Live: Tell me a bit about yourself and Novatech. How have you been navigating through the past few months and finding this forced downtime has been for you and for the Novatech business?
Leko: When COVID first hit, we were coming out of our usual busy summer festival season, so we sort of just got out in time. We do a lot of work in Adelaide during January through to March with Tour Down Under, Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival etc. They were just all coming out of the festival season so we sort of managed to get everything done just before the lockdowns.
But we had some things that didn’t go ahead, like the Telstra Women’s Business Awards ready to go in Darwin as well as a Cattlemen’s Conference in Alice Springs. We also had a touring exhibition called Yidaki that was due to come out in Brisbane. So we had a lot of this stuff that was cancelled within a couple of weeks because it involved a lot of travel. Since then it became quite chaotic for us as things had to cancel while some businesses were wiped out completely.
Then after that we took a couple of weeks to develop a few business plans, where we came up with a couple of business scenarios. Taking into account how long this would last, we developed our own version of Job Keeper before it came along.
We looked at everybody, we looked at their leave & entitlements and agreed everyone would just take a day or two less including us as owners. Luckily after we did that, Job Keeper came in, so then that provided a bit of relief.
We gave all the crew a couple weeks off while we sat down with our leadership team for a week to map out hundreds of things to do, all the way from out in the warehouse from an equipment perspective, to all the way up the front of the building like policies, procedures and safety updates etc.
As Adelaide was fairly unaffected, we pretty much were working all the way through. We rolled out our own plan and introduced social distancing and hygiene measures in the building. We then looked at getting all the crew back in and we’ve just been going guns blazing now.
Live: I was looking at your website and I saw you have a huge team that you would have been managing throughout this time too.
Leko: Absolutely, it’s not just keeping them busy, but you sort of turn into managing them by keeping check on their psychological state as well. We already have a health and wellbeing program in place, which includes free counselling sessions. We’ve kept that going all the way through this period and there’s been a lot of take up on that. We also signed up to Crewcare, which has provided us with the opportunity to have our operations manager gain accreditation as a Mental Health First Aid Officer. with a bunch of other things too.
We’ve now expanded our health and wellbeing program for the next six months which includes some mindfulness sessions. There’s a plan between now and Christmas to get the crew back on their feet mentally and physically. We have professionals coming to talk to us about healthy eating and nutrition, losing the COVID bellies, shaving off the overgrowth and getting back to business.
Live: That is very impressive, to be honest. We’ve worked with a number of different businesses, it’s very rare to come across a business, of this medium size, that is placing such value and importance on being so proactive around the health and wellbeing of their team.
So, you have obviously been to a number of different shows and events and things over the years. And you work across a number of different industries and sectors providing audio and lighting and other equipment. What has been your favourite show or experience or the most memorable event for you?
Leko: There is too many to pick from! We do around 1000 jobs a year, so it’s a lot to keep in your memory. 40 percent of those jobs are out of Adelaide as well as across the globe. Personally, I definitely enjoyed the early music festival days such as Big Day Out, Soundwave and Stereosonic. The crowds, stages and artists were growing so it was an exciting time. That was a good period from the concert and touring side of the business.
On the special events side, we did the Netball World Cup in Sydney, 2015. That was pretty special to win that job as an Adelaide company. We did the Opening ceremony, Closing ceremony, 16 days of sports, presentations, dinners, all sorts of things, the whole box and dice.
Another favourite was a big medical conference in Singapore a few years ago, at Marina Bay Sands with about two and a half thousand delegates in attendance. As an international gig, it was big and different for us.
Live: How much of your business is based around International events?
Leko: We’ve been to about ten countries, around once or twice a year. We’ve covered Singapore and Kuala Lumpar, Vietnam, Bangkok, Tokyo, US, New Zealand, Fiji.
Live: And do you travel a lot yourself?
Leko: Sometimes. I’m pretty hands on, and so is my brother, so it’s not weird to see us loading trucks at 3am, but equally we’re trying to make sure that there’s enough family time as well. We were set to go over to the Tokyo Olympics this year, now we’re hoping we’ll get to go next year. So that’ll be a cool little thing.
Live:So tell us about the coolest piece of equipment that you’ve got at the moment?
Leko: The coolest piece of equipment at the moment are our LED display screens from ROE Visual. It’s their carbon series which means they’re made out of carbon fibre. It’s got an integrated rigging system called airframe. It has become quite an integral part of our business moving forward as it is lighter and stronger to ship around the country.
Over the years we’ve always bought significant pieces of equipment early and been the leaders, that’s probably one of the recent ones that we’re happy with.
Live: So tell us a little bit more around your experience working with Live Event Logistics and the role that you have collaborating with them at certain times.
Leko: Logistics and transport is key in any industry, and it’s the most important in ours because the show time doesn’t change. When it’s on, it’s on. We can’t change it. If you need a parcel delivered and it’s late, it is different to people waiting to come into a show, you know, so it’s hugely important. And it’s important to work with a company that understands what we do.
A big part of it is communication and they do a really good job of that. When we worked together on the Kuala Lumpur International Freight, they were all over it, emailing me day and night making sure I was on track the whole way. So, when I got there it was right on time.
That is the accuracy and precision we need. So that’s probably the most important key part. I put it down to good communication and the other party understanding what this industry is about. That’s it.
Live: Excellent. I suppose it is that ongoing transparency around the processes. They keep you in the loop the whole time, which is important in any business and industry.
Leko, I really appreciate taking you taking the time today to have a chat today. Take care.