Episode 4: Trusting your gut or the numbers

BNZ Connect SME Podcast
Liam Dann
New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large
23 MIN

When a crisis hits, do you turn to data and information to help you navigate a way through or do you rely on your gut? In this episode we speak to two innovative businesses both faced with the challenge of guiding their staff and customers through at a time of uncertainty as New Zealand went into its initial COVID-19 lockdown. Angie Judge, owner of SAAS business Dexibit, turned to the data to help guide their customers through the uncertainty. While Emily Miller-Sharma, co-owner of fashion retailer Ruby, trusted her gut to keep up with the pace of decision making she was faced with. Their ultimate goal? Putting the needs of their customers first. Hear their insights as we continue to work through the ongoing impacts of Covid-19.
Hosted by New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large, Liam Dann. 

The guests featured in this podcast are sharing their own views and experiences. As this podcast is for general information purposes only, content should not be relied upon as professional advice.  Always get your own independent advice that takes into account your personal situation. If you’d like to access a transcript of this podcast, you can view it online at blog.bnz.co.nz/podcasts.

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Transcript

Liam Dann:

This podcast brings together two innovative businesses to discuss how they’ve navigated change since New Zealand’s lockdown, what they’ve learned and how they are looking to the future. In this episode, we speak to Angie Judgefrom visitor attraction analytics company, Dexibit, and Emily Miller-Sharma from clothing label, Ruby. Both businesses faced an uncertain future as New Zealand went into lockdown. But their problem solving methods were quite different, from delving into data on one hand to trusting your gut on the other. Their ultimate goal, putting the needs of their customers first.

LD:

I’m Liam Dann, New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large. Welcome to BNZ Connect SME. The guests featured in this podcast are sharing their own views and experiences. As this podcast is for general information purposes only, content should not be relied upon as professional advice. Always get your own independent advice that considers your personal situation. If you’d like to access a transcript of this podcast, you can view it online at blog.bnz.co.nz/podcast.

LD:

Emily, maybe just starting with you. Can you give us a little bit of background on what Ruby is, how it works?

Emily Miller-Sharma: Yep. So Ruby is a clothing company. We design here in Auckland. We have six brick and mortar stores and one online store. The essence of Ruby is spirited youth. What we try to do as a design-lead company is make sure that our price point is at a level where, for the customer who’s purchasing it, they could be able to purchase it with one pay packet.

LD:

Sure. So that’s a goal that you put in place right at the start?

EMS

Ruby has always sat in, sort of, an accessible price point area. It is a consideration when we’re designing at all times. So it might be a girl who is a babysitter that is coming and buying a piece of jewellery from us, or it might be somebody who’s in their first office job. They should be able to buy a top that they could wear to the office with a one pay packet.

LD:

Sure. Look, we’ve got quite, sort of, different sort of businesses today but facing some similar big challenges. So Angie, could I get you to tell me about Dexibit?

Angie Judge:

Sure. At Dexibit, we do big data analytics for visitor attractions. So we work with things like museums and galleries and zoos and stadiums and theme parks, and help them get more visitors through the door and get them coming back more often, and of course, spending while they’re there.

LD:

So it’s a tech, would you say a tech company is it?

AJ:

Yeah. We offer software as a service, so it means it’s a subscription. What we do, if you can imagine, when you walk into a visitor attraction, there’s a whole pile of data that can be collected about you and your experience. Say, everything from the ticket that you walked in with, through to the WIFI signal that comes off your cell phone, and the transactions that you make in the shop or cafe, and things like your membership, and social media, and what you say online about the place that you’re visiting. All of that data helps those venues predict and analyse what their visitors are going to do and ultimately power our cultural future.

LD:

Sure. I’m guessing because New Zealand is not a huge place, that your market is much more than just New Zealand.

AJ:

Oh, yes. Most of our customers are overseas. We work with some of the largest visitor attractions, cultural institutions, and commercial alike around the world.

