Leading through COVID-19: Interview with Marina Hirst Tristram, Tasman Bay Food Co


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 Marina Hirst Tristram, Managing Director of Tasman Bay Food Co. She shares her experience and learnings of leading a food production business through the challenges of Alert Level 4.

How has COVID-19 affected your business overall?

We have lost all of our foodservice and a lot of our export business - we expect this to be about 40% of our revenue over the COVID-19 period. However, we are lucky to have a multi-channel distribution so we continue to have revenue streams to support our cashflow.

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

We quickly developed an 8-week plan that reassured our factory teams about the weeks ahead (as a food business we continued manufacturing but in small ‘bubble’ teams). For our team working or isolating at home, we have continued our daily morning meeting (now using Microsoft Teams). We have also created a group exercise challenge to walk the length of the South Island.

What has been your biggest personal challenge so far?

Working in isolation in a very quiet office has been hard. Keeping a trading mindset, actively looking for opportunity and connecting with others has been hugely important to continue to be productive and positive.

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

People come first and are looking for honesty and clarity through what is a very anxious time for many. Repeating a consistent message is important.

Talk to others and take advice. As business owners, we often feel isolated and simply talking to other professionals outside of the business often presents ideas, opportunity or is purely a chance to share your challenges with others who are facing them too.

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

Yes, productivity has been tested in our new physical distancing environment. It has forced us to explore different ways of doing things and we have come up with some initiatives to test.

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

It has been great to test more flexible working arrangements and prove they can work. We want to invest more than ever now in automation to improve our agility in manufacturing. We'll also continue to diversify our sales channels, especially connecting, collaborating and working together with other local food businesses.

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

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