First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Keith Barr: We’re all healthy and spending more time together. Both my sons live close to me due to not being able to work in other areas, which has given us more time than we normally would have had and is a positive thing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Leading2Lean
Keith Barr: I spent 20 years of active duty in the military, where I was focused on startup type activities in the form of organizational turn-rounds. During that time, I created and launched several organizations and programs within the U.S. Air force.
In the 20 years since my focus has been on a number of software startups that I either launched or restructured. Ultimately this leads to my involvement in Leading2Lean. One of my previous colleagues in a tech startup, Tyler Whitaker, introduced me to Bob Argyle, and the three of us co-founded Leading2Lean (L2L). We each bring different backgrounds and skill-sets, which has made our partnership strong.
How does Leading2Lean innovate?
Keith Barr: One way is by keeping a pulse on what our customers need from our SaaS platform in order to continue finding new levels of efficiency in their manufacturing plants. This is the best source of new ideas and new features that will benefit the entire customer base when deployed.
For that to work, our focus is on first hiring smart people and then allowing them to have a voice. You need a culture that inspires open discussions, ideas and brings them forth. As we create a cooperative and supportive environment where people feel open to sharing, this creates a space where ideas can be developed and leveraged.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Keith Barr: We’ve been a remote working company since its inception, so we’ve been able to continue forward without skipping a beat. However, we also know that our employees’ home lives have been affected by the lifestyle changes of not being able to do activities we typically do like going to movies, sporting events, etc. With this in mind, we encourage our teams to take time to do activities that will bring balance, reduce stress, and overall health.
Our customers have had to adjust to working from home, and the other lifestyle changes as well.
The initial surge of COVID-19 had our customers/prospects a bit distracted, so new business did slow down for a couple of months. Still, our software platform’s value to manage manufacturing operations remotely, increase efficiency (do more with less), and keep operations running caused the deal flow to resume quickly.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Keith Barr: We did make some hard choices on pulling back spending to assure that we would retain employees. While that was a helpful measure to offset some of the slowdowns in new deals, we’ve been able to turn our spending back on to realize a portion of the original objectives we had for the year, such as lead generation, PR, and other investments into continued business growth.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Leading2Lean in the future?
Keith Barr: The lifestyle impacts have been the hardest thing for people to deal with. Being able to come and go and do many activities is personal freedom previously enjoyed. Some things I’ve done to process stress and still avoid unnecessary exposure to others are:
· Find ways to recreate safely without exposure concerns.
· Going for drives in more remote areas and off-roading.
· I’m a pilot, so I enjoy taking time to fly and think
· Hiking and spending time in nature
From a company perspective, allowing employees to control their work schedules and balance what they need to do to stay healthy in every way.
As a provider to manufacturers, we know the business will continue because people still need products and goods. We’ve been happy and honored to be able to support our customers in continuing their operations.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Keith Barr: We’re typically competing with other enterprise software companies focused on manufacturing and the factory shop floor. Our uniqueness as a no-code solution and our focus on empowering the shop floor worker has provided the ability to scale more rapidly, leverage existing systems data, and provide an integrated workflow that aligns personal behavior during the work. This connected worker approach provides the environment that will attract the next-generation workforce and is driving year over year bottom-line value for our customers.
Continuing to work closely with customers to extend this value to more areas will assure our future as a solution provider. Integrated digital operations management is a broadening strategic path that manufacturers are and will be pursuing over the next 5-7 years.
Your final thoughts?
Keith Barr: Remembering that we are all people that normally have respect for other people, shouldn’t change when we have to communicate remotely. We have to go beyond our normal effort to understand and see others’ perspectives to preserve that respect.