I have mentioned many times publicly during my tenure as EMA Chief Executive the positive challenge of leading an organisation with 134 years of history servicing the needs of businesses, and facilitating business as a community or eco-system that works together. It is an amazing legacy to follow, but there are always contemporary situations and opportunities to operate differently.
Seldom, perhaps never, has the EMA and its members been faced with greater challenges than those imposed on us by the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary government and public sector response. On one hand the positive spirit of New Zealand businesses has been on show, with owners and executives exploring all of the opportunities to try and survive through Level 4 and beyond. Some have been able to pivot their business models and the innovations around producing hand sanitizer and PPE have been amazing. Exporters report a continuation of strong volumes and it is pleasing to see the China market re-opening.
However let’s face it, these are incredibly challenging times. The thousands of calls and enquiries we have received in the past few weeks have been underpinned with incredible concern, stress and frustration. These are the toughest of times most businesses have ever experienced, and this uncertainty combined with personal and family health concerns are unprecedented in my life-time.
I have spoken with many of you directly about your situations. As an existing company director and former business owner I understand how hard this situation is for many of you, often deeply personal given the history of your business and its relationships.
We are ready and willing to assist you in every way possible and thanks for the way you have dealt with our team members. The whole BusinessNZ Network has worked cohesively throughout, sharing resources and best practice, and collectively working hard alongside government agencies and the Regional Business Partner programme. The EMA has stood up extra resources for the AdviceLine and other member facing services, added support for other organisations and their members, and pivoted our learning and events operations to an on-line model. The response from our members has been great and please keep the ideas flowing in terms of how we can meet your needs.
I am really proud of how our team have stepped up and in to the challenge. Our business continuity plan worked well and we have been able to continue to operate remotely as an essential service. I have also appreciated the positive feedback from many of you about the interactions with the team.
As you would imagine we have also been donkey deep in working with local and central government and their agencies on the policies and the solutions they have been developing to assist business. These have included the wage and leave subsidy, loan guarantee, landlord and tenant support, regional business partner programme, development contributions, director’s liability, rate relief and essential services. Our working relationships with agencies like ATEED, MBIE, MSD and NZTE and their staff have been fantastic through this time and helped us be responsive and focus on the key issues.
The road ahead is undoubtedly challenging, and we see the next few months being the start of revival and regeneration for businesses, assuming we can contain COVID-19 to acceptable levels. There will be many different challenges across the sectors that comprise our membership base but we are ready to work with you in this process.
It still feels somewhat surreal and undoubtedly we are entering another period of great change in every aspect of our society. Keep you and your family, and your team’s safe.
Kia kaha, nga mihi nui.