In our Coping with COVID-19 series, Residential Systems is interviewing manufacturers to discover how they’re handling the COVID-19 crisis and how the pandemic has impacted their businesses.
Dennis Holzer, executive director at the PowerHouse Alliance, discusses the organization’s response to COVID-19.
RESI: Have you pivoted your business strategy in response to COVID-19? If so, how?
DENNIS HOLZER: Yes, PowerHouse Alliance distributor members have all pivoted their business strategies in response to COVID-19. We benefit from being an alliance of companies that have been in business for 25, 50, and even 100-plus years. Therefore, as a group, we have plenty of experience in dealing with changing market conditions—whether it be natural disasters, recessions, depressions, and even wars and pandemics.
Over the past few months, we have kept a pulse on the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the government restrictions and recommendations across the country. We have had continuous communication between members who are idea-sharing to ensure we are doing everything we can as a group to keep staff employed and customers safe while responding to their business needs.
Members have implemented restricted will-call and drive-through pick-up areas, strict cleaning methods, work from home options, and paid time off for employees that are unwell or caring for a loved one. These additional safety measures and flexible work options give employees and integrators peace of mind.
RESI: How have the day-to-day operations of your members changed during this time?
DH: An example of the innovative day-to-day operational changes some PowerHouse Alliance members have made is a process implemented by Pioneer Music Company (PMC) in the Midwest. They have locked down all entrances except for one per location, which their customers have been asked to use. The new protocol is for customers to call and schedule pickups, or to call upon arrival to arrange for the safe exchange of goods. PMC has also implemented freight disinfectant. As soon as in-bound product is off-loaded in the warehouse, they spray the freight with an ammonia solution, and it sits untouched for a minimum of 15 minutes before the team checks it in using gloves. Likewise, the disinfectant is used for outgoing shipments once a pick-up order has been pulled.
Across the entire group, many staff members are working from home and members are limiting the amount of customer traffic in their warehouses to ensure everyone is able to keep a minimum six-foot distance from one another at any given time. PowerHouse members, like Mountain West, have also implemented strict cleaning protocols including mandatory sanitization of touch points such as door handles, will call carts, counters, and more, every time a customer enters or exits the building. The offices are also cleaned twice a day and a deeper clean and sanitization is performed on weekends when all member locations are closed.
Despite the change in day-to-day operations, we have been able to maintain the level of customer service, technical support, training, and order fulfillment our customers have become accustomed to. It’s all just happening in a slightly different way.
RESI: Has COVID-19 had an impact on your supply chain? If so, how are you handling any delays?
DH: Fortunately for us, COVID-19 has not really had an effect on our business and supply chain. As a distributor alliance, dealers rely on PowerHouse members for just-in-time inventory, so during “normal” times we stock a minimum of 60-90 days of inventory across all of our brands and products. We have continued to restock where necessary, and, to-date, most vendors have not had any issues meeting our needs.
RESI: Have you implemented any virtual training/education resources for integrators?
DH: The PowerHouse Alliance is renowned for its robust training program, which is an accumulation of member trainings on broad topics like networking and smart home down to granular manufacturer and product specific trainings. In the past, the majority of these trainings have been offered in person at our 50-plus locations nationwide.
However, with the change in how we do business over the past couple of months, we quickly pivoting to offering 100-percent of our trainings online. Our 250-plus vendor partners across residential and commercial AV, security, networking, smart home, and more, have made their high-demand trainings available to dealers and integrators virtually through modules and webinars, allowing PowerHouse to continue providing our award-winning education program without interruption.
RESI: What has been your largest leadership success during this time?
DH: Our largest leadership success has been keeping our finger on the pandemic’s pulse, listening to our vendors and customers, and allowing each market to dictate our course of action. While some markets across the U.S. are more ‘open’ than others, we have allowed those markets to run, and markets that have been more impacted by the pandemic, to slow down their pace as necessary, all while making sure our employees and customers continue to operate in a safe environment.
RESI: How do you think business will change post-COVID-19?
DH: While I think business will pick-up quickly as markets open, we will see a change in the types of projects being bid on. People have been home more than eve—whether it be working, learning, or taking time off. It is prevalent that being home has exposed blemishes in homeowner’s networking systems, audio, video etc. Likewise, companies have realized faults in their systems to enable employees to work from home. Integrators would be smart to allocate resources now to call on their existing customers to suggest remedying those ‘blemishes’ to ensure they are far better prepared should a pandemic of this magnitude happen again.