Turning Chaos Into Opportunity

COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of life for every person on the planet. Who would have thought six months ago that many people would have willingly stayed at home for weeks on end, to fight a pandemic unseen at this scale for 100 years?

"This is absolutely a ‘black swan’ event - Nobody could economically have put in place all the measures they might need to handle disruption on this scale," noted Tobias Larsson, CEO, DHL Resilience360 (a leading cloud-based logistics platform).

The global death toll recently hit 500,000, with more than 10.1M people confirmed infected around the world. As well as this, the amount of redundancies alone is staggering. For example, the unemployment rate in the United States averaged 5.75 percent from 1948 until 2020, reaching an all-time high of 14.7 percent in April this year.

Of course, with news of the virus still spreading, and hitting all new highs in many places around the world, is there any bright light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel?

Innovation and Execution

There are many positive and encouraging stories of how many businesses have successfully ‘adapted and pivoted' from their core business, to find success in an allied field. These businesses had the tremendous ability to proactively turn chaos into opportunity.

The New Zealand Foodservice/Wholesale and Food Retail industries, previously being separate sectors, have (to a degree) converged to become one industry sector. Major Foodservice distributors had to think innovatively to survive the lockdown’s financial impacts, with many well-resourced organisations developing online ordering technology platforms. In turn this served customers in the comfort and safety of their own home during and even after the lockdown. As a result, the food sector competitive landscape has dramatically changed, relentlessly disrupting what had traditionally been purely retail customers - watch this space.

The New Zealand restaurant Blind Finch had to shut down one of their two branches as business stopped cold when New Zealand moved to Alert Level Four. Every person in the country had to stay in isolation for weeks on end, successfully limiting Covid’s spread, but killing off thousands of restaurants, industries, and businesses around the country. However, owner Derek Allomes re-focused his business to be takeaway driven, and then repurposed the dining room as a new high-end bakery, successfully providing quality hand-made artisanal goods to the local community.

A whole new business opportunity came about for motivational speaker and author Tom O’Neil. Talking with a large national client about training companies cancelling face to face courses due to the pandemic, Tom successfully set up Learning and Training New Zealand Limited, providing Zoom online technology-focused training and coaching across communication skills, business writing, critical thinking and problem-solving.

New Zealand’s reliance on the Tourism, Agriculture and Dairy export sectors to drive the economy significantly impacted our GDP negatively. Through differentiation, diversity and value-adding, these nationwide impacts would have, to a degree, been minimised. For example, heavy reliance on overseas tourism visitors and the tourist dollar, it is only until recently the New Zealand tourism industry had seriously focused on the domestic market in efforts to recover losses due to impacts of COVID-19.

Keep Moving forward

In terms of the global supply chain, Richard Wilding, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University, believes the industry will see some big changes, such as procurement for resilience rather than cost. This includes looking for near-shore opportunities, manufacturing with smaller footprints and using 3D-printing technology, as a small example, to position goods close to market.

So, What is the key to our successful future?

What are the key characteristics global businesses and leaders need to possess to trade their way successfully through this crisis?

  • Innovative thinking -  The companies that will succeed over the next 24 months will be those who have innovation in their DNA and have structured pathways to think and act quickly to create new ideas, products and services, as well as ways of doing business.
  • Proactive thinking – While innovation is vital, the ability to quickly ‘adapt’ into a new business model or market takes more than a creative brain. Your ability to turn innovative thinking into tangible products/services you can get out into the market is vital.
  • Long term dream and vision – Knowing your ‘Why?’ will keep you focused to reach your goals when indicators are pointing in the wrong direction.
  • Challenge your comfort zone – Staid old thinking businesses are not well prepared for a world of disruption, and many trusted brands and organisations will fall, while those who can genuinely look at new ways of doing things will rise to the top.
  • Commitment – Commitment from your executive team to be innovative in their thinking, as well as make the tough decisions when needed, are both key to driving your business forward.
  • Positive attitude – It’s easy to be negative during this unforgiving time, however, in 12 months we will not be reading about those who said, ‘all is doom and gloom’. We will be holding up the people who positively took up the challenge to build a road towards resilient and to a degree disruption-proof businesses.

Our global future success is in the hands of driven, agile, change promoting leaders and people. These leaders will be sure to take the bull by it's horns to assure a rapid journey towards economic recovery for New Zealand and the rest of the globe.

As a well-respected business consultant stated, "The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Written by Brian Hourani

Brian Hourani is a leading executive in the FMCG and supply chain industries. Being caught up in redundancy himself during Covid19, Hourani is currently available for consulting, contract, or permanent roles. His areas of expertise include procurement, supply chain management, FMCG, strategic planning and operations leadership.