Leading through COVID-19: Interview with Andy Leonard, Proper Crisps


As leaders, the COVID-19 crisis has presented us all with unexpected challenges. Facing these unprecedented circumstances head-on has led to many stories of great leadership across all industries and sectors in Nelson, Tasman, and Marlborough.

Our 'Leading Through COVID-19' interview series is designed to inspire and support a sense of togetherness as our region moves through and beyond this challenge.

In this interview, we talk to Andy Leonard, Team Captain at Proper Crisps, about their experience operating safely as an essential business during the lockdown.

How has COVID-19 affected your business overall?

Proper Crisps has seen immediate changes in demand. We experienced a sudden drop in tourism and hospitality business, but have seen strong demand through supermarkets where snacking has been an essential lockdown activity.

Aspects of our operation have changed to comply with physical distancing guidelines. For example, we have made adjustments to factory layouts to ensure personnel separation.

As a leader, what has been key in keeping your team engaged?

Regular communication and remaining available to our team members. It's also important to be positive and action-orientated, despite the challenging circumstances.

What has been your biggest personal challenge so far?

Ensuring our production team feel appreciated and respected when other parts of the business are working from home and many of their friends and family aren’t working.

Any learnings or advice you can pass on to other leaders? 

If in doubt, act. Trust your gut instincts. Document your plans, your activity and your progress. Crises are a good measure of your teamwork. Stay connected to your supply chain.

Have you been able to identify any opportunities for your business as a result? 

Proper Crisps falls into the 'permissible treat' category which is key comfort in a time of crisis and stress!

Any thoughts on what will change for your business as a result of this disruptor?

Consumer buying patterns will undoubtedly change in the short to medium term - where and how people shop. Trade up or trade down is common during recessions when eating habits alter, and online buying appears to have benefited significantly through COVID-19. I’m hoping Kiwis love of potato crisps doesn’t diminish though!

Enjoyed this interview? Read more from our Leading Through COVID-19 interview series here.

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