Louise Home-Dewar

Keep looking for the opportunities

Keep looking for the opportunities

When faced with a problem or crisis, there is a natural tendency to make that our sole focus. It can be hard to stand back, be truly creative, and look for the opportunities.

Opportunities come in many forms and usually take a deliberate effort to bring to fruition. It may be a new commercial opportunity, such as a new service or product or market. Or it may be doing things differently within your business operations, even addressing long-standing issues that never quite made it to the top of the to-do list.

Change Creates Opportunities

In a crisis, there is rapid change and with the current pandemic, the changes will keep coming for some time. Not all of them will affect you directly or immediately, but there will be changes that ripple out, affecting your business, your customers, and suppliers. Most of these changes are very hard to anticipate with any degree of certainty or detail.

In this environment it is important to keep looking out for the opportunities and taking time to explore or develop them, rather than constantly firefighting, reacting to problems and trying to re-establish some sense of normality.

This takes a different mindset, a deliberate stepping back, making time, clearing your mind and thinking creatively. It is often good to do it in a change of scene or with others. Apply your mind to it while going for a walk, schedule an online meeting with your team to talk about it, or seek others who may be able to contribute fresh ideas or perspectives.

Opportunities can come in many forms. The 1998 Auckland power crisis resulted in new investment for a much more reliable electricity supply; the Christchurch earthquakes enabled both public and private infrastructure to be built back better; even the horror of the Christchurch mosque attacks opened our eyes and hearts to addressing prejudice in our community.

The COVID Opportunities

In the COVID context, many governments are creating opportunities for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects. In New Zealand, the newly established Climate Change Commission has highlighted the opportunity for stimulus projects to enhance climate change resilience. Ways to support new employment initiatives beyond infrastructure are also being looked at.

But the greatest innovation and opportunities will come from individuals and businesses applying their minds and resources to come up with creative new ways of adapting to our changed circumstances.

With many retailers having to shut their doors during lockdown, some businesses have turned to online trading instead. It has already forced businesses to change the way staff work internally, as well as interactions with customers and suppliers. This adjustment has been hard for some, but for others, it is opening new possibilities such as more flexible employment practices, reduced travel costs, and more efficient online processes.

Whether there are opportunities will depend on your circumstances and imagination. For example, with movement still restricted, there may be opportunities for some businesses to undertake maintenance or refurbishment while customers are absent. In manufacturing, there are overseas examples of 3D printers that were used to make aeroplane parts now producing ventilators. Some commentators suggest the emphasis on health is extending beyond COVID and into healthier diets, exercise and lifestyle, providing opportunities for new services and products.

How can you adapt to take advantage of these changes?

Making it happen

Don’t just go back to the way things were before because we can – think about the benefits that may come from doing things a new way.

Make time to think

Talk to people and share your ideas early – ask questions of your customers, staff, and collaborators. Innovation rarely comes from one person alone.

Introducing Sophie Horsfall

Introducing our new Research Consultant, Sophie Horsfall

We welcomed Sophie Horsfall to our team as a Research Consultant in early March.

Sophie has a diverse background in disaster risk, environmental science, education, and tourism. Sophie thrives in multidisciplinary fields exploring different viewpoints to find novel solutions and has a passion for understanding how things work and the ripple effects when processes are impacted by change.

Sophie joined us only a few weeks before the COVID-19 lockdown came into effect and our switch to working from home.  No easy start for any new team member.

Recently we chatted to Sophie about her life before ResOrgs, how she's finding working from home, and her life outside of work.

Sophie, you're a bit of a traveller and have developed an understanding of how social and cultural structures differ globally.  Tell us where you've lived and some of the challenges you faced.

I was born in England and spent my childhood growing up around the world mainly in Singapore, but also got to experience getting scorpions out from under my bed in America and getting to stay home from school during typhoons in Hong Kong.

After completing my university degree in Marine Science and Zoology in Australia I moved back to Singapore to work in outdoor education exploring tropical ecosystems in South East Asia. Needing a break from the heat and humidity I moved to Canada and experienced my first -22degree winter and learnt to ice climb and mountaineer and discovered the world of risk management.

