The past year has presented numerous challenges for small businesses. Ongoing lockdowns have not only had an impact on their bottom line, but also on the mental health and wellness of their employees – whose wellbeing is critical to the success of any business.
As a business owner, you want to take care of staff morale, but might not understand how to approach this topic. In this webcast, four speakers will provide their unique perspectives on how they have managed their team’s wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch a candid discussion where you will learn:
- Why mental wellbeing is an important concern for small businesses.
- What business owners have learned about mental health and wellbeing.
- Actionable tips and initiatives for addressing wellbeing with your team.
Leigh Smout: (Silence). As a result of COVID, businesses are realizing that they actually have to manage their workforce virtually. They need to find new customers without being able to go to a trade show. They need to manage disrupted supply chains. RAP has been designed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade to help companies improve their digital maturity during these challenging times. A participant in the program will have their digital needs assessment done, their DNA. Once we have their DNA, we are able to direct them into the programs that help educate companies, help them create a plan, help them get it in touch with the resources that are going to support them as they manage through these challenges. The program is about long-term improvement for businesses, about running your business more efficiently. Even after the pandemic, that is going to be a critical thing for any business. And in this case, it's going to make all of those businesses stronger. A business can sign up for the program simply by registering at our website, and then we'll get them into that digital needs assessment.
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thanks for joining us today. My name's Leigh Smout and I'm president of the World Trade Center, Toronto. And I'd like to welcome you to the latest installments of our RAP webcast series. And it's a series that wouldn't be possible without the support of our scale up institute, Toronto sponsor, Innovate Cities and also our RAP program sponsors, Cisco Designed, Rogers for Business, Scotia Bank and Xero. And we also have partnerships with the board's principal sponsors, The Globe and Mail, Scotia Bank and the University of Toronto.
A couple of housing keeping notes off the top, if your video's lagging or it freezes, there's another stream that can be accessed by clicking the switch stream button on the right side of your screen. And for any other technical issues, you can click request help in the bottom right corner of your screen and somebody will be in touch with you to help you out. To submit questions at any point, please click on the questions tab and I do say at any point, because you can do that any time. Don't wait for the Q&A. And finally a recording of the webcast will be available on supportbusiness.bot.com afterwards.
And now, before we dive into today's important discussion, I would like to tell you briefly a little bit more about the Toronto Region Board of Trade's Recovery Activation Program, otherwise known as RAP, which you just saw a little video on, and a little bit about why you should participate. RAP's been specifically developed for Ontario businesses who are not only looking to weather the pandemic, but to emerge from it stronger than they were before. And through online workshops and personalized mentorship sessions with industry experts, RAP has so far helped over 1700 Ontario businesses in over 30 industries, adapt digitally, stay in business, keep jobs and build a reliable path towards future growth.
And if you're wondering how to get it started, it was there in the video, just go to rap.bot.com and take our digital needs assessment. The DNA takes about 20 minutes to complete, and it assesses the digital maturity of your business and also how it ranks relative to your industry. And honestly, it's a great tool to give you a sense of where you're at in your digital maturity. You can also take it again in the future to see how you've improved. So please go and do that, even if that's all you're going to do, it's really worth it. The best part is, thanks to the support of our partners there's no cost to participate in any of the RAP programming for businesses across Ontario. So I strongly encourage you to join over 1700 businesses that have benefited so far at rap.bot.com.
Today, I want to add my thanks to our partners and friends at Xero who have made it possible for us to hold today's session and also who are bringing some fabulous info to you today. I'm excited to introduce once again, our brilliant moderator, Erin Bury, the CEO and founder of Willful, she'll be leading us today and our panel of experts through today's discussion. Named one of Marketing Magazine's top 30 under 30, Erin Bury is an entrepreneur, marketer, startup advisor and investor. Erin is also a frequent speaker for Speakers' Spotlight, a monthly columnist for the Financial Post, a tech commentator on CTV News and has been published in The New York Times, Forbes and CNN.
Erin, I understand that this is the last RAP webcast session we have you scheduled for, for a while. I just want to say a quick thank you for doing such a great job of helping us, really over the past year and get all of this great knowledge out to our business community in Toronto. The whole team feels that it's been a great pleasure to work with you, and we hope to be able to drag you back in sometime in the near future. So over to you and have a great session.
Erin Bury: Thank you so much, Leigh. And likewise, I've been delighted to host these sessions. If you've attended a few, you've had to sit through some of my bad jokes. And if this is your first time attending one of these webcasts, then there are bad jokes to come in the next 45 minutes, I promise you.
