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How entrepreneurs can improve the post-pandemic office environment and grow their business

By Wish Group No Comments

With more and more people receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, case numbers dwindling and non-essential businesses opening up for foot traffic, a return to ‘normal’ is close at hand. But many things will look decidedly different in the business world from a year ago, especially when it comes to post-pandemic offices.

In the wake of an unprecedented global pandemic, employees vacated their offices and began working remotely from home (many for the first time). What was once a decade-long emerging trend, accelerated into the mainstream and gained widespread acceptance in the workplace for the first time. Despite concerns over a loss of productivity, a long-standing hurdle among employers, unsupervised workforces often met expectations or were even more efficient than their in-office counterparts.

That raises the question, does the office still have a place in the future? If so, what form will office space take and how can businesses leverage it to drive their business towards success?

In short, yes. But it will be a balancing act.

Pre-pandemic state of offices

Working remotely is not a new phenomenon. Many best employer rankings have a section dedicated to it and companies often provide a formal work from home program to attract top talent.

However, due to the limitations of technology, such as low adoption rates and availability of high-speed internet, people could only be so effective away from the office. Outside of a handful of tasks, if they wanted to collaborate, connect with colleagues and clients, or just plain overhear things, people needed to come in.

And yet, many employees often embrace the prospect of not coming into the workplace. From long commutes to the archaic working conditions and lack of privacy in these spaces, there are many outstanding things about the office that could and should function better.

When the pandemic hit and tethered us to our homes, these issues were magnified. It got people thinking: Why would I go back to the office and deal with these hurdles again, when I am enjoying this much flexibility?

Are office spaces on the verge of extinction?

According to data from the market researcher IDC, at the height of the pandemic, more than half of the entire U.S. workforce did its jobs at home, up from single digits prior to Covid-19. With so many office workers forced into these conditions for so long, it’s fair to say that we became accustomed to the home environment.

However, this isn’t the final straw for offices. If anything, there will be a resurgence, once companies find a way to better utilize the space. After speaking with friends and business associates, I can tell that there is a real itch to return to the office. Being away for so long has fostered a new found appreciation of reimagining the workplace and being together.

That shouldn’t be a surprise – people are social creatures and crave that human connection, perhaps even more so after all this physical separation. It’s just a matter of companies striking the right balance.

A premium, hybrid experience

The future of the post-pandemic workplace is hybrid. According to Emergent Research, 15 to 18% of the workforce is likely to remain home-based once the pandemic subsides, with most workers operating on a hybrid model, splitting time between the office and home.

It’s a workplace model that combines the best of working remotely and being physically present in the office, without sacrificing flexibility. Employers can provide a unique experience that incorporates some of the comfort workers have grown accustomed to while working remotely the past year, with a particular focus on health and wellness in the workplace.

The key for workplaces will be to manage how the divide between remote and office life operates, such as determining how much time each worker dedicates to each type of task (i.e., phone calls). Projects that cannot be done or fully recreated in a remote environment will need to be done in the office, such as onboarding, training, meetings, team-building and face-to-face collaboration. Everything else that can be done remotely, should be, in order to better accommodate employees’ competing priorities (such as family).

Management and entrepreneurs will need to continue working with the human resources department to navigate any challenges, because there will be some problem solving. For example, companies need to settle on how to track the progress of virtual work as well as monitor how workers behave during meetings – the last thing you want is to have the in-person people dominate the conversation at the expense of the virtual members.

With the right balance, a company can expect to see tangible benefits.

According to recent surveys, businesses that took a hybrid approach saw that many workers managed their time better, are more cognizant of their colleagues’ workload and are overall more satisfied with their jobs.

Postmodern vision for post-pandemic offices

Despite all of the changes going on around us, especially when it comes to commercial real estate, there’s still a future for office spaces in the post-pandemic world, given a few adjustments.

The key word here is “environment.” As I mentioned before, when the post pandemic dust settles, we’ll likely see a hybrid model – a mixture of remote and in-office work. People still want to have the option to come in. Perhaps they will spend less time in the office overall, but when there, they will be producing a different quality and type of work. Flexibility will be important.

While there are many advantages to working remotely, there are still certain functions that are better suited for in-person work spaces. For example, no matter how advanced our technology becomes, it cannot easily replicate the feel of physical contact, overhearing things and connecting with people over a real discussion. Companies will want to make these spaces more hospitable and leverage this need to connect.

