A message from Liam – Unity in the time of COVID

March 21, 2020 blog, cape town

What a time we are in.

Anyone still in denial about what we face in South Africa really needs to get their head out of the sand. We personally will be very stern to anyone we see ignoring the measures put in place to tackle the mountain we face. If your neighbours are having a party, give them hell about it and tell your other neighbours to do the same. If you see your friends still hugging and kissing in greeting educate them. If you see companies still making employees work without the proper gear then crap them out…it is that critical!

Since late January we have been tracking the effects of this virus in Asia and then as it hit Europe just before Euroshop time we already had grave concerns about the seriousness of it.

It was then that we knew it was coming for us too. It was a matter of time as we watched European giant events disappear. From Mobile World Congress to Geneva Motor Show to our event ID4 Africa in Morocco. All gone with devastating effects on businesses there.

When COVID-19 hit Europe early February we knew then that we had better hunker down. Projects started to drop off slowly at first during February, then sped up their hiding act towards the end of February and then everything vapourised into thin air during the first parts of March.

All work from March to July is gone. Many many many millions of Rands worth. While we hope that we can pull it back in the latter half of the year the reality is we won’t. It would be impossible to tackle a year’s work in the last 4 months of the year so we resign ourselves to the fact that our turnover will plummet at best 50% from 2019.

Large local events have been postponed to later in the year and are now condensed so close together that to service them all, for us, becomes impossible. So we will have to be selective about what we take on. That will affect those events’ capability to produce a quality event. I hope organisers realise that.

We are more fortunate than most due to good company savings from an incredible 2019. This means that with measures we are able to ride this for 4-5 months. Maybe shorter, maybe longer. There are so many factors at play right now.

 

We took the following measures from early March. Hopefully, this helps others navigate this. This is just one approach amongst many others. Choose your own way. We will adjust as we continue to track COVID’s effects.

Unity in the time of COVID.

  1. As of March, all staff have agreed to salary cuts to extend our ability to ride through. We unanimously agreed to this in favour of retrenchment. Our most paramount objective was to protect our staff as best we can for as long as we can. We are either all in or all out.
  2. We have spoken to banks and landlords about “bond/ rental holidays”. All are receptive in our case, but we know that’s not the case for everyone out there. Please landlords now is not the time to be a selfish a…..e. You won’t have any tenants soon if you don’t get stuck in and help! You may well be forced by the government very shortly, but your attitude will be noted for life!
  3. All noncritical costs have been cut…and when we say cut we mean heavily hacked to pieces. We track these ongoing and will continue to trim as we go.
  4. Non-critical assets and investments have been liquidated to ensure we have cash in the bank
  5. All creditors have been paid early. Support your suppliers!
  6. All staff have been working from home as at 16 March. By staying home they are able to save money by not travelling.
  7. Factory staff are at home with pay. Hopefully, some idea’s we are working on materialise and we can get producing at the factory soon. Logistics for them to get to and from work will be another challenge…no more public transport as its just too risky. And yes, proper COVID protocol has to be enforced at work.
  8. We continue to source hand sanitiser and will distribute to staff once we receive more stock. That stuff is harder to find than diamonds in a parking lot right now.
  9. We have spoken to insurers to update all policies. Cancel what is not critical.
  10. Industry associations, locally and abroad continue to be an excellent source of information as the flood keeps coming in…far too much for us to handle alone. So their efforts to digest it and convey it in a way that makes sense are hugely appreciated as is the hard lobbying of government. Thank you #EXSA, #AXXO, #SAACI, #SACIA and others for coming together as one.
  11. Keep working. We can’t just sit back and hope this sorts itself out. And so we are keeping very busy with some extreme diversification idea’s that we hope to share early next week (23rd March). At the very least it is keeping our minds busy and that enables us to be distracted from our fear. We have rarely worked harder.
  12. Keep talking to your clients. We live in hope this will pass and that the latter half of the year starts to pick up. We do continue to design for shows not yet cancelled and continue to work on postponed projects. I have to add its a mixed bag with clients. Some have been fantastic, others not so much. Please, clients, you need to be honest with your suppliers and if you owe money pay now. Don’t wait for that 60 days period you forced your supplier into.
  13. Keep in touch with staff. All of us are fighting a daily mental battle with this. It’s really hard not to have a good drizz every day. But if we do that’s okay too. Just speak to people. Of all the things talking has helped so much to realise that we are all in this. That creates solidarity and inclusiveness and that has to count for something.
  14. We honestly will do our best to help as many people as we can. If some of the idea’s we are working on bear fruit, we won’t hesitate to rope in as many as possible.

Best of luck to everyone out there and stay strong, but also take time to deal with those moments when it’s really really hard. We need to take heed of the past, but we can only look forward. It’s just the way we are.