I'm really excited to be here today to talk about a topic that's so top of mind for every small business owner. When we think of business financial wellbeing, we typically think of things like cash flow and profitability, but the past year and a half, if it's taught us anything, it's that there's another pillar to business wellbeing, which is mental health and wellness.
While financial wellbeing has certainly been top of mind for every small business, including us at Willful, ongoing lockdowns due to COVID and the uncertainty surrounding whether or not our businesses will be able to survive has also taken a toll on the mental health of business owners and also of our employees. According to a recent survey of business owners from Xero and Core data research, business owners are pragmatic about how COVID has impacted their prospects. 42% of survey respondents accepted that COVID has made it difficult to launch new businesses and 64% responded that COVID dampened their overall outlook for new businesses.
So as a business owner like me, you've probably felt this impact on you and your team's mental health, but between keeping your business afloat, low resources and the lack of expertise, you might be unsure of how to actually tackle mental health and wellbeing and to improve the mental wellness of your team. And that's what we're here to talk about today, our discussion is going to focus on why mental wellbeing is so important for small businesses, what business owners have learned about mental health and wellbeing and actionable tips and initiatives for addressing wellbeing with your own teams.
Before we introduce our panel of experts, I want to hear from you. So I'm going to put up a quick poll. So please answer the question that you see on your screen. You can submit your answer using the pulling link to the right of your screen. The question is, what is the biggest challenge you experience when addressing wellness in the workplace? Is it cost and resources? Is it team reception and effectiveness? Is it feeling overwhelmed or you just don't really know where to start with wellbeing? Or is it something else? Answer D there. So you can answer the poll to the right of your screen. And I will just keep an eye on the results before we move on to our panel discussion.
I can tell you from my own perspective, it's feeling overwhelmed or not knowing exactly what solutions to put into place, which is why I'm particularly excited to get to benefit from the knowledge that our panelists are going to share today. It seems like other folks out there agree with me, seems like cost and resources is absolutely an issue. It is whenever you're putting any financial or other type of wellbeing resource into place, but that idea of feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start seems to be pretty prevalent. So have no fear, that is the whole point of today's event. We're going to have some great insights from folks who have been there, done that and who are experts in the field.
So on that note, I'm going to shift to introducing our panelists today. I'm going to start by introducing Jordan Axani, the co-founder of Shift Collab, which is one of Canada's largest therapy and mental health education firms. Jordan has vast experience working with managers and executives to empower their teams to tackle the workplace wellness crisis that's common within high growth companies. In the past four years, he's spoken to over 750,000 people across North America and the Middle East, which is a pretty cool claim to fame, including hands-on intensive workshops at top tier tech firms, including LinkedIn, Rover, Maple, Tulip and many others. And I understand he just finished one of those workshops right before joining us today. So welcome Jordan. We're so glad to have you.
You're going to notice a trend today with J names because our next panelist is Juanita Dickson, the president in CFO of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group. Gusto 101 in Toronto is one of my favorite restaurants out there. If you haven't had a chance to try one of these brands, make sure that you check them out. And Juanita has led Gusto 54 to experience major growth by overseeing the development and launch of new business opportunities, product line development, partnership agreements, real estate acquisition, transporting concepts and overall, restaurant expansion in both Canada and the United States. She has a passion for brand loyalty, exceptional customer experience and her culture as king philosophy guides her direction. Welcome Juanita.
Next, we have another J name, Jordan Davis, a partner at BDO's Oakville office. He has over 10 years of professional experience providing assurance, accounting and taxation services to owner managed private companies and not-for-profit organizations. Jordan provides advisory services to clients in a wide range of industries, including real estate and construction, consumer business, manufacturing and distribution, and not-for-profit, including foundations and nonprofit housing. Jordan also spent some time working for a private company as an accounting manager, gaining a unique perspective to being on the client side. Jordan's involved in the community through the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, as he sits on the board of directors and executive council. He also previously volunteered as treasurer for a local charity, helping adults improve literacy and math skills. Welcome Jordan.
And finally, we have Jana Galbraith, the director of People Experience for North America at Xero. Jana has experience building out HR functions for growing organizations, developing productive and engaging company cultures and coaching executive teams through day-to-day activities, as well as periods of significant change. She has enjoyed working for startups in the technology and entertainment industries, as well as more established yet entrepreneurial companies in mobile and digital media industries prior to joining Xero in August, 2019. Welcome Jana.
So we have a very stacked panel of experts today. So I want to dive into conversation. Wellbeing can be broadly defined as the state of being happy, comfortable or healthy, but it can also mean different things to different people and different things to different businesses. Over the past year and a half, ongoing lockdowns have had an impact on businesses' financial wellbeing, but also employee wellbeing. So I want to start with Juanita. Juanita, in your experience, working with restaurant owners who have been extremely negatively impacted by COVID lockdowns, what are some of the ways you've seen business owners struggle with mental wellbeing?