LD:

Sure. Yeah, no. And we’ll come back to that because that’s obviously going to be relevant to this whole shift we’ve been through. I’m guessing that both of you had businesses that were going pretty well, and that were under control and you’re looking out at 2020 thinking expansion. Emily, you saw the news coming out of China, things just grew and grew. Do you remember where you were when you sort of realised this was a life changing kind of moment?

EMS

So I had my first child on the 14th of January.

LD:

Oh wow.

EMS

I knew that there was an issue around COVID because 40% of our product is made in China. So our supply line had started to be disrupted, but I wasn’t really aware of how much it was going to affect us. Also because I was half in the world and half out the world, I remember becoming more and more aware that I needed to get my fingers right back into my business as soon as possible.

EMS

I think the biggest shift for me was when Jacinda Ardern made the announcement about the levels. That to me signified, level four, was something that will exist. Before then, I had been in the office almost every day, but it was that weekend that I knew that huge changes needed to happen. And it was like staring down into a black hole.

LD:

Yeah. Quite physically, sort of, scary emotional feelings.

EMS

Absolutely. For me personally, it’s still difficult for me to decipher what was typical newborn baby mother anxiety and business owner and person who runs the business, like the anxiety of going into such huge unknown.

LD:

Yeah, I mean, we use the word unprecedented a lot in this crisis. But that particular specific combination, it’s very difficult to know. Angie, how about you? Do you remember where you were when you thought, gee, this means I’m going to have to really think about how we do business?

AJ:

I think it was probably a few stages for me. Back in February, we of course collect data from lots of different visitor attractions around the world, and we were looking at the data and noticing that people were taking a hit from somewhere that was unusual. And when you forecast, you tend to pay lots of attention to when those forecasts aren’t right and why. I remember, we wrote our first sort of marketing piece on COVID-19 back then, saying to the industry, “Something’s not right. We think it’s China.” At that point, we were seeing maybe five to 15% down in the industry, and we thought, oh, this is going to be a bit of a bump, having no idea what was ahead of us at that point.

LD:

So you were at the front end of it in the sense that you’re picking up patterns a bit like the economists and other people who are seeing that forward data.

AJ:

Yeah. I think it certainly gave us a big advantage because when it started sinking in in March, and I was actually in the States, in Washington, DC, where our office is over there. In March, at that point when it became quite serious, I remember on Thursday the 13th when they announced the pandemic status by the WHO and the US government sites started to shut down, at that point for me was when we called the team together and sat them down and told them to take the monitors off the hooks and take them home and things. But it had certainly helped having a little bit of a lead in.

AJ:

And then coming back to New Zealand. New Zealand was sort of a few weeks behind everybody else at that point. I made the decision to come home and sort of ride things out here, and got here and found everybody was still wondering around like there was no problem. And came off the plane, was one of the first to go that morning into isolation. And I was quite concerned that the whole country wasn’t panicking a bit more about it after what we’d seen.

LD:

And how ready were you to actually logistically handle it in terms of what to do with staff, what to do with the stores, all that kind of practical end of the business? So how did you handle that shift?

EMS

Yeah, exactly. We are a hands-on company. So yes, in our stores, but also in our head office. We are designing, we’re cutting fabric, we’re fitting garments. And the concept of trying to shift those really practical roles to be working from home was one which was very difficult to wrap our heads around. But because it happened so quickly, we just started running, and we never stopped running. And I think that helped. We just didn’t have time to get caught up in details, it was just make a decision and run with it.

LD:

So you remember any examples of communicating that to the staff and how they coped with it, that sort of thing?

EMS

I remember on… I think it was the Monday that it was announced that we would be going into alert level four. Each of us were sitting around our desks watching the announcement. And then just brought everyone together and told them that the office would be closing, they had until the end of the day to work out how they were going to absolutely get themselves home and then prepare themselves personally for lockdown.