So, what does this mean? We need to make tweaks to the layout. Ideally, the office should look less like a workspace, with rows and rows of cubicles, and more like a place of community. You will need to make your office a more exciting place in which to spend time. As a knock on effect, with more engaged employees, you’ll see a boost in your company culture.

Experts predict that a premium will be placed on a clean working environment, with more stringent health protocols, upgraded air filters and filtration systems, occupancy maximums on elevators, sanitizing stations and directional signage where applicable.

What’s more, with fewer people in the office at any given time, you can create more space, add more lounge furniture and features such as a ping pong table. You should also put a renewed focus on the kitchen area as a shared space and working environment for collaboration. Team members can enjoy meals together and connect with one another, but also open laptops up and discuss projects. Kitchens can be a strong centre of community life outside the office. The same can be true inside the office.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions about remote work, managing a hybrid workforce and maximizing your office space (or any other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

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What should entrepreneurs look for during an economic recovery? 3 more moves you should make

By Wish Group No Comments

Last month we took a deep-dive into the new opportunities opening up for entrepreneurs, as more of us receive the Covid-19 vaccine and we inch closer to an economic recovery. Those are still very much in play.

However, as the situation around us continues to evolve, even more opportunities are becoming available. Here are three more savvy moves that entrepreneurs need to be cognizant of.

1. Raise growth capital in your business

A year ago, when the pandemic first hit, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding investments.

Now, however, the situation is reversed. There is a lot of interest and money available, with stock markets near record highs and numerous multibillion dollar IPOs in the news. There are also many government programs in the U.S. and Canada pushing economic growth, which is driving investment.

The timing has never been better to raise growth capital.

In the first quarter of 2021 alone, global venture investments reached $125 billion, a 50 per cent increase quarter over quarter and a 94 per cent increase year over year. If you have a tech company, even better, as investors are looking for emerging technologies.

There are some lingering concerns with unemployment levels and access to capital, but these should dissipate once more regions lift their lockdowns and people are more readily vaccinated.

2. Ramp up your sales and business development

In the same vein, now is the perfect time to ramp up your sales and business development efforts. The Wish Group has been very opportunistic in this regard, hiring more individuals to the sales team and looking to invest in emerging technologies.

There are two key reasons why:

  • The presence of government-backed business aid programs.
  • Pent-up demand to do commerce.

As previously mentioned, governments in Canada and the U.S. have been very proactive about encouraging economic growth, even if some of it has gone a little under the radar.

In Canada specifically, there is a wage subsidy for employers. Originally this was supposed to end in June, but the Canadian government has now extended the program to September. It has also committed to continuing other income support measures, which bodes well for regular Joes and entrepreneurs alike.

The other reason to ramp up sales is the pent-up demand for commerce and in-store shopping. Outside of vehicles and restaurants, experts are also anticipating a surge in demand for travel, as people return to their normal routines.

3. Reimagine the office environment

The Covid-19 pandemic shifted the dynamics of where and how we work. Many people began working from home and have since adapted to its unique rigours, so it’s safe t o say that this trend is here to stay.

Yet, the rumours of commercial real estate’s death are largely premature. There’s still plenty of room for office environments in the post-Covid world and with the right adjustments, these too can flourish. The key word here is “environment.”

When it’s deemed OK for all of us to return to the office, we’ll likely see a hybrid model – a mixture of remote and in-office work. People will want to have the option to come in. Perhaps they will spend less time in the office overall, but when there, they will be producing a different quality and type of work.

While there are many advantages to working remotely, there are still certain functions that are better suited for an in-person, office environment. For example, no matter how advanced our technology becomes, it cannot easily replicate the feel of physical contact, overhearing things and connecting with people over a real discussion. You will want to make the office environment more hospitable and leverage this need to connect.

So, what does this mean? Ideally, the office should look less like a workspace, with rows and rows of cubicles, and more like a place of community. You will need to make your office a more exciting place in which to spend time.