I decided to go into disaster risk management and where else in the world do you go to learn about that but New Zealand! I completed a Masters in Disaster, Risk and Resilience here at the University of Canterbury before joining the ResOrgs team.

How are you handling working from home?  I hear you have a new arrival?

Working from home has its positives and negatives- I live with three boys so sometimes I feel a need to escape. I enjoy not having to commute and being able to make amazing lunches (current favourite is BBQ pizzas with homemade pizza dough). We also recently got a puppy called Skipper so it's great being home with him for his first few weeks.

Everyone needs to balance work with play.  What do you get up to on the weekends and is there something you'd like to learn that you just might look into doing when we move to the new normal?

My partner and I love to get out and explore the outdoors, hiking, and tramping, visiting vineyards and finding secluded beaches to go for a picnic and swim. One of the big things I am looking forward to after lockdown is teaching Skipper to become a trail dog, and maybe pick up learning to horse ride!

Thanks Sophie, welcome to the team!

Maintaining momentum during recovery

Maintaining momentum during business recovery

We’re doing well but it’s not over yet.

As we progress and adjust to the many places are easing restrictions during the current COVID crisis, some businesses are upping their activity. Whether this is forestry workers restarting or restaurants moving to a takeaway service, every bit helps. But we are still a long way from any sort of normal and for many organisations life will be relatively unchanged from Level 4. It is important that we keep doing the things necessary to look after ourselves and each other.

There are things we have to do, like continuing with physical distancing to reduce the chances of COVID re-emerging. Here are some other things to keep doing to help your business recovery:

  • Keep your staff informed about what is going on in your business.

    Even if it is unchanged from Level 4, let them know. Whether your staff are continuing to work from home, able to return to work or not able to work at all, check-in regularly to see how they are coping.

  • Communicate with your customers and suppliers.

    Let them know what your plans are, whether you are fully open, partially open, or still closed during Level 3. Maintaining relationships and trust is critically important for recovery. Be open and honest and ask for help if you need it.

  • Keep looking for opportunities to do things differently as the new normal emerges.

    These may be new products or services, or changes to the way you provide existing services. Developing a greater online presence is an obvious example for many organisations, but what else is appropriate for your business?

  • There is still a lot of uncertainty as to what the future may look like for many businesses.

    A good way to plan in these circumstances is imagine different future scenarios and identify how you may respond under each scenario. Think about trigger points or thresholds at which you need to take some other action.

  • Keep an eye on your cash flow.

    Stay aware of further assistance that may be available from the Government or other sources, get advice if you need it and manage your creditors and debtors. If you are struggling to stay afloat, go back to your creditors and see if there is room to move. Even if they have previously said no, they may be willing to re-negotiate rather than lose your business. If you think your business is sound but you need to borrow to manage in the short-term then do it, but be honest with yourself and your bank: it is in no-one’s interest to go out of business in a few months with a larger debt.

  • Focus on things you can control.

    The road to recovery is long and uncertain. Spend your energy in areas that you can influence and accept that things may change.

Above all, stay ready and continue adapting.

Recovery: playing the long game

Recovery: playing the long game

Recovery is the long game of adjusting and re-building your organisation for a new normal and beyond. As we adjust to lockdown, most of us are still thinking response, getting through the short-term actions on our to do list. Over time we will transition from response to recovery.

While every organisation is different, there are some things we know from past crises that will help your organisation recover. Here are five things to keep in mind as you respond to the current crisis that will help your long-term recovery.

  • 1
    Be prepared for the long haul.

    Crises always last longer and are more complex than you first think.

    This should already be apparent for most of us, but the cascading impacts of the current crisis will continue for a long time – think many months or years, rather than weeks.

    Look after yourself, your family and your team. If you are working, watch the workload and stress levels for yourself and your team. Don’t burn yourself out.

  • 2
    Envisage the future.

    Scenarios are a good way to envisage and plan for an uncertain future. We cannot predict the future with any certainty and research has shown that decision making for situations that we have not previously experienced or considered is problematic.

    So, look ahead for 1, 3, 6, 12, 18 months and start asking “what if…” questions. What possible and diverse scenarios exist for demand and revenue? Critical supplies or costs? Retention and availability of staff? Can you change the way you provide your product or service? Are there trigger points at which you need to make critical decisions?