LD:

Sure. And did you ever fear for the business? I mean, when we’re in that hard lockdown and you didn’t know what the numbers were going to be, was it a…

EMS

It was extremely, extremely frightening. So we were forecasting potentially all stores being closed until the end of August, and our online store operating at maybe 20% of what it usually does. Obviously, that is a frightening thing for any company. And we have 80 staff, so the responsibility for those staff members weighed heavily on my mind.

LD:

Absolutely. I imagine Angie with the exhibit, because it’s a tech company, does that make it easier to work from home? Was that an option that you could, sort of, green light quickly and the staff knew what to do?

AJ:

Yeah. We went to work from home mode quite early on, and it was so natural for us because the company is built to do it. It wasn’t something we’d ever done before, to do it, all of us all the time, but we certainly didn’t find any hurdles in doing it. But our customers were all brick and mortar customers. And I think if you’d said to me when we started the business, that there would come a day when every single one of our customers everywhere in the world would have their doors shut indefinitely, I don’t know that I could have conceived that.

LD:

Yeah. That must’ve been terrifying and must’ve raised questions about… Because there was no timeframe on how long things would be shut for, and even now, there’s still some uncertainty. So when you looked at that, did you just think, gosh, how will we survive?

AJ:

Yeah, I feared for our industry. The cultural sector, it does depend on an in-person experience. Sure, we can put collections online and we can do virtual tours and all the rest of it, but it’s not quite the same as being there in person. We had some customers do some amazing things. You know, roller coasters with kids in laundry baskets in front of the TVs, and penguins wandering around the aquariums looking at the other fish and wondering about the sharks and things. But none of that is a substitute for an in-person experience.

AJ:

I was worried for all of those sites. When you’ve got hundreds, thousands of people on payroll and doors shut, and not a single dollar revenue opportunity, there’s only so long an industry can last. And when every industry is in that position, there’s only so long that the countries can support it. And so I really was concerned about the industry’s future, but it has come through. And the innovation and the passion that that industry has put in around the world has helped it through that.

LD:

Sure. So how did you approach it when, you know… Okay, you had to be optimistic, I guess, that things are going to come back. So how do you approach how you run the business, how you change direction if you need to, or new things you do? Did you sort of take time out to think about it strategically or was it just too rushed for that?

AJ:

Yeah. Things are moving too fast for that. So we talk in our business about being sort of lean and agile, and it went to extremes on that front. We ended up launching new products. We were working through with our customers, and they were wanting to scenario plan for the future. So we launched a scenario simulation tool in a matter of weeks, which would have been unthinkable before COVID. And we changed our business model and started offering some freemium products, which we’d never done before, I’d never done in my life before. But we did that and had enormous success with it, and changed our entire sort of go to market strategy in the middle and just rode everything. Came up with an idea in the morning and did it in the afternoon. And I think, probably, have emerged from the pandemic, not that I would have ever wanted to go through it again, but a stronger business as a result.

LD:

Sure. So it wasn’t a case of, it’s all about how can we hibernate. You were thinking about opportunity within that. So did you have good support around those ideas and how did you come up with them?

AJ:

I think for us, our mission in the company is about powering our cultural future. And I think all of us felt a really big responsibility, like a really big call to that mission during this time that ultimately it was about financial survival for these organisations and for the industry as a whole. And sitting on the data, we had a big part to play in that. And so that was a huge driver for everything that we did. And we were so fortunate with our industry that software companies work together really well and we have a lot of support in New Zealand between us. And we found that in our own industry as well, we got thousands of visitor attractions together online and they were all talking about how they could learn from each other. And it felt really, really special to be a part of that.

LD:

Well, that’s great. I mean, it’s good to hear that that sort of support network was there. Emily, Ruby also had to make a call, I guess. You either just hibernate or you look at opportunity, and you guys have also looked at some strategic ways to get through this.

EMS

The thing for the clothing industry is probably like all product industries, there needs to be a massive shift in what we offer. Questions around sustainability have been at the edges of the clothing industry for a long time. And having the lockdown meant that we were propelled to just try things that we’ve been spit balling for a little while.

