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COVID-19 Impact On The Pet Industry

Russell Gibbons: A Taste for Business in the Pet Industry Keeps His Company Afloat During the Coronavirus Shutdown

Resilience Amidst the Storm

In Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense job losses, the capitulation of businesses, and the general destruction of wealth and capital, according to Russell Gibbons, owner, and CEO of Huds and Toke, a gourmet pet treat company in Queensland. His family-run company is one of the lucky ones. Although operations have slowed, orders continue to flow into the company.

“As we are a manufacturer of foodstuffs, we are deemed an essential business, so the government hasn’t shut down our business or distribution channels. We can even make human food should the need arise, so they want people like us to remain open and operating!” says Gibbons.

Take a moment and watch this short video to learn how Gibbons has taken his company onto the global stage …

“Our government acted very early and very swiftly with extraordinary measures. Some said it was too extreme at the time; however, as a result, we as a country seem to be containing the virus somewhat. It has taken, and is taking, an enormous economic toll!” he says. “It looks like our entire country will be in shutdown for the next four months or so.  I think we are already in a deep recession, and many people don’t realise it yet!”

We’ve asked Gibbons to share his thoughts on the pandemic with our Throomers readers. He gives an optimistic view despite the troubling times we are all experiencing.

Decisive Action Down Under

HOW ARE YOU, YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES, ETC. DOING?

Australia has been severely impacted as I am sure every other nation has.

Australia was very quick to close its borders and to shut down society to isolate. As such, the economy has suffered greatly. However, COVID-19 deaths and infections have been very well handled.

How are we at Huds and Toke?  We give thanks that we are a manufacturing business within the pet industry.  Whilst we are getting bruised ribs, we still have a business with customers, and pets are an important aspect of all of our lives right now. So, happily, for our business, we are still operating and moving forward.

Personally, it has been quite traumatic to see so many friends and businesses collapse around us.

As a family, we are doing quite well for a number of reasons.

Firstly, as I mentioned, we still have a business, which means we still have a purpose to get up in the morning.  As such, we go to the factory, with the kids, and we all pitch in and work. So, as a family, we are together and getting out of the house at the same time.

Secondly, we love where we live.  We live within walking distance to the beach in a very nice part of Australia.

Thirdly, we are a strong family unit, and we like each other’s company. That’s not to say we don’t have our challenges. But on the whole, we all have learned to enjoy each other and be gentle with ourselves.

I think having a family business has prepared us very well for this event. We are used to working together and being around each other; we are used to working out problems together. And being a start-up, problems are never far away!

HOW HAS THE CORONAVIRUS AFFECTED YOUR LIFE, YOUR BUSINESS, ETC., AND HOW ARE YOU COPING?

The largest challenge we have had thus far is ensuring that as adults, and children, that we do not take on other people’s stress.

We listen to our friends’ problems, and we show empathy. However, we are very deliberate to ensure we don’t take on their stress because we need to keep our own resolve for our own problems. This is not a natural trait of ours, as we are a caring family.

The other major challenge for us is that the kids are now being schooled at home via the computer and NOT at school. This is a challenge as one of us is always near them to help out, which effectively takes one of us out of the business, right when we need both owners in it!

With business in mind, it has affected our growth plans somewhat; however, not as much as many others.  We are still exporting into the USA and into Japan. We are still focusing on creating great products. So as long as people value high quality, we are hoping at least, our business will still have an exciting future.

If any of your readers want to consider stocking our products, by all means, we would be happy to talk! I know that’s cheeky of me, but hey, these are extraordinary times, and any help is most appreciated!

From a coping perspective, we make sure we all talk about how we are feeling.

We focus on the present, right now, it’s about getting through the next six months by focusing on a week-to-week perspective.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR GOVERNMENT LEADERS?

Don’t let the banks run their stimulus packages. Keep the taxpayers’ money the responsibility of the government.

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-bank statement. I say this because the banks have a constitution that directly relates to their decisions being within the best interests of their owners, who are their shareholders. This means that all decisions need to be measured and in the best interests of the shareholders. As such, they simply are not equipped to manage a stimulus package that is required to get into the economy to people who need it quickly.

Further to this, they are also exposed to responsible lending laws or the like, and simply can’t just make loans without taking all due care and show diligence. Otherwise, they risk breaking laws.

Thus, in a time when risk is high, and the money comes from government coffers, this then needs to be distributed back out to the people in need. The government needs to be in control, and thus, take responsibility for the distribution.

Just my thoughts!

DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS, IDEAS, RECOMMENDATIONS, WISDOM, ETC., TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?

We simply focus on the day-to-day and week-to-week.  Anxiety is future-focused. Dwelling on the past harbours regret. In this situation, it is totally out of our control, so try not to worry.

Make sure you listen to the Health Authorities and be very careful about mixing with people too soon.

Work on a new skill. For me, it’s learning how to juggle with four balls. This is for no particular reason, but it simply takes my mind off everything, so I have no pressure on the outcome. But I like the challenge.

Your readers could consider knitting, crossword puzzles, learn to play chess better, juggling, learn to play the piano, etc.

Above all, be gentle on yourself. This is a true global problem with a global impact that we simply have to face and solve. It’s not within our sphere of influence, but we have no other choice but to deal with it.

HOW DO YOU THINK THIS EXPERIENCE WILL IMPACT OUR LIVES AS WE MOVE FORWARD?

I think it will certainly force us to evaluate what our blessings are, and what we truly value in life, and want out of it.

Further to that, I think we will be feeling the effects of this for some time to come, so our expectations of what we thought our futures might look like, might need to be altered somewhat.

From a business perspective, there is always an opportunity, but the rules have changed, and we need to work out what those rules are, and will be, moving forward. Perhaps endless growth might not be the goal?  OR perhaps it is?  I’m still trying to work it out myself!

Parting Thoughts

Gibbons wishes all to stay well and, for now, stay out of the way of people. “The best way to protect yourself is to isolate and don’t rush to get back into normality. The longer you can stay healthy, the more likely the health professionals are able to discover adequate treatments.”

He leaves us with this hopeful outlook, “With all the world still being seemingly under siege, there is still a future out there, and this will all end sometime. It may take a few years, but I like to look forward with a positive nature and see through all this.”

Learn more about Huds and Toke, an international success story, by reading the article on Russell Gibbons on Throomers.com.