Most cities in Canada have two seasons: winter and construction – or so the saying goes. We asked our Toronto team how small businesses adapt during the construction season and wanted to share the details with you to help your business succeed.
Our Conversation with Lendified’s Toronto Team:
What type of construction do your small business customers deal with in Toronto?
It varies according to the location. Every summer, we see construction across the GTA ranging from routine projects like fixing potholes to larger projects like streetcar track maintenance. Summer 2017 marks the commencement of a major initiative to overhaul the Gardiner Expressway, starting with the demolition and rebuilding of a popular eastbound ramp. These types of projects, along with the usual construction activity across the city, provide great long term benefits to the community, but in the short term they clog streets and cause headaches for many consumers, employees, and business owners.
How does the construction impact small businesses?
Construction and roadwork can make it difficult for customers, clients, partners, suppliers and employees to get to your business on time. This can be especially painful for employees since the worst congestion is experienced during rush hour when commuters make their way to work.
What can business owners do to combat the effects of the construction?
There are 5 things we have seen small businesses do to thrive:
1. Make it worth their while
If getting to your business has become a hassle due to construction projects, offer incentives and rewards to your customers for making the trip. Offer discounts, points and promotions – anything you have at your disposal – just as you might during any lull or difficult stretch. Small businesses can also draw in additional foot traffic by offering special events and attractions at their place of business. Idea: Try partnering with other businesses in your area or reaching out to your BIA to see if you can work collectively with other businesses in your area to tackle common problems.
2. Become a traffic guru
Stay apprised of what is happening in respect to construction and road closures. You can subscribe to online alerts or simply find your go-to source on the radio, television or online. Utilize your website and social media, as well as direct communication channels (such as mail, newsletter, email, phone) to warn customers about the closures or delays that may impact your place of work. Idea: Post maps on your website suggesting alternate routes and identifying parking to make your customer’s trip as smooth as possible.
If possible, shift focus to your online, delivery or mobile services. Do you run a retail business? The summer might be a good time to open up that online shop you’ve been thinking about. Promote your online services via social media and email, to ensure your customers are aware that there are other ways to do business with you. Idea: If you offer professional services consider doing sessions via FaceTime or Skype – your clients might appreciate the alternative option.
4. Promote public transit
Despite the grumbles we hear from time to time, many Canadian cities have excellent public transit – and we see that Toronto is no exception. When factoring in the train, subway, streetcar and bus routes, avoiding summer construction traffic in the city is entirely feasible. Once again, your website, social media and direct marketing channels are key for promoting transit alternatives to driving. Idea: Leverage those who already take public transit by sending someone from your team with a company t-shirt (or some creative way to draw the attention of commuters) to drive awareness and traffic to your business.
5. Flexible work options for employees
For many small businesses, such as those operating in an office environment, arrangements can easily be made for employees to work from home, or work remotely. Allowing employees and partners flexibility to participate in meetings remotely will help boost morale during what might otherwise be a very frustrating stretch for commuters. Idea: If working from home is not possible, you can offer employees the option to work flexible hours. Perhaps construction-related traffic cannot be avoided altogether, however driving to work just before or after peak rush hour traffic can make a considerable difference.
Any final thoughts you want to share?
The key lesson we have learned from thousands of conversations with business owners is that you have to be able to adapt to succeed. It is incredible to see the ingenuity of business owners and we love helping them capitalize on opportunities and being a part of their story.
Got other ideas? How does your business manage during construction season? Tweet to us @Lendified – we want to hear from you!