Oh, what a year it’s been…

It is amazing how things can change in one year. As you get older, time seems to pass so quickly… and it has already been one year since I joined Business Link as CEO. It has been filled with opportunity, challenge, change, and moments. Whenever you start a new adventure you never know what to expect, and this was no different.

The Opportunity

Business Link is an amazing organization that has supported tens of 1,000’s of Alberta entrepreneurs since 1996. Why have we been around for so long? The amazing people who work at Business Link. From day one, I knew that this was a dedicated team, a knowledgeable team, and a team of entrepreneurs themselves – almost everyone has a side hustle or has been an entrepreneur. That makes a difference. What an amazing opportunity to be able to work with this team to bring Business Link into the new decade, the 2020’s – how could I not be excited.

The Challenge

There are always challenges. Every organization does things a certain way. Every organization needs to face its challenges head-on. We’ve done a ton of work to get through our challenges and build something that allows us to take on the 2020’s head-on. It’s been great to build a strong management team; an all-female, culturally diverse management team that has taken on the challenges at hand, solving problems with the tenacity, dedication, and passion that they have for entrepreneurs and Business Link.

The Change

“The only constant in life is change”. At Business Link we need to understand the environment we work in is always being disrupted. We need to embrace the pivot, the change. We need to be as innovative and flexible as the entrepreneurs who are our clients. So, we’ve made changes, built new systems, looked at things from new lenses, and we have changed.

The Moments

There have been so many. It’s been amazing to watch what this team does, to hear stories from entrepreneurs, to watch the growth, and to feel the moments. Some of the most memorable have been watching our team interact with our clients, stakeholders and our community at our first ever Report to the Community last fall, and seeing the passion and diversity at the SAAMIS Indigenous Arts and Entrepreneur Program graduation in Lethbridge in February. Unknown to us, this would be the last time we would see our teammates for months, having to postpone quarterly team meetings where we all come together and learn, laugh and build, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, we prepared to lead in the 2020s, but who knew it would start off with a bang of this magnitude. I am most proud of our team these strange last three months, as they have adapted to working from home, new social distancing measures, and continued to support our clients through it all.

Perseverance

Business Link has never stopped working. Thanks to changes we made to our systems and policies in the last year, we were able to work from the office one day and work from home the next. We had developed an emergency response plan, and activated it the day the province announced schools were closing and everyone was advised to work from home. Our staff was ready, willing and able. We set up at home, we took phone calls, spoke with scared business owners who did not know what was next, and we did it all from home. We responded quickly and set-up a COVID-19 Resources page within days, saw record-breaking visitor traffic on our website, and our team handled 80 online chats in one day, with our staff all pitching in to support each other. These last three months have been the moments where the changes we made, the opportunities we embraced, the challenges we overcame, have all paid off.

It has been an honor to continue to serve our clients so seamlessly. To ensure our funders knew that their dollars are making a difference to business in Alberta. To work with this dedicated, passionate team who has worked through all the stresses and uncertainty COVID-19 has presented.

What’s Next?

Today, it has been one year since I began at Business Link, and oh what a year it’s been. I look forward to getting back to seeing our team face to face, to feeling the energy, to hearing the stories, to feeling some normalcy again. As we head into Stage 2 of Alberta’s Relaunch, I know that whatever the next year throws at us, Business Link is prepared. We will embrace the next opportunity, challenge, change, and moments as we have this past year.

Thanks to the amazing team that makes Business Link shine every day. Thanks to our board, who are passionate about what we do. Thanks to our funders, the Government of Alberta, Government of Canada, and Western Economic Diversification, who continue to believe in us and know we are making a difference. Thanks to the entrepreneurs and small business owners, who reach out to us for help in good times and bad.

This has been a year, and I am excited for the next one no matter what it brings.