Hold your nerve and fight!
Ulrike Haslauer, head of Compact Electric talks about production in times of corona, the safety measures implemented in her business and how she is dealing with the crisis:
Did you have to close or restrict your operations and what impact did this have? What does this mean for your sector?
I decided from the outset not to close the business, as we had current orders that thankfully had to be processed. I introduced massive disinfection and hygiene regulations and set uniform working hours with no flexitime. We “created” and manufactured our own full-face protective goggles, which we distributed among the staff and meanwhile also sell. This naturally costs time and money, but I wanted to make absolutely sure that everyone was protected. We have very spacious facilities, so that everyone is protected by having much more than the mandatory two metres space in which to work. As far as I know, all our industry colleagues are still working and customers are active, too. However, the efficiency and future development of the order backlog remains to be seen. No one can predict that.
I believe our industry, which could continue operating, is in a much better position than the catering and retail industries that had to shut down completely. This is a catastrophe for every business person and one that I very much regret.
We will also set up workstations for those who can work from home, even though I am personally not a fan of this. I am convinced that the regularity of getting up at a usual time and going to work has positive mental and productive effects. However, I cannot afford a total shutdown and therefore have to make provisions for home office workstations, in the event of a second wave of infection. We have already seen the effects of rigorous closures of businesses in Italy.
Can you also take some positive aspects from the crisis? Have you learnt something from the lockdown?
It is difficult from an entrepreneurial point of view. In addition to the usual problems, we now face additional burdens and costs. The manufacturing operations of the real economy had benefited from the economic recovery of the last two years. However, companies will find it difficult to cope with the abrupt economic collapse that can be expected. Unfortunately, not every employee in our industry is aware of this just yet, as we had been operating “as normal” up to now. It has to be made quite clear that we find ourselves in an extremely critical phase, from both from a private and a business perspective. Safeguarding employment is the most important element in guaranteeing long-term social stability, which is why it is important to support the companies that provide these jobs.
Unfortunately, government programmes are mainly geared towards driving up company borrowing. This is not the right approach. Thank goodness for the quick and well-targeted support from City of Vienna, which is more important than ever.
As an entrepreneur, I was and always will be a visionary. I am also an optimist and am using this situation to seek out and develop alternative markets. We are using the time to digitalise our systems, which would have been a more difficult undertaking during normal, stressful business operations. Furthermore, we are restructuring and thinking about job rotation with our existing staff. My motto is to strengthen all aspects from the inside out and fight – and I really am talking about a fight – for as long as possible.
I am confident that we will emerge from this crisis, albeit with a different mentality. In my business, I have consciously focused on applying the same conditions and rules to protecting my staff. There are no exceptions – I believe in the “One of all and all for one” principle (laughs) and this shows who is a team player and who isn’t!
What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs on how to deal with the crisis?
As trivial or simple it may seem, we must remain calm, be positive and have a good attitude towards others. We need to motivate ourselves and fight for the common cause. We must also be disciplined in establishing rules and insisting that they are adhered to.
Compact Electric is a specialist in switch cabinet construction for building automation. It develops electronics for customer-specific custom-made products, measuring relays, thermal transfer printers with special materials for identification as well as lockable lockout/tagout systems. It employs a staff of 70.
Services of the Vienna Business Agency
- Funded through the programme Home Office 2020
- Funded through the programme Shared Facilities 18-20
- Funded through the programme Standortinitiative 2015
compact electric GmbH
Status: May 2020