EMS

One of the things that we did is… Basically, I felt very connected to my customers over the lockdown because we were experiencing the same thing or a more similar thing day-to-day than what our day-to-day lives usually are. And the thing for me is that I just felt like my brain wasn’t working unless I started to make things with my hands. I started to notice that there was a lot of conversation around people making things themselves. Obviously, we all know about everyone got into baking bread. And as a business, we know that we need to move towards a more circular model.

EMS

And so an idea that we had talked about is selling our patterns to our customers. So those are our paper patterns that they purchase and then they have their own fabric and they make their own clothes. And so I just was like, we need to just do that this weekend. They need to be up online this weekend. It’s Wednesday, and by Saturday they need to be up online. And they were, and we thought we might sell 20. And after about an hour and a half, we had sold a few hundred, and we were like we haven’t properly figured out how to do this yet. So it was a success. And then we’ve been able to build on that success, so we’ve then took them down, relaunched them, and then we’ll be launching an even bigger offering of patterns in the next couple of months.

LD:

Sure. That’s quite a radical idea though, isn’t it? Because you’ve actually got your intellectual property there. You could be cutting across the bricks and mortar business. But it’s a really interesting idea, and I guess you’re saying you knew the industry had some sort of structural challenges that were bubbling away anyway. Of course, it reminds me of my mum having them, in the ’60s and ’70s. There was a whole industry of doing that stuff and selling patterns. But tell me a little bit more about the thought process that went into that, and how you made that leap. Was it COVID-19 that gave you that push?

EMS

COVID absolutely gave us the push. The question about IP is a really good one and something that we had debated a lot, and that was actually something that had held us back from offering patterns earlier. For me, there are a couple of things. The first thing is we actually have just introduced ourselves to a whole new market. For the customers who are purchasing our product anyway, our off the rack clothes, if they are to buy a pattern from us, what I love about it is it shows them the value in the hands that have made their clothes. And so we talk a lot about this in the clothing industry, really needing to value the people who work in the supply chain, and there’s a real visceral learning in actually having to sew and knowing how hard it is.

LD:

And do you think people… It fits with the lockdown and the sourdough obsession and all that sort of stuff. So could you just see that in the short term, at least, this was going to be able to fill a gap in revenue?

EMS

I didn’t know what short term even was. Long term was Saturday, and this was Wednesday. But I did see, absolutely, that it was another avenue for revenue. An interesting thing about sitting alongside, like a service industry provider in a way, the clothing industry needs to work out how to be a service industry. So we’re not only just selling new products, and, yeah, patterns is one way. I started doing online sewing classes. It’s just a way of keeping our brand identity strong, but offering things that are not a new object.

LD:

Yeah. Angie, I mean, change is always good for pushing us to look for opportunity and that sort of thing. I mean, obviously, data’s going to be hugely important as the constant change needing to map and forecast from numbers. Is that creating new opportunity as we sort of move from the hard lockdown, I guess, into different phases of opening for a lot of exhibits and museums and art galleries, all of them really?

AJ:

Yeah, absolutely. I think just as we probably all experienced in our lives, when we went into lockdown, that sort of fueled years of digital transformation in the space of a few days. We all needed to be on Zoom and on Slack and on all of these sorts of tools in our companies to be able to communicate with each other virtually. And the same thing’s happening in our industry, as customers reopen their doors, is all eyes are going onto the numbers, because the margins are so tight and every single visitor counts. And it becomes a real game of trying to get double next week and double the week after to try and earn your way back to where you were before. And so that’s proving a real move and driver in our sector for data transformation, and for people to adopt more data literacy in their organisations and to be more insight-informed.

AJ:

I think one of the weird things that happened as well in the world, is a lot of people are afraid of data and yet during COVID-19, we all paid a lot of attention to it because there were graphs every day in the newspaper and our country leaders were applauded or not for their use of data. And so there was this big appetite for people to want to pay more attention to numbers and to trust people who use numbers in their leadership styles more. And I think that’s ultimately helped us in our work, and getting the word out there and encouraging people that it is, it’s hard, but it’s good.

