In our Coping with COVID-19 series, AVNetwork is interviewing manufacturers to discover how they’re handling the COVID-19 crisis and how the pandemic has impacted their businesses.
Blake Augsburger, founder and CEO of LEA Professional, discusses the company’s response to COVID-19.
AVN: Have you pivoted your business strategy in response to COVID-19? If so, how?
BLAKE AUGSBURGER: We are fortunate at LEA Professional that we haven’t had to pivot—we’re agile, well-capitalized, and have no debt-load or legacy organizations, so we could be swifter and more versatile in dealing with the pandemic. What’s also been telling is that our executive and engineering teams are very experienced. We had extensive muscle memory and relationships to draw from in dealing with the changes in our partners’ and customers’ worlds and addressing changes in supply chains and logistics.
We are also assisted considerably by the fact that our offerings address many previously-existing challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. By coupling innovative amplifier technology with proven IoT integration from global providers like Amazon Web Services, we effectively achieve industry-leading levels of remote connectivity, monitoring and control in professional amplification. We are hearing from the market—integrators and end users—that this is an extremely attractive proposition in this new environment that we are living in.
AVN: How have your day-to-day operations changed during this time?
BA: At a personal level, I think that everyone is affected by the scale of this emergency and the human cost. So, organizationally, we’ve made an effort to facilitate and be flexible with the needs of our team—needs that have changed as we’ve passed through the various phases of the emergency.
From a business perspective, our operations have not been significantly affected. It’s remarkable to think that 18-months since founding LEA Professional we’re now considered an important global player and that our platform is being considered for the most ambitious and prestigious AV projects around the world. That’s down to the uniqueness of the idea, the quality of the team, and the resilience we had built into the organization wherein we could roll with the changes the emergency asked of us. Even through the pandemic we saw month over month growth and were still able to get product out to customers.
AVN: Has COVID-19 had an impact on your supply chain? If so, how are you handling any delays?
BA: Not significantly. We’ve continued to receive and fulfill orders, in many cases on the same day.
AVN: Have you implemented any virtual training/education resources for integrators?
BA: Absolutely—but that was already integral to our operating philosophy. Though our amplifiers are purposely intuitive and easy to use, the idea of cloud connectivity, monitoring, and control of world-class amplifiers was a disruptive concept that required education and training for the channel.
We launched an Online User’s Guide to ensure that customers knew we were there to support them, even if we could no longer be face- to -face. This guide provides videos, blog posts, and step by step tutorials to guide our customers through the LEA Professional products.
Our team has been very creative and effective at using social media, video, webinars to engage and train channel partners and we’re getting phenomenal feedback. Our marketing strategy focuses on creating helpful content, with the goal of providing value for our digital audience rather than just shouting our name and bragging about our products. The concept isn’t groundbreaking, but from what we’ve seen, it hasn’t been widely adopted in our industry and the reception has been very positive—especially in a society that’s been “shut down” and is hungry for content.
AVN: What has been your largest leadership success during this time?
BA: What I find most fulfilling as we have navigated through this pandemic is the closeness of our team. I’ve led much larger teams at massive companies, and I know from experience how difficult it would be to maintain any level of company culture in a situation like this. But our people and our culture hasn’t faltered. I’ve said from the beginning that one of the many great benefits of starting a new company is the ability to stay agile. Our company and our team have been tested over the past several months, but we’ve managed to stay lean and driven to accomplish the hugely ambitious goals we’ve set for ourselves. And even now, with so much uncertainty growing daily, we’ve pulled closer together and managed to accomplish some of our biggest feats yet, such as launching our cloud platform.
AVN: How do you think business will change post-COVID-19?
BA: I think professional AV will be more important in a post-COVID world—effective telehealth requires connectivity, system and signal control, and intelligibility that you can’t get from consumer or prosumer products; likewise with distance learning in K-12 and higher ed, effective corporate conferencing needs systems that are resilient, redundant, secure. Worship will need AV systems to advance pastoral care, but also missionary work. Performing arts venues and sports organizations are seeking AV technologies to support new business models and public spaces need sound and video systems to inform and protect communities.
I think business will come back in different ways at different paces depending, first of all, on the markets; secondly, the verticals; and, thirdly, there will be geographic/regional variance on how business returns. With this said, I think it’s up to each leader of each business to look at their markets, assess their opportunities, plan their approaches, and execute as effectively as they can.
Of course we are all seeing that remote working options are more important than ever. Employees will want more flexibility going forward, now that we have seen what is achievable from home. Luckily at LEA, this was a trend we had anticipated and we have a ready to go solution to help bring the AV industry into the era of remote work.
AVN: Anything else you'd like to add?
BA: I’d like to thank the team at LEA Professional and our channel community for their exceptional performances at this unprecedented time. I’d also like to express our collective concern at LEA for the well-being of our communities and underscore our shared confidence in the strength of our AV industry for addressing the challenges we have faced and the opportunities that lie ahead. Finally, I’m grateful to the pro AV media for helping us all to stay connected and informed at this time of change!
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