Coping during difficult times

By Cybele Negris, CEO Webnames.ca Inc.

At Webnames.ca, we’ve been working with small businesses and entrepreneurs for 20 years, providing tools and the help they need to launch and grow their online presence. As a digital company with no physical inventory, we provide domain names, email, webhosting, SSL and related services. In a way, we are an essential service if companies wish to maintain a web presence, so our business has been steady. Here are the main areas of my focus during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Safety and health of employees and clients

In March with early reports of the virus spread, we knew the health and safety of our employees and clients was paramount and cancelled all travel and shifted to work-from-home immediately. We had a business continuity plan that we had fully tested in advance (we had it in place having planned for an earthquake) so shifting all of our staff to 100% work-from-home was relatively simple.

Having said that, there were still mental and technical adjustments required. A higher level of diligence around security is important during this time. The number of DDoS attacks and phishing attempts has dramatically increased around the world. We had been using Microsoft Teams for years as our collaboration platform, so we ramped up the communication and implemented daily companywide check-ins as well as brief morning huddles via Teams. Friday afternoon virtual drinks are a favourite.

Giving back to community

While I have witnessed ups and downs in the economy over the years, the upheaval that COVID-19 is wreaking on Canadian small businesses is unprecedented and difficult to watch. We recognize and feel for all the companies that had to be closed down completely, or had their revenue drastically impacted, leading to massive layoffs with the chance that many of those jobs may not come back. Our hearts ache for all the entrepreneurs who worked so hard and sacrificed so much with no pensions to fall back on that may now be facing the hard reality of permanent closure and bankruptcy.

Many companies are having to rapidly pivot their business models to do more online. For some, this will mean launching a first website or a new website – and these are areas where we thought Webnames could help.

To do our part to support our community, Webnames decided to give away 1000 free “LiteSite” one-page website packages to help Canadians that need to establish a quick online presence or launch a new side hustle. To redeem this free website offer, Canadians can go to https://www.webnames.ca/litesite-for-small-business

Planning for worst-case scenario

Webnames has made a commitment not to lay off any staff during this time. Our revenues are steady, and we have not applied for any of the government supports being made at the federal or provincial levels. That’s not to say we are complacent though. I’m monitoring our numbers daily, watching for trends and opportunities. Everyone is working harder than ever understanding that as some of our business clients suffer, we too suffer. We’re being extremely prudent on expenditures and building on our reserves to plan for the worst-case scenario in case the crisis continues for months or re-emerges with future waves.

Strong strategic focus

During this time, we’re doubling down on our strategic focus and ensuring we don’t get distracted. We’re still building new products and services and constantly improving on existing systems. While we are extremely busy, we never lose sight of our core values including our first “Amaze every customer with exceptional service” and maintaining our high customer satisfaction scores and a 60-second average response time to talk to a live person. We also look for opportunities to do things in new ways, new partnerships and perhaps M&A opportunities.

Personally, I’m on a number of boards; some moving to weekly or bi-weekly meetings rather than quarterly during the pandemic. I have teenagers e-learning at home. Many of my speaking engagements have either been postponed to the fall (such as the May 12th VanWit one) or shifted to virtual events. All this has kept me extremely busy, leaving me no time to feel bored or to think too much about the lack of in-person connections with family and friends. As many business owners fight for survival, my wish for them is that the government supports will help enough while they find ways to shift strategically in some way. Some furloughed employees are experiencing new realities of having no work for the first time in their adult lives. My advice is to use the time well whatever you are doing. Read that book you always wanted or train for that skill that will help you and your employer advance when you are hired back. Find ways to give back to the community, visit a friend or co-worker who might be struggling with loneliness (a wave from the window could make a world of difference). Look for the silver linings in each day whether it is people cheering out their windows at 7pm for frontline workers, the folks stepping up to help elderly neighbours shop, families sitting down having dinner together with home-cooked meals or the air quality improving around the world due to lowered emissions during the pandemic. I look forward to the coming weeks as health authorities ease restrictions and non-essential businesses can open up again. In the meantime, stay strong, stay vigilant and stay safe!

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