With fewer people in the office at any given time, you can open the space up, add more lounge furniture, and features such as a ping pong table. You should also put a renewed focus on the kitchen area as a shared space and environment for collaboration. Team members can enjoy meals together and connect with one another, but also open laptops up and discuss projects. Kitchens can be a strong centre of community life outside the office. The same can be true inside the office.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions and concerns about navigating this economic recovery (or any other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

Frank Cianciulli selected as finalist for prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year Canada award

By Press No Comments

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (May 14, 2021) – In recognition of his success and personal commitment to entrepreneurship and his community, Frank Cianciulli, Wish Group Chairman and CEO, has been selected as a regional finalist for the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year Canada award. This national program highlights and celebrates those unstoppable entrepreneurs who shape the world around us.

“I’m proud to be named as a 2021 finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year® Canada,” says Cianciulli. “This is recognition of the hard work and dedication of all the team members across the Wish Group companies. So grateful.”

A serial entrepreneur, Cianciulli has turned his passion for audio conferencing sales into a lengthy string of success, beginning with Enunciate Conferencing, which he co-founded in 2001. In the years since, he’s started or purchased several companies in the telecommunications, human resources and technology/media space, consolidating them under the Wish Group banner in 2008.

Wish Group provides best-in-class business solutions through an award-winning group of companies that work collaboratively across Canada and the US. A continued focus on dedication, respect, flexibility and efficiency defines Wish Group’s corporate culture. Over the years, Wish Group has developed entrepreneurial leaders and cohesive teams that pride themselves on helping clients improve communications, attract and retain world-class workforces and achieve first-rate financial results.

In the coming weeks, a panel of judges will review the candidacy of the finalists and announce a winner in June. The Ontario representative will then face off against other regional winners across Canada during the national selection process, which is slated to begin later this year. The winner there will be crowned the new Canadian EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

Since 1986, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year has been a unique global program designed to shine a spotlight on the brightest and most innovative entrepreneurs who work to improve the quality of life in their communities, countries and around the world. Today, it operates in more than 60 countries and 145 cities.

About Wish Group

With office in Canada and the US, Wish Group is a collection of companies anchored by entrepreneurial passion, hard work and integrity. We continue to focus on becoming the premier business solutions provider with diversified services to clients across industries. We strongly believe our people are the single greatest resource to success. When you combine great ideas with great people, you have an unstoppable force. The energy of our ambitious team together with proven leadership excellence creates a strong foundation built to deliver exceptional service to business clientele. Learn more by visiting www.wishgroup.ca.

Like www.facebook.com/Wish-Group-343031396097623/

Follow https://twitter.com/wish_group

Connect www.linkedin.com/company/the-wish-group/

About Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY)

With offices in Canada and around the world, EY is a global organization dedicated to helping companies solve their toughest challenges and realize their greatest ambitions – from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies – and the work they do with them is as varied as their clients. Through four service lines – Assurance, Consulting, Strategy and Transactions, and Tax – they help clients capitalize on transformative opportunities. EY also helps clients fulfill regulatory requirements, keep their investors informed and meet the needs of all their stakeholders. Learn more by visiting https://www.ey.com/.

Media contact:

Peter Vamos, Vice President Marketing, Wish Group, pvamos@wishgroup.ca, 416-357-5118

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What should entrepreneurs look for during an economic recovery? 3 smart moves you should make in 2021

By Wish Group No Comments

 

For the last couple of months, we’ve spoken at length about how entrepreneurs can navigate an  economic downturn — fiscally as well as mentally. As stewards of your business, you have an obligation to hold the fort, not only for yourself but for the members of your team. A crew and its ship can only go as far as the captain steers them.

So now, as we inch towards an economic recovery, we find ourselves at an interesting threshold. There are several opportunities awaiting savvy entrepreneurs willing to pursue them. Here are three of the biggest ones and the moves you need to make to get a leg up on the competition.

A word of caution though – don’t lose sight of the lessons learned during the economic downturn to avoid overstretching yourself!

1.  Scale up your workforce.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, out of adversity breeds opportunity. It goes without saying that the companies that weathered the worst of this pandemic and did well, want to continue to thrive and do well. That opportunity lies in scaling up your operations.

I’ve seen more than a few companies scaling up their staff recently, leaving heavily into their HR department to identify and bring on top talent. But the old axiom still holds true – good help is hard to find – especially on the backend of a pandemic.

Why? For the longest time, most people haven’t been able to even consider moving employers. There were just so many unknowns when it came to job searches – a very scary proposition if you’re comfortable where you are.

