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Discussing Small Business Success with Greg Grice

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As Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services for RBC’s Canadian Banking division, Greg Grice is responsible for setting the strategic direction and leading all lines of business that serve small business and commercial clients through an extensive business banking network. Based on a strong commitment to its clients, Business Financial Services holds the leading market share across Canada in business loans and deposits/investments. 

Since joining RBC in 1988, Greg has had a wide range of senior management and executive positions within RBC’s branch network and head office. Prior to his current role, he was Executive Vice President, Enterprise Services where he led Procurement; Enterprise Optimization; Acquisition Integration & Enterprise Decision Support; Strategy & Transformation; Corporate Real Estate and Enterprise Business Continuity Management. Greg has also served as SVP, Service and Operations, RBC Insurance as well as a number of senior executive roles including Regional President for the Atlantic Region, Vice President of RBC’s domestic Business and Commercial Financing Products and Regional Vice President of Business Markets for the Greater Toronto Region.

Greg earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University.  An avid community supporter, Greg serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Trillium Health Partners Foundation, Moneris Solutions Corporation, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. He is past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Trillium Health Partners Foundation.  He lives in Toronto with his wife and their two children.


1. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on everything from our healthcare system and economy to the physical and mental wellbeing and behaviors of Canadians. How as this pandemic specifically impacted Canadian small businesses?

Unfortunately, Canadian entrepreneurs and small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the disruption of COVID-19. In our latest report, Small Business, Big Pivot, we found that small companies saw nearly double the rate of job losses versus mid-sized and large businesses.  At the height of the pandemic, two-thirds of those surveyed had experienced revenue declines of more than 50% forcing most owners to cut their own salaries and lay off 75% or more of their employees.

 

In the midst of physical distancing measures and forced the temporary closure of businesses, many small companies were also ill-prepared to pivot quickly to mobile and e-Commerce alternatives as many did not have a pre-existing online presence or digital payment processing capabilities. This, among other factors, had a significant impact on their ability to adapt quickly and sustain operations during the pandemic.

This has had a profound impact on our economy as small businesses represent 42% of GDP and 48% of new jobs in Canada. 

2. The economy is slowly but surely re-opening. What are some advice or considerations you have for entrepreneurs as they prepare to welcome customers, and focus on recovery and resilience this year?

First and foremost, focus your efforts on re-opening your business in a way that prioritizes the safety of employees and customers. Beyond minimizing the risk of a new COVID-19 spread, it’s important that your employees and customers feel safe to show up to work and shop in your place of business, and first impressions count! If they don’t feel safe the first time, they’re not likely to return and potentially bear the risk a second time. So it’s important that owners think through the impact of physical distancing measures as it relates to merchandising, on-site traffic, sanitization schedules, and PPE availability. Also, consider alternative means of accessing your products and services through e-Commerce and mobile apps, or through the continued curbside pickup, delivery, and appointment-based interactions to manage volumes.

Secondly, take this time to proactively scenario plan your cash flow and capital needs. Thinking beyond the summer re-opening, think about the impact of a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall so that you’re better prepared to support your employees and customers. Consider the following questions:

  • How will your cash flow be affected if you were required to partially or fully shut down your business again? 
  • How will increased or sustained PPE expenses affect your overhead costs?
  • How does a switch to local or alternative suppliers affect your cash flow, should you need to?
  • How will the extension or expiry or government and other financial relief programs affect your short and long-term capital needs?

The recovery phase of our economic future remains fluid and it’s important that business owners proactively think through these scenarios now so they can develop contingency plans. It’s just as important to talk to an advisor at your bank, your accountant, and lawyer to understand how they can support you in these scenarios and help secure any necessary capital so you can be less reactive and more agile in the event that scenarios become a reality. 

Finally, explore digital HR solutions to support employees while simplifying the administration for you as the owner. Saving time and maximizing value for you and your employees is critical, now more than ever.  Whether you’re looking to hire new staff, efficiently manage your payroll, or offer virtual employee health services and other benefits, RBC offers HR solutions through Magnet, ADP, Wello, and League to help business clients support the well-being of their employees with greater flexibility and ease.

3. Many businesses expanded into e-Commerce and digital channels during the quarantine period. Do you anticipate this trend to continue?

Yes, and I don’t think we’ll see digital adoption going back to pre-COVID levels for two reasons. First, digital solutions have the potential to unlock new operational efficiencies and critical cost savings as a result of those efficiencies.  Secondly, digitizing operations and exploring e-Commerce as part of your business model through solutions like the Moneris + Bookmark offer for RBC small business clients can help you maintain business continuity during periods of disruption and physical distancing.

During COVID-19, we saw many entrepreneurs make the difficult move to pivot on their traditional business model and embrace digital tools and channels to stay open. Fitness instructors took to virtual Zoom training sessions, brick-and-mortar retailers offered online shopping options, restaurants offered curbside pickup and delivery, and real estate agents encouraged virtual viewings and ‘open houses’. Meanwhile, digital communication platforms, payment & cash management tools, banking solutions and invoicing and payroll management solutions provided greater flexibility for owners and employees to efficiently manage their business operations while freeing up valuable time to stay engaged with customers and re-plan their business strategy. Many entrepreneurs and consumers have now adapted to this new, digitally-enabled, and expedient way of living and working. And I think the businesses that remain agile and resilient in this changing landscape will be the ones that say on the path of embracing digital solutions and e-Commerce strategies to enhance their operations and customer experience.

4. Canadian small businesses are the backbone of our economy and their successful bounce back is critical. How is RBC supporting entrepreneurs and business owners during these challenging times?

We’re supporting Canadian businesses in three ways:

First, we’re rallying all Canadians to support Canadian brands and local businesses as the economy re-opens through our Canada United campaign. We partnered with the national network of Chambers of Commerce, business associations, and 50+ corporate partners to encourage Canadians to support local businesses– from retailers and restaurants to florists, tradespeople, and other service providers – to stimulate economic recovery. Support can take the form of shopping or buying services from a local provider, and amplifying awareness of businesses through social media likes and shares. The campaign will culminate in a nationwide shopping weekend from August 28-30. 

Starting August 31, the program will also accept applications for the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund to help Canadian small businesses cover expenses related to PPE, renovations to accommodate physical distancing measures, and enhancements made to e-Commerce platforms. More information on this can be found at www.gocanadaunited.ca

In June, we also launched Points for Canada to stimulate local economies across Canada by giving clients double the points at restaurants and 30% more value when redeeming points for gift cards or paying in-store.

Secondly, we’re sharing valuable tips and resources to help entrepreneurs pivot and manage their business through this crisis and recovery. RBC’s Discover & Learn portal offers articles, expert tips, and perspectives around how to effectively plan and manage cash flow during uncertainty, create checklists to prepare for re-opening, manage stress and mental resilience, and plan safe retail shopping experiences, to name a few. We also partnered with the Chatter that Matters podcasts to bring entrepreneurs and business experts together on topics of resilience, marketing, strategy, and industry-specific insights.

Finally, we’re continuing to provide tailored advice and client relief solutions to small business clients impacted by COVID-19. We’re continuing to support the administration of the Government of Canada’s various financial relief programs, while also adapting and administering RBC’s own Client Relief Program to the case-by-case needs of our clients as they continue to navigate these fluid and challenging times. More information on RBC’s Client Relief Program can be found at  https://www.rbc.com/businessrelief.

 

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