Finding Growth in Agility: A Year of Operating in a Pandemic
The month of March marks a full year since adapting to the new normal that is life in the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, Token was preparing for a year of execution in construction and planning in operations. Of all the changes that came with a world-wide year of transition, we were fortunate enough that these activities paired well with months of lockdowns and slow-downs.
The past year taught us some valuable lessons about business operations during unstable times. When the pandemic is in our rear-view mirror, there are learnings that we’ll carry with us as we continue to forge our way in the Canadian cannabis industry.
Invest in people first
March 5th was Employee Appreciation Day and, needless to say, it’s our team that has carried us through all the uncertainties of the last year. We were able to retain all of our team and even managed to grow by four members. Token has always led with the mindset of ‘people first’. In practice, this means recruiting the right people and giving them an environment that supports them as humans and as employees, especially during difficult times. We found that they, in turn, supported us through the tough run that was 2020.
Flexibility and empathy are key. Understanding when employees need some extra time away from their computer was a big part of getting through the pandemic turmoil. Health is more than just physical health, and the past year really put collective mental health to the test. We’re still learning how to have productive, thoughtful conversations about mental health, but recognized early on it was important to allow leeway for days when just simply getting by becomes too overwhelming. By regularly checking in with each other and listening for feedback through tools like anonymous staff surveys, employers can ensure that they’re providing staff with the resources and support they need.
Create a flexible work structure
Since the company’s inception, our team has utilized a mix of remote and in-office work. Thankfully, we were well equipped to perform in an environment of reduced social contact.
Token offers its team a flexible, remote work structure due to having employees located in both Alberta and BC. Because of this, we already had the proper tools and resources in place to transition to a full-time remote work model during times of complete lockdown.
Our team utilizes the Microsoft suite of tools to allow for effective communication. We use Microsoft Teams for team meetings and daily collaboration, Sharepoint and OneDrive for work on joint files, along with a whole host of other tools designated to make the remote work structure as seamless as possible. This allows our employees to succeed because they’re working in an environment that’s optimal for their personal productivity and allows them to first and foremost prioritize their wellbeing.
For employees that prefer an in-person office environment, COVID-safety protocols were put in place for limited office attendance with proper social distancing. The completion of our new office space in our Edmonton facility has given us even more room to allow for employees to work in an office environment if they should choose to. Get dressed up or stay in PJs, as long as our work gets done there’s no one right way to do it.
Find alternative income streams, such as grants and emergency funding
During times of economic volatility, we had to get creative with capital. As we waited to receive our Standard Processing license for cannabis, it was important to carefully manage our cash flow and keep operations as lean as possible. Our CEO can report he has spent significant time building out his Excel skills. Because we’ve always been fiscally conservative, we were poised to operate on a slim budget. This gave us a good foundation to ride out uncertainty.
Still, to keep growing rather than stagnate, we had to lean into alternative sources of funding. Thanks to the Digital Tech Grant, we were able to bring on two new employees to help round out operations and provide needed support. We received federal COVID relief grants, as well as CEBA, a business operating loan designed to support Canadian businesses through the pandemic.
We also relied on sales revenue from our sister company, Token Bitters, to keep our bottom line strong. Token Bitters was able to run a successful crowdfunding campaign through ATB BoostR, ATB’s crowdfunding platform, that allowed us to cover off production costs and employee salaries.
2020 also saw cannabis sales skyrocket, improving the position of our industry and company. Upon submitting our evidence package to Health Canada, we began to move our B2B sales efforts into high gear. We signed our first partnership agreements and will begin to execute when we receive our license.
Connect with your community
If there’s one major takeaway from this year, it’s the value of supporting local businesses. Supporting local is an important part of the culture in Edmonton, and we saw individuals and businesses step up to support each other. Community continued to be a valued and valuable asset for our company in 2020 and 2021, despite a shift in the ways in which we could connect.
We really tried to keep an ear to the ground and actively listen to our community’s wants and needs. Recognizing that our audience could use a bit of extra self-care, we planned and hosted our first virtual event in November of 2020 with local yoga studio, Sound Vibes YEG. The online yoga class was well-attended and prompted our second online event, a cooking class with Ontario-based cannabis influencer, The Cannabinista.
Token has always prided itself on seeking to bring value to our customers. We looked for opportunities to provide value to our community and create visibility for our brand during times when face-to-face interactions were limited. Finding new ways to connect with our audience led to returns in our digital engagement. Between 2019 and 2020, we saw drastic increases in our followings across all social media platforms and the amount of website views increased by over 50%.
While the past year has undoubtedly been one of transition, it’s also been a year of marked growth for Token. By continuing to adhere to the values upon which our company was built, we’ve managed to create an agile and true-to-us workplace that has been adaptable to whatever challenges this virus throws at us. We’re confident that by continuing to live out our values, put people first, and keep the future in mind, we can come out of this pandemic stronger and better positioned for success than we were when we entered it.