LD:

Yeah. I guess traditionally, because we see it in our industry. There’s been a lot of data around the stories that people read and all that sort of stuff that there’s a sort of a conflict between people who have been in the industry for a while wanting to trust their gut kind of, and almost a bit scared to look at the data because it might tell them something different than-

Female

AJ:

They want to know.

LD:

Yeah, that’s right. And so how do you get people over that hurdle?

AJ:

Well, I think this is the interesting thing about reopening a visitor attraction post-COVID, and I’m sure for many businesses out there is that your gut feel no longer works because what people are doing and their behaviours and the industry trends, it’s like a massive experience, experiment on society. I wonder what visitor attractions look like without tourism. We are now learning that day-to-day. I wonder what dwell time does when you’ve got physical distancing in a venue. We are now seeing that day-to-day.

AJ:

And so I think for those people for whom gut-feel has been the thing that they relied on to lead and make decisions has ripped that rug out from underneath them. And now we’re all forced to pay a bit more attention to data. And I think we’ve all seen leadership-wise, globally, the difference between good leaders and not so good leaders in terms of their use of it as well and the respect for people who do has grown substantially.

EMS

I definitely understand that idea of, as a society, we became more fluent in it. But for me and our company, actually, what I realised is that I had become so dependent on data and what… So I look after all of the buying. And so looking at how many pants or how many dresses under $250 we purchased this month, last year, this month, two years ago, etc. I had become actually weighed down with too much of it. And what it meant is that I was purchasing more and more stock in order to fill all of the data boxes that were empty. And with COVID, I had no precedent and it was basically like cut the rope, she’s free. And I just had to make it up more and like basically the opposite of what you’re saying, I actually had to go with my gut again. So Deanna Didovich, our creative director and myself, when we were putting together ranges, it was like, well, what feels good? And yeah, that was a great experience.

AJ:

Yeah. I think it’s a mix of using data to guide the growth pathway as opposed to restricting the decisions of the creative process. And I think that’s what we’re all learning. Again, and the right way through coming out of COVID is how to get that balance, right? And we’re exactly the same in our business that we paid a lot of attention to, “Oh, who’s looking at this visualisation? What data sources are they drawing from?” Versus, “Let’s throw a new product out there in the market and see what comes back.”

AJ:

And so that sort of freedom to experiment, knowing that, hey, if it doesn’t work, we can always do something else. And I think that kind of leans sort of experimental style is really working for those of us who are trying new things in the face of a weird world.

LD:

Yeah. Well, I mean, when we talk about gut feel here, it’s a sort of collection of all your experiences, but it’s not actually… no one’s experienced this before. So we know that the last thing like this might’ve been 1918, so it’s a generation or more than several generations where it’s completely new. And I guess that presents challenges and opportunities. Can I maybe ask you about the challenges? Specifically, were there things that got in the way of what you were trying to do that you were able to overcome?

EMS

I think the biggest challenge for us was the speed in which we were needing to make decisions and making sure that our team was being brought along with us, even though we couldn’t see anyone face-to-face. They all felt very nervous, and we didn’t really know what we were doing. So it made it very difficult for us to communicate clearly. But what I realised is as long as I was transparent, and this is an interesting… Transparency, is an interesting thing, because I couldn’t have been completely transparent about the numbers that I was looking at because that would have obviously tipped everybody over, but being transparent in the sense, I don’t know the answer right now. However, what I do know is this, patterns on Saturday, ladies, or whatever.

LD:

So don’t bluff it. You can’t really fake knowing what’s going to come next. You have to sort of admit to some extent that, you know…

EMS

Yeah. Admit that I don’t know everything and then set targets for the things that I do know, and then we could all work towards those.

