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 how to tighten up your business to survive border closures.
Even if we're all agreed keeping the borders closed is important for keeping us safe and healthy, there is an undeniable cost that comes with that.
New Zealand is a country that until now relied heavily on tourism and exports, both of which are impacted by border restrictions not just here but throughout the world.
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Getting through that will mean focusing on proven success strategies, according to Andrew Jamieson PWC executive director, who came on The Pivot Pod to talk through the problem.
He said businesses were in survival mode when first thrown into lockdown in March. But now the conversation had changed, as everyone tried to figure out the "what next".
"What we're seeing right now, is we're still not sure quite how the dust has settled. So we're seeing some patterns, we're seeing some signals, but there's still a fair amount of noise at the same time.
"A lot of businesses are now trying to figure out, what is the enduring change we've just experienced?"
Border closures mean that migration has slowed to a trickle, with around 300 people a month migrating here since March.
Numbers from Stats NZ show that from April to August, we had a net gain of 1700 people. That's precipitous drop on the same period of time last year, when we had a net gain of 21,500.
Jamieson said because the environment was so uncertain and changeable, business strategy had to adapt to match it. Planning had to move from long-term 3-5 year goals, to more medium-term planning of 3-5 months, to allow flexibility.
He said tourism businesses could survive on domestic customers, but only if they focused on the most successful parts of their business.
"[Tourism] has had an incredible track record of growth. The numbers are roughly 10 per cent year on year growth in the sector for the past 10 years.
"We've talked to businesses who admittedly said, look, we've never had to do cashflow forecasting.
"It's not that they've been lazy or sloppy, it's just that they've been operating in an incredibly benign environment. For some of those businesses, there is an opportunity to still be a sustainable business, but just operate at a much lower level of margin."
For those tourism businesses that had relied on overseas travel agencies to send them customers, Jamieson pointed out they would now need to become more independent and take control of reaching domestic customers.
He said it was now about ensuring they were visible and accessible to the domestic tourists who were willing to spend money.
"In the current environment, there is literally only one game in town, which is converting domestic tourism.
"So then you need to take stock from that point of view and say, actually, can I be found, can I be seen, can people transact with me online directly, and what does my network and distribution channels look like?"
Jamieson was unconvinced by some of the discussion about changing the core components of a business post-Covid.
He said success was more likely to come by looking at what had worked for the business in the past, and adapting that to the current situation.
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