Date posted: 05/06/2020 5 min read

180 degree shift

Learn from the best business pivots in the changing business environment in COVID-19. Business changes are necessary to stay afloat or even thrive during coronavirus.

In Brief

  • Four Pillars made an easy move from producing gin to hand sanitiser.
  • Early in the crisis ResMed identified how vital ventilators would be and increased production of them.
  • During New Zealand’s strict lockdown, Sweet Escape used existing supplies to create essential items.

That’s the spirit

Heads, Tails & Clean Hands liquid

A client of Pitcher Partners chief executive and Sydney partner, Charlie Viola, Four Pillars gin sold out its first batch of Heads, Tails & Clean Hands liquid hand sanitiser within hours of it going online. The sanitiser contains 80% ethyl alcohol to meet the specifications of the World Health Organisation, and works for hands and surfaces. It’s made from the highly concentrated (and usually discarded) heads and tails from each gin distillation, plus aloe vera.

Nothing fishy about it


Fishboy is a client of Carl Millington CA and Brendan Jones CA at Pitcher Partners in Sydney. Pre-pandemic, the seafood supplier provided fresh and frozen fish, prawns and oysters to high-end restaurants, hotels and airlines. “We had a discussion about whether we put the business into hibernation or try to get through this,” Millington tells Acuity. “We looked at the ramifications of both strategies, and the competitive nature of the industry meant that to go into hibernation really wasn’t an option.”

The Australian government’s stimulus package meant Fishboy could scale back to reduce overheads, but continue to supply goods at wholesale prices – seafood, dairy, rice, pasta, long-life milk – direct to homes and small cafes doing takeaways.

“They’re probably not making any money out of it but it’s kept the wheels turning and the business operating,” says Millington. “They wanted to be in the market after all this was over.”

“They’re probably not making any money out of it but it’s kept the wheels turning and the business operating,”
Carl Millington CA, Pitcher Partners

Virtual meditation

Camille Woods CA

Director of Monday Mind meditation school in Sydney, Camille Woods CA has been hosting classes on Zoom – including for staff groups – to connect and relieve stress. “The escalation of anxiety and the loss of business community is a pressing need,” she says, adding that what’s really surprised her is the outreach from international CAs who have found joy in the classes.



As soon as he heard about the COVID outbreak in Wuhan, China, in January, ResMed chief financial officer, Brett Sandercock CA, knew the company would be a key part of helping mitigate this crisis. “We saw the deadly respiratory effects it was having on patients in that city from our local team. We immediately began to ramp up production of bilevel devices, other non-invasive ventilators and invasive ventilators, as well as ventilation masks, from our factory in Su Zhou, which is near Shanghai,” he says. During the pandemic, ResMed has tripled its production of ventilators and bilevel devices, and increased by 10 times its manufacture of masks for those devices.

Working together to feed Kiwis

Kai Ika Project

Nicolette Woolford CA brought our attention to the work her husband, Sam Wool-ford, does running an NPO called LegaSea which set up the Kai Ika Project. It collects kaimoana [seafood] offcuts from recreational fisherman and commercial channels, which is then shared through the Papatuanuku Kokiri Marae in South Auckland. In many cultures, fish heads are revered as the best part of the fish because the sweet flesh is closest to the bone. The Kai Ika Project has distributed more than 64,000kg of kaimoana in three years and with unemployment rising due to COVID-19 lockdowns, demand has increased. The project was deemed ‘essential’ under level four lockdown. Realising the urgency to feed Kiwis, the largest Kiwi-led commercial fishing company, Moana New Zealand, has stepped up to help. Together they are now distributing 1000kg a week. Social distancing makes sharing food complicated but the need is obvious. There is often a queue of cars 400m down the street.

A move to essential

Sweet Escape business

On the Lower North Island in New Zealand, sole practitioner Anna Scott CA of Anna Scott Accounting has a client who handcrafts soaps, bath bombs, lip balms and bath salts. “As they’re not deemed essential, she has redirected her isopropyl supplies to making beautiful sanitiser,” says Scott.

Indeed, during New Zealand’s level four lockdown, Scott’s client – Sweet Escape – was authorised to sell hand sanitiser, soap and shower steamers so long as the items were ordered online and delivered rather than collected. “Couriers have been busy getting her gorgeous soap bars and sanitiser out to customers around the country,” says Scott. “It’s a small business helping where it can and keeping food on the table for her family.”

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