Covid-19: How two HWEN supplier members pivoted to stay in business

When the announcement was made in March that New Zealand would effectively shut down for four weeks under Alert Level 4, many businesses were left scrambling. 

With ‘business as usual’ cancelled for the time being, it was up to business owners to make the choice to think outside the box and adapt, or close down into hibernation. 

Two He Waka Eke Noa supplier members chose to adapt and, in doing so, protected their workers and created a wider offering for their clients. 

Digital Ingenious Solutions, Hamilton

Waikaha Waitere (Tainui, Ngāi Tahu) is the co-owner of Digital Ingenious Solutions, a software and tech support company based in Fairfield, Hamilton. 

Prior to lockdown, the company supplied software to small businesses and, supported the elderly with technical assistance. As a mobile business, the shift to remote operations wasn’t an easy one. 

“Our business changed pretty dramatically, and we were just trying to hang in there,” says Waikaha. “We had to make the adjustment, there was nothing else we could do.”

With their business clients closed for lockdown, Waikaha and co-owner Bradley Whitall made the decision to focus on what they could offer remotely and, to prioritise their second customer base – older people needing tech support. 

“A lot of older customers reached out at the start of lockdown, they wanted to be in touch with their family but didn’t know how. We have elderly family ourselves, we know what it’s like if our koro and kuia can’t be in touch with our whānau. We were able to provide the means for them to see their kids, which we found great pride in doing.” 

Throughout Alert Level 4, Digital Ingenious Solutions offered over-the-phone support. They were able to talk some customers through diagnostics, while for others they accessed networks remotely to resolve tech issues.  

Requests ranged from printer connection errors and setting up home networks, to solving PC startup issues. 

To add to their service,  the company also used their partnerships with wholesalers to order hardware for direct delivery to their customers in need. 

“Now that we are moving back into a bit of normality, our team has been able to transition back into our more mobile way of working, but now we have the added value of over-the-phone support for those with special needs or limitations,” adds Waitaha. “The pivot has meant we can now serve more clients, digitally connect whānau around Aotearoa and support businesses navigate software solutions in this new post-covid world.”

Workforce Connect, Auckland

While Waikaha and his team pivoted to focus on diversifying their services, Workforce Connect pivoted to provide for an entirely new industry. 

Director Sam Paea (Vaitogi, Futiga, American Samoa & Falaleu, Vava’u, Tonga) runs Workforce Connect, which offers specialist construction labour hire in the Auckland region. Before the nationwide lockdown, Workforce Connect only recruited staff for the construction industry – where Sam also owns AP Civil Construction. 

However, as the country responded to Covid-19 he quickly realised that if his business and his workers were to survive, something needed to change. 

Recognising that Pasifika people have some of the highest unemployment rates in New Zealand, Sam was determined not to see the rate increase, so he did what he could to find new work for his contractors.

“The job sites were shut down and our guys didn’t have any work,” he shares. “In those first two weeks we had to adapt, so we turned our direction around – labourers who were doing construction were put into essential services, filling the gap in security needs, with warehousing companies, and so on. 

“Now that we’re in these different verticals, we can put more people into jobs,” adds Sam.

Post-Covid the business’s decision to pivot has now seen Workforce Connect create more opportunities for people to find work. 

“We’re full-on at the moment, we have our original jobs back in Level 1, plus we have our new security jobs. We’re also applying for our own security license so we can keep employing people in that sector. 

“We’ve got about 120 people at the moment. We’re predicting by the end of the year to have 200 full-time employees and contractors. We want to give back to the community and put more Māori and Pasifika into work.” 

Partnering with He Waka Eke Noa has enabled Workforce Connect to expand over the last 1-2 years. To “sit at the table with the big guys”, as Sam puts it. Now, this support is more important than ever to connect with buyers in the competitive post-Covid world. 

Taking the future into their hands

Navigating a once-in-100-year event was never going to be easy, personally or economically. Many He Waka Eke Noa businesses have shown strength and leadership in this time of crisis. 

As the country’s economic engines restart, there has been a renewed interest from clients and buyers in setting spend targets with He Waka Eke Noa businesses in their contracts. This is a great time to get clear on what work supplier members will move into and ensure the appropriate prerequisites are in place to be able to deliver that work. 

Contact HWEN Relationship Manager Kahurangi Malcolm direct, to be connected with our network of HWEN supplier members


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