Letter from the FFETA Chairperson

“In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity” ~ Albert Einstein

I hope this message finds you safe and healthy.The dramatic spread of COVID-19 has disrupted lives, livelihoods, communities and businesses worldwide.

Now what?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. Now’s the time to shift focus to efforts that support a return to work, while addressing needed changes in the months ahead. Businesses begin making the shift - from mobilising during this time, to stabilising in the new environment and strategizing for what’s next.

Some of the harsh realities that the fire industry has to effectively address are:

  • Unclear cash positions and currency effects. As most of the fire equipment is imported, we need to understand foreign exchange risks due to changes in supply chain or customer flows.
  • Weak cash control can be detrimental – those persons responsible for cash must recognize that “business as usual” principles no longer apply (e.g. ensure on-time customer payment or prioritizing supplier payments with business-critical activities).
  • And FFETA members will also have to deal with difficult relationships with struggling customers who have liquidity issues/ financial instability.
Many suppliers of firefighting equipment will also experience that clients prioritise key suppliers and critical payments to ensure operational continuity. The client base on the supply and demand side has declined. FFETA members are encouraged to position themselves to be the preferred service provider.

In this regard you can gain a comparative advantage by implementing basic principles. A comparative advantage gives a company the ability to sell goods and services at a lower price than its competitors and realize stronger sales margins. These principles include aspects such as:

1. Create a new company culture.
Whether your employees are coming back to a physical location or working remotely, companies should increase their efforts to communicate with workers about their lives outside of work.

This is really a test for small businesses, and those that are going to pass the test are going to create better cultures and more loyal employees.

2. Develop a safety protocol.
Retail businesses that are reopening will need to train their staff on new cleaning practices and other protocols, including taking customer temperatures, while offices will need to rethink where workers sit in relation to one another. Companies that don't outline these new protocols clearly could face official complaints and reputational damage or even temporary close-down.

The more that you can have a dialogue and communicate with your employees about what you're doing-and get their input- the less risk there is, both to the individuals and the company as a whole.

3. Make employees feel safe.
Documenting how your business has taken steps to protect the safety of workers can be just as important as implementing those measures.

The Fire Industry Association (FIA), the largest fire protection trade association in the UK and not-for-profit organisation practical advice to their members is:

“A fire industry professional will know when service and maintenance work should be performed over a set period of time to comply with fire safety regulations, yet problems can emerge when contractors are not permitted access on-site due to coronavirus safeguards. Similarly, in these exceptional times, scrupulous regard should be paid to the paper trail of traceability.

Our advice is to explain clearly to the client that this is their decision not to allow you to complete the scheduled work, and it is the role of the premises’ management (Responsible Person) to ensure they fulfil their fire safety obligations. If access permission is still not granted, you should document timings and communications to use later as evidence (should it be needed) that you have acted responsibly for your clients.”

Keep an open mind and stay positive!

The world is a scary place right now. Eventually, things will get better, most things will return to normal, and those things which permanently change are all things that you will be able to adapt to.

Entrepreneurship is always full of challenges and this is no different. Approach it like you approach any other roadblock.

As a gesture to assist FFETA members the annual subscription fees for 2020/21 will NOT be increased and each renewal certificate will be accompanied by a FFETA mask. As an incentive, should the renewal fee be paid before the end of July, you will receive a further 5 masks so please watch out for your renewal invoice which should go out mid-June.

The fees for renewal will therefore be:
Corporate Member R1 080
Branch R 275
Affiliate R 275
Associate R 275

Keep your chin up and keep on keeping on.
Belinda