When the clocks tolled midnight on New Year’s Eve, little did any of us know what 2020 was likely to bring!
Many of us had heard on the news, this thing called a coronovirus which had come from a bat in a market in a regional part of China, but none of us might have predicted what was to come next.
Enter COVID-19. It was a pandemic the likes of which hadn’t been experienced in more than a generation. It eclipsed Swine and Bird flus and was being compared to the Spanish Flu.
It stopped us in our tracks, sent the economy into a flat spin and all of a sudden 2020 was to be the year where old ways were questioned, new normals were apparent and our collective knuckles were white – either from wringing our hands in angst or clinging to whatever it was we could cling to and just hanging on for the ride!
As unemployment queues painted a grim reality, there were some businesses who were bucking the trend, and just as they say necessity is the mother of invention; this newest world challenge was to be the bearer of some incredible innovations.
BHP and C-Res – in delivering the Local Buying Program across its regional footprints in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia – stepped up and activated a series of plans to fast-track claims and payments, while also ramping up the availability of work opportunities and income generators for the program’s registered small businesses.
All stops were pulled, and while sites were activating isolation plans, physical distancing and personal and site hygiene contingencies, we were also tapping into the resources of as many of our local suppliers as possible.
C-Res Program Administration Manager Janelle Bussey said the C-Res team was motivated by the important role they played in keeping all-important small business cash flow on track.
“The pace was frantic but the team stepped up and played an incredible part in making sure people were paid in as prompt a time as possible,” Ms Bussey said.
“The Local Buying Program has always been about connecting Australia’s biggest business with our regions’ smallest and that was no different here – only the need to keep our payment days down and the number of work opportunities being fast-tracked to keep small businesses in work, was now more critical than ever.”
C-Res CEO Tracey Cuttriss-Smith said in addition to the ramped up processing of claims and work instructions, C-Res was instrumental in facilitating the distribution of the funding allocations through BHP’s Vital Resources Fund.
Additionally, she said, the Local Buying Foundation also released a special funding innovation, with the B.I.G (Business, Industry and economic Group) Futures Fund, which was set up to allocate funds to business and industry organisations looking to assist the businesses in their member base.
“In those first couple of weeks which followed, we set up the platform to facilitate the BHP VRF funds, and we planned, activated and delivered the LBF B.I.G Futures Fund. And while that was happening we were fast-tracking supplier payments and pushing a higher volume of work opportunities through the LBP platform.
“This is all while we were ensuring the usual business operations – and even our projects – were kept on track.
“One of our leadership team members joked that the word ‘unprecedented’ had become the most overused word in the English language this year. That’s because all of this was unprecedented.
“Our team was able to pivot with little more than a moment’s notice and activate processes and contingencies we never dreamed we would have to use.”
Ms Cuttriss-Smith said as a result of some of the innovations, pivots and work-arounds, there were new ways and processes which had become the “new normal” for C-Res and the LBP.
“The ways we have always done certain things were certainly challenged and we all became very aware of looking for – and finding – the silver linings,” she said.
“And you know, they were everywhere! I think while there have been some awful stories out there and the fallout from this pandemic will be felt by many of our suppliers for maybe years to come, there have also been some positives and outcomes we simply did not expect.
“At the end of the day though, we are here to support our suppliers, BHP, and our stakeholders, and if we have had a chance to really drill down into how we do that, and found better or more effective – or even just different – ways to engage, then we will take that.
“We do this because we are bringing our smallest regional businesses to sit at the table with Australia’s biggest business, and knowing that was what made the difference in some of our businesses staying afloat, well, that is pretty special.”