    Consider what scenarios may be relevant for your business and how you could respond. Try and make decisions that leave you positioned for a range of possible futures.

  • 3
    Keep recovery in mind

    Although it may seem the crisis will never end, it will.

    What can you do now to enable you to get going again quickly when we get into recovery?

    Plan ahead, discuss options with staff, suppliers, and customers. Your plan may need to change depending on future events, but it will be easier and faster to get going if you have thought about it in advance.

  • 4
    Do the right thing.

    Some actions may help in the short-term but have poor outcomes in the longer term.

    This is particularly important when it involves your organisation’s reputation, either internally among staff or externally with customers and suppliers. If you are perceived as acting selfishly or against the interests of those you depend on, it will negatively impact on goodwill and willingness to support your organisation’s recovery.

  • 5
    Keep communicating: upwards, downwards and outwards.

    As we immerse ourselves in responding to the crisis, it is easy to forget how important it is to share and listen to those that we depend on or who depend on us.

    Provide regular business updates, sharing what you know, what you are doing and planning, and what you want them to do. Ask for updates from others. Be open, honest, and listen for feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it – even if it is simply asking for patience and understanding as you work through what needs to be done. If nothing has changed since your last update, say so – even that is keeping people informed.

    Good communication will grow relationships and set you up for recovery.

Business continuity planning for COVID-19: Essentials of operation

Business continuity planning for COVID-19

Essentials of operation

With COVID-19 rapidly evolving, organisations are turning their minds to business continuity. Many businesses are finding they are not well prepared and are seeking guidance or reassurance on how to prepare.

This guide is for organisations that do not have a Business Continuity Plan or want to update it for COVID-19. It is a starter guide to help you and your team to work through your priority operations and what is needed to keep them running.

This guide builds on our Business Continuity Planning Guide for Covid19.  If you have not already read it, we recommend you go there now, before continuing. In particular, the section on taking appropriate actions to reduce the risks to staff and customers is a first step in protecting your business and the wider community.

This guide can be adapted for different sizes and types of organisation. The first part of the guide focuses on keeping your core operations running.  The second part contains questions to guide your response to a decline in demand, loss of revenue, or increased costs.

Need further assistance?

Please get in touch to find out more about our services and how we can help you and your specific needs.

Business continuity planning for COVID-19

Business continuity planning for COVID-19

Resilient Organisations has prepared this advice to provide a structure for refreshing business continuity plans (BCPs) for COVID-19. If you require further assistance, please get in touch with us.


Good communication is essential in all phases of an event, from risk reduction to recovery. We have put communications first as it is frequently overlooked as staff become focused on other aspects of operational delivery. Some communication will be organisation-wide, while some may be specific to parts of the organisation.

  • What messages do we need to give to staff?
  • What do we need to tell the public and customers?
  • What do we need to communicate with suppliers and potential response and recovery partners?
  • Do we have the systems in place to enable rapid communication? For example, do we have the necessary contact information for all staff and external partners readily available?

In thinking about communication, some basic components are:

  • What has happened / is expected to happen?
  • What you know or don’t know?
  • What you are doing?
  • What do you want them to do?

Phase 1: Avoid or reduce impact

What do we know and what do we need to know about the virus and reducing risk? The Ministry of Health is a key source for guidance.

How do we reduce the impact on staff?
  • Protective measures – surface cleaning, hand-washing, respiratory hygiene etc.
  • Reducing exposure from travel, mass gatherings, etc.
  • Dealing with staff illness - what are our ‘stay-away’ rules.
  • Do we have staff who are more vulnerable? Are there extra measures we can take to keep those staff safe?
  • What messages do we give to customers and how can we adjust our services to reduce the risk of spreading the virus among customers and staff?

Phase 2: Business Continuity Planning

Critical processes

  • What are our critical processes and how may these be affected?
  • Who is needed to maintain these services? Who else could fill those roles if staff are absent?
  • What other resources (physical, financial, or expertise) are needed and how may these be affected?
  • What critical services may be affected due to suppliers, contractors or staff unavailability or the inability to supply critical components/spares etc. Are we adequately prepared for supply chain disruption?
  • How might it affect the demand for our services? Are there areas where demand may increase (such as Contact Centre?) or decrease? What are the financial implications of this?
  • What else will impact on our ability to maintain services?

