IT IS NOT THE MOST INTELLIGENT, NOR THE STRONGEST THAT SURVIVES BUT THE ONE MOST ADAPTABLE TO CHANGE
(Charles Darwin)

When I started to write this article a week ago, I had a clear sense of the content but over the period of the week a lot of the content seemed superfluous, no longer relevant and naive

We are in unprecedented times and we are all whether in our business or our personal lives managing in crisis. No one knows how long it will last and no one knows from one minute to the next what the current situation is both in terms of government support, regulations or number of cases presenting daily. People around the globe have exhibited crazy behavior, stock piling various items leading to shortages of items like toilet paper and pasta.

“The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed” Ghandi

Globally there is a curve of how this virus spreads and restrictions appear to be enacted as each country assesses where they are heading on this curve. Ultimately looking at global data we are all heading for the same restrictions albeit on different time frames. Who is right or wrong in timing of these decisions is a pointless debate right now and will be for discussions post this crisis when everything is evaluated, and reviews of the situation reported for history.

ARE YOU BOMBARDED WITH INFORMATION?

We are being bombarded with information from all corners and our governments are providing daily/hourly reports plus instituting a broad range of support measures for businesses that we are all trying to decipher. It is critical to listen, read and use this support and information to help you navigate through this period but finding the time when you are trying to simply make sure your business survives is not easy. What we all want is for government and other communications to stick to the KISS principle (Keep it simple stupid) Your trade associations are helping with this.

DOES LOOKING AT THE HISTORY OF THE GFC HELP

Many people say look to history for advice, look at what we learnt from the GFC and to some extent this can be useful, but this is also a very different crisis. The key learning from many who went through the GFC is the effects last long after the crisis appears over. Some would say they are still recovering from the GFC and many never did. The other learning was to always give yourself a buffer, keep debt manageable and steer away from those relationships in business that abuse your agreed payment cycles. These learnings are relevant for today but if you don’t have the buffer you need to make sure you maximise where possible government support and minimize costs and you may have to make those hard decisions regarding staffing levels - for many given lock downs this decision has been taken out of your hands.  Do not let staff make you feel guilty, you have no choice and hopefully your government is taking steps to look after everyone. In most cases you have a lot more to lose than your employees. Keep them informed of what is happening and stay in touch with those you wish to return at some stage when you can operate in some sort of normality. For many staffing levels will not return to the level you had, nervousness, worry re how long the marine sector will take to get back on its feet will make you operate with caution. Everyone is likely to be the same.

MAKE DECISIONS RIGHT FOR YOU

You must analyse your own situation and make decisions right for you. If you need help making these decisions your trade association is only a phone call away. They are offering excellent support to their members and are keen to hear from you and help. Our group of Global Business Marine advisors are also willing to provide the benefits of their experience if you need another sounding board.

Cutting expenditure is what everyone is now doing as they see the downturn in sales and the slow down or complete stoppage of supply chains. What to cut and when is a hard decision for every business and trying to get the timing and mix right is not easy when expenditure and revenue are aligned. Where there are lock downs again you have had decisions taken out of your hands but use this time to reflect on the business and prepare for the future whatever this may look like. No one can really predict

DO YOU KEEP MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS?

Do you keep maintaining some form of brand presence throughout the crisis, so you are at the forefront when it comes back or do you bite the bullet and take a back step in this area. Your biggest tool right now is your own website and digital platform. This can be used effectively for marketing and sales. It is critical you keep your customers updated and informed about what is happening in your business. 

I was impressed talking to Carl Amor from Aqualuma Australia who as always takes a pragmatic approach and immediately thought about what he can do in this situation not what he can’t. He immediately contacted the government to advise how they could possibly make other products currently in short supply. He is reviewing his entire business and marketing strategy to be ready when things slowly return to normal. One can be sure he will be ready when things turn around and let’s hope governments will remember this situation, the shortages we are suffering with supply chains and look more closely at supporting businesses in their own countries more. The global reliance on one country surely must be a warning when situations like this occur.

Everyone is going through the same crisis so those that communicate will be one step ahead from those who do not. Whether you were quick off the mark with your communications to customers or you are ready to do it now does not matter just do it when you feel you have a solid message to send and follow the KISS principle (keep it simple)

Bigger companies have the resources to be very proactive in the communication stakes, smaller ones must do it all themselves and with family issues plus business issues time becomes very tight. My advice is keep communications simple, honest, credible and timely. Your customers will appreciate this and will remember it when things start to return to normal

Whilst it is good to look at any relevant learnings from history it is also important to remember you cannot drive looking in the rear mirror

STAY ON TRACK

I think when things get tough just try and stay on track, there is always a cycle and it is how you manage during the cycle that will depict how you will survive afterwards and let’s face it surviving right now personally and in business is upper most in our minds. Thriving will be a thing for the future

We would all just like to return to normal and god willing this will happen before the end of 2020, but this is not assured. 

It is a time to manage finances and reduce expenditure as much as is feasible, take advantage of the government support, the government wants your business to survive and normal asset testing and protocols are not applying in many cases. If you need to take advantage of the banks support to defer mortgage and loan payments do so. Take the pressure off yourself. 

MANAGING A FAMILY AND A BUSINESS

Many are now experiencing the difficulty of working and looking after children. Many can work from home, but many cannot stay at home and do their job. Many families are making sacrifices as to who goes to work, who stays home and agonising over whether they are being a good parent and doing the right thing.

