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.
Paul Hales, president and product designer at Pro Audio Technology discusses the company’s response to COVID-19.
RESI: Have you pivoted your business strategy in response to COVID-19? If so, how have your day-to-day operations changed during this time?
PAUL HALES:We’re fortunate in that Pro Audio Technology (PRO), since its inception, has been essentially virtual. As part of our core structure, we leverage remote personnel and manufacturing resources. For example, right now sales are overseen in Denver, CO, customer service and technical support in Walla Walla, WA, engineering and admin in Southern CA, and manufacturing in Northern California and North Carolina. As a result, our day-to-day operations have not changed for us as much as most companies.
The biggest adjustment we’ve had to make is in how we interact with our existing and prospective customers. Our sales team has been grounded since March, which makes establishing new relationships challenging. Meetings that would normally happen in person are now being conducted via video conferencing. We have also suspended demonstrations at the PRO Experience Center, which houses our beautiful 930 square foot demo theater featuring two 23-channel Dolby Atmos systems. The demo is by far our most effective sales tool, so we miss offering it to our dealers and their customers, but it is imperative that we take all measures to keep our staff and customers safe during this time.
RESI: Has COVID-19 had an impact on your supply chain? If so, how are you handling any delays?
PH: PRO products are designed, engineered, and manufactured in the U.S., so we have not been disrupted by the widespread closures overseas. Although both of our manufacturing facilities are in regions that are under a strict ‘essential businesses only’ mandate, fortunately, our integrators are considered an ‘essential service’. With an official letter from each customer stating such, our factories have been permitted to manufacture PRO products on their behalf. Factories are running reduced teams to ensure a safe environment for employees, so lead times are a bit longer than normal, but we have been able to fulfill all customer orders thus far.
RESI: Have you implemented any virtual training/education resources for integrators?
PH: In place of in-person rep, dealer, and distributor education sessions, we have pivoted to in-depth brand and product training presentations. Our team is offering these presentations in a webinar format for existing and potential domestic and international partners during the “shelter in place” mandate, and it has been an extremely valuable use of our time. We are also partnering with our distributors, reps, dealers and industry organizations, i.e. CEDIA, to offer education sessions for our dealers and customers.
RESI: What has been your largest leadership success during this time?
PH: We are small and that allows us to be extremely nimble, which means we are able to pivot to help our customers in ways that larger corporations simply can’t. During the pandemic, we have been able to treat each customer request as unique, and we are doing everything possible to be the best manufacturer partner that we can be. For example, if a dealer needs a custom speaker solution to complete a high-end job, we will find a way to build it for them. If a long-standing dealer needs extended terms on a new job to help with cash flow, we do what we can to help. Ultimately, we know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we want our company, and our dealers to come out this poised for success.
RESI: How do you think business will change post-COVID-19?
PH: We, the CI channel, and the entire world are learning plenty from this historic event. In the future, I think we will be better prepared, more cautious and thoughtful with one another, and I hope we will all appreciate things a bit more. We also expect that the pandemic will change social norms for some time to come. Large group gatherings such as those found in movie theaters and at concert venues will likely be less prevalent, (at least in the short-term), and this will lead to increased demand for quality entertainment alternatives within the home. This new reality will no doubt drive growth for professionally-installed entertainment systems in the residential space, so we anticipate good times ahead!