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We have been in various stages of lockdown since early March. Many companies were forced to shut down while others were deemed essential and allowed, or even required, to remain open. During this time, I have spoken with a number of company leaders about how they are managing in these difficult times.
At first, I asked out of concern and curiosity. But when I realized that each of the companies had its own story, I decided to do a series of short interviews on how companies are managing during this pandemic.
Here, I spoke with my friend Frank Bowman, president of Niche Electronics in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and QCMS in Sarasota, Florida.
Dan Beaulieu: Frank, I know you are very busy these days. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Frank Bowman: Not a problem. I’m always happy to talk about my companies.
Beaulieu: To review, tell us a little bit about Niche Electronics.
Bowman: We are an EMS provider of printed circuit assemblies, including functional test and final enclosure assembly. We have two locations: Niche Electronics and QCMS. We help our customers bring their products to life. We consider ourselves a complete solutions provider, helping our customers by building their products to the highest standards possible.
Beaulieu: Both of your shops have been running at full capacity with no sign of letdown. How have you managed to do that? And how are you coping with COVID-19?
Bowman: Education is key. We are fortunate to have a lot of smart people working under our equity umbrella. We seek guidance from state and federal professionals to tighten financial oversight. It’s about understanding the impact on supply chain and customer forecasting, which allows us to make decisions in our customers’ best interest. We have been working even more closely with our customers and our own suppliers to ensure we are well-informed at all times.
Beaulieu: How do you keep everyone safe?
Bowman: We have followed the rules, listened to the officials and the doctors, and followed their instructions to a T. We are doing exactly what they recommend: aggressive cleaning, wearing masks, and atomizing disinfectant throughout our facilities to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our valuable employees. Like all good companies, we consider our employees to be our greatest asset; they are like family, and we are doing everything we can do protect our work family.
Beaulieu: I know that one of the challenges you face is managing two facilities, which means that you split your time between Pennsylvania and Florida. How have you handled that challenge?
Bowman: I just started traveling again in June. It’s nice to see our teams in person, even though we have been staying close and working well together virtually.
Beaulieu: What is travel like these days?
Bowman: Travel is fine. I’m fortunate to use a few smaller airports that support most of my travel requirements, which helps to minimize my exposure. We can’t control the virus, but we can control how we handle it.
Beaulieu: How is your business going? Have you been up or down during these times?
Bowman: Both of our businesses are doing very well, and both have strong backlogs. We are very busy, which is something to be grateful for.
Beaulieu: What do you attribute this to?
Bowman: Our team is stronger than ever. I have to say that everyone has handled this adversity with professionalism and class. Staying positive and solutions-oriented is what our customers need from us.
Beaulieu: What do you think doing business will be like when this passes on?
Bowman: I believe we are stronger now than we have ever been. First, we all went through this together, which has had a galvanizing effect. Second, we are solutions-driven, so we are always finding solutions to handle our challenges. We have adapted, whether that’s using video conferencing, adding additional strategic partners, or maintaining flexibility in our business model. We will always find a way.
Beaulieu: Are you developing new strategies to cope with what business will be like?
Bowman: We will continue to listen to our customers, monitor our performance, and make changes, if necessary.
Beaulieu: This pandemic has opened our national eyes to our dependency on Asia, especially China. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think there is validity to the theory that we will be bringing more business home in what is being called “onshoring?”
Bowman: I am hopeful. I think the relevance to national security is a no-brainer. The pandemic has given us a platform to have a conversation with our customers. We have to consider the dangers of letting others build everything for us, as well as the advantages of building more products domestically.
Beaulieu: Frank, thank you for talking with me today, as well as your candor on these topics. I compliment you on successfully steering your company through these troubled waters. Congratulations.
Bowman: Thanks, Dan. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
Stay tuned for more “Coping With COVID-19” interviews coming soon.