Tech companies are known as disruptors, but Eric Miller saw an unexpected disruption for his own business when Covid-19 slammed into the economy in March 2020. The co-owner and principal of Tempe engineering and design-build company PADT Inc. learned from experience that downturns can lead to new opportunities.
The Phoenix Business Journal caught up with Miller recently to see what changes he’s made to adapt in the past few months. Here’s what he had to say:
At some point and I think it happened at different times for different people, there was an acceptance that we’re going to be here for a while. And that took away a lot of anxiety. We’ve grown, and especially technically we’ve grown. We’ve added a new director of engineering. We’re adding at the senior level. We’re outsourcing positions as well. We wanted to come in flat year over year; we were just looking at the numbers and that’s right where we are. To achieve that we had to do a lot of adjustments.
We’ve added a good number of new customers, a couple startups, a couple big companies and really using relationships and understanding. We do have customers that haven’t come back. Customers are being more conscious of their decisions on where they’re going to spend their money. And they’re spending their money with people they really trust. We’ve focused on that. We’ve never had to deal with this sort of thing in my career. I underestimated how adaptable and flexible people can be. I was looking at worst-case scenarios maybe too much, and it really caused stress that wasn’t necessary.
In the Arizona community, we have a sense of camaraderie. We’ve kind of been through this together, and we came out OK. That shared experience is going to make people work faster and less hesitant. The boom in manufacturing (in Arizona) is real. We’re loving it. It makes a lot of sense, we really feel like this is the location with the right workforce.
Two really important lessons. The first is how important adaptability is. Boy, we proved that in spades. The second is how critical over-communication is with your employees and customers.
A third is…we kept on taking half measures with the expectation that we’d get back to normal faster. We learned that when there’s a big disruption we should accept that that’s the way it’s going to be and adapt to it instead of hoping that it’s going to be short term. It’s not hard to switch back.
March: PADT moved a large number of employees to remote work.
August: Company expanded 3D printing system sales territory into Texas.
November: Company announced the introduction of metal 3D printing at Phoenix HQ.
Visit www.aztechcouncil.org/tech-events to view all of the Council’s upcoming virtual tech networking opportunities, engaging virtual tech events and in-person tech events.