When business is anything but usual, it simply doesn’t make sense to rely on legacy strategies or tried-and-true methods. It reminds me of that old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention. With the entire world thrown into uncharted territory during this COVID-19 crisis, governments, businesses, and individuals have all had to become extremely inventive in order to meet their own needs.

In my own business, I’ve had to make some hard decisions and devise new and innovative ways to move forward over the past several weeks. Here is one example of a strategy that I’ve implemented in my own business during the COVID-19 crisis that I hope can provide inspiration to other business leaders as they look for solutions for their own situations.

My strategy is this: look for the win-win-win solution. This might seem like far-fetched advice in the midst of a global pandemic, where it seems that every day we’re seeing companies fall dramatically into either a “win” (grocery stores, cleaning product manufacturers, toilet paper brands) or “lose” category, but it’s not. With a little bit of ingenuity and a sense of empathy, there are ways to find positive solutions, even when there are multiple stakeholders involved.

Let me give you an example. We own a commercial real estate plaza in Petrolia, Ontario –– a suburb of Sarnia. This plaza’s tenants include an animal hospital, a pet store, a chiropractor, a foot clinic, a graphic designer/printer, a flower shop and an LCBO. Every one of these tenants has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and five have had to temporarily close their doors due to mandatory government-ordered shutdowns. We knew that rent would be a significant concern for these tenants, and so we took some novel and innovative steps.

As a survivor of both the 2008 financial crisis and the recession of the 1990s, I know inherently that deferring rent for tenants with an expectation that they will pay it all back in a lump sum results in empty spaces. Simply put, if you want tenants to survive, you need to be creative.

First, we negotiated with Main Street Credit Union to get accrued interest until August 1, 2020 to allow for some breathing room. To do this, we offered our tenants up to three months of free rent in exchange for extended lease terms. All seven tenants signed the extended leases and the credit union happily agreed to our terms and suggestions.

By forgiving rent in the short term and extending the leases, we created a win-win-win situation, benefiting our tenants, the lender, and ourselves as the property owners. In this situation, everyone cooperated, all parties were empathetic to one another, and together we were able to build loyalty and trust.

What have I learned from this? To dive into these discussions with empathy and openness when you think you have a solution, even if they feel far-fetched. You never know what you may be able to land on.

While there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, with provinces planning staggered re-openings of various verticals, none of us really knows what post-COVID-19 life will look like. My plan to approach this unknown future will be to listen to what’s going on, accept what’s happening, adapt accordingly, and move forward. By staying solutions-oriented, remaining nimble and flexible, and being open to new approaches and strategies, I believe there’s a road, not just to recovery, but to prosperity, ahead.

What are your strategies for getting through this pandemic?

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