwill you create among your customers.  If you provide a service they need or one they really want right now, they’re well aware that even if you raised your prices they’d still probably buy it.  So when you offer a deal instead, while the cynical types like me will recognize it for the smart strategic choice that it is, most people will look at how it’s a gesture of goodwill.

Online Trade Shows?

photo of trade show attendees

Alright, this isn’t something that exists, as far as I can tell, but it’s an idea that I had.  And since it’s just an idea I haven’t fully fleshed it out yet so bear with me.  With conventions and conferences being cancelled, many of them are turning to online formats.  So what if there could be an online version of a trade show?  Perhaps a Facebook group, though that seems too disorganized to me.  Maybe an online forum?  Or maybe a website with information on all the various companies taking part with some sort of online version of a trade show booth.  Like I said, this is more of something that I’m mulling over.  I might even go into more detail on it next week (I make no promises though), but it’s still something to consider.

 

That’s all for now.  Hopefully these five options (well, four options and an idea in the back of my mind) will help you decide on a marketing strategy that your business can pursue in these chaotic times.  If you’re not sure what option would be best for you, or if you’d like a hand implementing your strategy, get in touch with us.  We’d love to help you out so that we can all make it out of these difficult times safely.

CommunicationMarketing

tissues and mug

The coronavirus has been pretty big in the news.  If you’re like me you’re probably already groaning about reading yet another article about it.  But I realized that there is a very important thing that businesses need to consider, regarding this pandemic.  We all know that if there’s a quarantine businesses will obviously lose sales as people stay home and only purchase necessities.  But before we even reach that point, something else will be affected first.

Conventions

If you’re a local business, your marketing plan might be about to change.  Currently, conferences, trade shows, etc. all across the world are being cancelled.  In addition to working for Panda Rose, I also do some contracting in the healthcare informatics industry and a big tradeshow coming up in Florida was cancelled the day before it was scheduled to begin.  The NBA has canceled games.  Ironically there was even a conference on the coronavirus that was cancelled because of the coronavirus.  The coronavirus is now officially a pandemic and it’s gradually spreading across the world, along with the panic and toilet paper shortages.  As it spreads, local and international events are all being cancelled in an important effort to slow down the speed of infection so that our hospitals aren’t overwhelmed.

a shopping cart full of toilet paper

What does this mean for you?  If you or a conference your business was attending are in an affected area, it means you suddenly have more money available in your marketing budget.  If you aren’t in an affected area though, it doesn’t mean you won’t be affected.  It just means you’ve got a bit more time to plan for when that happens.  But in both cases, you need to know what your options are.

Your Options

This brings us to my main focus today.  Marketing is about putting yourself in front of your audience.  That’s why tradeshows can be so effective.  You are physically in front of them interacting with them.  But when people are being encouraged to practice social distancing and it becomes impossible to be physically in front of your audience, what can you do?  Not too long ago, your options were radio and television ads.  That was it.  And even then, if your audience didn’t want to stop self-quarantining they weren’t going to go in to your store anyway.  But the internet has created a much different world.  You can show up on people’s computers through their searches on search engines and on social media, both of which are much more personal than a tv spot.

Ultimately, your main options are

  • Ads in various formats like radio, tv, Google, and YouTube
  • Focusing on social media
  • Optimizing your Search Engine Optimization
  • Some combination of the above

Next week, I’m going to do a deep dive into the pros and cons and associated costs associated with all your options if the tradeshows and conventions you planned to attend get cancelled. I’ll also give you some tips that your marketing department can implement to improve your online presence that won’t cost a cent, but for now I want you just to start thinking about it.  I’m not telling you to cancel all public appearances and hide in your house for two months, but you should start thinking about contingency plans in case your marketing strategy needs to make a sudden u-turn.

PandaPodCast

man with a toilet paper stockpile at costco

In the past few weeks we’ve seen people stockpiling toilet paper and other items, which sometimes seems a little crazy. In this episode, Deborah and Leah talk about stockpiling, emergency preparedness, and other odd things people do (or don’t do) in a time of pandemic and emergency.