Juanita Dickson: Oh, thank you, Erin. Yeah, it's a very good question. And I would say that the restaurant business in particular has been, or was decimated by COVID-19. And so overnight we had to lay off every single one of our employees and essentially shut down all of our businesses at the very beginning, going back to March, 2020. And so your little survey of, are you overwhelmed? Are you affected by costs and resources? Are you not knowing what to do next? There was no manual that you could go to the library and say, "What do you do when your entire business becomes illegal overnight?" And an entire business that's really based on the foundation of making people happy. And we rely on, we had 1000 employees and we had to lay them off. And the uncertainty that came with that was certainly a challenging one. And so it was very early in the pandemic where we realized that taking care of our people and the health and wellness of our people was essential to get through this global pandemic, which essentially changed every aspect of our business.
Erin Bury: So Juanita, what did you actually do? What were some of the tactics? And how did you actually find that the mental wellbeing or a focus on mental wellbeing tied to the financial wellbeing as you emerged from COVID?
Juanita Dickson: Yeah. So we're dealing with an entire company and 14 different businesses led by people who now it's completely uncertain as to whether we're going to survive this. And we had to align very early on to have a common goal to link back to what our value system is as a company, and really make sure that we're determined to get through this alive, on the other side alive. And through this lens of love, which is what our business is based on and through this lens of, this principle that we know happy people make people happy. And so when those people who are responsible for now running a business that's illegal, they have complete uncertainty, it's impossible until we get them almost putting the oxygen mask on yourself first and getting them leading all of our team members through times of uncertainty.
And for us, it was really getting back to the tactics of communication, and almost over communicating. So we would communicate as an entire company on a quarterly basis pre-pandemic. And once this hit, we were doing daily calls, daily group calls. And once our business changed over the course of three weeks, we were able to come back as an essential service. And then for a year and a half, really, we were at the whim of the ever changing zones and stages that the government decided on a day's notice whether or not our people were able to work or not able to work. And so communication was super important and two-way communication was super important. It was really hard because we would normally do that in-person and we weren't allowed to be in-person.
So we did end up engaging a lot of Zoom calls and early on, did a company wide survey so that we really understood what the issues were happening. And it was very early in the pandemic where we realized, or I personally realized as a leader that yes, we have COVID-19 being rampant, but the second pandemic in our company in particular, was mental health. And so we had to embrace a lot of training programs. We took the leaders at first and made sure that they were set up for success in really spotting mental health and guiding them on how to deal with them. And then we embraced a series of resources available where we started to do health and wellness programming around mental health, anxiety management, financial lifestyle, budgeting. We're in an industry where substance abuse is rampant at the best of times, layer a global pandemic on there and you can guess what happens. So we had to launch those types of resources. And getting back to our roots, which is really about nutrition.
And so we ended up doing a lot of physical programming outside of the restaurants and really treating all of our team members, even though we had to furlough them and lay them off, treat them as though they were still our family, which is one of our family values and ramp up that communication, regardless of the fact that we couldn't keep them on the payroll at the time.
Erin Bury: Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Juanita. I can't imagine how stressful that must have been, but I think those tenets that helped you through COVID will be tips that can help any business owner in the future, which is constant communication, transparency with your team, surveys and constantly taking the pulse of your team. And those are things that don't cost any money. They just cost time on the part of the leadership and care about the actual team itself, which is something that I think as a small business owner, all of us have in spade. So thank you for sharing your experience.
Now let's turn to Jordan Davis. So Jordan, BDO services thousands of small businesses across Canada, and you specifically work with businesses in industries, including construction, real estate and others. How have you noticed changes in mental wellbeing with the businesses you work with?
Jordan Davis: Yeah. I'd say one of the biggest changes that we've seen with business owners is how they view their teams. Over the last five to 10 years, the number one problem we heard from business owners was, it's really hard to find good people. And the narrative has changed slightly to, how do we keep our good people? And I think small business owners, they truly appreciate how important their team is to their success, but now they're looking at their team and their workforce as a valuable asset to the company.
And when you think of an asset, you think of, "Okay, what's on my balance sheet? Cash, AR," these valuable assets to the company. When you view your team as an asset to the business, you start to treat them differently. And I think that's a big change that we've noticed with our clients, is they're treating their workforce like an asset. They're listening, they're being flexible, they really want to curate that asset. So I think also along with that, there's a real cost to losing someone strong as a business owner. You think of hiring someone new in this environment, onboarding somebody new in this environment, training new people. The pandemic has magnified this for business owners and the importance of keeping good people is at the forefront.
