How OPIN Digital created a pandemic-proof business plan

Chris Smith
OPIN Digital CEO Chris Smith
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by OPIN Digital

Months before COVID-19 became a widespread pandemic, the team at OPIN Digital made the decision to transition to a new business model – a move that would help the company withstand the highs and lows of the pandemic economy. 

Their new approach was called ‘Business Planning During Difficult Times.’ 

Full of strategies, tactics, approaches, and key principles to live by in the event that a pandemic occurred, it was something that hadn’t been done since OPIN began ten years before.

OPIN is a globally based, growing digital communications agency with roots in the Ottawa area. The team helps its clients – made up of mostly government, healthcare, and higher education institutions – communicate or reach their audiences through digital channels. 

OPIN uses open technology, which they believe is the “special sauce” for the company and a draw for their clients. 

After the pandemic became a sure thing, as a company, OPIN wanted to continue to operate in a way that aligned with its top priorities even in the midst of an economic downtown.  

“We’ve pivoted and changed as a company and our culture has shifted,” says Chris Smith, CEO of OPIN Digital.

At the heart of the company’s approach is three core values:

1. Preserve the health of our employees, their families, and loved ones

2. Improve financial stability in hopes of avoiding unnecessary employee layoffs

3. Provide assistance to our partners, governments, and communities

OPIN has continued to use these priorities to guide them through the pandemic, and used them as the basis for their new company structure. 

To date, OPIN has undergone three major business transformations as part of its new operating plan: 

Transformation one - Stabilize operations to “new normal”

Until recently, OPIN had physical offices in New York and Ottawa. The onsite company moved permanently to a work-from-home situation as part of its transformation. 

“This was our new normal,” says Smith. 

At-home technologies were adopted, and new team structures put in place – including the need to reinvent the social and “water cooler” aspects of the workplace, which they previously took for granted. OPIN has seen a 30 per cent increase in output since these changes were made, says Smith. 

Transformation two - Widened talent pool and a distributed global workforce

By becoming a fully off-site business, OPIN is able to operate without borders, which opened up their access to greater talent and allowed them to expand 25 per cent of their workforce outside of Canada. 

Instead of being confined to the areas near their office locations, they’ve now expanded into the U.S., Mexico, and India to find the right people for the job. They’ve also created new policies promoting diversity, equity and the inclusion of cultural differences such as flexible holidays.

Transformation three - Setting the company apart through innovation

What set OPIN apart from other similar brands during the pandemic was that they quickly embraced the truth that they needed to play offence, not just defence. 

From the beginning, they planned to “leapfrog” their competitive advantage by investing in R&D with accelerator technologies and have successfully implemented two software as a service (SaaS) products named Activate and Freeflow. 

Thanks to their innovative planning, OPIN has recovered in June 2021, bouncing back to the levels it saw in February 2020 – surpassing the year’s sales targets. 

To find out more about OPIN Digital, or the suite of services it offers, visit https://www.opin.ca