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Thoughts on Re-opening your Business by Rocco Rossi

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Rocco Rossi, President & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce

“A successful entrepreneur and business executive, champion fundraiser, and dedicated public servant, Rocco Rossi joined the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) in 2018 as President and CEO.

Prior to joining the OCC, Rossi most recently served as President and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada where he helped to advance the research, advocacy, education, and awareness of the most common cancer in men.


 1. How can businesses smooth the transition of reopening their business in the coming weeks or months?

 The key to a successful reopening – as long as we still don’t have a vaccine, is going to be building and maintaining consumer and employee confidence. If your consumer or employee doesn’t feel safe doing business with you then you won’t have the success. There are some things you need to do like joining your voice with the Chamber of Commerce and other groups to push what the government needs to do, which is more testing, more track and tracing, and availability of far more PPE for businesses, frontline workers and long-term healthcare. As you re-open, consumers and employees are going to expect there to be PPE. We are already seeing examples like Longo’s supermarket here in the GTA that requires customers to wear a mask to shop in their stores. That is both to protect other shoppers and to send a strong signal to their employees that they are going to do everything in their power to make the workplace as safe as possible.

What businesses need to do is take every step. The government has issued health and safety guidelines and re-opening guidelines in over 90 sectors. You can visit Ontario.ca and download your sector and that provides you a base and some things we all know. We know that you have to ensure physical distancing, ensure that your employees are washing their hands or wearing masks if necessary, setting up plexiglass barriers where needed, move to cashless payments, and deep cleaning of the facilities. All of these are steps that will increase confidence in consumers and employees. Businesses rightfully tell me that they’ve been shut down for 10-11 weeks and for some of us who aren’t allowed to re-open it’s going to be even longer. The money will be gone. We are pushing governments to set aside funds for re-opening because bigger companies are able to absorb that and it’s very difficult for the small companies to source materials and pay for it.

The test for you should be, have you done everything possible so that you would feel comfortable inviting your mother, your child, your spouse, your best friend, and either work for you or be your customer. If you can’t answer yes to that, then you haven’t done enough.


2. What are the differences between business operations pre and post-COVID and what is your advice to small businesses adapting to the new normal?

 There’s no question that a big part of the difference – and this was a trend that was happening anyway but has been accelerated by COVID, that businesses where possible had been digitizing through e-commerce or through being able to answer questions and undertake sales call through zoom or Microsoft teams or other virtual platforms. Getting up to speed with that is going to crucial for most businesses and those that do it well are going to succeed. That unveils another big issue that across Canada we don’t have equal access to broadband internet and that is something that both the government and the private sector responding to a favorable environment need to build out significantly.

It is the new electrification, the new highways of the 21st century. If we want to succeed as a province and as a country and help our businesses and students succeed, we need Broadband Internet everywhere. Beyond digital is really what businesses will always have to do and that’s particularly important duringCOVID-19. Beyond is engaging in constant conversation with your customers to build and maintain confidence and deliver the value that’s going to make them choose you and keep choosing you in the future. Okay is no longer okay, everybody is going to have to up their game.

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