Welcome to The Pivot Pod, where we'll figure out together what's next for small business. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new expert on each episode. Today it's a tourism company that says the Covid-19 changes made their business better.

Once a major and growing part of our economy, many in tourism saw their fortunes change overnight as borders slammed shut, and the hunt for a vaccine began.

But one New Zealand company says, even though it's been a difficult journey, the changes they've made to their business have actually improved it and they wouldn't go back.

Listen to the podcast episode here:

Elements World was running surf tours and selling camper vans when Covid-19 reared its head.

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Founder Felipe Rebolledo said they had a wave of cancellations, and then silence, with no new bookings.

"Suddenly everything was real. Then the announcement came about the alert levels, and needing to isolate in place, we realised okay there won't be any tourists any time soon.

"We need to start thinking in new ways."

So the team used lockdown as a time to reorganise their business. Rebolledo asked everyone to pitch in ideas, and started rewriting the business plan.

Switching their vans to a courier service was one of the original ideas. But they soon found it was a high volume, low margin model, that was difficult to break in to.

"Naturally as a business, you try to make use of the vehicles you have. So we had a fleet of vehicles and we said 'okay, what can we do with them?'" he said.

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"It's part of being in business, you try different things and some of them don't work, some of them do.

"You have to recognise the ones that work, stick with them, and develop the idea."

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So they changed again. Elements Automotive had previously been a small part of their business, looking after the campervans.

So they expanded the mechanic workshop, opening it to all customers, and giving their staff a way to stay employed.

Now Rebolledo said he wouldn't go back.

"After Covid-19 is over, we're going to have a stronger business. This pushed us to new ideas, and now we won't be relying on tourists to have a successful business," he said.

"This is going to be a long-term strategy. Automotive is a milestone for our company, in a way that we're going to be able to run our business not only relying on international visitors.

"This just diminishes your risk. Before we were relying 100 per cent on tourists, [but in the future], maybe even 20 per cent will not rely on tourists.

"Now we can cover most of our business expenses domestically."

Rebolledo said his biggest advice to other businesses would be to expand the business so that it doesn't just rely on one area.

He said making sure the work team is energised and committed is also crucial, as that's where you're likely to get new ideas from.

Listen to the full interview on The Pivot Pod episode above.

For the full interview, listen to the podcast on the player above.

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