June 22, 2020

Ruby Cheung


William Buck

How would you describe your industry right now?

For William Buck visiting our clients and spending time with them in person has always been a big part of how we work and COVID-19 put this to a grinding halt. As an industry we had to very quickly embrace technology as a key enabler for communicating and collaborating virtually. Like most sectors right now, digital offerings and technology are a driver of business growth and profitability.

While we’re focused on immediate business survival, we’re also looking strategically at mid to long-term implications. A global crisis like the coronavirus exposed a number of operational weaknesses across different industries and with restrictions continuing, clients are shifting priorities to deal with the growing uncertainty and general risk management. One of the biggest challenges and opportunities is how businesses can adapt or pivot to the changing market conditions and maximise technology.

It’s expected that normal preferences will change, and the way people think, and act will be different. As a result, we’ll see digital client engagement models become part of the ‘new normal’ going forward. As an industry centred around relationships, it’s critical for us to we rethink the ‘client experience’ and how to maintain the same levels of service and personalisation. The top priority for many businesses and industries is still focused on cash flow sustainability.

Tell us about why your business is outstanding?

For 125 years, we’ve supported our clients and community through the good and tough times. This commitment hasn’t changed. During this pandemic, we quickly recognised the need to stay connected. Across our offices in Australia and New Zealand, we regularly shared updates with our networks on the latest government announcements and incentives along with sharing broader industry insights. Ultimately, we want to help clients react to the crisis faster and effectively.

We immediately implemented a number of processes and systems to adapt to the changes. Our biggest priority was ensuing people remained engaged and by using virtual collaboration tools such as Zoom, WeChat and Webex, our teams were able to continue to deliver the same level of personal support. Prior to the COVID-19 disruption, William Buck had already begun to invest in digital solution capabilities such as automation and data management tools. The technology infrastructure we had in place allowed us to manage the increase in digital demand.

The impact of the coronavirus has been different for every business. It’s important for us to understand each unique situation and how we can add value. Our recent focus has been to inform SMEs of the immediate measures that would make the difference between survival and collapse. We also proactively identified clients in high risk sectors and advised on options to diversify their business.

The great strength of our culture is that we’re motivated by our unique philosophy of ‘Changing Lives’. During these exceptional times, we’ve stayed true to our firms’ values to make sure our clients and our people were supported and no one was left behind.

How long have you been a HCC member and why?

William Buck has been a member with HCC for just over a year. HCC is a great forum for collaborating and connecting with like-minded professionals and industry leaders. It provides with us with a way to share knowledge and understand the biggest issues and opportunities facing the community.

In a few words could you outline what makes the Haymarket/Chinatown unique?

The Haymarket and Chinatown communities are a gateway to Asia. Known as a vibrant multicultural hotspot, it’s a thriving source of economic growth and a bridge between cultures. It’s seen as a precinct where you can experience traditional Asian cultures with links to imported products and foreign capital. Big Asian brands and inspiring entrepreneurs have chosen to enter Australia by opening storefronts in Haymarket. It’s one of Sydney’s most visited tourist attractions with developments and investments shaping the broader southern CBD.

Any advice to businesses right now?

The most valuable activity for a business right now is to know their financial position. Before you can recover or restart, you need to know how you’re placed to operate post-COVID-19. Cash flow should be a continued focus to ensure you meet your immediate commitments and are ready for the future. Once you know the health of your finances, you can evaluate your business plans and how it aligns with future requirements. Be prepared that some parts of your operation may take longer to recover or become obsolete.

Ask yourself:

  • Will you continue to offer the same product or service, or do you need to adapt or pivot in line with expected changes to customer behaviors and preferences?
  • Are your suppliers able to meet the future needs of your business? Be sure to factor in any restrictions for providers that are based in different locations.
  • Is your business model sustainable? Reset and look at areas that can add more value i.e. automating production lines, adopting digital and analytical tools or shifting business to an e-commerce platform.
  • Do you have the funding arrangements to match your future direction? Look at negotiating or renegotiating debt facilities.
  • Is there an opportunity to merge or acquire a supplier or competitor? This can minimise supply chain risks and gain market share.
  • Have you considered ratio analysis (benchmarking business financials) or scenario planning? This will influence what actions you can take.

What's one of your most memorable times in Haymarket/Chinatown?

Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chinatown was such a unique experience. The festival draws on so many cultures represented in Sydney including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, and Malaysian communities. Everyone enjoys the festivity as the atmosphere was inclusive and filled with pride. It’s a beautiful way to showcase tradition through arts, performance, food and sport.  It’ll be good to see Haymarket/Chinatown thrive again in conjunction with the vibrant activities around Darling Quarter and the Darling Harbour precinct.

Favourite Quote?

 “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill