Seed World

Communication Challenges Posed by the Pandemic Offer Lessons for us All


Mark is a farm boy from Treherne, Man., and went to the University of Manitoba where he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business. He’s served as Nexeed president for 11 years, during which time he’s marvelled at the pace of technological change in seed processing equipment.

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I don’t have to tell you that the world is going through a challenging time right now. The coronavirus has us all thinking of new ways to get our work done as we implement strategies like social distancing and working from home.

I, for one, plan to stop traveling by air. I find myself surrounded by people who are all making similar plans to change their lifestyle in an effort to keep themselves and those around them safe and healthy.

Whether it’s six weeks or six months from now, once this all settles down, I think it will have big impact on how we communicate as a society. I believe some people may find they can get by without doing nearly as much traveling as they have become accustomed to.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how many times in the past I’ve had to think about communication strategies. Keeping in touch with customers is a huge part of my business, and how I go about it is constantly changing. I’ve employed a few strategies in doing this.

[tweetshare tweet=”Whether it’s six weeks or six months from now, once this all settles down, I think it will have a big impact on how we communicate as a society.” username=”germinationmag”]Try new things. I started in my current role in 2008. Revamping our strategy for ordering was a major priority. At the time, we used a fax machine. It wasn’t long afterward that the fax machine became nothing more than a conduit for unsolicited advertising. We were a little late to the ball game but transitioning to the internet for ordering purposes was a big step into the future for me.

Embrace technology. We can now do a far more effective job of diagnosing a problem without being there in person because of simple online tools. Before the advent of the internet, a colour sorter technician could only be of limited use over the phone because they couldn’t see the machine. Now, they can control the machine and see the user interface using similar software you’d use for a video conference. This doesn’t make technicians less important, but more so. Never be afraid of new technology — embrace it.

Keep the end goal in mind. We can now solve a lot of problems or provide a lot of assistance remotely in a matter of a couple minutes. It can be a matter of tweaking the machine’s programming to change how the machine is working or diagnosing an issue for which a repair or part replacement is needed. Then we can develop a solution whether it be sending a part or deploying a technician to help solve the problem. The result? Shorter downtime, plain and simple.

Don’t forget the basics. All this said, there’s no substitute for the trust often established by meeting people in person. New technology is not a replacement for social skills. Communication technologies are tools in the toolbox but sometimes it’s still best to meet or talk on the phone to deal with something complex or challenging. They key is knowing when to make that effort and when the new tools will be most effective.