This month, gemaker completes its ninth journey around the sun. And what a year it’s been. Catastrophic bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic have fundamentally changed how we live and work. Almost all Australian organisations and businesses have suddenly had to figure out how to support their employees to work flexibly – something that gemaker has been doing since its inception. These crises have also gutted the university and research sectors, which are among gemaker’s core customers.

Over these past nine years, we have learnt that the health of our professional ecosystem directly impacts the health of our business. As well as taking steps to ensure our own business continuity, we have been helping our clients and networks to cope with COVID-19 by:

  • Running free webinars on how to engage and partner with industry during COVID-19;
  • Providing pro bono media, marketing advice and services;
  • Advising clients on how to make their business model more flexible and to support staff to work-from-home;
  • Sending nine Rays of Sunshine newsletters full of good news, tips on everything from homeschooling to looking after your mental health, job vacancies and hope to counter all the negativity and overwhelm. Many readers gave feedback on how nice it was to receive positive news during the pandemic.

One of our core beliefs at gemaker is that, from adversity, gems are born. That is to say, hard times bring important learning and the opportunity for transformation and growth. Over the past year we’ve learnt:

  • Having an updated business continuity plan (BCP) is crucial to a business’ survival during tough times. It needs to be seen as a tool that you use to scan ahead, assess how situations beyond your control may impact your business, and how your business can adapt to minimise that impact. Our BCP helped us to assess the early impact COVID-19 was having on China and advise our clients accordingly so they were better prepared when the virus hit Australia.
  • Don’t avoid uncomfortable conversations. My lovely operations manager Jess sat me down at the beginning of COVID-19 for a discussion about what happens to gemaker if I die. While we talked about my mortality when we first developed gemaker’s BCP, this was the first time I had to think deeply about it. Yes, it was uncomfortable, but it was necessary.
  • COVID-19 has made the market more accepting of flexible work. It has proved that people are just as productive and efficient when they are trusted and supported to work from home. We’ve known this for a long time at gemaker and our years of experience working flexibly meant that not only were we able to continue working efficiently through the COVID lockdowns, but we were also able to draw on this expertise to advise other businesses and organisations struggling to set up flexible working arrangements.
  • Creativity and innovation are born out of the most terrible tragedies. Communities, organisations and governments have worked together to solve many problems this year especially those created by the bushfires and COVID. Australian manufacturers worked together to fix supply chain issues for medical, food and other industries reliant on overseas supplies. Telehealth which had been debated for years happened almost overnight and businesses across the country sent their staff to work from home and changed their business models to survive.
  • The more adaptable you are the easier it is to change to survive. We rapidly adapted our products and services and that of our clients to suit our changing situations. Our training courses were reworked and offered online and new services introduced to better support our clients. We also worked with our manufacturing clients to network them together for packaging their combined expertise into new markets including the rapidly growing personal protective equipment market.

Whilst extremely challenging, this past year has given us an opportunity to change things for the better – to make our workplaces more supportive and trusting, to better care for our environment, and to re-focus Australian manufacturing on renewables and lower emissions technologies. For those in the commercialisation space, the opportunity before us is to help accelerate the growth of these industries to not only create jobs, but also create a better world to live in.

Thank you to our team, clients, partners and supporters.