Meet Annie Fuller, Senior Administrator + Virtual Assistant Extraordinaire at Critical Input

Critical Input’s Senior Administrator and Virtual Assistant Annie has more than 20 years’ experience in corporate life. She began her career working as a legal secretary in law firms, but has since evolved to work within multiple industries and take on a variety of administrative tasks including tenders and bids, document formatting, transcriptions and basically anything else that needs to be done. For Annie, variety is the spice of life. She loves to travel and before COVID-19 lock-downs she was adventuring through India while working remotely. Understandably, it’s the end of COVID-19 that Annie wants most right now. 

What led you into this type of work?

I’d been working in the legal industry for many years and was looking for a change. I applied for a temporary role to work on the Clem Jones Tunnel bid and was successful. After that was awarded, I transitioned to the project team and remained in the construction and mining industry ever since.

What do you bring to Critical Input that is unique and beneficial to clients?

I bring experience, flexibility and reliability.

Do you have a particular career highlight?

A career highlight involved a presentation bid that I put together in collaboration with a colleague to local and state government officials for the Clem Jones Tunnel. We pitched at the Brisbane Powerhouse in New Farm and it was quite the production with a stage set up, audio capability and schedules.

Describe a typical day at Critical Input.

A typical day for me at Critical Input would be attending meetings, taking minutes, formatting documents and assisting with any required administration.

Is there a particular type of work that you enjoy the most?

I enjoy being part of a team to put together bids or tenders, but equally enjoy being part of a project and the variety that comes with that.

How do you know when you’ve done a good job or when a project has been a success?

It’s usually when I deliver ahead of, or on deadlines and my clients and colleagues are happy.

If there was one thing you could change about the world, what would it be?

Right now, it would be for COVID-19 to disappear so nobody else gets sick or dies and we could all freely travel once again.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I’ve been trying to learn guitar, but maybe with this isolation I will get to master it.

Key strengths

  • Teamwork
  • Flexible in personal life and workplace
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to learn from mistakes
  • Organisational and planning skills
  • Problem-solving.

Recent highlights

  • Spent two months in India
  • Worked on the Curragh North Mining Services Contract
  • Formatting a 1,000-page tender document for a Mining Contract
  • While overseas, worked as a Virtual Assistant for Critical Input as well as producing legal documents and transcripts for barristers.

Pandemic opens eyes to supply chain risks

There are certain things we’ve seen that we can’t “unsee” since the Covid-19 pandemic earned 2020 a solid place in the history books.

Some might be trivial, such as the contents of a co-worker’s living room caught via Zoom.

Others might be more significant, like the fact almost every industry has supply chains dependent on goods from offshore, whether that be parts, packaging, ingredients or finished products.

What have we learned?

There are lessons we have learned. One of those is supply chain fragility and the need for Australia to maintain supply chain sovereignty on essential items.

While shovel-ready mining and construction projects are urgently required to kickstart the economy, during post-Covid Australia, I’m predicting an increased focus on innovation, manufacturing and collaboration across disciplines to (as was headlined in the Weekend Australian, May 23-24, 2020) “Make Australia make again”.

I think there’s going to be a convergence between private and public sectors in a way we may never have seen before as government incentivises private corporations to manufacture. The fact that we’ve seen a decline in manufacturing during the past 40-50 years could actually be used to our advantage as it gives us freedom to be strategic about what we focus on, without the burden of holding onto outdated industries.

Epidemiologists had warned about a possible pandemic, but now that it’s happened, how will we plan our future supply chains? How will we factor in pandemic risk with the knowledge we’ve gained?

Australia is smart and resource-rich – now what?

The pandemic has highlighted that Australia can still make stuff – breweries pivoted to hand-sanitiser while jeans manufacturers stitched personal protective equipment. And it turned out, for at least these items, they were still affordable.

We’ve proven when required, the vast majority of Australians can unite, cooperate, respect restrictions and adapt to new working arrangements. Even our kids stepped up to undertake distance education at short notice. As a result, Australia has fared better than most countries around the world. We’re a smart country, that’s rich in resources and is a food bowl for much of Asia. We also make great wine.