BC arrangements

  • What are our planned business workarounds for the processes and impacts identified above? What is in our existing BCPs? What is missing and/or could be improved to respond better?
  • Have we got the necessary components in place to put our BCPs into practice? For example, do all staff have the necessary access, equipment, and skills to work from home if needed? Do we have suitable personal protection equipment (PPE) available for staff? Do we have or can we get stocks of critical spares? Have backup staff been trained and/or is there sufficient guidance on what to do? Do we have or can we obtain the financial resources we need to keep operating?
  • How can we help staff work from home if schools are shut?
  • At what point do we close or reduce some services?
  • How could we adapt? Can staff be re-deployed from non-essential or less urgent services to high priority tasks? What training may they need to do this? Is this training necessary in advance?
  • What other partners, internal or external, could help us (considering how they may also be affected)? Or how can we help them?
  • What services will we rely on from other partners or contractors? What are their response plans? This may apply to a wide range of contractors or partners, internally and externally.


  • What is needed to aid the recovery or restoration of services?
  • What is needed to support staff, especially if they have experienced the loss of someone close?
  • What issues may come up for staff if they are returning to work?
  • To what extent does the organisation need to adjust its services to support its staff and community to recover?

Final thought

Things rarely return to business as usual after a crisis. When thinking about response and recovery, keep in mind changing customer demand. Adaptability is a key part of resilience.

Shut Happens updated

Shut Happens booklet updated

We have recently updated one of our key resources for small businesses - Shut Happens - A short guide to preparing for the unexpected.

The key message is still the same - preparing for the unexpected doesn't have to be hard -  making time to take smalls steps can help get your business ready to 'get through'. But what we have changed is the words on the cover page. While natural disaster can definitely cause enormous disruption for a small business, disruption can come in many other shapes and forms including losing key staff, supply chain disruption, pandemic, equipment failure, extreme weather, power outage, etc.

Download the updated Shut Happens booklet

Congratulations to Khiam Lee

Congratulations to Khiam Lee

Khiam has submitted and successfully defended his PhD thesis, A case study of collaborative disaster management in Malaysia.

Khiam’s research examines the dynamics of collaboration of ASEAN Member States particularly the national disaster management offices during different cycles of disaster risk management. Khiam used multiple case studies to explore the phenomenon of multi-party collaboration in the face of extreme events such as mega-scale natural disasters.

Read more about Khiam and his research

Latest research

Latest research update

The Australian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies (AJDTS) has published a special issue focusing on "Pathways to Earthquake Resilience" - The case study of Wellington, New Zealand, featuring two papers from the ResOrgs team.

The paper, Business recovery from disaster: A research update for practitioners focuses on ResOrgs' six-year research interviewing and surveying over 1000 organisations to learn more about the effect of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes on organisations across their shaken region. This broad and rich dataset of insights can now help other organisations facing disruptions in the future, with the paper identifying the top ten lessons for managing through crisis, being agile and adaptive in the face of change, and finding opportunities in disruption.

The other paper, From physical disruption to community impact: Modelling a Wellington Fault earthquake focuses on the work of Charlotte Brown and researchers from Market Economics and GNS Science using the MERIT model to model the economic impact of an earthquake event to support decision-making for investment options to improve disaster preparedness.

LA Times story on lessons learnt from Christchurch earthquakes

LA Times story on lessons learnt from Christchurch earthquakes

Rong-Gong Lin, a reporter who has worked on earthquake news at the Los Angeles Times for nearly a decade, recently visited Christchurch and spoke to a number of people, including Tracy Hatton, to learn more about the lessons California can learn from Christchurch.  As he notes in his story, Christchurch bears a distinct resemblance to California cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, sharing similar building codes, architectural styles and proximity to major faults and can help educate Californians on what we might to expect when the next earthquake hits one of their cities.

Ron wrote three stories featured in the paper.

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