Lessons from a Pandemic - Our Year in Review

2020 – What a challenging year.

As we’ve blown through the first two months of 2021 in what seems like an instant, I wanted to look back and talk through what an unprecedented year it was in 2020 for the world, and for MMB Networks.

To assume the CEO role during an emerging pandemic has made for a very interesting and eye-opening ride. For me personally, my transition plan began in December of 2019. I can remember thinking about the possibilities for MMB in 2020, and the ways we could strengthen and improve our organization and our mission.

      Russell Thomas, President & CEO

One of the first things that we did was to hold a strategic review of the business in January 2020. At that point, COVID-19 was still something we had faintly heard about, mainly as an issue overseas, and as such we didn’t put tremendous effort or focus on thinking about the scale of the global impact it would soon have.

We had already begun to start down a path of restructuring and strategy refinement, little did we know that it would ultimately have an impact on our ability to weather the COVID-19 storm.

I’m confident that the following high level account of our experience in dealing with the pandemic can be used by other companies, large or small, to find a path to success through phases of great uncertainty.


Get Laser Focused

After reviewing our overall business, we recognized that we needed to focus more energy towards our core value as a company – to simplify and accelerate the digitization of everyday life with the world’s leading brands.

MMB Networks has been producing first class products for the past dozen years with brands in numerous industry verticals – but we needed to make sure that our effort and talent was directed in the right areas that could most help our customers, right now. That meant reviewing each account one by one and identifying critical technical paths we’d be able to leverage in order to accelerate our customer’s product development timelines and ultimately, exceed their expectations.

Coupled with our new technology focal points, we then went through the exercise to narrow our focus on the right customers and markets/industries where we would be able provide the most value in solving complex product problems.


Get Your House in Order

We also needed to improve some of our internal governance and controls, as well as better articulate our mission to our team. From this we reduced it to three key guiding principles: Transparency, Accountability, and Performance. We decided to put dedicated time and effort into ensuring that although we already approached our business and customers with these principles, we would work harder to live and breathe these guiding principles each and every day.


Be Prepared to Make Some Hard Choices.

It was clear that COVID-19 was going to be a major worldwide disruptor to everyone’s lives and to a large number of businesses. As this disruption would include us and many of our customers, we hunkered down and quickly reviewed numerous possible scenarios for 2020.

After many late nights with the executive team and our board, we charted a path forward. It was very difficult and involved altering our revenue expectations, headcount reductions, and even reductions in salary. It’s hard when you have to let good people go, but we believed it would be the best path forward and give us the highest chance for success through what we knew was set to be a challenging time.

We all miss the live human connection, but I believe we are performing as well as any organization can in light of these extreme circumstances.

Putting the Plan in Motion

MMB Networks earned some new hardware with a Deloitte Fast 500 win.

After the changes, the remaining team responded well and picked up their increased responsibilities quickly. We also learned as an organization how to effectively work remotely. We all miss the live human connection, but I believe we are performing as well as any organization can in light of these extreme circumstances.

With the new plan in hand, we needed even greater focus than what we had identified in January, and the team got down to really delivering. As a result of a lowered revenue expectation and forecast, we knew that strengthening our balance sheet would be critical to achieving our goals and so we secured a non-dilutive loan from BDC to ensure we would strengthen our working capital that would be necessary to execute our plan.

Throughout the year, we continued to (remotely) engage with our key customers and partners. We’ve developed deep relationships with these companies over many years, and we set out to ensure we maintained their confidence that we would continue to support them with the same level of service and excellence that they’d become accustomed to.


The Result – Double Down and Launch a New Product and Beat Expectations

We put engineering focus into our technology diversification strategy and launched our first generation Wi-SUN wireless product. This product is ideal for Smart Cities/Utilities, and really leverages MMB’s founding roots in the Smart Energy space. We’ve already secured new customers who are deploying this product and we see this as a continued growth driver going forward.

The team’s effort was phenomenal in 2020, and that effort produced tremendous results through a combination of grit, determination, and focus. In 2020, we beat our plan for revenue, gross margin dollars, and profitability. A truly amazing accomplishment given all the turmoil throughout the world.


Looking Forward

As important as this tremendous result is, so is our vision of the future. While 2020 was tough, we took a number of key steps that will lead to even more success, and continue to accelerate our growth. I am optimistic to see what 2021 will bring for the world, and excited about the possibilities for the entire MMB Networks organization.

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