As a business owner, it’s on you to convince potential candidates otherwise and bring them on board. After this pandemic, people will be more mindful of their company benefits, so you will need to up the ante and offer better sick leave policies, more comprehensive health coverage and so on to entice talent. There will also be many talented employees who know they can be productive working from home, at least part of the time. You’ll need to consider this. Which brings us to point two.

2.  Invest in new technologies.

Here at the Wish Group, we’ve been actively hunting for technological  trends that will emerge out of this ordeal. Obviously, without a crystal ball handy, we can’t know for sure what is coming but there are some strong indicators.

One thing is for sure, however, as stated above, working from home is here to stay, even if it is not in the exact same form as it is today. A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic.

One interesting development to keep an eye on is the growth of technology solutions in the video collaboration and media space, in particular software as a service (SaaS) and the digitization of entertainment. With more people online, businesses are capitalizing by shifting towards subscription-based models, creating a recurring revenue stream – this shows no signs of slowing down in the post-Covid world.

3.  Explore opportunities for mergers and acquisitions.

If you’ve been in business for 10+ years and have a steady client base, now may be the perfect time to explore expanding your business.

In the first month or two of this pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty, as there was no real playbook for how to handle things, causing a slowdown in the market for mergers and acquisitions. How much? Statistics from Dealogic show that this sort of activity dipped 35 per cent globally in Q1 2020 from the prior quarter.

So why now? There’s a lot of liquidity in the market and low interest rates, so many people are looking for investments. Not only that, but there are also more ways to cut out costs, especially office space, now that remote work is on the rise.

Moreover, many private equity groups are sitting on cash that will make use of as the new normal emerges. Well-positioned strategic buyers are also looking to diversify their portfolio or grow revenue by pouncing on distressed competitors, suppliers and customers at discount prices.

Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions and concerns about navigating this economic recovery (or an other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

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How can entrepreneurs stay disciplined during an economic downturn?

By Wish Group No Comments

Self discipline is the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do.”

As entrepreneurs, there are many elements that are beyond your control during a global pandemic – lockdowns, vaccine rollouts, consumer behaviour, the economy – but you can always control your actions and attitude. Having the necessary discipline to keep yourself, your employees and your business steady during uncertainty is invaluable.

As the steward of your business, you have an obligation to hold the fort. Having been in business for so many years, I’ve seen my share of situations where fellow entrepreneurs or managers have lost their cool during a crisis. Too often, this can have a negative trickle-down effect, morally and financially, on everything and everyone around them.

So, what can you do to maintain your discipline during a crisis? Two things:

  1. Be financially diligent. This starts with being prepared even before a crisis hits. Apply the age-old advice to managing your personal finances towards running your business – set some money aside and save it for that rainy day. Being consistently disciplined with your business’s finances will ensure that you’re able to do do this, as you will already have costs under control and be operating within your means. When the difficult times do come, you will have to adjust, but won’t have to undertake wrenching changes, a welcome relief for your employees.
  2. Maintain a positive mindset. In business, as with life, you’ll face challenges. As I mentioned before, you can’t control every aspect of those situations, but you can choose how you react. Any crisis is manageable, regardless of the triggers, if you maintain a healthy frame of mind. How do you do this? It all comes down to what you allow into your brain. Limiting engagement with negative people, reading inspirational books as well as consuming less news and social media are a good start. I’d also recommend focusing on what you can impact right now, such as responding quicker or communicating and strategizing with your team.

If you need more help managing your business during this pandemic, check out how you can do more with less as well as strategies you can employ to get by as an entrepreneur. To get in touch, drop me a line at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

BOOTSTRAP WITH FRANK CIANCIULLI: Doing more with less during an economic downturn

By Wish Group No Comments

How do you do more with less? It’s a question many countries are grappling with right now, as they frantically race to secure and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine, all while charting a course for economic recovery post-pandemic.

Coincidentally, it’s the same question you, a business owner/entrepreneur, should be asking yourself. When things are going well, it is human nature to become complacent or gravitate towards excess – spending more on events, executing more extravagant marketing campaigns and buying larger office space, to name a few. It’s a recipe for losing perspective.

More, more, more. But what if you pivoted and did more with less?

