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Emerging from lockdown: Shane Delia shares what he learnt during COVID-19

5-minute read

At long last, Victoria is reopening. Hospitality entrepreneur Shane Delia shares the lessons he learnt in lockdown and how they’re helping his company rebound.

Key take-outs
  • Collaborating with your contacts can lead to win-win outcomes
  • Build a great team and they’ll do whatever it takes in tough times
  • Staying physically and mentally fit can help you keep calm and carry on.

Shane Delia is no stranger to making the most out of difficult situations. He opened his first restaurant in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis (GFC), and over the following decade launched three additional venues, an events business, and an airport catering arm under the Delia Group umbrella. 

 

Delia has spent the last few months of lockdown developing Providoor, an online marketplace for restaurants, including his own ready-made meals, delivered to the door. The new venture is on track to turn over $100 million in its first year. These are five life and business lessons he learnt during lockdown:

1. Collaborating with your network can help you succeed

A strong network of contacts can be worth its weight in gold. Drawing on this helped Delia turn his idea for an upmarket meals marketplace into a money-making venture in record time.

 

“Once I realised there was an opportunity for us to use our restaurant kitchens to create gourmet meals that could be finished at home, I was straight on the phone to Lou Ponte, from Melba Fresh,” Delia says. “He’s a long-time supplier of fresh produce to our restaurants and I knew he had a fleet of refrigerated trucks lying dormant. We quickly did a deal – I’d establish the market and he’d handle the logistics.”

 

Software developer Jason Wyatt was also happy to pitch in for a pal. “His company, Marketplacer, works for some of the biggest companies in Australia,” Delia explains. “Ordinarily the Providore platform would have been a six-month build but they had it up and running in six weeks. 

 

“Having those direct connections and relationships that you’ve built up over time means that, when you need to, you can pick up the phone and say, ‘hey, I need some help’.”

2. A committed team can move mountains

Very often, a business’s greatest asset is its workforce. Foster a strong workplace culture over many years and, odds are, your team will be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep operations ticking over in tough times.

 

“During the shutdown, we turned Maha, our flagship restaurant, into a production line,” Delia says. “We had front-of-house staff working in the kitchen, chefs packing food, our communications manager running customer service … I realised my staff are more versatile than I am. Everyone rose to the occasion and did things I never thought they’d do.”

3. Remote working is a great way to cut costs

Remote working was a lifeline for thousands of Australian organisations during the shutdown. It can also be a great way for businesses of all stripes to reduce their overheads long term.

 

“Before COVID hit, we were looking to expand our office space and since Providoor started going gangbusters we’ve employed 10 more customer service people,” Delia says.

 

“But we’ve rethought our need for bigger premises; those people will keep on working from home instead. It’s better for us and it’s also better for them, not having to battle the city and find parking. They can just log on from home and start working.”

4. It pays to be with providers that have your back

Understanding your financial position can help you pivot quickly and proceed with confidence when circumstances change unexpectedly. In these times, partnering with a provider that has your back can be invaluable. 

 

“When the shutdowns occurred, our banker Darryn was on leave but that didn’t stop him jumping on the phone and making sure we had everything we needed – that our loans were deferred and we had clarity about where we sat financially,” Delia says. 

 

“I’ve been with Westpac since I started the business in 2008 and dealing directly with someone who knew our circumstances, knowing they were available on the other end of the line, gave us a sense of security at what was a very uncertain time.”

5. Your health and wellbeing matter

Running a business is not for the faint-hearted. Even when times are good, there’s no shortage of things to keep you awake at night. And when times are bad? Prioritising your own health can help you keep going, however tough the going gets.

 

“During the lockdown, I focused on family and made sure my fitness regime stayed intact because that helps me remain mentally strong,” Delia says. “I’m accountable to a lot of people – I have 120 staff who rely on me – and some nights I’d come home and be almost in tears, with the pressure of having millions of dollars of exposure and so much uncertainty. Having good family support and being ready for the fight is what helps you get through and bounce back when better times arrive.”

 

Extended lockdown has tested Victorian business owners financially, mentally and emotionally. Adapting and optimising your operations can be key to helping your business stand up to the challenge of rebuilding as the economy reopens.


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Things you should know

This article is a general overview and should be used as a guide only. We recommend that you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before acting.