As Overall Economy Hit by COVID-19, Layoffs Hit Tech as Well

AudioQuest Announces Downsizing

AudioQuest logo

A relatively large number of readers and industry sources have reached out to Strata-gee with word of cutbacks and layoffs at various industry brands – as the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) takes its toll on the U.S. economy. As was reported in a post just a few days ago, jobless claims jumped dramatically – by 33% in just one month – only to be exceeded a few days later by a massive jump in claims of 3 million more unemployed workers.

Now we are beginning to see layoffs in Tech…

Many in the industry have reached out to Strata-gee to report these new layoffs at a wide variety of brands. Much of this field chatter fails to rise above the level of an unsupported rumor, but others seem to have some “meat on them bones.” So many leads have been forthcoming in fact, that it has been difficult to chase them all down.

Honestly, the news of companies laying off employees is not really a big surprise. We are in the midst of an unprecedented global event – the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country with dramatic consequences.

283 Million Americans Ordered to ‘Stay-at-Home’

As of today, fully forty-five out of fifty states have issued full or partial stay-at-home orders in an attempt to prevent community spreading of COVID-19. Only five states, mostly lower population states, have no such orders.

Graphic showing states with full or partial Stay-at-Home orders
New York Times graphic: Dark color means statewide Stay-at-Home order, light color means partial Stay-at-Home order, white states have no order [Click to enlarge]

This means that 283 million Americans have been told to leave their offices or other places of work…and stay home. In many cases, there are strong and even police-enforced curfews in place and residents are told to stay in their homes and only leave for emergency purposes, such as to obtain groceries or prescriptions.

Reduced Human Interactions Means Reduced Economic Transactions

All of these governmental actions to reduce or eliminate human interactions (and viral transmission)…pretty much kill economic transactions as well. Data has begun to roll in suggesting the country is rapidly approaching a recession – if it isn’t already in one.

So considering all of this, it is not a huge surprise to hear word of companies being forced to lay off staff to reduce their overhead. These companies are in survival mode…and that’s a brutal place to be.

AudioQuest Notifies Dealers of Downsizing in ‘Every Department’

Many of our sources pointed specifically to AudioQuest, the high end cable manufacturer – who had internally communicated with dealers about their staff reductions. Ultimately, they posted their dealer notice on their Facebook page, a remarkable move to transparency – as most of the other companies said to have layoffs have tried to hide this fact.

Photo of AudioQuest headquarters
From the AudioQuest website

In a post titled, “An Important Message to the AudioQuest Dealer Community,” AudioQuest VP of Sales Shaun Schuetz shared the news of the company’s actions it deemed necessary to adjust their operations for the new normal of the reduced economic activity. The letter starts with an upbeat opening: “First and foremost, I hope this finds you, your families, and all your staff healthy and staying positive during these challenging times. The effects of the fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus, and cases of COVID-19 disease, are overwhelming society, governments, and businesses in so many ways.”

‘We Have Had to Make Some Very Difficult Decisions’

“We are all in this together, and, like many of you, we have had to make some very difficult decisions to ensure that we emerge from the present situation in the best possible condition. While we are certain of a brighter future, The Quest Group (DBA AudioQuest and GoldenEar Technology) yesterday enacted downsizing measures that impact every department in the company.”

Letter to dealers from Shaun Schuetz, VP Sales, Americas, AudioQuest & GoldenEar

Schuetz’s letter goes on to reassure dealers that all departments are fully functional, even in the wake of their layoffs. Other than certain processes (say custom cable construction) taking a little longer than normal, the company says everything is fully operational.

Schuetz Shares the Back Story of the Decision with Strata-gee

In a telephone interview with Schuetz, he shared some of the thinking behind both the decision to cut back staff, and the letter openly communicating the move to their entire dealer base.

“You know Q1 for us was really good…and actually it wrapped up really good. But as we really started to look at a financial forecast [for Q2 and beyond], our concern was not necessarily where we are in the present, but if the worst happens, how do we ensure AudioQuest weathers the storm?

“And if we learned anything from [the recession of] ’08 – when we did three separate rounds of layoffs and we staggered them over nine months – is that just isn’t the way to do it. You know everyone sits around on pins and needles and wonders if they are next and it just wasn’t good for our company culture.

“So we said this time let’s do what’s right from the beginning.”

Shaun Schuetz

Schuetz said that they are hoping that this COVID-19 related economic event will be a relatively short issue – a few months or so – and noted that they would not hesitate to rehire the very same folks they were forced to furlough. However, he declined to say what percentage of the overall staff was laid off…other than to say the layoffs touched every department.

In regards to the letter to dealers, Schuetz said, “The whole goal is that I didn’t want another COVID-19 email that we’ve all gotten 30,000 of and that don’t really say a lot. We wanted to be transparent and honest. I told my team, ‘Don’t confuse my realistic outlook [i.e. we’re facing tough times] with my optimism that we will get through it.'”

Inventory is Strong & They are Ready to Ship

AudioQuest says internal/external operational issues aside (such as special shipping provisions for “Stay at Home” areas), the company’s inventory is strong and they stand ready to serve their dealers’ needs. Schuetz says this is absolutely true…AudioQuest is definitely open for business.

Strata-gee will continue to make efforts to confirm the other companies that have had service and staff cutbacks, but have been less open about the situation. Do you have a tip? Reach out to Strata-gee on the Contact Us page or via info@strata-gee.com or HotNews@strata-gee.com.

Learn more about AudioQuest by visiting: www.audioquest.com.


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