Obviously, during an economic downturn you need to be mindful of your business practices and be a little more frugal with your wallet. But there is still so much that can be done right now to remain afloat, while keeping an eye out for the future.

Based on my personal experience, here are three of the biggest lessons you can learn during an economic downturn.

  1. Find a happy balance. Tightening the reigns and getting leaner doesn’t mean your business needs to get meaner. With less at your disposal, you will need to find creative solutions that minimize excess and maintain productivity. But be careful – cutting back too far could lead to burning out quicker and festering unwanted resentment within your team. It’s all about striking that delicate balance so you can keep your business growing into the future.
  2. Distinguish yourself. In times like these, your clients and prospective leads will be less willing to spend. There’s nothing you can do about this. What you can do is keep yourself in the conversation, even when you’re not selling. Distinguish yourself now by being authentic and generating goodwill in the community through thought leadership, discounts, free trails and even favourable payment methods. When the world gets back to normal, people will remember these “little” gestures and reward you.
  3. Embrace the challenge. Adversity is never fun, but it’s the challenges that we face in life that build character and give us that edge. Same thing goes for businesses. When you’re hit with challenges, embrace them and double down on your organizational strengths. Put the mettle of your business to the test. This is a proven mentality. Many legendary businesses, from Microsoft to Netflix, found success when they launched during economic downturns. The lessons they learned are encoded into their DNA, allowing them to weather any storm. Heck, the Wish Group was launched in the recession of 2008. The lessons we learned during those days never left us and continue to inform everything we do.

If you’re a current or aspiring entrepreneur with questions and concerns about navigating this economic downturn (or any other topic for that matter), I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

BOOTSTRAP WITH FRANK CIANCIULLI: How entrepreneurs can navigate the COVID-19 economic downturn

By Wish Group No Comments

Happy New Year! With the calendar rolling over to 2021, we have the chance for a fresh start – new goals, new opportunities – even if in a different form than years past.

There’s no sugar-coating it – the past several months during the Covid-19 pandemic have been challenging for all of us, especially when it comes to the economy. The increase in unemployment rates, less non-essential consumer spending and erratic interest rates paint a less than rosy financial picture.

The good news is that with the ongoing distribution of vaccines and development of economic recovery plans, things look to improve in the next few months.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you might be wondering how to navigate through this economic downturn and position your business for success as the economy continues to open up.

Well, here are three of the most important things you should do to protect your business:

Manage your cash flow

While sound advice even in the best of times, make sure you continue to control expenses and cash flow. Even though you’re feeling optimistic that we are finally, truly rounding that corner toward a better economy, if there’s currently more money going out the door than coming in, you risk not making it across the finish line. We can’t predict just how long the full recovery will really take. As an entrepreneur, being optimistic is in your blood. But too much optimism at this critical time could sink you.

Continue to be laser focused on getting your money from clients and making sure that payables are sorted, so that you can emerge from this crisis stronger and in line for success. Until we get a clearer picture of how circumstances will unfold this year, I would also hold off planning any big events. For now, keep your event planning to virtual events.

Look after yourself

Winter is in full swing and gyms are closed in many regions, but you must prioritize looking after your health. Without you, there is no business. Take an introspective look at your personal life. As an entrepreneur, it can be pretty lonely carrying the weight of a business on your shoulders – it exacts a toll on you physically and emotionally. Most entrepreneurs have 10 to 12-hour days and are constantly dealing with the anxiety of paying bills and waiting on cheques. Get regular exercise, don’t skimp out on sleep and consider taking up yoga or meditation to help you filter out the stress. It’s also a good idea to limit your caffeine intake!

Put your business into perspective

Once you’ve sorted yourself out, you’ll need to put the health of your business into perspective. Analyze the year that just passed and review any aspirational budgets – that lofty number you wanted to achieve. Adjust it as needed for 2021 and start building or restructuring your team to achieve these goals in anticipation of emerging from this economic downturn. Continue to focus on key client relationships and add value wherever you can, so they continue to appreciate what you bring.

Also, look for innovative ways to keep your business in the public conversation. Your clients and prospects are online every day. Post regularly to social channels and create blogs and videos to position yourself as a thought leader in your sector.

Still unsure? If you’re a current or aspiring entrepreneur with questions and concerns about the year ahead, I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

 

This blog was first published on LinkedIn.