Melbourne SME continues to fly high despite COVID-19 challenges
Former News Limited journalist Nick Harford and his team at environment and sustainability consulting firm Equilibrium were flying high on the back of some significant contract work with major corporates such as Qantas and Jetstar.
In March, COVID-19 struck, and Equilibrium’s contracts were frozen as the national carrier, and its subsidiary, grounded their flying fleets. The Melbourne-based firm, which includes a team of six consultants, provides a range of private and government sector organisations with technical and strategic compliance services such as energy audits, environmental management systems reviews, and waste and recycling management advice lost 50% of its work in a matter of weeks.
But rather than losing their heads, the steady and strategic Harford, along with business partner Damien Wigley, pivoted their SME, and focussed on a range of opportunities to help weather the COVID-19 storm, which has once again reared its unpleasant head in the Victorian capital.
Staying cool and seeking new markets
Harford, whose firm operates across diverse industries and sectors, says Equilibrium particularly focused on existing contacts and government work.
“In the past, we were sometimes cautious about bidding for some government tenders because from a business sense they are very competitive, can involve a significant investment in time, and the return can be very risky.”
“But we put in extra work when COVID-19 hit by being more open to government tenders and proposals and taking any opportunities that arose. We gave it a red-hot crack,” Harford confirms.
Equilibrium also identified a spike in government grants promoting recycling and other business activities. Harford explains, “This wasn’t a business opportunity for Equilibrium that involved us working with government directly but rather an opportunity to be advising and assisting other businesses to access government funding and other support programs.”
Networking into new business
Apart from pursuing government work, Nick and his team upped the ante on networking. “We worked our contacts hard, making sure we understood where they were at and how we could help them address their environment and sustainability compliance issues.”
These business development efforts enabled Equilibrium to collaborate with a major Australian manufacturer that responded early to the pandemic threat by pivoting from packaging into sanitary and hygiene products such as disinfectants. “The manufacturer needed a hand to make sure they had a range of systems in place. This work resulted from connecting with our contacts to see if we could help people with their compliance or strategic challenges.”
Dealing with the lockdowns
Apart from the loss of revenue, Equilibrium has needed to manage the impact of the first raft of lockdown in Melbourne between April and June. “We had to make sure we could work online. We have people in four different locations nationally but given the nature of the work we do, it’s not too hard for us.
“With the latest restrictions in place in Melbourne, we feel we are well-prepared for another extended period of working from home arrangements.”
Nick’s tips for surviving COVID-19
- Don’t panic: Review the business profoundly and frequently. By not panicking and taking advantage of government support such as JobKeeper and the payroll tax relief, we have been able to keep all our staff employed.
- Be prepared to take opportunities from left field– quickly pivot into new business opportunities when lockdowns and restrictions arise.
- Cut unnecessary costs – The other owner and I are also taking less income when needed. Where our people are underutilised, we’ve used them for other activities such as business development and to assist our marketing and communications activities.
Make contact with the Equilibrium team if you need help navigating COVID-19 from an environmental, waste or sustainability angle: www.equil.com.au.
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