Erin Bury: Yeah. That's a great point, especially with the shift to remote work as well, the talent pool has never been bigger for small business owners, but there's also never been more competition from firms who can really hire from anywhere. So you definitely see more of a focus on teams and how to retain great talent. As a follow up to that, Jordan, what kinds of questions are business owners asking of you in your work with them and what do you find their concerns to be and how is that impacting their stress levels? When you're working with clients, are you getting clients who are way more stressed out now, or are you finding that it's pretty even keeled?
Jordan Davis: Yeah, no. So I mean, clearly business owners got caught off guard and the unexpected happened and forced to think through what comes next. So I think a lot of the questions and concerns are around protecting their business and being prepared for the unexpected. So business owners, it's very clear that business owners invest a lot of time into their business and it's often their livelihood. I think a lot of the questions that we're getting asked now is, "I've started this business. I've invested all this time in my business. How do I keep my value for myself and for my family that I've generated?" So whether it be questions around reviewing the corporate structure, planning for an eventual sale of the business, implementing a shareholder agreement, if you're working with another party or another shareholder, even the simple thing as having a will. These are items that, and Erin, I know you're nodding given your experience there, but these are things that business owners they often had on their to-do list, reviewing and making sure you have a shareholder agreement that's up-to-date, having a will, reviewing your corporate structure to ensure it's efficient when you actually do have an exit. These were things that were on the to-do list, but just always were on the to-do list. It's easy for them to drop down and not be a priority.
So I would say more owners now are making these items specifically a priority because if something unexpected were to happen again, they want to ensure that all of this time and effort, this value they've created that it's protected both for themselves, their teams and their families.
So tying it back to the previous question about, viewing your teams as an asset, really protecting your good people. One of the questions we're often getting around keeping good people is looking at next generation of ownership and looking within your own four walls. So ownership through key employee or key management and considering stock options, life insurance, elite level benefits for those good people to keep them vested in the company.
Erin Bury: Yeah, those are such great points, Jordan. I mean, I run an online will platform, so I am constantly talking about being prepared for the unexpected, but I've also spent a lot of time on succession planning within our own business, and I think what you really get from a mental health perspective is peace of mind that if anything were to happen again, whether it was COVID, whether it was you having to step out of the business for family emergency that someone else has the brain trust, that we all inevitably hold up here as a small business owner and that some of these processes are documented and there's shared knowledge. So it's really interesting to hear that that's a trend with your clients. So thank you for sharing.
Now, let's move on to the other Jordan. Jordan at Shift Collab, which is one of Canada's largest therapy and mental health education firms. Jordan, you are on the front lines here. You're talking to firms every day about mental health and wellness. But I want to know, when did you actually start working with businesses on this topic and what led to you being so passionate about this space?
Jordan Axani: Sure. Yeah. Look, there's a disconnect. And the disconnect being between those employees and business leaders that go therapy for themselves and are seeking a great deal of personal growth and sometimes the organizations that they work at. And what was causing a lot of grief in our clients' lives and something that we noticed more broadly is that so many folks have amazing breakthroughs in the therapy room and they work to integrate those lessons and learnings at home in their social circles that eventually at work. And at work though, many organizations just weren't evolving at the same pace as these individuals. Having an occasional workshop or lunch and learn on a mental health topic is all well and good, but how does that plug into a bigger strategy? How are we encouraging employees to bring their full selves to work? How are we planning for the good, bad and everything in between that comes with inviting open dialogues of mental health?
A lot of business owners just haven't gotten to the point of consideration of those important questions. And around the same time that a lot of this stuff ended up becoming in vogue in the workplace around five years ago, we became heavily invested in the space out of an area of passion. And I'll just share, at a personal level, my dad is an entrepreneur, and this is something where I've seen such a huge change in leaders such as him, even though he is in the 70s now, where even in the last number of years, the way he's thinking about his people and about his own mental health and how much more transparent he's being, strategically so that he can feel like he's bringing himself to his team as well, has really been astonishing. And I think that's very much the trend that we're seeing more widely within business owners now.
Erin Bury: It's such a great point, Jordan. I feel like really, the example starts from the top. And if you are transparent about your own struggles with anxiety during COVID or your visits to a therapist or just the importance that you place on self care outside of work hours, it really does trickle down. And one of the follow up questions I have for you is around how do you help coach business owners who have a hard time justifying that focus on their own mental health and self care or justifying a focus or a spend of resources or time on their employees' mental health? What do you tell these executives who just say, "I don't have time to care about my own mental health or to focus on my employees' mental health."
