NOLA Businesses Are Leading the Way Through COVID: Canal HR

Mitch Chailland

Mitch Chailland graduated from the University of Houston and moved to New Orleans in 1992 to start working in the professional employer organization industry. Mitch started Canal HR in 2013 after spending 21 years learning as much as possible about the field. He is currently the President of Canal HR, and he previously served on the Board of the Professional Association of Co-Employers (PACE), a PEO trade association, for over ten years.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your businesses?
Canal HR runs payroll and provides employee benefits. When restrictions for COVID-19 started and some of our clients shut down, they stopped running payroll. Then the federal government passed the Payroll Protection Program and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and we had to learn to be experts in these new programs overnight to help our clients and their employees.

What changes have your businesses had to make to adapt to quarantine?
We are lucky to have extra office space. We spread our employees out to individual offices. We have had several employees begin to work from home, and we’ve changed work hours for others. We also had to educate all of our staff about the new regulations for payroll to handle the Payroll Protection Program, new unemployment regulations, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We have had to be adaptive and flexible to adjust to the new regulations on the fly since our clients expect us to be knowledgeable and available to assist them. As an essential business, we never closed and had to adapt to new safety procedures overnight.

Were there any resources or advice you gave your employees to help them during this time?
Our staff is the most valuable asset we have. I am grateful to be blessed with a wonderful staff that embraces our customer-first philosophy. We made sure to keep the entire staff on payroll, whether they were here or not. We made sure the employees knew that, no matter what, we were here for them and would support them through this situation.

What advice would you give to other business owners specifically in New Orleans about how to restart business when quarantine is over?
We have been through tough times before and survived. We will survive this also. Be flexible, adapt, and overcome. Don’t be afraid of change. Take care of your employees. They are your most important asset and represent your company. If you have not already, take advantage of the programs out there to help business and your employees.

Though this is a tough time, what has inspired optimism for you and your businesses moving forward?
Our clients are loyal and faithful to us. I am inspired by the fact current clients are telling others about us and our services and how we have helped them during this crisis. There is no greater compliment than a referral from an existing client to a friend. This inspires and motivates me to continue working and moving forward.  

As Louisiana continues to adapt during COVID, we decided to talk to some local business leaders within New Orleans about how they believe quarantine has gone and what they have learned.

Working through COVID has been difficult and posed a new set of challenges. We’ve all had to adapt in one way or another whether that’s in our professional lives or personal lives. It’s been particularly difficult for small businesses learning to navigate through PPP loans, trying to maintain staff and being uncertain of when businesses can fully reopen. New Orleans once again shows its resilience during this tough time and has continued to band together to begin what is hopefully a safe re-entry into normalcy.

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