Reopening during a pandemic – Advice from Kea leaders based offshore.
Following last week’s Government announcement detailing the new Covid traffic light system, Kiwi business owners are starting to gain a better understanding of how future restrictions could impact their companies.
For those businesses starting to plan ahead with this new information, there is much to be learned from those overseas who have already begun navigating some of the more common challenges.
Kea Connect’s global community is both willing and able to offer advice to businesses in Aotearoa looking to adapt to this new normal. We spoke to several offshore Kiwi who shared advice on three common areas of concern.
Supply chain delays
With the summer holiday season fast approaching, it’s a key time of year for our business community. Ryan Bennett is based in the USA and is the Vice President of Sales at ShipHero, a leading provider of Warehouse Management Software and eCommerce Fulfillment solutions. He says many eCommerce and retail businesses are adjusting to longer lead times due to delays in shipping and planning is key.
“I see some businesses utilising air freight if their products are small, light, or of higher value, while others are ordering inventory months in advance and seeking financing options for the cost of owning stock earlier.”
Most online retailers’ sales follow the 80/20 rule, 80% of orders come from 20% of their total SKUs. Ryan’s advice for Kiwi businesses is to order larger quantities of the top-selling 20% of items for peak season. He says New Zealand retailers shouldnt be afraid of running aggressive sales on slow-moving products (the other 80%), if the supply of goods or materials is delayed to ensure they capture much-needed revenue during peak season. “It’s critical to be flexible and quick to pivot during these unprecedented times.”
Closer to home, Melbourne businesses are reopening after enduring some of the longest lockdown periods worldwide. Kerry Osborne is a business mentor advisor working with SMEs in the Victorian capital and says supply chain issues have seen many manufacturers become less reliant on overseas imported materials.
“Manufacturers are now looking to the circular economy to supply recycled product, such as recycled plastic pellets for their goods. Also handmade and local products are really taking off both in online sales, but also within stores, as they open and use live streaming for those still unable, or unwilling to travel. I am also seeing local communities and businesses banding together to promote their food, wine and local products regionally and in urban clusters, which also uses that sustainable theme and recycling, circular economy at its heart.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says globally the effects of Covid will continue to strain supply chains and ongoing pressure on global sea freight is expected to continue as are long standing cargo delays. This is particularly prevalent for ports along the USA West Coast. In response, businesses that usually ship to the West Coast have shifted cargo to ports along the East Coast, Gulf and Pacific Northwest.
Difficulties around international travel continue to challenge export businesses. Whether it’s keeping front of mind with partners or securing offshore investment, it’s a frustrating environment and it’s easy for Kiwi businesses to feel left behind.
Chris Perfect helps businesses navigate risk and says there are a few tactics that Kiwi businesses can employ to make sure they stay front of mind until our borders reopen.
“Every geographic market, business segment, and industry is different. “There is no single factor that a business can rely on, but here are some themes that I’ve seen help clients navigate the pandemic to stay front of mind:
- be creative – there is an ocean of samey-samey client engagement out there, even small amounts of creativity in the look and feel of engagement can make a big difference
- emphasise the relationship – think personalise, empathise, energise.
- don’t use guesswork – chase feedback and monitor buying patterns relentlessly. Then learn from it: be better, be more resilient.”
For businesses concerned about raising capital offshore, investor relations and marketing expert Elizabeth van Rooyen says many professionals have realised there are plenty of opportunities they can access digitally, and businesses should leverage this.
“In the venture capital world, there have been many instances of founders getting access to offshore investors through Twitter or other digital mediums that has led to funding entirely virtually. Because of this shift, investors are getting access to a whole new range of differentiated deal flow compared to the venture capital down the road from them. Business owners should take advantage of this.”
Team morale and productivity
Along with the more business focused challenges, many companies are also working out how to bring people back into the office safely and productively in the months ahead.
Chris says businesses that have done well in the USA are those that have focused on the aspirations and human concerns of their employees.
“Some workers will find returning to the workplace difficult, many have happily settled into a life of remote working, others will have concerns about the risk of contracting COVID if they return to a shared workspace. Open and frequent communication is key, emphasising the positives: increased productivity, less loneliness, and firmer boundaries between work and home life. Businesses should be ready to make reasonable accommodations. With recruiting challenges in many sectors now is time to be pragmatic rather than dogmatic.”
Former management consultant turned entertainment entrepreneur Rebecca Assice says her key tip for New Zealand businesses is to use this time to work together with your competitors to reopen your industry in the most productive and positive way possible. “Collaboration is more important than competition”.
Whatever your focus is over the next few months, remember that you are not alone. Kea Connect’s free service is happy to connect you with our global community of experts to help with the challenges facing your export business. If you would like an introduction to any of the contributors mentioned in this article, or anyone else in our international community, reach out today. To learn more about how Kea Connect can help your business and our process, see here.
We would like to thank those people from our global community of experts who helped with this article.