The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Reaching out as a gesture of survival


Right at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, while all of Quebec was at a standstill, Jacques Francisque, President of Planète Mobile/Mobifone, and Carol Colizza, President of Norcom/ActionPage, didn’t hesitate at all to rise to the occasion.

Despite having barely one third of their stores open and employees confined to their homes, the two entrepreneurs set up crisis cells to continue providing quality essential services to their customers.

At that time, Rogers assigned a few stores to serve customers in case of emergency only and suspended sales operations. Planète Mobile/Mobifone was one of these designated dealers. Everyone was in unchartered territory, but the importance of providing essential services to SMEs remained a priority. The focus was on phone and internet services, free trials and training on products such as Unison (for transferring calls from the office to a mobile phone), along with hiring a courier company for contactless delivery of products, setting up fleet management to locate delivery vehicles and increasing driver and truck safety.

In addition to providing support to SMEs, Planète Mobile/Mobifone expanded its support to certain long-term care facilities and retirement homes by donating digital tablets and mobile phones so that users could communicate with their families during the time of strict lockdown.

Norcom loaned much-needed digital tablets to local schools so that students could continue their learning. It was essential for these dealers to listen and respond to emergencies and the public’s needs. For Norcom, virtual meetings with entrepreneurs were held to discuss best practices during the pandemic, resources to maximize returns and the reorganization of each company’s teams.

The ability to listen to one another, the different perspectives that entrepreneurs had on certain issues, and Carol Colizza’s inspiring leadership helped create connections and a sense of security and comfort. These more human aspects were just as important as the technical and material aspects for helping SMEs get through the most difficult months of the pandemic. This spontaneous support network was used to share knowledge and expertise. Together, everyone was able to gain a better understanding of the various government assistance programs, the new grants, and the assistance measures put in place with various financial institutions.

By attentively listening to their customers’ needs, Jacques Francisque’s and Carol Colizza’s teams were able to make a difference with their customers. Teamwork, solidarity, knowledge sharing, and especially helping each other at the local level have paid off. Loaning equipment, sometimes even space, helped some SMEs stay afloat during the most difficult months of the pandemic. At both Norcom and Planète Mobile/Mobifone, management and employees mobilized to reassure customers.

“Mutual support” is what guided Rogers affiliated dealers. Business partners also reached out by helping in various ways to ease the burden of the pandemic on SMEs. According to Carol Colizza, this is reassuring for the future.

Contributing to a social and humanitarian cause was THE right thing to do according to Jacques Francisque. Being there for the people of his store was like a mission. At Norcom, the pandemic allowed the company to strengthen its relationship with existing customers. Support for the businesses remained at 100%. In the spring of 2020 during the first few weeks of the pandemic, all customers were contacted to determine their needs.

The shock caused by the pandemic was also a wake-up call for entrepreneurs. The delicate nature of the situation led some to consider their employees’ reality. With the labour shortage affecting some sectors, it’s more important than ever to ensure employees’ well-being through flexible work schedules or other means. Some SMEs also took advantage of the fact that activities had slowed down to digitize several aspects or sectors of their business and increase security on certain levels.

Despite the major upheavals caused by the pandemic, from lockdown and the closing of non-essential services to working from home and the consecutive waves that followed for more than 18 months and forced the shutdown or slowdown of operations, most SMEs were able to benefit from assistance and support measures. By rethinking their practices, how they operate, and their vision, they were able to weather the storm. This is reassuring for the future of the entrepreneurial landscape.

Rogers is proud to be able to rely on a network of SMEs that supports a larger network of SMEs.

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