Opinion: Paying it Forward During COVID-19

Opinion: Paying it Forward During COVID-19

Entrepreneur Voices: Brett Colvin

I think this is a wake-up call and I hope that there’s a realization, even outside of the pandemic, that taking care of people is actually more important than profits.

Brett Colvin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Goodlawyer, a platform that connects Canadians with lawyers advising clients on a variety of commercial and corporate matters. He is especially interested in helping entrepreneurs, as well as startup companies. 

As a corporate lawyer himself, Brett strives to improve how legal services are delivered and ensures that Goodlawyer connects clients with both affordable and timely service.

Describe your business before COVID-19. How has it been impacted?

Goodlawyer is an online marketplace that matches clients with lawyers across Canada. We made a pivot in January 2020 towards microservices. The purpose of the microservices is to open the door to a massive number of Canadians—in particular, SMBs—that just can’t afford legal help when they need it.

If you’re a small business owner, things are moving fast and you don’t have time to call 10 different lawyers if all you need is 15 minutes on the phone with an expert.

Prior to COVID-19 and the pivot in January, we were experiencing pretty modest month-over-month growth. This year we’ve seen over 100% month-over-month growth and that has certainly been accelerated with COVID-19. Our website traffic was up 400% since the start of this pandemic, partly because we put a resources page together and a free offer for Canadians impacted by COVID.

What is your biggest concern right now? What is your biggest concern looking into the future?

Our biggest concern right now is the survival of SMBs in Canada. They make up roughly 30% of the GDP in Canada with this number rising to around 40% of GDP in the US.

I’m really hoping that they come back strong when all this is over and that Amazon doesn’t just take over the world, because I think the SMBs and entrepreneurs are key to Goodlawyer’s success, but also the key to the survival of the economy.

How has the entrepreneurship ecosystem been impacted by COVID-19?

I think the entrepreneur ecosystem has been suffering like many areas have been. You’ve got schools and universities shutting down and moving online and governments seem to be more focused on established businesses.

We saw that most evidently with the 75% wage subsidy that didn’t account at all for startups or early-stage entrepreneurs that are trying to build new things and are working on that product-market fit. COVID-19 has made it increasingly challenging because the investment realm has gone a little bit colder.

It’s a challenging time and I know the government implemented the $250 million through IRAP. I really hope that the government does a good job of ensuring that there are lifelines in place so that the entrepreneurs can keep doing what they’re doing.

Are there any recommendations or solutions that would be helpful for the government to understand from the perspective of entrepreneurs?

I think an appreciation for how important they are would be a start—SMBs across the board are going to be the key to our economic recovery. Startups are in a unique place to have a disproportionately positive impact on the economy. I think the government placing bets on startups, in particular, is key to diversifying and growing our economy in 2020. 

Specifically, I think they need to make it easier. I understand that it’s challenging because there needs to be some semblance of a vetting process for spending government money. They’ve got the CERB—where you can apply in like, two seconds. They’ve got the wage subsidy—where if you’ve had the reduction in revenue, they make it extraordinarily easy to access that money. 

It always seems to be more challenging for startups to navigate government grants and government support systems. I think the government—either federal or provincial—should focus on streamlining the application processes to get the money to the entrepreneurs faster without taking up a ton of their internal resources just to apply for grants that they may or may not get.

What opportunities do entrepreneurs have as we navigate the next few months?

I think the biggest opportunity is accessing the entrepreneur community. Startup Canada is just one example of the many awesome organizations that can facilitate this. In my opinion, tapping into that community would be the best opportunity to move forward.

Is there a story or an individual in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that has given you hope?

Jack Newton, the CEO of Clio. They’ve been doing some awesome things in response to COVID-19. They put together a million-dollar fund to help lawyers that are using their platform. I credit Clio for moving fast. It’s exciting to see such a success story come out of Canada in the legal tech space. I think they knocked it out of the park again.

After COVID-19 is over, what do you think the world will look like?

I am cautiously optimistic that it will look better. I think the lesson that everybody’s learning right now is we can live a simpler life. 

We might shift towards a bit more of a thoughtful society—and particularly in the business world, a little more compassion. It’s been inspiring to see even the big players come together and work towards solutions. 

I think this is a wake-up call and I hope that there’s a realization, even outside of the pandemic, that taking care of people is actually more important than profits. I’m optimistic that this crisis will have some lasting impacts and that hopefully, people will think less about possessions and dollars and a little bit more about the intrinsic stuff.

How can entrepreneurs come together to support one another right now?

Support your community, leverage your community, adjust your supply chain to include small businesses in your community if you can. 

The willingness to give back, that attitude is really intrinsic to a lot of entrepreneurs. That’s one thing that I’ve found pretty remarkable in my shift from corporate lawyer to startup founder. I’ve always been astounded by how much time they’ll give me. 

I’ll get on the phone with somebody that I’ve never spoken to before. And we’ll talk for an hour and a half, and I’ll feel like I’ve learned 20 important lessons. I think leveraging that, for your business and for yourself, is definitely what I would recommend. It’s also how I think entrepreneurs can get through this together.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs (aspiring and current) in light of the current situation?

Times are tough, but in my opinion, entrepreneurs always flourish in times of uncertainty. As much as everyone’s itching to get out and socialize and not be cooped up at home—if I’m an aspiring entrepreneur at home, I’m taking this opportunity to plan and to start building my dream because, at the end of this period, there are going to be movements within the market. 

So for any young entrepreneurs, I would just say—opportunity abounds and get started today.

Goodlawyer is offering a 100% discount on 15-minute phone calls for any Canadians impacted COVID-19 in need of legal advice. Use discount code #washyourhands.

Micah Rakoff Bellman
Micah Rakoff Bellman

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