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Business Beat: Empowering Small Business in Medicine Hat

I’d like to take a moment to recognize small, independent businesses. Of course, all businesses are needed, from Costco to the local candle maker. All businesses provide employment, contribute to our tax base and prevent leakage to larger centres or the web. But at Community Futures Entre-Corp, we have a soft spot for the little guys. It’s the small businesses that make our community more diverse and more enjoyable in which to live. They create the character and personality that is our city.

However, COVID-19 has thrown these businesses a curve ball. Ask any office manager when the last time, before COVID-19, they performed a hazard assessment, and you’ll likely get a blank stare in return. I’m not a Luddite and I hadn’t heard of Zoom in January. By March it had achieved status as a verb in our everyday lexicon. Just like you “Google” something, now we “Zoom.” And like Kleenex is the de facto name for tissues, Zoom is so ubiquitous it has appropriated every other online platform. We “Zoom” even when we aren’t using Zoom. If you had told a small business owner one year ago today that in a matter of months, they’d be managing employees remotely (on that Zoom thing), and that for many that would be a permanent change, they likely would not have believed you.

And then there are gig workers. The same businesses who hadn’t heard of Zoom a year ago are contracting gig workers to perform needed duties outside their own wheelhouse. It’s a brave new world out there!

This topsy-turvy new reality is not necessarily bad. Many businesses have stumbled upon ways to become more efficient. They have found customers in other geographical regions, as the internet knows few borders. Some have discovered entirely new lines of business. And some entirely new businesses have sprouted up. But, how do they do this without being subject matter experts in e-commerce, remote employee management, IT, OH&S and other skill sets outside of making candles?

I like to think that’s where Community Futures EntreCorp’s free lunchtime HR workshops come in.

Community Futures is proud to support businesses in Medicine Hat for over 30 years. It’s OK if the average person doesn’t know who we are or what we do. We are happy to be the invisible capacity builders for the many businesses we support.

One of our goals is to provide free training to all our independent businesses. Our training initiatives are funded by both the federal and provincial governments. We use this funding and the guidance of some of our bigger local organizations (you know who you are; thank you) to hire subject matter experts to help build capacity into our local businesses who cannot afford an HR consultant or full-time CPHR.

Normally, you’d have to physically attend these workshops. But due to COVID-19 we have moved them online. Over the last four months we have delivered four HR workshops and five business start-up workshops. I encourage businesses owners to view them on the Community Futures Entre-Corp YouTube channel.

On Jan. 21 we are offering an HR workshop on psychological safety and the new employment standards to which businesses must comply, and on Feb. 25 a workshop on gig workers. We welcome you to grab a coffee, your lunch, and join us for our HR lunchtime workshop series. Oh, by the way, they are on Zoom.

About the Author: Mike Harrington is the Community Developer Officer for Community Futures Entre-Corp

Check out our weekly update with more featured webinars here, along with some on-demand funding training videos here.

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