How LAVA weathered the COVID-19 pandemic
By: Adam Swimmer
4 Min Read
August 9, 2023
In 2020, COVID-19 hit the tech industry hard and LAVA certainly felt the effects. The company shut down for two weeks at the start of the pandemic and reduced staff. However, in the end, the team emerged from COVID-19 in relatively good shape.
How COVID-19 affected LAVA
LAVA first felt the impact of COVID-19 in February of 2020. The team was supposed to attend MWC Barcelona at the end of the month. However, after several major vendors pulled out over health concerns, the trade show was cancelled. This was the first of several trade shows that were cancelled over the following months.
In March, LAVA decided to shut down its operations to assess the situation. Because products are manufactured on-site, the company only closed down for two weeks. Company leadership worked to make employees feel comfortable about returning to the office–instituted a mask policy, made hand sanitizer readily available and employed other health measures. LAVA was already a small group but over time, it shrunk further.
Of course, LAVA wasn’t the only company impacted by COVID-19. As a B2B tech company, many of LAVA’s customers were facing similar problems. In the span of a month, LAVA saw many of its major projects, in various stages of development, dry up – or at least get pushed back until after the pandemic.
Taking stock of the situation, LAVA’s founder and CEO, Roman Wynnyckyj, correctly assessed that things were getting worse and not better. The pandemic was not going to end anytime soon. The company needed to prepare.
Maintaining customer relationship
Starting in July 2020, LAVA began calling customers who had purchased products in the last 18 months. By touching base with recent customers (and ones the company hadn’t talked to in a while), LAVA learned about their current situation.
LAVA’s sales reps determined some of these customers were faring reasonably well in spite of the pandemic. While some of the more traditional uses for LAVA adapters (e.g. staff time-clocks) were no longer booming due to lockdowns and restrictions, it appeared there could be other use cases on the horizon. With some of these customers, LAVA found new opportunities.
LAVA also became proactive with customer service after online sales. When someone purchased a product on the website, the salesperson called them back not just to ensure they got the right product but to also build up a relationship with the customer.
These strategies became so successful they are now standard operating procedure for the sales team.
Solving production problems
One of the major problems tech hardware companies faced during the pandemic was supply issues. COVID-19 led to a major chip supply chain shortage, making it difficult for companies to manufacture their products. Meanwhile, chips that were available skyrocketed in price, which cut into everyone’s profit margins.
However, LAVA has been around since 1984 and Roman had weathered other financial logistics and global crises in the past. As a result, the company better prepared than most to deal with the pandemic.
Sidestepping supply chain issues
Many of LAVA’s products use the same chips and components so there already was a comfortable margin of chips in stock. The team buys in bulk, knowing the chips will be used one way or another.
When necessary, the staff also recycled chips. They removed ones from damaged or old PCBs, tested them to make sure they still worked properly and then installed them on new PCBs. LAVA was able to avoid those big chip price jumps and ride out the hike where possible. The sales team also didn’t have to tell customers they had to wait several weeks for the order to be fulfilled or pay more because of skyrocketing chip prices.
Great relationship with Canadian suppliers
It certainly helped that LAVA’s main suppliers are in Canada, which limits shipping issues. The company also have a long-standing relationship with them.
PCB supplier S & P Flex Circuit Ltd, for example, is in Markham, Ont. LAVA has had a 35-year relationship with the company, so Roman felt comfortable calling the owner and asking how they were handling the lockdowns due to the pandemic. Because its factory is just a short drive from LAVA headquarters, we also could get new stock in quickly.
Similarly, we have a good relationship with Future Electronics, a Quebec-based tech company, which has been providing LAVA chips for 25 years. Future Electronics’ rep was frank about what he was seeing, which put LAVA in a better position to deal with any issues that came up.
Hiring new staff
In the last three years, LAVA started to grow again and hire new staff. However, we have also become more precise with the job descriptions. We make it clear on the type of work that is required and that remote work is not an option. It’s about setting the proper expectations so new hires don’t have a gotcha moment after they’re hired. For candidate selection, we also use proven industrial/organizational psychology research to ensure the right person gets the job.
Toughing it out
At LAVA, when things get tough, the team circles the wagons and innovates. The company did this during the dot.com bubble, the Global Financial Crisis, COVID-19 and other major financial emergencies.
The company throws a lot of time and effort into R&D. LAVA has learned the industries it used to bank on may not be there in six to 12 months. Some of these companies might go out of business, while others might need to reinvent themselves to survive and may no longer have a use for the products LAVA previously provided them. So LAVA’s engineers develop new products to fit the needs of the industry in this new reality.
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