You must do what you believe is right for your family as the family unit remains the most important consideration once this is operating as effectively as it can you can then focus on the business.

STIMULUS PACKAGES

Governments across the world have instituted a variety of Stimulus packages and most governments are trying hard to help business and families survive, the biggest issue though around this and for many businesses around the world is the timeliness of this support. In Australia the system is now overloaded, there are huge queues outside govt offices of unemployed workers needing financial support, online systems are crashing as they are overloaded and payments to businesses are slow. Having said that the government is aware of the situation and working hard to make access to these business support packages.

NZ has also offered good financial support to businesses and their payments are swift, can be applied for online and are paid generally within 48-72 hours. NZ has taken a proactive stance on the crisis and closed their doors and went into lock down very early. Many ask about the America’s cup, will it still go ahead, will NZ be ready?? Again, who can foretell this situation. Being in lock down will certainly delay getting infrastructure ready but NZ is a land of the “can do” so it really is too early to predict.

MARINE MEDIA

Marine media are also trying to maintain relevance in these times of turmoil. Many are being proactive by increasing their on line newsletters,  educating and informing, but when can there be too much information and how will you decide through this who you should read and listen to and who you will eventually disregard as not being on the money. I spoke with Hillary Buckman at Ocean Media in Australia, Hillary who has always worked closely with the industry commented “we have contacted all our regular clients and offered support and asked how we can assist through this period. What information do they want and need? How can we be useful and relevant to their business in this current crisis? Are they still interested in receiving a printed magazine?

Keeping communication channels open is very important to us. We are already well set up to work at home so our service to customers will not alter and we will be trying very hard to help where we can. We are all in this together and like every business I will be reviewing our operations to ensure we come back strong and relevant to our readers and advertisers. Hillary further commented ‘whilst some businesses have postponed their advertising others are going ahead seeing the importance of maintaining a brand presence through this crisis as critical. Whatever our client’s decisions are we respect this and will work with them going forward”

Ocean Media and the Superyacht Australia have advised research continues to confirm readers want a quality printed, relevant magazine now more than ever. In a world where most of us are in lock down a great magazine will be good company.

In terms of a global online newsletter for the marine sector I personally recommend IBI. They do an amazing job, collate timely information from around the globe and are a credible information source.

YOUR TRADE ASSOCIATION

There has been talk globally re the slow reaction of some trade associations, who is responding efficiently and effectively to members needs and how are they doing it. From what I am hearing and from what I can see most marine industry bodies have been proactive and supportive and businesses are saying they need this now more than ever and those I have spoken to have appreciated the role their trade associations have taken. ICOMIA has been collating information from around the globe and passing this to their international country members and this is providing an important up to date global report. The members of ICOMIA in turn are passing this on to their members within each country.

Being based in Australia I can only talk first hand of the organisations I am familiar with and whilst they are also struggling with the constantly changing rules, regulations etc. from govt they are working 24/7 to provide clear interpretations of government communications and what it means for the marine sector. AIMEX and Superyacht Australia is an organization that can respond quickly as they already have several staff working remotely across 3 states. 

I spoke with David Good CEO of the Australian Marine Export Group and Superyacht Australia. David commented,

 “we are in constant contact with members updating them on the current rules and regs as they pertain to the marine industry. We have set up an informal whats app group with members which is seen as valuable and has been very helpful especially for members who are feeling isolated or confused re the amount of information they are receiving. We have instituted weekly board meetings via Zoom where all our board are sharing their experiences to pass onto members and making sure the association is being both proactive and reactive to member’s needs. Myself and my staff are only a phone call away and we are receiving calls for advice and information daily from our members. We were forced to cancel our key industry conference and will leave it completely this year but will be back in 2021. We refunded all the prepaid registrations and sponsorship monies as we are very conscious now is not a time to hold onto funds. Members and our many sponsors appreciated this. 

When asked what the types of queries most concerning members were, he mentioned these varied considerably but given the fact most members export or are in the superyacht sector specific industry queries relate to:

  • understanding the situation re incoming/outgoing freight and the government/state regulations around this.
  • currently with the Australia dollar as low as it is many of the Australian manufacturers are getting enquiries and they want to understand if they are still able to export to countries/regions.
  • Companies that import product for their manufacturing process or are in the distribution arena are also wanting to understand supply chain lines, delays etc. 
  • Understanding issues with superyachts coming into Australia and regulations re movement of crew. David has been successful in getting government to provide exemptions for superyachts entering Australia and is working closely with government on this. 

If anyone wants to understand this issue more David would be happy to speak with you. In Australia the industry is united and strong and will survive this crisis as they did the GFC.

WHAT HELP DO YOU NEED

In this time of turmoil cash is what most businesses need to stay afloat and all the advice in the world will not help if there is no money to pay overheads and keep the business afloat. Governments do understand this and are trying to find ways for businesses to access this money quicker. Many trade associations are lobbying strongly to get governments to see the marine sector as an essential industry, to keep marinas open and allow people to access their boats providing of course they maintain government rules re social distancing and numbers gathered. Each country and state currently have different rules re marinas and boating. Your trade association will have the up to date information for you.

HOW LONG WILL THIS LAST?

No one can predict this but one thing we can predict is it has a cycle and it will end. People around the globe are resilient, this is a time to manage your existing business relationships, try and be innovative and think outside the square- can you refocus to produce some of the much needed medical supplies and products now in short supply, work with your industry colleagues as together as an industry history has proved we will survive.

 

MA Edwards

Global Marine Business Advisors


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