Leading through COVID-19: Interview with Craig Orr, NZ Hops


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 Craig Orr, CEO of NZ Hops. Craig shares his experience with us leading his team through this challenge, operating as an essential service supplying hops to the brewing industry.

How has COVID-19 affected your business overall?

As an essential service supplying hops to the brewing industry, we’ve seen a significant decline in demand, clearly a direct result of the lockdown within the hospitality trade. These same measures are in place in our key export markets like the USA and UK also. There’s been a ‘lag’ effect as those breweries able to pivot toward packaged and retail channels have kept some demand.

Despite my personal dedication to ensuring demand for packaged craft beer remains high, I’m not performing well enough to offset…

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

We’ve committed to keeping digital connectivity for all, not just the WFH’ers but also on-site. We’re all connected twice weekly via Zoom briefings, along with WhatsApp group messaging. Some work-related, other just for light humour and sharing.

What has been your biggest personal challenge leading through COVID-19?

Probably the biggest is getting out of the house and switching off. The ‘office’ is only 10 steps from the ‘cafeteria’ or 10 steps the other way to ‘commute’ home to sleep. Great for productivity but no so great for work/life balance and general downtime.

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

Keep (over) connected with your team, including informally, just as if you were making a cuppa in the staffroom. The whole 'Level’s' deal has been a learning curve for all, so having an open forum to discuss safety steps and agree protocols has meant widespread engagement.

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

Like many businesses we’re geared up now to pivot toward an improved e-commerce model – rotating the business and opening up the invitation to enquire, engage more readily. The new normal…this is here for some time yet.

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

Developing a more agile and responsive business model. Which, being in the horticultural sector means adapting to some shorter horizons than has been the norm.

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

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