AJ:

Yeah. I think along a similar line. The hardest thing about this whole thing is to lead while feeling scared, but not being scary. And for us, the biggest challenge of doing that is that we have teams in multiple countries who are having very different experiences, sometimes polar opposites of each other. At the same time, when we were all celebrating reopening in our Kiwi team, we’re having high fives and hugs and things, our American team were in the middle of a terrible situation.

AJ:

And I think as a leader during these times, you are responsible for the whole person and you are responsible for mental health in the workplace and things like that. And that’s been the hardest part, is the weight of doing that and being everything for some people, particularly when you’ve got people in your team who are living alone and they are in these situations where you are a gazillion miles away from them, is trying to balance of what is the right thing that everybody needs at a time like that.

LD:

Yeah. I mean, because you’re exporting to different markets, I imagine recovery looks very different to different markets and therefore the team is at different phases of where the business is or has been. How does that sit for you here? Do you feel like New Zealand has an edge by being slightly ahead of the curve on this?

AJ:

Yeah, it’s funny. As a software company, I imagine in fashion being a Kiwi brand is a great thing on a global market. In the software industry, being a Kiwi software company, it’s not usually something you talk about internationally. Because when you’re in America, being an American company is important. And when you’re in Europe, being sort of Eurocentric is important and how you go to market there.

AJ:

And so for the first time, when we came out of lockdown early and our visitor attractions in New Zealand opened early, that was the first time that we put our hands up and said, “We’re a Kiwi company and we’re here in Auckland and we’re here at Rainbow’s End and at the Sky Tower and at the Auckland Museum. And here’s how they’re doing things.” And we had thousands of visitor attractions from all over the world, the biggest names in the business, all tuned in living that experience with us live from here in New Zealand. And it was such an advantage for us as a market. It was such a privilege for us as a company to be a part of that. It was such a cool story to share with the world. And I think for many of our industry, they were living very vicariously through us as we were able to go out and enjoy those things and see how we were doing things first.

LD:

So that is that lockdown success as a useful marketing tool for New Zealand.

AJ:

Absolutely. Yeah.

LD:

Emily, staying with that New Zealand idea, how has being a New Zealand fashion brand, is that national identity still part of the way you look at it right now?

EMS

Absolutely. Being a New Zealand fashion company is crucial to our identity. The power of having a New Zealand fashion brand is really important. The issue with the New Zealand fashion industry is actually, we have a skill shortage when it comes to machining and sewing. And we, as an industry, have lost most of our fabric production. So what we need to do as an industry is work out how to rebuild that.

EMS

So basically at Ruby, we know there’s a skill shortage, and we also know in the clothing industry, there’s a lot of wastage in production. So when you cut out a t-shirt, there’s the weird little circular bit that you have no use for it. And in the production process, you can’t turn it into anything else because it’s not efficient. And also, there are ends of fabric where there might be little bits and pieces of flecks or irregular dye marks. And so with that wasted fabric in the production process, we are taking that and using it as the materials for an apprenticeship workshop.

EMS

So we put the call out. We know that there’s going to be a lot of unemployed or underemployment. And so we put the call out for apprentices that want to learn how to sew or better their skills at sewing. And instead of them having to purchase materials for themselves to learn on, because you do have to learn on materials, we’re providing it with the waste materials from our production process.

LD:

That’s something that potentially comes out of COVID that helps the entire industry be a little bit more productive and sustainable?

EMS

Exactly. The thing about COVID, my thinking is that any decision that we were making or any change that we were making needed to be innovative and around sustainability, because we absolutely have to solve that question for the industry. So any energy that’s put into any new development has to answer the question of sustainability.

LD:

Sure. Angie, I talk to economists about the idea that, it’s not a good thing, COVID-19, but out of that comes a sort of a transformation of various industries. And it may be that they come through this a bit leaner and meaner and a bit more focused and more productive in a way that might have taken several years before. It’s forcing you to move a lot faster on those things.

