Adaptability, resilience & diversification – surviving as a small business


The pandemic brought about significant changes in the business landscape. Stories like John Davey’s may guide the way as new challenges such as AI are set to once again change the status quo

Many business owners were forced to pivot their careers in response to the pandemic. Now they may need to pivot once more, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) threatens to decimate entire workforces across multiple industries.

Small business insurance expert Sean Craigen says business owners may need to take the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and adapt their skillsets to this new environment that is swiftly changing.

“It’s important to factor in these black swan events and technological shifts when assessing the risks they face,” says Craigen, Country Manager at business insurance service BizCover.

“While some risks can be mitigated by insurance, others will need to be reduced in other ways.”

John’s fall and the rise of Boots and All

The Covid-19 pandemic was a challenging time for many people across the world, and New Zealand small business owners like John Davey certainly felt its impact.

He and his wife, Trudi, were running a successful international business that helped first year university students in 5 countries adjust to university life. Then the pandemic struck.

“It just got cut off at the knees,” says Davey.

“Covid came around and we were no longer able to do live presentations, which was our entire business model.”

Like many other industries, universities moved to an online model as lockdowns reduced the ability to meet in person.

With no customers coming through the doors, businesses had to come up with new ways to reach their customers, often through online channels.

The move was swift in New Zealand, with nearly 30% of the workforce quickly moving from centralised work locations to working from home.

Cafes started offering delivery services, while some retail stores started selling their products through online marketplaces.

But after looking to transition his business to film and distribute the videos online, Davey hit a snag with the production company and quickly fell into debt.

“We realised it was unsustainable.”

Fortitude and adaptability

Realising he had to adapt to the conditions, Davey turned his career towards his hobby, launching his handyman business, Boots and All Home Services, out of his home in Christchurch.

“Boots and All began as a response to the pandemic. It’s been two and half years now and I haven’t looked back since,” says Davey.

Being self-employed all his life, Davey knows a thing or two about what it takes to run a small business and change careers.

“I’ve made a living being a juggler, a corporate hoaxer, and a university mentor and now I’m making a perfectly good living being a handyman,” he says.

Davey’s dedication and flair even helped him win the APAC Business Awards last year, taking out the Most Creative Handyman on the South Island.

From landscaping and gardening to building repairs and everything in between, Boots and All covers a wide range of services.

Craigen says this approach helps businesses reduce the overall risk of being over-reliant on one service.

“You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket only to find that the basket is being taken away because of reasons outside your control,” he says.

Davey says the lesson he learned throughout the pandemic was to approach his career with a sense of fortitude and adaptability in equal parts.

“You can do it – be prepared, do the research, and have a vision and stick to it.”

“But equally, when conditions change and your vision is no longer viable, be adaptable and move your career forward with the times.”

AI job loss

Davey’s story is a testament to the resilience and adaptability required of small business owners in today’s ever-changing environment.

By pivoting his career in response to the pandemic, he was able to survive and even thrive during a time of significant uncertainty.

The same holds true for the looming threat of AI job loss.

While AI offers many benefits such as increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved customer experience, it also poses a significant risk to jobs across various industries.

Worldwide, more than 400 million workers are expected to lose their jobs to AI by 2030 – and that prediction was made in 2017 well before the rise of AI-generated search engines.

“It’s important for small business owners to recognise the risk of technological shifts and take proactive steps to adapt to this new reality,” says Craigen.

The bottom line

Assessing risk is an essential part of running a successful small business, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of being prepared for unexpected events.

One way to mitigate risk is through business insurance, which can help protect your business from financial loss due to unforeseen circumstances.

“Insurance is vital for my business,” says Davey.

But while insurance can help alleviate certain risks, other risks such as AI and pandemics need to be addressed proactively.

While Davey feels safe that AI won’t be taking his job anytime soon, he says he is still prepared to be adaptable and take proactive steps to adjust his business model to new technologies and changing market conditions.

“By being resilient and willing to pivot your career, like Davey did with Boots and All, small business owners can position themselves to survive and even thrive in the face of uncertainty,” says Craigen.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late – start assessing your business risks today and take steps to mitigate them.”