Jordan Axani: So one of the uncomfortable truths is that this is impacting your bottom line. It is, whether we like it or not. I mean, CAMH did a study of Canadian entrepreneurs a couple of years ago. And of those that responded, it was about half of them said that, "At some point during the week, I don't feel like working because my mental health is so poor." We're not special snowflakes as entrepreneurs, we're human like everybody else, our employees feel the same way. And so this is happening, whether we like it or not. So it's not about whether or not we should be investing time or energy. In fact, if we invest any time or energy, it's going to make a positive difference, provided that we start small and think through... Sometimes we have to see our key employees almost as we would see a close friend and say, "Okay, what does this person really need? What do we really need to do now?"
Juanita's examples are fantastic, of how can we just open up lines of communication, exercise a lot of transparency? As you said, Erin that doesn't cost money. It takes time, which is a valuable resource. But these are the things that to start with and recognize that there's already a cost from mental health in your organization. It's just about how you prioritize tackling it.
The other thing I will just say very quickly is that this is great employers more and more are the ones that are creating space and time more importantly for these topics to come to the forefront. If you look at Canada's 100 top employers, if you look at some of the listings out of the States, there is a direct correlation between those organizations and how they see the importance of the organization in promoting positive mental health.
Erin Bury: Yeah. It's a great point. I think the bottom line of listen, people are struggling with their mental health and whether you want to acknowledge it or not, it's going to keep happening is a really great takeaway. And so we, as small business owners owe it to ourselves and to our teams, to take some of the action items from today and implement them. Thank you, Jordan.
So I'm going to move on to Jana, our last expert to add her thoughts before we move into some top tips and takeaways. So Jana, as the director of People Experience for North America at Xero, why does Xero focus on wellbeing for both its employees and its customers? It's a bit a bigger business than perhaps my 15 person company. So I think there's a lot we can probably learn from the initiatives you've put into place and would love to hear about some of them.
Jana Galbraith: Well, while our employee size is about 4,000 worldwide, our customer focus are small and medium-sized businesses around the world. So there is a real relevance here. And I think so much of what has been said already by the panelists speak to why wellbeing has been a focus for us even before March of 2020. So I think we had a little bit of an advantage because we were already thinking about and focusing on the whole person. It really is not just the right thing to do, but as Jordan said, it impacts your bottom line here. And companies are in a fierce competition to attract the best talent and keep people here, and it's more than just challenging job duties and lucrative compensation. People want to be able to be looked at as the whole person that they are and be able to bring their whole selves to work. And that sometimes is having bad days, struggling with their mental health, being able to be transparent about that in a safe way.
And if you create an environment where conversations can happen, workshops are happening to educate and inform or just leave options are available. For example, we switched from calling our leave sick leave to wellbeing leave. I want to say this was in probably early 2019, because we felt that it was a signal that it's more than just illness that people need to take time off for. We want to accept and support that. So when you create that environment, you really have happier, more engaged employees that obviously can deliver business results in a more impactful way.
Erin Bury: Absolutely. That's such an interesting example. And I think it's great to have a company like yours that has placed an importance on this for so many years, because we can, as small business owners learn from that as we're just maybe out on these journeys. So do you mind going through some of the initiatives that you have in place? You mentioned wellbeing leave and some of the terminology that you use, but what are some of the other programs or initiatives that you have in place to address mental health and wellbeing for employees or for customers as well?
Jana Galbraith: Yeah, of course. So to start with the employee side here, it does run the spectrum. Something that Juanita had mentioned before is that the survey is the pulse checking. We do a weekly pulse check of employees and a variety of topics, including their overall mental health engagement work, that sort of thing and gives us indicators of what teams are thriving, which teams need more support. And energy, whether it's from a PX or HR team like myself or from outside resources, we partnered actually with Jordan Axani and ran a number of amazing workshops that were so well received initially by our employees on topics like managing overwhelm, breaking perfectionism, overcoming imposter syndrome that we realized, you know what? We need to offer the same to our small and medium-sized businesses customers. So we did a series like that.
So we are finding that there's different ways and it varies from country to country being a New Zealand based country company, we have an EAP or employee assistance plan there that has actually been something we've been able to pilot and offer to our small business customers and something we would look to do even the future for our customers in the US and Canada. So I think it really depends. This summer, again, we realize that people were wearing an undue burden that this work from home situation was creating a lack of balance. So we rolled out a summer hours program to give people more time off, to enjoy the nice weather and the freedoms opening up in the US and Canada. And we are able to pivot and adapt and stay on the pulse of trends and listen to what people want through the surveys and the pulse checks we're doing.
