New Zealand Aviation — Growing Through Adversity

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many businesses in New Zealand and globally, and unfortunately, not all have got through this period unscathed. One of the hardest-hit industries is aviation, yet the industry is looking at ways to band together to reestablish operations and recover from the lockdown period.

This week, TracPlus attended New Zealand Aviation's online webinar where Bruce Heesterman, CEO of ASPEC, shared his key focus points for businesses to stay positive and survive in the face of adversity. Bruce spoke about maintaining positive relationships, working together and making smart financial decisions, in addition to searching for growth and economic prosperity.

Here are Bruce's 5 Key focus points. 

Know where you make your profits

Bruce stressed the importance of your wider team knowing where and how your business makes money. Bruce recommended that management and business leaders offer a very simple explanation of how you make money, as a collaborative understanding of operations tends to strengthen relationships and help businesses prosper. It is important that businesses have the mindset to do more than survive. If you can operate your business whilst looking to grow, it provides the best possible opportunity for future success.

"Running out of money is a good way to kill a business."

Conserving cash is important in fragile economic times. Heesterman stresses that businesses stay smart with cash flows and take care when spending, as expenses can quickly get on top of owners, especially if revenue streams are depleted.

Bruce also advised to ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ Businesses need to be understanding of the financial situations of customers and associates. This applies when extending credit to customers. Whilst it's important to be flexible with others, it's vital to not extend credit any further than you are able.

Protecting and Growing your brand 

Brands and businesses can be damaged easily by bad communication strategies. However, brand equity can also be built up with clear and precise communication. If your business is not able to return to normal operations, it is important to maintain your brand’s image with the use of effective communication. Take pride in maintaining high standards with your communications to ensure customer relations and brand/product messaging remain consistent and continue to target your chosen markets effectively.

Another point that Bruce raised was for businesses to look at internal projects; ideas and ventures that you usually do not have time for but now may have an opportunity to do because of industry restrictions. Internal projects are a good way to keep staff motivated, look at starting new business ventures and investing in new opportunities where value will be added to your business in the future. 

In New Zealand, the government has been actively assisting small and medium-sized enterprises by offering significant financial support for those reporting large losses in revenue. Bruce Heesterman advised to take up governmental assistance if it is offered to your business, as it may be the difference between success and failure and will ease financial tensions within the business.

Look after your people — Focus on the team you have

In Bruce’s experience, those that are survivors of a restructure look very carefully to watch how people that are leaving are treated, as this is the kind of information is passed around through word of mouth. As an employer, you need to be very careful to treat people as well as you can and do your best to help those leaving into new employment opportunities. On the other hand, when selecting continuing employees, choose those that have the ability to make a contribution to your operations, bring a brand of knowledge, bringing in new skills and trying to create a residual that is going to work.

Look at what you can control

Bruce spoke about offering staff-adaptable care packages such as specialized sick leave to ensure that staff are less stressed and remain relaxed about the current climate. In addition, managers must continue to support those with mental and physical issues that have arisen over the lockdown period. Business owners must understand the work/life balance of employees, as this is a turbulent situation it will take many people time to adjust to a new work schedule. High stress and uncertainty make internal communication as important as it has ever been. Bruce mentioned that leaders need to be honest and open with their team, to make sure people understand what is happening within the business and why these events are occurring.

Be Optimistic

Owners, operators and staff need to constantly look at the positive side of the COVID-19 situation. In reference to New Zealand, the community have been told lockdowns and restrictions would last periods of time far longer than what has actually played out, in turn giving people the opportunity to get back to normal life sooner. 

Life will be different, but how can you reimagine business and use this time to grow your brand? Businesses need to be ready to operate when they are allowed to under government rulings. You may not be able to send sales teams to customers, but we live in a world where we work with technology and initiatives that can help businesses adjust and adapt to get the job done (and make sales!). Owners and managers need to think about how business can be reimagined and work can be done in a different way. Bruce suggested that businesses invest in technology platforms, invite change and prepare for the future, and most importantly when opportunities arise, be assertive and take them.

"Invite the new normal. Pricing and operations will change, but be positive and embrace it. This is a period of time where the future is uncertain but by no means does that mean you should panic. Plan smart and think positive. Make sure to focus on what you can control." 

Uncertainty is here to stay, and operators must learn to live with it. No one is sure what their industry will look like in 2 months, let alone 12. However, businesses must remain positive and battle through as many businesses will come out the other side stronger. There is a lot of self-serving speculations being served up, but simply we do not know what the future holds, so try to not worry about what you cannot control.

Though this advice stems from an aviation and educational background, the ideologies can be applied to all businesses. In uncertain times, it is important to stay positive, make smart business decisions, and most importantly work together. 

“Stay positive, invest in your team and move towards the future.” - Bruce Heesterman


ASPEQ Aviation Services Limited administers and delivers exams and practical assessments in New Zealand under delegation from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (NZCAA), for aviation-related licenses ranging from private and professional pilots to aircraft maintenance engineers. It also manages the delivery of exam services to the aviation authorities of Macau and Singapore. The company is located in Lower Hutt, Wellington, and delivers examinations in over 40 locations in New Zealand and internationally.

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