Mark Robotham - Manta5

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Manta5’s COVID survival recipe:

Fast hard decisions, communication plus and great staff buy in has Manta5 in a strong position   


It’s been a hell of a six months, and although not out of the woods, we are well positioned to prosper and are confident our business is now COVID resistant and will thrive in the next 18 months.

Over these extraordinary times, we have still managed to close NZ$2M of sales, engage with 20+ distributor/ resellers in Europe, and this week, we will be shipping our last container of our first mass production run, albeit 9 months later than our original plan of January 2020.

Key things that helped Manta5 pivot and position for growth in this new world:

- Completely reworked our business strategy in light of new the COVID economy. Our saving grace was the new “holiday at home” and “wellness” trends that now underpin sales for our product, asking our customers (distributors) for letters of intent to under pin our new strategy and give confidence to our shareholders. And our customers (distributors) were looking for new products and revenue streams to build their recovery plans on.

- Cut costs where possible – we had a good, bad and ugly plan – then went for an uglier plan as a base.

- We changed our leadership team structure, had weekly board meetings to keep on plan (lean on our governance structure to give assistance) and unfortunately had to let some great people go, through a restructure.

- Had confidence with our business model and manage cash with finite detail.

- Transparency with our staff, we gave them the financial facts. Once armed with the facts we got 100% buy in:

- The people who we laid off commented on how the changes made sense, and most worked their complete notice period – unheard of in normal times.

- Initially, we had an eight-week period of compulsory one day’s annual leave – of which many people worked through.

- We gave staff two austerity options to help the company:  one days Leave without pay per week or take a 10% salary reduction for same hours worked.

- The reality is in the last 6 months we doubled the output with 30% less staff, we had a team that “cared” about our business and they came through for us.

- As a modern company we were already using cloud-based solutions – so day one of lockdown we were up and running with no hassles.

- We kept people in the loop – we had weekly all staff meetings via video conference and teams had daily catchups which gave everyone a chase to check-in on each other.

- We have now removed austerity measures of the 50% lowest paid employees first, they were hurting the most as many have young families or are sole income earners. This week we will remove austerity measures for the remainder of employees.

- Manta5 has taken advantage of available government support, we used the first two wage subsidies and have recently accepted both a Callaghan R&D loan and a Government backed loan from BNZ, both at low rates. We are also blending this debt finance with a capital raise which is in progress and has been 50% filled from our current shareholders – who believe we are now in a position of strength in this new global economy.

As exporters and leaders this as an opportunity to shine, with everyone open to finding new ways to do business. I am proud of what Manta5 has achieved over the last six months and truly believe we will achieve our global growth ambitions albeit in a different way to what we imagined earlier in the year.

We are now off the uglier plan and are building for growth we now need new product design engineers and capital to fuel our growth.

It has been important, to not accept COVID as an excuse not to deliver, things may take longer but get used to it, we still have a long way to go. As an exporter our sales team are now on a level playing field with local suppliers, with all of us needing to do business via Zoom calls!

I am particularly proud of our team and loyal suppliers like our freight forwarders CH Robinson, that have gone to extraordinary lengths to make us successful. Likewise, our loyal customers who have endured delay after delay, waiting to enjoy the “surreal experience” of the Manta5 hydrofoil bike ride.

- Mark Robotham CEO, Manta5