Erin Bury: Those are great examples. And again, I want to highlight something like summer hours. Yes, of course it costs in productivity potentially for those few hours, but it doesn't actually require cash. So as small business owners who are trying to think about how can I actually offer things to my team members that just take time, but don't necessarily cost a lot of money, I think a lot of stuff has been mentioned today that you can implement tomorrow without actually having to open up your checkbook. So thank you Jana for that. And thank you to all the panelists for such a great conversation. We have so many additional questions we could go through, but I want to make sure that the audience gets a chance to ask their questions. So before we move to audience Q&A, I'm going to ask each of our panelists to present a couple of their top tips, starting with Jordan Axani.
Jordan Axani: All right. So look, three things to keep in mind. Number one, there's an ROI to the time and energy you put into the wellbeing of yourself and of your teammates. And it can be something that in time you can start to see a lift depending on the scale of your operations, in your retention, in your pulse surveys and across other measures, which makes it more real. But in the meantime, try to just see any individuals on your team. Just even open up a little bit more, maybe feel a little bit more connected, a little bit more safe. You'll notice those little interpersonal wins and grab a hold of those.
The second is it's not all on you. As the business owner, it's not all on you, great mental health at organizations is something akin to a team sport where all levels of the organization should be involved in determining what that looks like. But your role as the visionary is to actually have a vision of how you want to invest in the mental wellness of your people. And again, not necessarily with cash, but with time and focus and energy, how do you want your people to feel every day at work? That's a fundamental question you should ask yourself. And then from that vision, empower some dedicated, invested employees from all levels to run at it.
And then the third is, when in doubt... The top question we get, let me back up, is always, where do I start? What do I do? Your people already know what they need. You just need to ask them and ask them in the right way. The best ideas that come out at organizations are employee driven. So do a rapid brainstorming exercise, do a pitch competition, just ask people what do they need to feel better every day at work? And you will be amazed at the great ideas that come back in, and then it's all you have to do as the leader, is just say, "Great, go and pick a couple and make it happen." And that is how real organizational change starts to happen.
Erin Bury: Thank you, Jordan. Those are great. I do ask my team all the time. Some of their suggestions include a company retreat to Italy and a four-day work week. So I'm going to have to purse through the suggestions.
Jordan Axani: Suggestions, put parameters around it. So one thing we do with our team and with our clients is we say it can't cost more than 100 bucks. It can't take more than 30 minutes of staff time a week. It can't require management or policy change and a couple of other things. And then you say, go at it and then you get really granular, very cool creative of ideas at that level.
Erin Bury: Okay. That is a great, great, tangible takeaway for me because yes, the very, very fanciful suggestions have been great, but maybe not so feasible on my small business budget. Thank you so much. Moving over to Juanita. I would love to hear a couple of your top tips.
Juanita Dickson: Thank you, Erin. I'm up for the trip to Italy, I find that that would be impactful. For us, I think the paradigm shift of knowing that our financial health is directly linked to the mental health of our employees is the foundation for really our success and our ability to have come out, knock on wood, the other side alive on this pandemic. And with this foundation of really believing that happy people make people happy. And if our brand is living on the shoulders and on the extension of these people who need to actually show up and Jordan, I love your saying of being your full and complete self. It makes it very easy to be able to justify the small investment of time or of resources to essentially ensure that the extension of your brand is set up for success.
And some of these things cost money, but not a lot of them cost money. And for us, linking back to our value a system to say, "Okay, as a company, if we really believe in entrepreneurialism, and we really believe in collaboration and teamwork and treating people like family and supporting our community," this essentially created a really great foundation for us to be able to guide us through what I would describe as the most challenging year and a half in the history of any of the lives of the people that we are employing. And it gave a really good lens to say, "We're going to get through this together and we're going to get through this alive." And we can't do it without the transparency of having direct conversation and taking the time to say, "Erin, how are you doing? And what do you need to show up to work and be your complete self?"
And it's okay if you are suffering from a mental health perspective, the entire world is. I mean, you just lost your job and your entire world changed. The entire company has changed. Of course, this is going to be overwhelming and it's going to be hard to get through. But putting the big corporate arms around to say, "We're going to do this together. So tell us what you need, and we are then collectively going to be doing this." And embracing that through our lens of the values that we embrace created this amazing thing that we saw in the company where it wasn't just all of these programs being cascaded from the top down, it was from the bottom up where so and so would come up with saying, "Okay, I'm running every Wednesday who wants in?" Or, "I'm doing this little Facebook group. And let's just share about how we cried this morning and how we were able to get it out before we got to work." It was just all of these various programs that just became part of our culture. And it was just really impactful to see.
And then this notion of open and frequent communication took a whole new level in COVID. And it made us realize that communicating, there's no such thing as over communicating and people need to connect with each other. And so having those conversations, having more frequent meetings that are directed to what we're trying to achieve is so important. And it makes people feel connected to something that is greater than themselves. And when they're feeling whole, they're putting the oxygen mask on themselves first so that they can perform and be impactful employees.
