CEO Direct Channel podcast #6

Well it’s only a few days before Christmas and for the past two weeks all you’ve probably heard about is what a ridiculous year 2020 has been – and have then had to endure lots of TV programs which have tried to summarise the happenings over the past twelve months.

But fortunately I’m going to give you a break from all that and instead talk about what the industry, and the WAFIC body, might be doing next year.

With all the changing forces currently around us, it’s most important than ever that we’re on the front foot and trying to best position ourselves for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

So, I’d just like to read out some words written by somebody much smarter than me:

The world is moving at a tremendous rate, going no-one knows where.

 We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past – not for our world – but for their world – the world of the future.

That was written by a bloke named John Dewey – and it was in 1940, which is 80 years ago.

The point is that it is just as relevant now as it was then – which underlines the importance of adaptation – the continual need to move and adapt.

We can’t afford to be a frog in that ever-warming pot of water, because when it starts to get uncomfortable, it’s too late.

If we as an industry are going to be successful, we’re going to have to make some constructive adjustments at a number of levels – and make them early.

Firstly, as recently flagged many times, we’ve got to get the WAFIC structure right. We need to be tailored, tight, efficient and focused.  The GVP of our industry will have taken a caning this year from COVID and other matters and WAFIC’s revenue (on a three year rolling average) is calculated on this.

The WAFIC income will be significantly reduced. We won’t know by how much it’s reduced until June, but we know it will sting.

So we have the choice to be a frog in the pot, to convince ourselves it’s a bubbling spa of opportunity and wait until June.  Or we can responsibly and sensibly embrace the issue now and do our best to get things restructured to reduce unnecessary duplication – and place ourselves in a strong position to manage future challenges.

So the structure of having standalone sector bodies has to be looked at. There’s a whole lot of unnecessary duplication going on at the moment. If we share our services we could cut heaps of money in terms of rent, insurance, administration, finance, media – it goes on.

I’m also firmly of the belief that we can actually enhance the services to sector groups at the same time as cutting costs. There are all sorts of efficiencies we can gain from reducing duplication and the efforts saved can then be applied in areas currently being neglected.

So we’re having talks with the sector groups at the moment. However to be clear, we see the ethos and the ambitions of these groups rightfully as theirs – the engagement, identification of issues and priority setting rightly should always be within their control. But where possible, the service delivery should be conducted by a multiskilled central team which can bring the necessary level of resources to the table at the right time.

I’d encourage everybody to think closely at this better way of doing business because the status quo is simply not an option. We need to hop out of that pot a long time before our skin starts to peel.

Another issue which will need to be dealt with is the WAFIC Constitution. It’s currently a bit of a scramble and reflects a lot of compromises of the past.

We’d like to modernise this and freshen it up so that it’s possible for a normal person to read and understand.  We are looking at having a Special General Meeting – probably in April – to deal with the Constitution.  Before then we will circulate a draft with some options and discussion points.

Then representatives of the WAFIC Board and myself will aim to do a regional tour so that everybody has a chance to pop in their input and knock this document into the most acceptable form.

Meanwhile, here at our office in Freo we’re going to have to get more on the front foot and ensure that all sectors of the industry are given the necessary focus. We’ve got to be better engaged, we must help to set strategic plans, we need to work with each industry sector to identify key priorities to achieve over the coming year. And as an industry we need to ensure that our resource access is better protected and secured – at the same time that we are positioning each sector to succeed.

Also that the fishing industry is better appreciated for the role it plays in feeding the people of the state. We must never rest in our efforts to improve the status of our social licence.

In doing all of the above, I suspect that WAFIC will need to place a bit more emphasis in areas which have been somewhat underdone over recent years – in trade and markets, supply chain and post-harvest, in product differentiation, in R&D. Quality assurance and traceability will also come to the fore, so will marine safety, industrial manslaughter and even animal welfare. These particular issues will bring some unwelcome imposts upon our industry, so it’s important that ways are found to sensibly address them.

In addition, all participants in our industry will need to be better business managers – and WAFIC may even need to look at identifying grant programs to help individuals build their business architecture and systems and processes and overall risk management to ensure they are prepared for the challenges ahead.

In short, we all need to walk into the year 2021 with an open mind – with a willingness to look at things differently – with a preparedness to lay some things down and leave a whole lot of no longer needed approaches and behaviours behind us. We simply cannot afford to wait until the water temperature gets warmer before making the decisions which need to be made.

So as you move into the Christmas phase, I encourage you to look forward, not back.  With the economic, geopolitical and pandemic issues spinning our planet in a way that we’ve never seen before, we’ve got to take a step forward and position ourselves to manage anything and everything that’s thrown at us.

I’ll leave you with those sage words of John Dewey from 80 years ago:

The world is moving at a tremendous rate, going no-one knows where.

 We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past – not for our world – but for their world – the world of the future.

Merry Christmas to all.


You can download the full audio podcast here.