Dear Valued FlexRadio Family,
I’m not sure how to paraphrase 2020 except to say that this year has taken us all by surprise. As we approach the holiday season and the end of a very challenging year, I hope this letter finds you and your family well. Here at FlexRadio, we have been fortunate to stay healthy and strong amongst the many challenges we faced throughout the year. Like most companies, we have worked at home more than we have ever done before, but we have also had to make adjustments as our vendors have had issues. Supply chains have been strained, components have become unavailable and we even had a manufacturing partner close shop. While we’ve put our contingency plans in place for each of these challenges, as we have many times before, we have never had so many of these challenges arrive all at once demanding simultaneous attention. As a result, we’ve spent more time this year adjusting to the challenging business environment and less time communicating with our many friends that comprise our customer base.
As the American novelist E. L. Doctorow famously said, “You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” So we, like most of you, found we must take it day by day and remain flexible to address the next challenge that lies ahead. We are truly grateful for your support and partnership during this time as we all face these unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic together. Here’s what has been going on with FlexRadio in 2020.
The FLEX World Pre-COVID
We entered 2020 with an optimistic view of the opportunities in front of us. In 2019 we won a large government contract in partnership with a division of Raytheon later acquired by BAE, which opened new doors for us in government and commercial HF markets. As we’ve mentioned before, we look for synergistic business opportunities that allow our amateur and commercial/government businesses to share technology and capabilities. It is exciting knowing that much of the technology developed in conjunction with this contract can be leveraged back into our amateur radio product line (and vise versa).
As has happened many times in the past, this new work has fostered growth in our company. Our engineering department alone has tripled in the last year. In the short term, many of these additions are assisting with our largest contract. Longer-term, many of these individuals will contribute to the amateur product line as well. With this unprecedented growth, you may imagine that we periodically discuss the role that amateur radio plays at FlexRadio. Any business leader would be remiss in failing to discuss the details of each product line and how to grow or phase out those lines as business dictates. As has been since the beginning, we continue to see huge benefits from our amateur business to the overall health of the company. Without exception, our key decision-makers have continued to reaffirm our commitment to the amateur radio product line and community. In short, we’re here to stay!
Since our last in-person interactions during Hamcation and the Yuma Hamfest back in February we have roughly tripled our employment and square footage. Our new space has a custom build-out including two new state-of-the-art ISO-9001 certified engineering laboratories to accommodate this growth. Growth has brought additional talent, equipment, and technology into the company that we would not have been able to acquire as an amateur radio only company. While it takes time to harvest the fruits of this expansion, we can already see many ways that you, our amateur customers, will be the beneficiaries.
Unbeknownst to us and the world at the time, our personal and working lives were about to drastically change. We couldn’t have predicted that those first two hamfests of the year would have been our only face-to-face interaction with our customers in 2020. On March 13, in the wake of COVID-19 realizations, we made a shift to “quarantine and work from home.” This impact on our daily lives forced us to construct new ways of doing business and engage with our customers. Of course, many or most of you are intimately familiar with the new way of working!
Since the early lockdown we introduced a complete brand refresh and launched a new website along with a new FlexRadio Community tool. We’ve spent more time on customer education through increased presence on social media. Our own Michael Walker, VA3MW, has conducted numerous Facebook live events on our FlexRadio Enthusiasts page on Wednesdays and Fridays around 2:30 pm CST. If you missed them, these videos are also available on our YouTube channel.
COVID Era Challenges
The loss of one of our manufacturing partners led us to shift the load to our other partners (who were experiencing the same demands from other customers). Prior to COVID-19, our strategy had our manufacturing partners performing our test procedures on individual circuit boards, assembling these into finished units, testing these units, and collecting completed radios and accessories into a box that was ready to ship to you. We saw a number of benefits from this strategy, but it takes considerable effort to work with a manufacturing partner on everything from executing test procedures through ensuring a quality product is boxed before shipment.