It would be impossible not to see, experience or worry about the impacts of COVID-19 on the global economy and ultimately, on our livelihoods.
Here in Western Australia, many of us would have heard about our friends’, family’s or favourite small businesses swiftly restructuring their operations and finances in order to survive this environment. After all, the only other alternative they have is to give up their dreams and ultimately close shop.
But not all is doom and gloom in the business sector. One such example is uDrew’s signing of the world’s first international agreement on building technology that was postponed as a result of the pandemic.
We recently spoke to Mark Pownall, Director of Strategy and Innovation of Business News, who has seen and been through some global economic crises. Mark gives us an insight on business outlook, opportunities and strategies for Western Australia during and after COVID-19.
What should businesses focus on right now?
Mark refers to the well known analogy which has circulated again during the pandemic of a racing car strategy.
As the analogy goes, the best race cars – in other words businesses and their teams – know that you won’t win the race on the straight.
The skill to winning a car race comes from being able to corner better than the competition. The corner is the crisis or disruption that not every business can navigate well. It has three stages:
- to brake early enough to position your vehicle for the corner: in other words cut costs and shed unnecessary burdens;
- get your financial trajectory right so that you get around the corner efficiently and emerge at the best point strategically: which represents evaluating the options and finding the revenue streams that are most likely to carry you forward.
- accelerating out of the corner: as the economy picks up your business has chosen the best path and can invest in people and marketing to outrace the opposition.
What can skilful cornering in business look like?
Mark likens skilful cornering as an opportunity to innovate – pivoting quickly from things that are not working and identifying new opportunities to run with.
“For example, at Business News, our events have obviously been most affected. We brainstormed ways to importantly keep our branding alive and sponsors happy, and came up with the idea of holding small online forums.”
“We have run one as we would a boardroom event – up to 10 guests – who enjoyed the more intimate style of events, allowing them better networking opportunities. We have also pre-recorded a lounge chair interview for a wider audience. Next we’ll do a live interview with a major political figure.”
“Secondly, knowing that our printed news may be delivered to empty offices, we’ve focussed on making our online news site and Daily News emails more UX friendly, including revamping our digital replica so readers who like hard copy can experience that digitally better than we did in the past.”
“We also know that our readers and the general WA community are hungry for information that’s factual, useful and easy to access. So we’ve not only made the majority of our COVID-19 news and updates freely available, our editorial team is also summarising the many daily coverage in one spot into a COVID-19 wrap.”
“Our database – BNiQ – is also becoming a trusted source for finding out more about the key players in business helping our economy recover. With Nev Power being announced to lead the COVID-19 Coordination Commission, our article ranked first in Google Search as the bio data we had on Mr Power was used to find out more about this Western Australian business leader.”
Mark summarised that now is the time to make sure that your brand is as visible as ever. Be that through affordable and targeted marketing advertising, value add content for audience consumption or pivoting your business services or products to meet the new norm!
“It’s not just me saying it,” said Mark. All the marketing experts talk about how major brands double down on spending in tough times to make sure their share of voice is even bigger to give them a lift when the market turns.
What are the opportunities now for the IT, Tech and Startup sectors in WA?
Mark recently penned an article on this topic, commenting that “we live in a wonderful climate for startups to bloom.” Why?
The ecosystem of startups is a fast moving beast – they solve problems quickly as well as create and deliver beta products into the markets faster. Some of the best startups, now large corporations – were started during turbulent economic or social times. Think Airbnb, established timely during an economic boom when accommodation was scarce and expensive, and thus providing an affordable means for many to travel within their budget.
Mark also attributes current isolation and social conditions as the ideal “breeding” ground for ideas to bloom!
“As people lose their jobs and are now stuck at home, many will have the most precious commodity of time available to plant the seed of a startup and the motivation to find a solution to get them out of their predicaments.”
Lastly, there is no better place to start a startup than in Western Australia. We are more than ever networked to the rest of the world, we have the skills and the infrastructure, and perhaps most importantly, our geographical location has taught us to be self sufficient and more resilient in finding innovative solutions.
As Mark wrote in his article, “Western Australia’s ecosystem for startups is strong and I hope it is able to cope with higher demand that I expect in the coming months. I look forward to seeing what emerges from this period of disruption to bear fruit when things improve.”
So do we at the INCITE Awards!
What does after COVID-19 look like?
The recovery period is the great unknown. While no one has a crystal ball to tell us this, we can look at past economic crises for some learnings.
Mark makes a comparison between today’s pandemic and the Global Financial Crisis and noted four observations.
“The Government’s economic reaction to COVID-19 has moved pretty quickly and the mere promise to just spend has provided the economy and people with confidence. The Government will continue to play a major part in the recovery phase.”
“There are winners and losers in every economic downturn, and COVID-19 is no exception. We’re already seeing declines in the cruise ship industries and I suspect this will continue post pandemic. Then we see Zoom flourishing with more innovation to support a new environment or working remotely.”
“Today’s pandemic also begs the question of self-sufficiency. Is WA or Australia equipped with primary manufacturing when we can’t rely on international shipments? There is perhaps more opportunity to trade in goods and services in WA that are niche and specific post COVID-19.”
“Lastly, WA’s mining sector will be key players to a faster recovery for our State, providing a flow on effect to many other suppliers and services.” Mark talks more about this in his “The shape of things to come relies on resources.”
Hear more from Business News
Have questions for experts at Business News or would like to find out more about business outlook in WA during and after COVID-19? Come along to our free Virtual Pitchfest & Drinks on Friday 8 May at 4pm, where a Business News representative will be interviewed.