Kitesurfing Magazine: What was the biggest challenge for North Kiteboarding during the past year-and-a-half?
Mike Raper: At North, digitization was already well established when the pandemic hit. Because we are an international business crossing multiple time zones, we already had cloud-based systems in place for communicating and working remotely, so there was very little disruption to our day-to-day business. And thanks to technology, a lot of our development and testing could take place digitally.
Supply chains were affected very early on, but we’ve since invested further to ensure supply chains can move faster and be more adaptable to change than they were before. We’ve employed more people and we’ve tapped into our wider North Technology Group network to find solutions to problems.
We’ve also seen the introduction of some great new initiatives such as live town hall meetings across the North Actionsports Group. COVID has created some unique, more inclusive and unified ways of working as a wider organization that we may not have progressed as quickly if travel had remained open for senior level executives.
Kitesurfing Magazine: What are the biggest issues going forward, and what steps did you take to mitigate them?
Mike Raper: We couldn’t have got through this tough period without an amazing team, who always remain calm under pressure. North continues to experience record monthly sales and has just successfully completed our fourth product launch during a level 4 lockdown in New Zealand. It’s incredible to see how quickly we’re able to bring campaigns to market. While this testifies to the combined skills of our team, we do keep a close eye on potential strains that working in this environment may have on our employees’ health. We want to ensure the speed we’ve unlocked remains sustainable in the future.
How? By celebrating the culture we’ve established within the organization for by ensuring we’re not all work, and we have time for “board meetings” out in the wind and waves whenever we can.
Across the company we’re all very supportive of each other and more aware of how stress can show up. Water days really help. The company has also doubled the number of paid sick days available, and we encourage staff to take mental health days when needed. Speed matters, but not at the cost of making mistakes or burning out.