Erin Bury: Absolutely. Well, thank you, Juanita and I love that idea of telling team members it's okay to not be okay. And how that can really help to reinforce their mental health. Jordan, we'd love to hear some of your top tips.
Jordan Davis: Yeah. So I mean, just going back to the first comment about treating your team and viewing your team as a valuable asset. I mean, they're precious. You don't want to lose good people and I'm going to parlay off what Jordan and Juanita said about it doesn't always have to be top down because some of the most impactful ideas actually come from employee led initiatives or grassroots types initiatives. And two very brief examples that I've heard of is, companies having chat walks. So every week you have to have a team meeting and you're going to be on Teams or Zoom or whatever, but every single person does up their running shoes puts on their coat and they actually walk around their neighborhoods and have the meeting while they're walking, get a little physical activity, get outside just little bit, change it up a bit.
The second one being where you're going to have a departmental meeting anyways, go to a community park and everybody cleans up garbage or cleans up the park for 15, 20 minutes, while you have your departmental meeting. Again, switches it up. But these are both employee led initiatives for companies, which I thought were pretty cool examples. Don't cost a lot of money, probably don't cost anything other than time and getting out of the office.
Second tip just to leave you all with would be asking for help and gain gaining perspective from advisors. I think there's a real benefit to getting perspective from an outsider looking in. It's really easy as business owners to, you put a lot of pressure on yourself, you suffocate yourself with all these ideas and things that you should be doing, but gaining perspective from someone who sees 100 companies a year and how they operate, how they make money, how they minimize tax. There's a lot of companies who have applied for grants and loans now, what happens if you miss a debt covenant? Gaining perspective from those trusted advisors around you, can really help minimize stress levels for a business owner.
Erin Bury: Those are great tips, Jordan. Thank you. And I'm all for the walking meetings, as long as it's not in February. And finally, we'll move over to Jana for her top tips.
Jana Galbraith: So touch upon a few things that have already been addressed here, but I would say that the vulnerability that leaders show really can go along way in creating a safe, psychologically safe environment here. So we all know when we're struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, what have you, that we may not show up well for our teams, for our day-to-day business activities, and rather than just ignoring it, being grouchy or critical or negative, it really goes a long way to say, "I am having a difficult day, I'm struggling," to whatever extent you're willing to share it. It creates empathy, it creates understanding, and will hopefully open the doors for your employees to tell you the same when they're in that same position.
Similar to that, I would say be observant and curious. So if you've got employees who are calling out sick more regularly or not get getting things done the way you're used to them getting done, you probably should pay attention to those signs and observe if there's a struggle there and ask with care about it. So again, you can get to an understanding, a root cause and not be afraid to have some of those sensitive conversations.
And lastly, what I would say to that is being a leader who shows compassion and empathy doesn't mean being a therapist. So you can help your team members find resources when necessary and not feel like just because you're asking questions now that you're going to have to sit there and listen and take on topics and issues that you may not be able to address. There is a world of support out there. We've talked about some of them today and look for how you can lead them to water, as opposed to trying to take on all of that support yourself.
Erin Bury: That's a great reminder. I think, yeah, I'm a very empathetic leader. And so my inclination is to always be the support system for the team, but constantly reminding them of the resources available is a great reminder. So thanks, Jana. And thank you so much to the four Js today, Jana, Jordan, Jordan and Juanita for all of your insights. We're approaching time. Time flies when you're having fun. So we do have a couple of audience questions. I'm going to ask everyone to be brief in your answers so that we can get everyone back to their afternoon.
But I have a great question here about having different types of workers in the workforce who might have really different mental health needs. So this person asks, we have mostly students in the summer and one to two part-time older staff in the winter. Do you have ideas to make this diverse group of workers, part of a team? So Juanita, maybe I can pose that to you, because I know that you have a lot of seasonal workers or workers that span a lot of different ages. So how do you actually cater mental health and wellbeing resources to a really diverse age and demographic group of employees? And you're just muted, sorry. Phrase of 2021.
Juanita Dickson: Oh, my God. How many times a day does that happen? For me, it goes back to asking employees, what is their love language? We use that term in our company. So we really understand what does it mean to connect to that individual? And so what we ended up doing in our company is we have two different types of health benefits.
So some of the older generation have preferred a certain type of health benefits that's linked more to your traditional types of benefits, where the younger generations preferred something that was a little bit more robust and had things like help groups and yoga classes and fitness and nutritional training. And so really understanding what is going to drive, not making the decision for them, but asking them, I think has really served us well. And having that personal, we're small enough, while we do have 700 employees, each one of them is responsible to a manager and that manager has been trained to understand what's going to drive Jordan and what's going to drive Erin? And are they okay today? And if that's not the ca... And what's going to work for Jordan may not work for Erin, and the managers are actually equipped to make that general assessment.
