By Johannes Plettenberg, CEO, WOW Tech Group.
COVID-19 has without a doubt posed many challenges for businesses. But as we all navigate our way through uncharted waters and find our “new normal”, it is important to remain focused on what our priorities and values are as a company. For WOW Tech Group, that is first and foremost the safety of our employees, our partners, and those working on the front lines in warehouses and manufacturing to get products to customers. And not just their physical safety, but their mental and financial well-being too.
This means having our employees work remotely and supporting our third-party warehouses and their employees as staff shifts are altered to reduce the number of employees on-site at the same time and personal protective equipment (PPE) is distributed. It also means making hard decisions, like planning for worst cast scenarios, helping to minimize handling and demand in the warehouses, and cutting spending on any projects that don’t directly support sales. The reward? Keeping all our employees safe and on payroll.
While these measures certainly pose challenges, I feel that working in the Sx Tech industry makes us uniquely suited to find creative ways to overcome adversity. It’s an industry which is often underestimated, regarded as disreputable and supposedly has low standards and little regard for science when it comes to the products. All these challenges existed when I began working in the industry in 2015, and unfortunately, continue to exist today.
But I also know that our incredible employees work every day to change and challenge these perceptions. We continue to innovate and produce sexual wellness products that enrich the lives of people and make them healthier and happier. Our team is the reason for our success despite the hurdles we face. It’s why their well-being has been, and continues to be, our top priority through COVID-19 and beyond.
I bought Womanizer in 2017 alongside private investors, and in 2018 we merged with We-Vibe, and WOW Tech Group was formed. We now employ nearly 160 people from over 20 countries at three locations (Berlin, Ottawa and Hong Kong) on three continents. WOW Tech is the only major player in our industry that invests so many resources into research and development – 30% of our team are dedicated full time to product and technology innovation.
But what does that look like in the time of COVID-19, when our R&D team cannot access our labs and full resources they would usually need to continue their work?
Luckily, our R&D team boasts some of the very best in the industry and our engineers have many of the devices, tools and equipment they need to continue their current projects at home. Therefore, our team members who would typically work in our laboratories in Berlin and Ottawa are now working on the development of new products in improvised laboratories in home offices.
One of our Constructing and Development Engineers quickly installed a 3D printer in his pantry, whilst others have equipment in bedrooms, or laboratory power supplies in their living rooms. They can now continue working on new products and technologies with no major losses and I’m very grateful for their innovation and commitment to making sure our business continues to run…even at the expense of some of their home decor!
That’s not to say we’re able to overcome every hurdle. Certain mechanical work, such as milling or turning, can only be conducted in our main office laboratory and there are various tests that are simply too loud to be carried out at home and therefore must wait. It’s why we’re focusing on products that are easier to implement in the near-future, and temporarily putting longer-term projects on the back burner. Prioritization is key in times of uncertainty and figuring out what is feasible now and what can wait will help manage expectations and keep things moving.
Beyond adapting to our new working environments, we are also looking at what we can take from this experience and implement moving forward. The entire team has shown their dedication, commitment, flexibility and creativity. Team members are stepping in to support on projects they would not usually be involved with. This open and integrative mindset is something from which we will certainly continue to benefit, and so will look for ways to encourage into the future.
I would advise all fellow entrepreneurs and businesses to do the same. Ask what they have learned about their employees, their business, industry, and customers during this time and how can they utilize that information in the short and long term?
For example, we have focused on looking at our customers’ purchasing patterns before and during COVID-19 to gain insight into their motivations. During the last few months, we’ve seen an incredible spike in sales worldwide. Our global data year to date showed more than a 50% surge on original forecasts for Womanizer.
This highlights for us the importance of pleasure and intimacy during a time of crisis; insight we can use as we continue to innovate our products and modify our sales and marketing approaches. This ability to listen and adapt is vital if you want to optimize business during a period of instability.
WOW Tech Group is a global leader within our industry, and despite the current situation, we have managed to maintain the highest-level quality when it comes to our services and products. I believe this is due to our continuous evaluation of priorities, ability to adapt, focusing on our values, and supporting our employees. Although our working locations may have changed, our mindset, values, and end goal have not. We have had great success with this strategy to optimize our business and keep on with ‘business as usual’ throughout COVID-19, and I hope that other entrepreneurs do as well.