Just as the world went on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Celeros Flow Technology launched its business. How did the company kick off and carry on installing and servicing pumps worldwide during these challenging circumstances? Pumps & Systems talked to José Larios, CEO of Celeros Flow Technology, about his experiences.
P&S: When did you set the launch date? Obviously, it was before COVID-19 came about, right?
Larios: Celeros Flow Technology came about as a divestment of the power and energy division of SPX FLOW. This had been in the planning for a whole year before our launch in April 2020, and we’d been engaging with our customers and other stakeholders throughout the process. We’re a global company that includes the well-known pump manufacturing brands of ClydeUnion Pumps and Plenty Pumps, alongside specialist valve, filtration and closure brands. As a full life cycle partner, we also offer comprehensive aftermarket services, which extend beyond our own brand pumps to those of other manufacturers.
Launching a company really isn’t a case of just “going through the motions.” We had a rollout plan, and we just adapted it as necessary according to the rapidly changing circumstances. We were constantly monitoring the situation and we changed our approach several times, keeping our customers and employees up to date with these changes.
P&S: What challenges presented themselves on the launch date of April 1, 2020?
Larios: I can tell you that closed borders and travel restrictions were not that helpful right before the launch! However, we were always focused on our long-term plan with the investment we were making, and we have a great strategy with clear goals in place. We just knuckled down and kept with our original launch date. We have a set of values—speed, excellence, partnership, integrity and accountability— and I feel we really lived each of these in our actions during the launch and continue to do so now. We were also flexible, worked with our partners to manage the changing situation and we adapted really well.
Going through the divestment process meant that we were already sensitive to the changes our customers and employees were likely to experience, and so the additional changes brought about by coronavirus didn’t take us by surprise like they may have done with other companies. I think that, in some ways, we have actually learned to communicate better with our customers. We had a captive audience who were suddenly working from home and who had the time to participate in things like video introductions, for example. Our teams were also keen to make contact via Zoom or Skype to personalize the contact and field questions.
P&S: What kind of challenges has the leadership team faced and overcome during the company’s launch?
Larios: As the safety of our colleagues is of paramount importance to us, the first thing we did when lockdown was announced was make sure everyone was brought back home safe and sound. The huge volume of rumors, data points and news articles detailing new developments because of coronavirus was a challenge in itself. It was hard to work out fact from fiction and keep up with how quickly things were changing.
However, we tried to take emotion out of it and focused on our employees, making sure we treated them all the same. We had to make some tough decisions but we were clear about why we were making them and we took care to communicate that effectively. In time, I think our employees really came to appreciate our approach and realized that, in comparison with other companies, our level of transparency and communication was really quite high.
P&S: What effect do you think COVID-19 will have on Celeros FT and the markets it serves?
Larios: It will be a long time before the full extent of the economic impacts of coronavirus are understood but, if you step back and look, there were underlying trends already present in some of our key markets that require a little business acumen to address.
One of these is the debate around the coronavirus effect on oil prices. The price continues to fall but, actually, there were already big issues around demand for the amount of oil being produced before the virus took hold. You could look at historical market cycles to try to determine what will happen to the oil price, but when you add coronavirus into the mix, things get much more complicated.
Coronavirus has undoubtedly challenged and affected oil production across all industries, and it does seem that business focused around capital investment may slow or stop. However, there will still be a demand for the servicing and maintenance of critical equipment even if customers are not purchasing new equipment at this time.
I’m cautiously optimistic about our ability to survive and grow after the cronavirus threat is over. Celeros FT operates in mission-critical markets and people will always need power and water. Our aim now is to lead the way during the recovery and provide our customers with the essential competitive solutions they are looking for.
P&S: What advice would you give to someone wanting to launch a business in this industry during times like this?
Larios: If you want to succeed in a pandemic, then knowing how to communicate effectively is absolutely key. You need to tell your customers that you are here for the long term and show them that you have the strategies in place to deal with problems as they arise.
When something unexpected happens, try and turn the negative into a positive. An unexpected benefit for Celeros FT was that furloughing and enforced downtime has given people time to reassess options and life direction. We’ve used the opportunity to attract and invest in the talent we will need to grow, so we a fully prepared for the “new normal” as business picks up again.