AJ:

I think if we look back at the ’08 recession, and even before that, some of the biggest companies, software companies in the world, emerged out of there. And hopefully that is the same for this one, that sort of oil making process of pressure is really going to help the diamonds come out. But I think for us, it’s sort of the absence of normality. You do try new things. You are more innovative. You are harsher about the decisions that you make. You do sort of have less appetite for things to move slowly and you want the rapid pace. And I think if we can all sort of suck up whatever is working for us right now in those aspects and carry it forward and keep that momentum up as an economy, it’s going to help us in the longer term.

LD:

Sounds like you’ve been forced to sort of embrace the uncertainty.

AJ:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

LD:

And certainly in tech, I know that businesses want to be agile and flexible, but this has sort of more than ever made you realise-

AJ:

Ultimate use case.

LD:

Yeah. You can’t know what the immediate outlook is. So you have to put in place plans that work for a whole bunch of uncertainties.

AJ:

Yeah. That’s so true. It’s that ultimate test of being as agile as you can, is not knowing what tomorrow looks like. And if we can all sort of remember that in our DNA as we go on the future, it will make us better leaders and stronger companies.

LD:

Sure. Emily, big challenges, things that you would do differently if you had the time again?

EMS

I actually, I genuinely wouldn’t do anything differently. What’s been really useful for me coming out of lockdown is thinking about what I enjoyed most personally about lockdown and then ensuring it continues in the business, so my connection to community, being open and transparent, and having a sense of day to day joy and sort of a resilience are some of the things. And so making sure that when we’re in a business decision making process, that those considerations are still being met.

LD:

It’s interesting, isn’t it? When you’re in the ordinary humdrum of daily life, little things can be so stressful and cause so much anxiety. Suddenly, this really big thing happens and you’ve got to throw everything open and sometimes it allows you more freedom than you would have expected.

LD:

Just before we wrap it up, can I just ask both of you for a business or a business leader or someone out there who’s really inspired you?

EMS

To be honest, the person who just continually inspires me is Kim Hill. I just learn so much from her every single week. She just knows how to ask a question and to have some spirit and some spunk and some sass. And holding on to that identity and that way of being has been really useful for me.

LD:

So you turn that around into how you’re interacting in your communications in your business?

EMS

Absolutely. So there are so many… that curiosity and the kind of sometimes a bit frowny sense of wonder, I just think is inspiring. And it’s the best answer I can give.

LD:

Angie, how about you?

AJ:

I think our customers have just proved to be the best pool of inspiration through this whole thing. When they reopened, a company like Weta down in Wellington who operate essentially a tourism business, the celebration that they bought to their first visitors coming through the door was truly inspirational. And the example like SEA LIFE, Kelly Tarlton’s, say, were faced with the capacity caps that would hamper their operation. And they worked out this really clever way of bringing people through in capacity-limited shifts with cleaners between them. The team at MOTAT, they’re a transport museum. They said, “Well, why don’t you come in your car and watch a movie? And we’ll do drive-in movies?” For a museum, that’s a really innovative thing to do. I just continually are just so admirable of all of the things that they are doing to keep the industry propped up to think in new ways. And that really, really drives me.

LD:

Well, that’s great. Well, look, that’s been a wonderful conversation. I really enjoyed those stories and here’s hoping that things keep moving and growing, and that sense of innovation that you’ve got from this experience stays with you. Thanks guys.

AJ:

Thank you so much for having us.

EMS

Thank you.

LD:

Cheers.

LD:

This Connect SME Podcast was brought to you by BNZ, an association with the Business Herald. Subscribe to the series to hear more stories of SME businesses who have navigated sudden change as a result of COVID-19. Hear about the decisions they made and the lessons they learned along the way. The resources, links and transcripts of this podcast can be found at blog.bnz.co.nz/podcasts.

Liam Dann
New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large
Liam Dann is one of the country’s most respected business journalists and has been a business editor for the New Zealand Herald for more than 10 years. He writes opinion and commentary covering markets, economics and politics and is host of the weekly Economy Hub video show.