Running Your Organization Through a Crisis

These are strange and unprecedented times, things are changing daily and everything feels like sand on a beach that is shifting with the waves. Over my career, I have worked through wars, SARS and natural disasters, but I have never been through anything like this. 

The last week has been one of the most stressful periods that I can remember and I know it will not get easier soon. Running a business during these times is an added challenge. We know we are fortunate enough to do our work from home and MediaStyle is well prepared to adjust to this new reality — we are strong, resilient and without knowing it, the little things we had done over the last few years made the transition easier and I am grateful for it. 

1. Business Continuity Plan



When we first started discussing a work from home strategy, I pulled up the Business Continuity Plan to share with the team. It covered fire, strike and flood but not a pandemic. It was great that we had a strategy, that it was updated yearly, and we were able to update it again for a pandemic. When I wrote the strategy, I thought it was unlikely that I would need to use it for this type of event and had not thought it through. Over the coming week, I will be reviewing it and adding sections for acts of nature, countrywide shutdown and other seemingly impossible occurrences. If you don’t have a strategy, take the time to write one, I was glad I took the time a few years ago. 


2. Technology


We started work from home Wednesday (WFHW) in January of this year so we knew the team could still do their work from home. Each WFHW, we held a Zoom meeting to check in on projects and expanded our work from home policy to covers issues like recycling at home. Since we had these things in place, we knew that we could send the team home and continue to be able to meet our clients’ needs. All meetings are now held digitally via Zoom and we were already using Google Drive, and Slack, so we are able to share work and communicate easily. If your company does not use these cloud-based tools, now is the time to explore them, they really do help keep us connected.  


3. Finances


Again, technology was already in place to allow all accounting functions to be done remotely.  We use Freshbooks and Quickbooks online for our time tracking, invoicing and accounting. Many of our clients are paying us through direct deposits and I am reaching out to the rest now to see if they can do this as well. We have been using Telpay to pay our bills where appropriate and will continue to add suppliers to Telpay to allow quick payment. Telpay has higher limits than Interact e-Transfers and a lower fee. Cashflow is key being paid and paying others promptly is more important than ever. 


4. Team Culture


I love our team, we have fun and enjoy working together. This will be the biggest change during our self-isolation. We are doing daily Zoom meetings every morning and have implemented face-to-face Zoom meetings rather than phone calls when we need to connect during the day.  We have team lunches a few times a month and we will continue to do them online. It is hard to be away from our team because, on any given day, we share music, jokes, puns, videos and have creative brainstorms. We are a work family and like our real family, we worry about each other.  We are checking in more frequently, making sure everyone is OK and if they need anything, Caitlin and I are available to help. 

This may go on for longer than two weeks and we will follow the advice of health officials to act accordingly. MediaStyle is an agile company, we evolve and change as needed but stay true to our mission of trying to make Canada a better place. 

Allyson Chisnall  is the CFO and COO at MediaStyle

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