A big welcome to a somewhat shell shocked but resilient South West Region,
The COVID 19 pandemic has most definitely hit the South West hard. Tourism and Hospitality being the worst hit across the board and these are two of the South West’s main economic Industries. Its hard to believe that on March 13th I was holding a Youth forum with 13 speakers – for 100 high School students – on the topic of how the Busselton Margaret River Airport Development will impact industries. Now on April 19th the excitement of the Jetstar flights has most definitely disappeared and we have airlines struggling to remain viable in Australia without Government support.
Yet in the midst of the dire daily news of job loss, illness and economic down turn comes small but consistent glimmers of hope in the South West. That hope has declared itself in the guise of a fighting community spirit, flexibility, creativity and a region’s willingness to stretch beyond what was thought possible. Situations thought outrageously “end of world”, such as closed borders and closed shops, has not brought the South West to a complete standstill just yet.
When a community can no longer look outward to Global enterprise and opportunity, it rapidly and dramatically has to focus on a local market base of which it may have ignored for many years. To do this now requires some ingenuity, lateral thinking and almost completely scrapping the “old way” and rewriting your business plan from scratch.
Creating Our South West Directory and Market, has allowed me to observe and admire the amazing transformations of many local businesses to creatively adapt to this “wackadoodle Covid 19 era”. I could almost actually hear peoples brains ticking and ideas popping each day, as one by one, each business recreated themselves like a caterpillar on steroids – breaking out of their sheltered cocoon and launching with wings still damp, into an unknown economy.
Its been a relief to also see a marked shift toward adaptable working hours, home office options and real consideration for peoples right to work in ways that suit their own needs and families – not the 9-5 treadmill of a past industrial age that has been hard to shake off. Everybody actually has a way that they work best, so surely allowing employees to align themselves with this higher self, only aids company profitability and output. Lets hope this positive element of change has been well noted. Productivity does not always correspond to sitting in an office for 7.5hrs a day.
As Our South West Directory and online Market takes shape, I can also see another real shift for our region. A shift to a combined coexistence of shop front and online business, which is enormously additive for all businesses and services way beyond the pandemic era. By thinking outside the box, every business has now been forced to conquer the “online” option and create a product line that suits this medium. In doing so they’ve realised that in fact there was a whole new path to market that they hadn’t even tapped into yet.
Watching gyms, music teachers, and yoga instructors, suddenly realise that in fact they can reach anybody with their online classes and that they are not just the sum of their immediate surroundings. Cafes and Shops are now seeing that you do not have to be reliant on just attracting the customer into your bricks and mortar space, and that the delivery side line was always an option demanded by customers here, but never previously achieved well in the region. So we are starting to see a stretching of the imagination and perhaps for the first time in the South West, the willingness for our economy to try something completely new and out of the comfort zone.
As a customer, to be honest, I think I just found my new comfort zone! I’m living in a beautiful regional town and I suddenly have all the convenience of a city from an access point of view. Maybe it was time for a new normal and I sincerely hope that the new normal continues well beyond this pandemic. I’m looking forward to seeing what other initiatives pop up as we traverse this new landscape – historically great change always seems to come from great hardship. As we move toward ANZAC day, I imagine that notion is well understood by all Australians and indeed this will be another time in our history that will make us ponder and contemplate for many years to come.
The Our South West Directory and Market is now open, free and accessible to all businesses and services in the South West. How you choose to use this online tool will be up to your imagination and inspiration. I look forward to seeing more caterpillars on steroids !