VICTORIA -- The University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business is doing its part to help small businesses recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The faculty has developed an online training program called "Building Resilience to Thrive" that teaches business owners how to adapt their business models in a pandemic market.

The course explains how to better communicate with staff and how to better engage with customers in new ways.

"We’re doing whatever we can to help businesses across British Columbia not only survive the pandemic but come out of the pandemic further ahead," said UVic’s Gustavson School of Business professor Dr. Mark Colgate.

"At the moment, whether you’re big or small, every business has to learn to do more with less," he said.

Colgate says the program will teach businesses how to be more productive and provide tips on how business owners can become better leaders for their employees.

"If you can grow your leadership skills and coach your employees and develop them, you will come out a winner," said Colgate. "If you can deliver a customer experience that is better than before the pandemic because you’ve thought about a different strategy or a different approach to servicing your clients, you will be further ahead."

Supported by the BC Chamber of Commerce, the program is being provided through the Gustavson School of Business. The online course is being offered at a minimal registration fee to remove the financial barrier to cash strapped business owners. The program features weekly online seminars by the business school’s professor Brian Leacock and Colgate.

"What we’re hearing is business is down and customers are reluctant to come in and spend," said Colgate. "A big part of the customer experience that we’re teaching is, 'How do you give information so your clients feel safe when they are patronizing your business?'"

For a Duncan, B.C. business owner, who saw business at her automotive repair shop drop by 50 per cent at the height of the pandemic, the course has been a game-changer.

"Where it has helped me the most is being a better coach to my staff," said Cowichan Auto Repair owner Elly Ruge. "It is me helping them out and them helping me out to get through the crisis."

Ruge says she has already implemented new procedures in her shop. One is the introduction of weekly staff meetings to encourage dialogue and the exchanges of ideas on how to better serve customers.

"You learn from other people, so I listen to my staff because sometimes my staff coach me," she said. "I believe for this time we’re going through, the course is something new for everybody and it can help."

UVic’s Gustavson School of Business hopes that by offering the program, small business owners will be better equipped with the tools they need to create their own COVID-19 recovery plan so they can adjust to a competitive future.

To register for the next session, beginning Jan. 12, 2021, visit the BC Chamber of Commerce website here.