Gianni Zammit is used to thinking outside the box. A master of reinvention and with a keen eye for opportunities, he is active in a dizzying array of fields.
He is a director in a childcare business (YoYo Kids), in a radio station (Vibe FM), and in a conference management, education, and market, employee and media research company (Business Leaders Malta).
But it is in JUGS Malta that he is most invested, growing the company over his two decades at the helm to make it the go-to team building organiser for just about every leading company in Malta, from Alf Mizzi & Sons to William Hill and everyone in between.
The company markets itself an event organising company that offers brand launches, conferences, shows and theme nights, alongside its team building events tailored to each client.
So it comes as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic hit JUGS particularly hard as social distancing restrictions and limits on gatherings effectively eliminated its market overnight.
In a recent statement, Mr Zammit said, “The pandemic closed many doors but it also opened up many others. It set us back five years but gave us the opportunity to look at 2022 and condense the growth of five years in two years.”
WhosWho.mt reached out to Mr Zammit to see how JUGS have been navigating through a crisis that hit their sector particularly hard.
“Well, it destroyed our business 100 per cent,” he starts. “We were hit very hard. We had to let go of some staff and burn through our savings to survive.”
But where others cut their costs, dug in their heels and waited for it to blow over, JUGS took a proactive approach to survival.
“Taking the business online was the obvious choice, and we have been able to organise certain events via Zoom, but of course, most events simply couldn’t happen.”
Faced with the prospect of further redundancies, the JUGS team instead looked at their human, technical and capital resources and branched out in an unlikely field.
Local fashion designer Luke Azzopardi is renowned for his haute couture, worn by a veritable who’s who (no pun intended) of local celebrities. So when the opportunity came along to partner with the fashion powerhouse, JUGS jumped to take it.
“We partnered with Luke Azzopardi to create beautiful fashion masks, promoting them and handling delivery.”
It was while delivering masks that an idea struck the team.
“We said, well, we can deliver. We have the vans, we have the people. We have the network. What can we deliver?”
The answer was, surprisingly enough, furniture.
Mr Zammit laughs at my obvious surprise. “We looked at our own resources. We have experience in assembling all kinds of furniture for events, so it was the obvious next step.”
And it goes further.
“Then we thought, well, we have a props team with some incredibly talented people. So we started created bespoke furniture – which we then deliver and assemble on-site.”
It’s quite a departure from JUGS’s core competence, but for Mr Zammit, it was simply about survival.
“When your back’s against the wall, you start doing a bit of everything,” he says.
That’s not to say that everyone should rush headlong into every half opportunity that comes along, however.
“The important thing was that our flexibility was matched by organisation. Yes, we jumped at the right opportunities, but we did so in a thoughtful manner.”
Mr Zammit believes diversification is a must, especially in cases like the pandemic.
“Not having your eggs in one basket is important. That’s a life lesson – not just a pandemic lesson.”
“Of course,” he continues, “the nature of our business means that we have diverse resources, and a lot of creative potential. For events, you need a bit of everything, so looking within our resources and our talents yielded various opportunities.”
“Whether you can diversify using current resources depends very much on your type of business,” he says.
For JUGS, the “new ventures, side projects, departments, whatever you want to call them”, Mr Zammit says in his trademark casual style, “will hopefully put us in a stronger position.”
It seems clear that Mr Zammit’s claim to have condensed five years’ growth into two is no idle boast, and JUGS are hoping to enter 2021 stronger than ever, able to recruit back the staff lost, and on track to continue building their new business.
Gianni Zammit; Photographer - Seized Moments, Facebook