Mike Faith, CEO and founder of Headsets.com, never thought he'd be in a situation in which he'd be forced to ration his primary product-- telephone headsets--to customers. And yet that's where he finds himself: when people began working at home en masse in early March, the San Francisco-based telecommunications company was forced to cap orders at 25 per customer.
While hand sanitizer and protective gear manufacturers moved to limit their supplies to customers early on in the Covid-19 crisis, a number of industries now find themselves grappling with a surprise surge in demand. In the face of strained supply chains, panicked consumers, and an uncertain economic future, here's how a few fortunate business owners are navigating the uptick.
There are a lot of empty buildings right now and new facilities that need security help, like grocery stores. Both, according to Don Tefft, chief human resources officer of Santa-Ana based Allied Universal, have driven demand for security and facility services. In response to the need for more security guards, Allied announced in early April that it would hire 30 thousand people over the next two months. And people are applying: Employee applications in March 2020 jumped 15 percent when compared to March 2019, Tefft says.
Tefft's advice for hiring during a pandemic? Leverage technology. Allied is leaning on their AUHireSmart system that can interview applicants automatically without any human contact or involvement and extend an offer within two hours. In some areas, automatic interviews aren't possible, so when live or recorded video interviews are used, Allied uses automated scheduling to keep the ball rolling, allowing these types of applicants to complete the process in 24 hours. After receiving an offer, all candidates complete an in-person oral swab drug test and a background check.
Jacob Pechenik, CEO of Austin-based Lettuce Grow, says the pandemic has increased demand for DIY veggies. Lettuce Grow sells hydroponic gardening units that occupy up to four square feet and can grow enough vegetables for an entire family. It turns out quarantine has brought out the green thumb in many of us: Pechenik says the company's sales increased 350 percent from February to March 2020.
That growth created problems of its own, however. When a record number of subscribers ordered refill seedlings three weeks ago, Lettuce Grow couldn't meet the demand. The company notified customers, issued refunds, and shipped substitute seedlings for free. The result: only one complaint, Pechenik says, from a grower who really wanted tomatoes.
3. Tele (Mental) Health
Since 2010 Lionrock Recovery has provided online substance use disorder (SUD) counseling, an area that CEO and co-founder Peter Loeb says has enormous potential for growth because many people who need SUD treatment do not receive it. Online treatment comes without the stigma of "hitting rock bottom" that's associated with brick-and-mortar treatment programs Loeb says, noting that the more private nature of online counseling allows Lionrock to reach people earlier in the SUD cycle.
In March, Lionrock saw a 40 percent spike in people seeking SUD treatment compared to February, which Loeb says is driven by people being isolated due to the coronavirus quarantine. Luckily, the company closed a $7 million round of funding in October which will help it meet demand.
Loeb says that companies making the switch to telehealth should remember that not everything will translate to a cyber environment. Drug testing, for example, a vital part of SUD treatment, is typically conducted with urine tests. There are obvious reasons why that can't happen via webcam, so Lionrock has developed a process for an instant oral swab that can be verified remotely.
4. Aloe Vera
Desert Harvest, a Hillsborough, North Carolina-based aloe vera and multivitamin company, saw its sales on Amazon go up by 254 percent in March compared to the same month last year, says CEO Heather Florio. Aloe vera gel is one of three ingredients in homemade hand sanitizer.
Florio has spent the past month scrambling to secure supplies, and even had to call the governor of Texas, where Desert Harvest processes its aloe vera supplements, to get an exemption from the state's shutdown of non-essential businesses. The company's aloe vera supplement is one of the most popular treatments of its kind for a chronic pain condition called Interstitial Cystitis (IC) says IC expert Dr. Sonia Bahlani, so Florio was able to convince Governor Greg Abbott to reopen the facility with limited staff. The moral of the story? Don't be afraid to think outside the box and speak up for yourself, says Florio.
It's good advice for any company trying to make it through these uncertain times.