First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Jimenez: My family and I have all been fortunate in that we have been unaffected healthwise by COVID-19. In fact, we only know one person that tested positive and, fortunately, that was a mild case. The biggest impact has been the travel restrictions since we have family living outside the U.S.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Wright Williams & Kelly
David Jimenez: Career paths can seem like an unexpected journey, but in retrospect, they appear to have a guiding hand. As a graduate engineer, when I decided to get an MBA, I focused on macroeconomic modeling. Two years later, I was sitting in my boss’s office when the phone rang, and a customer asked us to build a cost model for his manufacturing line. The semiconductor industry recognized the value in that type of analytics two years later, and I took the chance to start a company dedicated to operational optimization.
How does Wright Williams & Kelly innovate?
David Jimenez: When a large segment of your customer base is in high tech manufacturing, you learn to innovate on an exponential curve. Innovation that positively impacts your clients can be a product or organizational in nature. From a product perspective, we offered a “Cloud” solution 20 years ago, long before the term “Cloud” was used. We recognized that field sales and marketing personnel were rarely at their desks but needed tools that could be accessed and updated while traveling. Today, all our products are available on the Cloud as Software as a Service (SaaS). From an organizational perspective, we need our engineers to be close to our clients all over the world. Having an office in every city made no sense, so we began using remote collaboration tools, again, over 20 years ago. So, with COVID-19, we already had the tools and structure in place to continue operations as usual.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
David Jimenez: The biggest impact has been on our client-side. As they moved their purchasing and accounts payable staff to work from home, the timeline to get purchase orders and invoices paid has been extended. We understand that this is a new territory, even for larger organizations, and have continued to support them as they work through their own issues. Fortunately, we are in a financial position to handle the delays.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Jimenez: Because of our foresight or the way we built the organization to adjust to the cyclical nature of high tech, we haven’t had to make any difficult choices due to COVID-19. We haven’t had to furlough employees, and we continue to offer the same level of service to our clients.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Wright Williams & Kelly in the future?
David Jimenez: Stress and anxiety are part of running a business. The question is, do you let them consume you, or do you have a support network in place to help you cope. Understanding that work isn’t your life is also important and something we stress with our employees. Having offered flex-time to all our employees since 2003 allows them to prioritize their lives without feeling work is an impediment.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Jimenez: We are a unique company in that for most of our product lines, we don’t have commercial competitors. That doesn’t mean we don’t have competition. Our biggest competitor is an engineer with a spreadsheet and a boss that allows them to spend months, if not years, trying to recreate what we can offer off-the-shelf and for a fraction of the real cost. It is so prevalent that we wrote a white paper on the pitfalls of doing just that. This paper can be downloaded at Why Spreadsheets are the Wrong Answer. We have been in business for nearly 30 years and found that listening to our client base and adding those capabilities to our products keeps us ahead of market threats.
Your final thoughts
David Jimenez: COVID-19 has caused us to rethink how we support our employees and clients. From an employee perspective, we are fortunate that we already had the systems in place to continue operations and allow them the flexibility to deal with home life as they see fit. For our clients, those shifting manufacturing to support COVID-19 related products, we offered free access to our software to help them make that transition more efficient and effective.
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