First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yukon Palmer: We are doing very well. It wasn’t easy to adjust to the new reality when things changed in March. Everyone in my family was suddenly forced to change every aspect of our daily lives over the course of a single day. However, we used the quarantine as a way to bond as a family. We spent more time watching movies, playing board games, assembling puzzles, and going on “socially distant” walks through the neighborhood. One day, we will look back on this time as one of the closest periods for our family.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded FieldLogix
Yukon Palmer: I worked in sales for one of the first companies in the Industrial Internet of Things industry back in 2000. I was always an over-achiever and wanted to advance in my career, and I didn’t have the patience to wait 20 years for my efforts to lead me to the C suite. I then decided to go back to school to earn my MBA since I believed that most executives had MBA’s. While in the MBA program, I wrote a business plan for starting a company in the same industry that I worked in. After completing the business plan class, I moved on to other things, thinking that it was just a class project that I would turn in and forget about. A few months later, the professors leading the MBA program asked me to come back and present the business plan to them and subsequently asked me to represent San Diego State University in several national business plan competitions. After pitching the plan at the competitions, I decided to pursue the business because of the encouragement that I received from several of the judges and my enthusiasm for the business’s potential.
How does FieldLogix innovate?
Yukon Palmer: We constantly strive to innovate by evaluating the problems that our current and potential users encounter. We study the tasks that they are trying to accomplish, what their current barriers are, and how painful they are for them. We then use our technology to address these pain points in a very user-friendly manner. The challenge we face with innovation is not in the number of new ideas that we have but in the efficacy of the solutions that we decide to build based on these ideas.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Yukon Palmer: Things were challenging during March and April due to the fact that the stock market went into a tailspin, and many of our current and potential customers put all purchases on hold until they could determine where the economy was going. We took advantage of the CARES Act funding to ensure that we could cover our operating costs and keep the majority of our team intact. Fortunately, the economy started to stabilize in May. We then started to see an uptick in sales just as our CARES funding ran out. After a modest rebound, things really picked up in July, and we are now experiencing our strongest sales months in years.
One thing that helped is our decision to become more aggressive in sales, marketing, and product development. When things slowed down, we invested a lot of time and effort to improve our sales process, put more marketing content out, and enhance our product. This is different from the “duck and cover” approach we took during the 2008 recession by cutting investments in sales, marketing, and product development. Back then, we approached 2008 with a 90% year over year sales growth, which then dropped down to 12% in 2009 and -10% in 2010 due to our cutbacks in these areas. We were determined not to repeat this mistake this time around.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Yukon Palmer: I had to let one underperforming employee go, but the reason was due to issues occurring prior to the pandemic. I would say that the most difficult choice that I had to make was staying the course when the whole economy appeared to be falling apart. We entered 2020 with very optimistic plans and an aggressive strategy to achieve our objectives. I was tempted to make several deep cost cuts when COVID-19 took its toll on the economy due to the fear of the unknown. However, I managed to retain the team (with the exception of the one employee) and pursued our plan by increasing our investments in sales, marketing, and product development. The lessons that I learned from our experience during the 2008 recession were applied this time around to ensure a more favorable outcome.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and FieldLogix in the future?
Yukon Palmer: I try to exercise daily and take time to get out of the office and take breaks. I always do my best to put my problems in perspective because they aren’t as big as the problems that many other people have to deal with. I also constantly visualize a future when the company is a large well-known brand, and I am successful in what I sought out to do. I believe that we will eventually become the most renowned brand in the industrial internet of things industry.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Yukon Palmer: We compete against Verizon Connect, Samsara, Nextraq, Teletrac, and many others. My belief is that there are 2 things that are important to ensure a tech company’s success. #1 is taking care of your customer. You need to provide them with a great product that is easy to use and reliable, but just as importantly, you have to be readily available and eager to assist when they need your help. #2 is being innovative. You have to provide them with novel and useful solutions that address unmet pain points. Most of our competitors do one of these two things right, some do none, and we are one of the very few that focuses on being the best in both. We will stay in the game long term if we stick by these 2 principles.
Your final thoughts
Yukon Palmer: Starting and growing a startup is very difficult, especially in times like these. Anyone crazy enough to pursue their startup dream right now must understand that the challenges they face are temporary. Things will always get better as long as they have a product-market fit and continue to improve their product. The benefit of starting a company during these times is that it teaches you to operate lean and carry that mentality throughout your company’s life.