Erin Bury: That makes a lot of sense. And Jana, I'm wondering if you have anything to add there, just knowing that you also deal with quite a diverse workforce at Xero.
Jana Galbraith: We do, indeed. And I think they run different phases of life and different spectrums of life. And so it sometimes can be challenging to have things that meet everybody's needs here, but asking your people what they need providing maybe accounts or allowances. So one thing we have is a wellness stipend that all employees get, that they can use as they choose as opposed to us predetermining. So there's different ways you can get at it, if you understand what your people would prefer and not try to choose for them, let them have an option in themselves.
Erin Bury: Yeah. So it sounds like empowering managers to really get to know what their team needs, and then also putting flexibility into your benefits program so that it's really up to the team member to decide how they use them. I have a question here that I'm going to post to Jordan Axani. Jordan, and I know this for a fact, we run our businesses with our spouses. And so we have a question here from someone who says, how can I balance work and home life for a small business? My husband gives his cell phone number to clients who unfortunately call at all hours of the day, evening and always on weekends. So Jordan, as someone who runs a small business and has a business that bleeds into your home life, but also someone who coaches businesses on how to separate business and home life, any advice?
Jordan Axani: So if I knew the solution to that, or if anyone did, I feel like we would be on a yacht with Richard Branson right now. It is a great struggle and look, every relationship is unique and every business is unique. One of the things that Megan, my partner, we run the business together. We have negotiated things that are non-negotiable. So we have blackout times, when we just can't even talk about work, we can't think about work, we have to focus on something else. Whether it's something for us, a shared hobby, our son, something around the house, something that we enjoy. Find that high impact carved out time.
And to go to the love language piece as well, it's also a wonderful invitation to really do a bit of an inventory of what does our relationship look like at its highest and best use and how can I leverage the love language of my partner to ensure that I am giving as much high impact time as possible? And then the last thing too is, probably it's worth really having a solid dialogue and mutual understanding around how long that will be the case. Is this something where clients are going to be calling at all hours for the foreseeable future, because that's just part of the career or is that just part of the role right now that will eventually cycle out? And maintaining some perspective around that, it's helped us a lot. That's for sure.
Erin Bury: Yeah. It's a great point. If we all knew the solution to this, then we'd be way richer than we are, right Jordan? So other Jordan, last word to you, I do, unfortunately have to wrap things up. You mentioned providing an outside perspective, an unbiased perspective per chance. And Jordan just said, there's no perfect solution to separating business life and home life. But I'm wondering if you can speak to maybe how your role as an advisor can actually augment and help business owners separate and turn off.
Jordan Davis: Yeah. I mean, there's only so much time in the day and I think it's really important for business owners to identify what can they truly do in-house and what can they actually outsource or hire an expert to assist with? And a simple example is around government incentives and government funding. There's a lot out there, but it takes a lot of time, one, to know all the programs available and two, the applications are daunting. So identifying areas where, okay, as a business owner, I could really benefit from those government programs or incentive programs, but one, I don't have the resources or the time to just sit down and actually apply myself. Let me reach out to an expert who specializes in that field and delegate that responsibility. And I mean, government funding is only as good as the government funding that you get. So I think it's important there that identify what you can do in-house and then what you can delegate to your experts.
Erin Bury: That's a great point, Jordan. If you can delegate some of your tasks to external partners or even to internal team members, then maybe your cell phone won't be ringing as often on the weekends. So I wish I had time to get to more questions, but unfortunately that is all the time we have for today. Again, thank you to Jana, Jordan, Jordan and Juanita for such an insightful conversation and for taking questions from our audience, really appreciate it. And I know I learned a lot and took a lot away, especially about how to put parameters so my staff doesn't think we're going to go to Italy next year. Although, you know what? Maybe we should.
Before we sign off, I'd like to remind everybody about the digital needs assessment that Leigh spoke about at the beginning of today's event, the DNA for short, it is an online tool that takes only 20 minutes to complete. I can attest to this, I've gone through it for my own business and it assesses the core competencies and gaps in the digital capacity of your business and how it ranks relative to your industry. To take the digital needs assessment today, you can simply click on the graphic to the right of your screen in the info tab or visit rap, R-A-P, .bot.com. To register for all of the upcoming webcasts being held by the Board of Trade, please visit supportbusiness.bot.com and select webinars and videos. That is all the time we have. Thank you everyone for joining us and hope you have a fantastic rest of your day.