What else could we make in Australia? From a mining perspective, our resources are known for being the best. Is it time we started to turn our coveted raw materials into more complex products? What are these products? Electric vehicles? Pharmaceuticals? Data warehousing? Solar panels? Wind turbines?

What will the future look like?

The “Made in Australia” movement is having a moment, but the key for this to be sustainable is innovation balanced with affordability. Could we pass on cost-savings locally on energy and raw materials to provide us with a competitive advantage? Are there ways for us to work smarter?

Perhaps the future is neither nationalism nor globalism. There’s also a concept called “glocalisation”, which is a combination of “global” and “local”. According to Wikipedia, the notion of glocalisation “represents a challenge to simplistic conceptions of globalisation processes as linear expansions of territorial scales. Glocalisation indicates that the growing importance of continental and global levels is occurring together with the increasing salience of local and regional levels”.

Technology enables greater collaboration on a global scale, but we may still choose to manage parts of the process locally to provide advantages in quality, control and security. An example we’re already seeing is the unification among the various researchers and doctors working toward treatments and vaccinations for Covid-19, while still engaging in local trials and studies.

The virus has shown us how connected we are, but it’s also uncovered supply chain risks we may never have realised existed within our own supply chains. What are we going to do with these insights?

Please pay now – the politics of payment terms

By Tim Griffiths, Managing Director, Critical Input.

In business, invoice payment terms are a critical component of our supply chains and the commercial model under which we operate.

Payment terms within the Australasian market differ, but the overwhelming average is 30 days from invoice.

It’s a reasonable term and one most companies, including small businesses, can work with.

Obviously, better terms are always welcome and can even generate a rate or unit discounts or speedier delivery.

Trend toward speedy payment

 In the current economic climate, we’re witnessing many large private and public sector entities drastically reduce their payment terms to seven days or immediate upon invoice.

This gesture is extremely helpful and beneficial to small businesses and shows respect for the business community and how SMEs may be struggling with cash flow during these uncertain Covid-19 times.

 But (and there’s always a but), we’re seeing some organisations taking advantage of the situation and requesting longer payment terms – 30 days from month end, 45 days, 45 days month end, etc.

To significantly change payment terms during uncertain economic times is somewhat arrogant and shows a lack of understanding of how small businesses operate and the way cash flows impact them.

The problem of late payments to small businesses became part of a discussion in Australian politics a few years back when policymakers in Canberra called on lawmakers to mandate 30-day maximum payment times for business-to-business sales.

A question of ethics

Social commentator Bernard Salt sees late payment as an ethical issue. In 2018, he called for “same day pay” in a column in The Australian newspaper, arguing that companies should not be buying products and services if they can’t immediately pay for them.

“There are 1.5 million small businesses in Australia,” he said. “If you add in their partners, and staff and kids, then you are probably looking at four to five million people in Australia that are affected by timelines or otherwise of small business payments.

“The best thing you can do for small business is to pay promptly, on the day, same day pay. If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy the good or service.

“Refusing to pay in a timely and reasonable and fair manner is the equivalent of theft. I just cannot understand where people believe it is good or smart business practise. People might think it is smart, I think it is smarmy. If you incur a debt, you pay it and pay it promptly.”

Jeopardising supply chain

He makes a valid point. Slow or late payment puts strain not only on small cashflows, but also on relationships.

It can slow down production, reduce supply chain capability and reliability and erode goodwill. It could mean that next time there’s a supply chain shortage of a certain item, you miss out and instead the small business prioritises the customer who always promptly pays.

Delayed payment is actually quite dodgy when you think about it.

People remember how companies behave in a crisis

In an era where workplaces are becoming increasingly agile and external companies are functioning as extensions of in-house teams, it’s crucial that payment terms are fair and considerate.

It’s unlikely your employees would be okay with uncertain wages and timeframes, so why would you expect suppliers to wear that treatment?

People remember how companies behave during a crisis and these behaviours can have long-lasting impacts on future supply chains as well as reputations.

Do the right thing. Pay that invoice. Now would be a good time, but within the fair timeframe is also acceptable.