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You can't be serious?

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CKCA by Sandra Wood
CMP, Executive Director, CKCA
It’s hard to know where to start with this article. The past two months have felt like five years for many of us, yet here we are. 
We’ve gone from labour shortages to laying people off, heavy workloads to seeing hardly any new orders coming through. We’ve seen companies pivot and get into manufacturing PPE and we’ve seen government change the rules daily and hourly before they even know how to implement. If someone had told you three months ago this would be happening, your response may well have been “you can’t be serious?”

A shock to everyone
Seriously it happened. For the kitchen cabinet industry it meant, first of all, trying to figure out if you could remain open or not. For the most part, the industry was deemed essential and stay open you did! Persevere you did! The new health and safety regulations and the risks were enough to make some companies want to close up shop until it was all over.
Having heard now what manufacturers have had to do to keep their staff safe, their businesses open and their installers still installing has been nothing short of miraculous. The quick pivot everyone did to be ready, to address the challenges and still function are to be commended. Those who had to close or decided to close, you made the right decision for your business.
Now that we are almost two months into this and we’re seeing some signs of a curve on COVID-19 outbreaks, governments are beginning to phase in reopening. When the dust settles and you look back at what transpired, you’ll likely wonder how you did it. Well the bottom line was you really didn’t have a choice. Perhaps you followed the advice of CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Business) and kept a journal of what you did and why, or maybe you followed BDC’s (Business Development Bank of Canada) advice and put a business continuity plan in place. One thing we know for certain, you’ve spent a lot of money on sanitizers and your HR departments got pushed to the edge.
The only consolation was knowing you were not alone. But now that you’ve got some new routines in place and you’ve figured out how to operate and you’re leveraging social media like you never have before, where do you go from here?
Moving forward
Currently, it’s about continuing to do what you’re doing because so much 
is out of your control. While some planning is good, planning too much is potentially dangerous because we’ve seen how quickly things change in a matter of days. But there are some things worth thinking about and planning for. Dare we suggest a few things based on our observations and feedback from our recent industry survey (all subject to change of course as we are not out of the woods (yet)?
Employment – As you bring people back, some of you have determined you can function with less staff and leverage more technology. Some of you have taken time to cross train too. But now’s a great time to talk up the industry because it’s demonstrated great resilience even during a pandemic. This may appeal to people who have lost their jobs and may be out of work for some time (i.e. tourism sector). Promote the benefits of working in this sector and working for your company. We know people have misconceptions about what’s involved in manufacturing, set the record straight for a new audience.

Proudly Canadian – With an appetite to buy Canadian, this a great time to remind clients, and potential clients, why they should buy Canadian products. CKCA developed a handy list that you’re welcome to use (available on our website and in pamphlet form), but Canadian made is getting a boost and there’s no time like the present to push that.

Technology – Machinery and technology are so integrated and while costs may seem prohibitive, the costs of managing staff have been highlighted during the pandemic. Are there areas in your shop where more technology might help? With Government pushing more manufacturing back to Canada, be on the lookout for more programs to support the advancement of manufacturing through adoption of technologies. But don’t forget machines/technology can also get a 
virus, so cyber security 
is a major consideration.
Lean/Kaizen – More than once we’ve heard from members who said they would reconsider this approach to business given the lessons learned from COVID-19. Efficiencies, improved productivity, placement of staff within a workspace, keeping costs down, placing more value
and empowering staff. Could 
shops with these practices in place already be more resilient to a shock such as COVID-19?

Financial – Having some money in the bank to access in case of emergency is one thing we heard a lot. Contingency funds, reserves or whatever you call it, having access to some money can give you the bridge you need. We asked members about their financial viability during this difficult time keeping in mind that many are still operating. Under the current conditions, almost 40% said they would remain viable for another three months, 25% said they could last six months, 35% said they could 
last a year or more. As one member said “have a war chest 
of cash available and take nothing for granted”.

The Ugly Kitchen Syndrome – Is it possible that with everyone cooking at home, once we do get through this there will be more demand for kitchen renovations? Knowing people won’t have the money (potentially) is a major consideration, but more than 50% of members we surveyed agreed. If the real estate market is taking a hit and people won’t have the money to buy another home, will they have the money to renovate the home they’re in instead?

These are just ideas for you to consider. We’ll keep talking and sharing insights with the industry based on conversations and survey results. CKCA recently hosted its first National Roundtable Discussion and we will be hosting monthly events 
to keep you connected.
We’ve also partnered with CFIB who are doing an amazing job in delving into all the government subsidy programs to help independent business with full explanations of how to apply for programs.  
Through CKCA you get access to the resources of CKCA and CFIB, we are here to support you because the one thing we are both serious about is ensuring our industry and independent business in Canada continues to thrive.

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