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Queensland business leadership panel: Your questions answered

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In this regular feature, InQueensland asks some of the state’s business leaders for their thoughts and learnings about the challenges currently confronting business.

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In today’s edition of Queensland Business Leaders Panel, we ask:

• How are they surviving / dealing with BAU in this market?
• How has Coronavirus impacted business? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
• How are they having to pivot their strategy/shift their operations?

Paul Spiro, Chairman, Gadens Lawyers

At Gadens, we have dedicated considerable time and energy preparing ourselves for a sustainable, long-term recovery, while dealing with the very real and rapidly changing business environment.

It has meant significant changes to our ‘business-as-usual’ approach, given the law profession’s heavy reliance on paper trails, and putting measures in place now that will see us through the next six to 12 months.

On the one hand, this has led to investment in some areas like digital and online solutions that will become sustainable revenue earners for the business now and post-COVID, and increasing the capacity to work-from-home across the firm with the purchase of additional VPN licences. But on the other, we’ve had to take measures to reduce labour costs, rent and other big expenditure items to help maintain cash flow.

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for a successful recovery — we look at each practice area and the client demand across the firm to inform how we must respond and adapt, and we do this at pace.

It’s a delicate balance between doing our best to keep the doors open, and doing what’s best for the health and wellbeing of our staff to put us in the best position possible when this is all over.

Mayor Mark Jamieson, LGAQ President and Sunshine Coast Mayor

Queensland councils are at the coalface when it comes to supporting and leading their communities through the COVID-19 pandemic and into the recovery phase.

They have been working hard to provide relief to business and households while also ensuring they can continue to deliver essential services and keep their 40,000-strong statewide workforce employed.

At the same time, councils across Queensland have seen their own revenues decline as the impact of the pandemic and the associated national public health directions continues to be felt.

With restrictions continuing to ease, the need for a strong, well-targeted economic stimulus program to help communities recover is paramount.

What is also critical is that any stimulus is shared statewide to ensure no community is left behind.

The LGAQ, on behalf of its member councils, submitted a $608 million economic stimulus package to the State Government to create and support more than 14,000 jobs statewide and get local economies firing.

The Battleplan for Queensland Local Communities includes initiatives proven to work quickly to provide a critical boost to the construction, tourism, small business and agricultural sectors.

These initiatives will provide work for local businesses and jobs for local tradespeople.

The Palaszczuk Government has responded to the Battleplan, providing $250 million in direct funding to councils across the length and breadth of the state for “shovel-ready” projects under both a COVID-19 Works for Queensland package and a separate stimulus package for councils in South East Queensland, as well as other funding pools.

But there is much more councils can do.

LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has pledged to implement the Battleplan in full should her party win government at the October 31 State Election.

Councils will continue to advocate with both sides of politics to ensure the plan is fully funded to give communities the hope for the future which they need right now.

Geoff Rodgers, Chairman of Rowland Group, his firm had been maintaining productivity levels during the most unprecedented economic impact of our generation.

“While some of our traditional work has been put on hold, we have been helping companies with their response to the pandemic. More recently we have been helping clients understand how the pandemic has changed the expectations of stakeholders and how they should position their brands to emerge ahead of their competitors through the recession and out the other side.”

“Perhaps one positive aspect of the pandemic is that it has been a catalyst for bringing forward workplace and business reforms that we have all been talking about for years. A key part of this is the continued digitalisation of business and from a communication perspective, this is evolving exponentially as is the way we’re embracing data analytics in shaping narrative, brand, culture and action.”

“As a result, Rowland’s Digital and Data practice is booming.”

Rowland has direct access to the FleishmanHillard COVID-19 Global Taskforce; set up by its global affiliate, FleishmanHillard – one of the world’s largest communication networks with over 80 offices in 30 countries.

Debbie Smith, PwC, Markets Managing Partner

COVID-19 has reset many aspects of how we live, work and play and it might just offer a chance to reshape Queensland to enhance our way of life.
Social distancing has been a catalyst for dramatic change in the way we work. Our firm has been embracing ‘all roles flex’ and remote working for a few years now and has been encouraging our people to work in a way that suits them and their clients. As a result, we were very well set up for remote working prior to the COVID-19 restrictions but certainly didn’t anticipate that many of our people would be doing so with their children undertaking home learning at the same time.

We really enjoy face-to-face interaction with our clients, and it took adjustment on all sides to do our work solely via online conferencing platforms during the lockdown in Queensland. With everyone working from home, we also had to really think about different ways to connect with each other to ensure we’re supporting different personality types to adapt and thrive.

Now that restrictions are being lifted in Queensland we are slowly working through what the future may look like for our people and our clients.
No one really knows with any certainty where the full impact of the virus may lead. Like all businesses we undertook scenario planning to ensure we considered a number of different future possibilities and the steps we might need to take to ensure our business remains strong into the future. We’re continuing to work hard to support our clients to navigate through their challenges.

In planning for our post COVID-19 future, we are not only thinking about our own firm, but we are excited about working with government, business and the broader community to reimagine how we might live, work and play in Queensland.

Will we travel less for meetings into the future? Will workers continue to need to live within an easy commute to the CBD? Will we see more businesses and families migrate to Queensland from interstate and overseas in order to take advantage of our great way of life? As we look to reboot the Queensland economy, will our different frame of reference and working together provide us with unexpected opportunities?

To enhance our way of life out the other side of this crisis we must harness the power of our collective thinking.

Roy Cummins, CEO Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd
These are challenging and unprecedented times, and the constantly evolving coronavirus crisis has significantly impacted the ports and logistics sector as it has every other industry. That said, our business and our customers are incredibly resilient and innovative. We’re focused on ensuring our people are safe and remain connected, while working with our stakeholders to ensure the supply chain remains open to facilitate vital import and export freight for Queensland.

We’re continuing to deliver planned major infrastructure like the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal and warehouse developments for our customers. While all sites have had to adapt and adhere to public health restrictions, importantly, they are supporting local construction jobs.

I’m confident the Port of Brisbane — with its diverse trade base, solid fundamentals and a strong port community — will play a vital role in Queensland’s economic recovery.

David James, Director, Tangalooma Island Resort
Being able to emerge in a strong financial position as the restrictions ease, has been the main priority for the Resort.

The government ban on non-essential travel forced a total Resort shutdown for three months. Whilst this presented incredible challenges, we took advantage of having no guests in-house, allowing for strategic maintenance and capital works to be undertaken. We also engaged third-party Health & Safety experts to deliver a full COVID-Safe plan across all the Resort’s accommodation, tours, transport, and outlets, which gave us the confidence to reopen to guests at the start of July.

Our staff are the critical link that continue to help us through to the other side of this crisis, so strong and clear communication with them was paramount to assist them through the process as much as possible. Our customers have supported us throughout and are returning in greater numbers each day.

Ian Davies, Senex’s Managing Director and CEO
Senex is ready to help support Queensland’s economic recovery.

In the past few months we’ve completed our foundation Surat Basin natural gas projects, increasing production for Queensland manufacturers and supporting jobs in that industry.

We’ve done this with a focus on the wellbeing of employees and communities – working with governments, industry bodies and partners to develop and maintain stringent health and travel protocols.

Senex has also helped over 400 smaller suppliers by shortening payment terms to 14 days or sooner, and we’ve continued to support community organisations in the Maranoa and Western Downs.

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