Responding to COVID-19: The local view

Bronwen Newcombe, Director, Davenports Harbour Lawyers

Bronwen Newcombe

We at Davenports are happy to be back at our Albany premises and be able to meet clients face-to-face again. We operated during Alert Levels 4 and 3 remotely, thanks to our excellent technology set-up and our adaptable and flexible team and clients.

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on New Zealanders. We have been involved in helping employers understand their rights and obligations during the lockdown period, as well as helping business owners shape their business to ensure it can survive and then thrive in the “new world”.

Indeed, as an employment law specialist myself, at the moment much of my work is assisting employers navigate the pandemic crisis, deal promptly with employees who are under performing, and right-sizing and right shaping their businesses to be able to get through this crisis intact.

Our commercial team has been busy helping resolve landlord and tenant issues as well as those now looking to sell (or indeed buy) businesses. Our asset planning and trusts team has been able to help New Zealanders ensure that their assets are protected and that they have wills and enduring powers of attorney in place. We also have our residential conveyancing team which has worked hard to make settlements happen for people, despite the barriers that arose during lockdown.

Dave Wilson, General Manager, IT360

Dave Wilson

How good is it to be able to leave the house again, visit friends and family and enjoy our great local cafés and restaurants?

Many countries are starting to reopen and the path towards the “new normal” is becoming clearer for many of us. It’s also bringing a lot of questions and concerns about how we as businesses operate safely, how to interpret and apply new standards around workplace health and safety, and many more.

In talking with my two siblings and their families that live in the USA, it makes me extremely grateful and proud of the team of 5 million here who worked so hard to get us to this point relatively quickly in the scheme of things.

Lockdown has been full on for the team at iT360. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, we were fully focused on helping our customers transition to remote working models, ensuring that we were securing these environments, and providing education on tools like Microsoft Teams and other remote working tools. Now, we are looking ahead at how to help businesses in this next phase.

For a lot of people, when it comes to technology, the next steps will be uncovering answers to the question of: how can we drive a competitive advantage in this modern economy? Can we continue to drive efficiency and gain productivity without compromising cyber security and adding risks?

As an example, we for one are planning to be 80 per cent remote for the foreseeable future. While we have a great office space like a lot of businesses, the remote working model has simply worked really well for us and increased our overall productivity, so we have no interest in going back to being 100 per cent office based. This comes with new challenges, such as remote working cyber security, data security, policies and procedures, applications, remote access and hardware solutions to maximise this for your teams.

With this in mind, we have created a free online assessment: iT360.co.nz/next-steps

Gina Cook, Partner, Business Advisory Services, BDO

Gina Cook

It’s good to be back out in public again and enjoying different scenery rather than the view of my neighbour’s fence from my home office. And, as much as I love my family, I am enjoying having other people to see!

While we have all had our own personal journeys during this time, coming out of lockdown has been (and will continue to be) a challenging time for all of our businesses as we get used to the new “normal” – whatever that is! For a while it will be business as unusual.

For most, lockdown was a time for crisis management – applying for wage subsidies, arrangements with banks, IRD, landlords, etc. As we transition to a new normal, we need to adjust and pivot our businesses in new ways to ensure our recovery and survival.

So how do we do this?

What worked before is unlikely to work now. We need to reinvent and adapt, and do it quickly. As businesses we need to scrutinise every area of our operations to identify risks, opportunities, re-imagine every part of our business and develop actions required to ensure our business can continue to be profitable, and generate the required cashflow to support our goals and dreams.

I say “we” because we are all in this boat together. At BDO we have been working tirelessly over the past two months to support our clients, and businesses in general. We are not immune and are working through
this – just like you.

If your business needs help through this recovery phase, reach out to your trusted advisors, not least to your accountant. Together, using this combined expertise, you can put the most appropriate plan in place for your business.

Neil Craigen, Regional Manager, Auckland Business | Kiwibank

Neil Craigen

As we move through Alert Level 2, we are starting to see early signs of strain, and, unfortunately, we expect to see this pain increase over the next few months as some small businesses struggle to make payments. So, right now, much of our time is spent providing facilities to help keep our clients’ cashflow positive and position them for the future.

We haven’t had huge numbers of clients taking up the business finance guarantee loan scheme. They’re telling us that they don’t want to borrow more money and introduce debt unnecessarily into the business. Instead they’re adjusting their business structure – cutting staff, wages and expenses.

When making these kinds of decision it’s important that you talk not just to your bank, but to your other trusted professionals – such as your accountant and lawyer – too. This “three-way” approach is crucial in order to truly understand a business’ viability and to make sure you have a solid structure and plan in place.

I’ve been impressed by the ingenuity and creativity of some clients. For example, a company that supplied the hospitality industry partnered with an online retailer to sell produce online. He went from zero to $60,000 worth of transactions almost instantly! I think this kind of innovation, along with Kiwis’ “support local” mindset, is going to be critical. If you’re a leftbrain (logical, analytical) thinker get together with a right-brain (entrepreneurial, intuitive) thinker so that you can both leverage off each other’s capabilities and strengths.

And keep those communication channels open. We all move through the so-called “change curve” at different rates, but by talking and sharing, bouncing ideas around, not being afraid to ask for support, that’s how we can help and find opportunities for each other.

Sian Jaquet, Executive Coach

Sian Jaquet

When there is fear for your very survival, your core beliefs and values are the fundamental tools to make sense of unprecedented times.

The past few months have been a challenging time for anyone in a leadership position.

I’m no exception; the past weeks were filled with unexpected learning opportunities and some dark hours of soul searching as I managed my own fear. I’m not a stranger to the concept of survival or fear. The coronavirus crisis wasn’t my first rodeo. I have pivoted many times before, both personally and professionally.

Five days before immigrating to New Zealand 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. My husband and children immigrated without me, whilst I underwent treatment. I arrived in Auckland five months later, somewhat physically and emotionally tattered and torn.

I needed to build a new life and live in a different way. Understanding how my beliefs and values made up the sum of my parts was fundamental in reinventing my future and taking responsibility for my life.

When my values are in alignment with my purpose, regardless of my fears, I will survive and I will be safe. When working with several companies during the crisis both here and overseas, it is my observation that the leaders who live and work in a values-led way are by far the most emotionally resilient.

They are willing and able to focus on what’s needed for them, their families and the company they own or work for.

To survive this unprecedented time, ensure you have taken time to review who you are as a leader and if your values and your beliefs are serving you well.

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Peter Green

Peter Green