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How to ride a wave of ravenous demand for products and services

By Russ Levanway, President

Last year, so many of us had to cope with things we never even considered would happen. I don’t have to go into detail, of course — we all lived it. From working remotely, to COVID protocols, to people getting sick or losing a loved one, to isolation, and the commingling of personal and work life, the social fabric of humanity most definitely frayed.

But humanity is resilient. We came into 2021 with new hope and good momentum. You can see that momentum in people’s pent-up demand for goods and services after living without for a year. We want to travel again. We want a new car or a new home. The demand is enormous, and it’s created a strain that we haven’t really witnessed in recent memory.

More, more more

Underlying all this is a supply chain bottleneck. The supply chain is impacted whenever factories shut down, shipping becomes tapped out, trucking companies can’t find enough drivers to hire, and a thousand other factors. It’s all driving up inflation to levels we haven’t seen since the 1970s, and at an astonishing rate.

The strain has hit every kind of business, including ours. Core infrastructures like switches and servers are much more difficult to find and cost significantly more than they have in the past. The strain has also hit our employees with high prices, myself included. I’m not just referring to the ridiculous increase in home prices; I’m talking about the basics. Everything just costs more.

Whether it’s a temporary or long-term change, I won’t attempt to predict. But, as a company, we don’t want to be caught flat-footed in this new reality, however long it lasts.

The benefits of being nimble and scrappy

How do we begin to support our employees and clients under price and availability limitations? We start by keeping close track of our team composition, recognizing that financial difficulties and high inflation are real considerations, and taking steps to help our employees out.

We’ve also become really creative with buying and procuring equipment. Our procurement team scrounges around on random websites for a laptop here, a switch there. Often, we can’t go with Plan A, so we come up with a Plan B or even Plan C. Sometimes, we just have to tell the client that we can’t get them the piece they want — or at least not yet. In certain cases, we can provide loaner equipment; I’ve watched employees raid the e-waste pile for a temporary switch that will do for our client until the permanent switch comes in.

Baked-in flexibility

How have we been able to stay creative and adaptable? I think we handle change well because it’s been in our DNA from the beginning. Long before COVID struck, we built our company to guard against rigidity or strict adherence to doing things only one way. We fostered a very innovative problem-solving culture. Those measures and methods we set in motion years ago have served us well.

In this time of unprecedented new challenges, have you been flexible and adaptable? Many organizations have evolved while others have fallen by the wayside. And then there are those organizations that hung on tight to the belief that everything would go back to “normal” when COVID ended: everyone in the office again, packing the conference room, meeting up for a happy hour at 5 o’clock, etc. They believed (hoped?) that COVID was just a rude interruption.

I don’t believe that’s true. Are you an organization that has embraced adaptability in your culture? That will be critical to retaining your employees and coming up with innovative solutions for your customers. Start now, if you haven’t already; this might be our new normal.