In this audio interview, Nolan Johnson gets an update from Dan Beaulieu, president of D.B. Management Group. Dan is a 40+ year veteran of the electronics manufacturing industry and has been an industry consultant for 25+ years.
Dan shares an update on current business operations for D.B. Management, including how—like his clients—he may be at home, but it's still business as usual. Dan also offers his perspective on how our industry will weather and emerge from this challenging time.
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Nolan Johnson: Hi, Nolan Johnson here for I-Connect007, and I am currently talking with Dan Beaulieu, who is the president of D.B. Management Group. Dan has 40+ years of industry experience in electronics manufacturing and 25 years or more as a consultant in that space. Dan, thanks for joining us on the call.
Dan Beaulieu: My pleasure, Nolan.
Johnson: In your role as a consultant to a lot of companies in the electronics manufacturing space, how has the government-issued virus containment order—or orders, depending on whether it’s state or local government—caused you to change your business model?
Beaulieu: Well, I’m sitting at home and for the first time in over 25 years. I have no pending plane tickets. I normally travel two weeks a month at a minimum and always have trips planned a couple of months out. I am settled in here and kind of like a call center, advice center, whatever. I’m doing a lot of work at home, talking to people, and I’m actually busier than ever, following the rules. I live in Maine, so it’s a little bit quieter here. I think we have 150 cases and people are off the street. I just feel there’s less danger here; there are only a million people in the entire state, and it’s the largest state on the East coast.
So, we’re doing okay. It’s funny not to fly. I haven’t flown in two weeks, but I’m catching up on things, catching up on people, and helping people out. I’m getting a lot of people who are calling me and asking for advice in terms of the government rules. I’m not a doctor, so I’m just doing what they say for me to do. That’s what I’m doing. I know we could still fly, but I don’t really want to do that right now. That’s pretty much where I’m at.
Johnson: With all of those calls and all that communication going on, what message are you sending to your customers?
Beaulieu: I am sending that within the circumstances it is business as usual, as much as we can do. I work a lot directly with sales teams, and I talked to them about it. I try to cut down the excuses, “But we can’t fly, but we can’t be in front of customers,” that kind of thing. And I say, “Find a way, find a way. It’s a good time to catch up on your marketing. It’s a good time to learn social media if you don’t know it. Reach out to your customers; chances are they’re all probably working out of their home as well.”
There are shortages right now. Actually, the domestic companies I work with are very busy. I mostly work with salespeople and company presidents, and I’m telling them, “Try as much as possible to keep business as usual and not get all around the axle of what’s going on in the world. We know what we can do, what we can do of obeying the rules. On the same token, if we get creative and innovative, we can get through this. And I believe in the end it’s going to be a better world. And a better economy, especially in our space.” So, that’s pretty much it. That’s the message I’m getting out there.
Johnson: In your role as a consultant, your job essentially is to provide guidance and coaching and help with direction. What sort of messages would you like to share with the industry around this issue?
Beaulieu: This is my theory: The world is flattening. As Thomas Friedman said 15 years ago, now, even more than ever, people are going where they need to go. We found out how big a part of our industry China is, for example. And what happens if China is excluded. I think what we have to understand is it’s a global economy. Frankly, I think we went too far with China. I think China is necessary, Asia is necessary, Europe is necessary, Vietnam is coming on, the world is flattening. We’re in a global economy, and this is going to drive it to that even more. And my message is to work with that. To make sure our domestic companies are able to service the domestic economy. They will probably start selling to other countries, as well, like Europe.
I think of that. I also think that we have a warning here; “We probably went too far with dependency on China,” which is kind of the bleeding obvious. But we need to look at preserving our culture as well as our dollar. I used to say, and I’ll say it now; although we don’t sell Blu-ray players very much, but we really need a $20 Blu-ray player, when we will pay $60 for it, as an example. Companies were doing anything to get 3 cents off a circuit board, to the extent that it hurt our domestic business as well. Where now our defense department, it has a shortage of American circuit board companies that can build ITAR boards, that can build defense and aerospace boards. So, I think we’re going to have to be a little more careful about that once we come out of this crisis. And I think that’s really important.
I’m not saying to avoid buying from China. I think China is critical or Vietnam, or Taiwan, or India. I’m just saying we have to be in moderation on how much we do there. There are products they can do for us. There are also products that we should be doing here, and we should have done a better job of sustaining, particularly those products that can only be built in the United States. That’s the message I’m giving, particularly when I talk to company owners and presidents. And I do try to shout that out as much as I can. I’m probably ineffective to the large guys. Because the large OEMs really did this, really were the ones who put 90% of our business in China. I think they have to be careful about sustaining the American supply chain as well.
Johnson: Dan, what’s your greatest concern right now?
Beaulieu: My greatest concern is more personal, to be blunt. Let’s get that out of the way. I have a kid in Ohio and one in Connecticut. I have a 92-year-old mother, so that’s personal. And not only, of course, for their health, but for their own economy. Who knows what’s going to happen? So, that’s my greatest concern, as I’m sure everybody who’s listening to this is their greatest concern. If we want to talk about the PCB industry... Boy, I don’t want to sound rose-tinted glasses, but I think we’re going to come out of this okay. I don’t think it’s going to be forever. I don’t think it’s going to be as short as the President says, but I don’t think it’s going to be as long as the doomsayers say.
We will come out of this. And I’m already seeing signs of people working harder. They’re trying to make it work. People are cooperating better with each other. Some of my clients are calling me to meet other clients who can help them in operations—people who they didn’t talk to before. I’m seeing that. I think we’re going to come out of this better and so I don’t have any great concerns about the business. Of course, things are tough right now. But on the same token, the clients I’m working with are doing well. They don’t know how long you’re going to be doing well. And, of course, if they get hit with the virus, we’re all concerned about that. If you want to talk economy and all that, we’re going to have some tough times, but I think we are going to come out strong.
Johnson: Thank you. Anything else you’d like to share before we wrap up?
Beaulieu: I’ll say it again. Please, business as usual. I’ve been reading, I can’t remember the name of it, but the latest book on Churchill. I wrote my column this week on that. Because it was about the worst days in England when they were really getting bombed, and the Americans weren’t in yet, it was pre-Pearl Harbor. And the hard times they were having. If you’re feeling like that, and what Churchill was going through at that time, it’s very similar to this these times, practically. Well, worse, bombs aren’t dropping on our houses. But I’m getting a lot of insight from him. People ought to read Churchill right now and learn some of his quotes because this is where we are. I don’t mean to make light of it, it’s serious, but I think this will pass and we will come out stronger.
Johnson: Fantastic. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I have been speaking with Dan Beaulieu, President of D.B. Management Group. I appreciate your time, Dan.
Beaulieu: Oh, my pleasure, Nolan. Anytime.
Johnson: And this is Nolan Johnson with I-Connect007. Thank you for listening.