University of Windsor small business study aims to help companies navigate COVID-19

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


The COVID-19 pandemic has been unchartered waters for small business, but a University of Windsor study is using the present circumstances to develop a proactive guide for dealing with future disruptions.

The study is being lead by assistant business professor Kyle Brykman and Professor Francine Schlosser, who specializes in entrepreneurship/innovation.

“It’s trying to understand why some businesses are excelling and others are struggling,” Brykman said.

“We’re also trying to understand the employee experience.

“We want to take advantage of such an unusual time to prepare a proactive approach for the next time there’s a disruption.”

The study is funded and supported by a wide variety of community groups including the university, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, St. Clair College, Windsor Regional Hospital and the WE-Spark Health Institute.

The survey is available online at

Brykman said about 65 businesses have completed the survey in the first two weeks of the month it’ll be available. There’s a separate employee survey that’ll remain live for another two or three weeks.

Any business or employee is welcome to complete the survey.

“We hope to get at least 100 businesses, so we’re well on our way,” Brykman said. “There’s been mostly a local focus to the surveys completed so far, but my roots are in Toronto so I’m using my contacts there as well.”

Brykman said he and Schlosser would reach out to employees for a second round of consultations in September. They hope publish to a “white paper” summarizing the findings ready in early fall and a more detailed webinar will follow.

Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Rakesh Naidu said the survey would provide a good baseline measurement of what has happened to date for businesses during the pandemic.

“It’s an opportunity to develop programs, training and resources to help businesses bounce back,” Naidu said.

“We need to measure where we are. The challenges they are facing and to gather information so that we can tailor make programs that will actually help businesses.

“Unless we know the impact in certain areas, we won’t be able to come up with the resources required.”

Naidu added small business is the backbone of the Canadian economy in terms of jobs and it’s vital that it is nurtured back to health.

According to Statistics Canada, 70 per cent of private sector workers or 8.3 million Canadians are employed in workplaces of fewer than 100 employees.

“The material will develop the resources and training that will help companies protect themselves from future impacts,” Naidu said. “It’s a way of being proactive.

“To look at strengthening your business model, using new technologies and preparing employees and better designing specific responses.

“Disruptions will be there in the future. This isn’t going to be the last one.”

Brykman said the questions in the survey are aimed at unearthing the gems of information that will be required to craft those responses.

mong the questions the survey will explore are whether a business shut down, had cash reserves, impact on revenues, had employees work from home or reduced hours, requires office layout changes to re-open and how communications will be impacted.

Some of the questions asked of employees are about engagement levels, burnout, mental health, added responsibilities and their faith in their organizations. Brykman said the employee experiences will also be compared between essential and non-essential jobs.

Both employers and employees will be asked some open-ended questions to allow them to expand on their experiences.

“I wish this could help right now, but for us this study is really about helping with the rebound,” Brykman said. “It’s a long-term outlook for the future.”