If you want a stellar example of prudent business management and shrewd leadership, you need look no further than Duluth-based Van Technologies.

Featured in the fall issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine, the path Van Technologies took as the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the world is a study in making lemonade out of lemons.

Van Technologies is the manufacturer of water-borne coatings and finishes that can be cured with ultraviolet light. The company is lauded for its environmentally sensitive products. During the company’s first quarter, founder and president Larry Van Iseghem said business was booming.

But everything changed when the pandemic hit. The company went from being on pace to break all previous sales records to experiencing a decline. Van Iseghem said revenues for the year are now down about 6% from 2019.

Anyone would have understood if Van Technologies wanted to lay low and wait the pandemic out. A strong manufacturer with a solid management team and loyal labor force can weather a tough crisis. Plus, there’s a vaccine in the works; this thing can’t last forever.

But that’s not at all what Van Iseghem did. Instead of laying low, he aimed high.

As the pandemic shut down plants and sent workers home, Van Technologies chose to work with Enterprise Minnesota consultants to pursue ISO certification.

“There was no better time to seek ISO certification than during the slight downturn that we’ve experienced. We had more ability to redeploy resources.” Van Iseghem said.

They are a great example of a company using the downturn to improve their business and setting themselves up for long-term growth and improvement

Enterprise Minnesota business developer Jim Schottmuller said, “The folks who take these opportunities or maybe a little extra time to sharpen the saw, those are the people who are actually the winners coming out of this.”

One unusual aspect of the Van Technologies ISO project that is amazing speed at which they’ve been able to implement it: just five and a half months.

A typical ISO project is about a 10-month process: five months for consultants to analyze a manufacturing facility and come up with an action plan, three

months using the newly implemented system and two more months for final certification steps.

The other thing Van Technologies had on its side is the company’s core strengths.

“Their culture of improvement and being highly technical has allowed them to compress this timeline from a normal implementation of about eight to 10 months down to about four months,” says Enterprise Minnesota business growth consultant Keith Gadacz.

Their brave and bold approach can serve as a model for others as COVID continues to define the landscape.

To read the full story in our magazine please click here.

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Events Calendar

October 6 – Strategically Navigating an Uncertain Future
Steve Haarstad, one of Enterprise Minnesota’s top strategy experts, will show you how to create or adjust your business strategy to weather the next 90 days. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

October 22 – Investing in Your People to Create Leaders at All Levels
Join talent expert Abbey Hellickson as she demonstrates ways to create an environment that fosters trust, leadership and communication throughout your company. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

October 27 – Sustaining Daily Dialogue
Greg Langfield discusses techniques you can use to help sustain your continuous improvement efforts throughout your organization. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

November 5 – State of Manufacturing Survey Release
The State of Manufacturing® is the most comprehensive survey of Minnesota manufacturing industry. Join us November 5th as we release our findings from our second survey of 2020 with insights from the impacts of COVID-19.  Learn more and register

See more upcoming events

Bremer Bank_ad_2020Industry News

Surge in outdoor activity increases demand for MN kayaks and canoes
Many Americans have decided that outdoor activities, including kayaking and canoeing, are essential to getting through the pandemic, which is good news for state watercraft manufacturers. Oct. 3, Star Tribune  Read more

Manufacturing provides largest payroll in Douglas County
As the backbone of Minnesota’s statewide economy, manufacturing plays an especially valuable role in Douglas County, MN. Sept. 30, Alexandria Echo Press  Read more

Governor Walz declares Oct. 1-7, 2020 to be Manufacturing Week
Although many facility tours for this year’s Manufacturing Week will not be available, we are still excited to celebrate our Minnesota manufacturers. September 28, MN.gov  Read more

Where are the job seekers?
MN DEED unveils an analysis of why employers who are looking for workers are finding it difficult to fill positions despite high statewide unemployment. September, MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development  Read more

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