As the Cardwave team gets ready to shut up shop for Christmas, founder and Chief Executive, Paul Norbury reflects on the past 12 months and looks forward to 2019…
As we approach the end of the year I wanted to take a few moments and look back on 2018, and comment on some of the events that have shaped the year at Cardwave.
I always thought 2018 would be very different to previous years and this has proved to be the case. The commoditisation of the market is being largely driven by the adoption of 3D NAND, but growth in new technologies, changes to product life-cycles and the popularity of removable memory devices were all bound to have an impact. Whilst some customers and markets have seen a small reduction in their use of SD cards and USB flash drives, new markets are opening up and we are still very excited by the future.
We started 2018 in the middle of a global supply shortage of flash memory, prices were still rising and lead times were getting longer and longer each week, but in spite of these challenges, we managed to maintain supply and deliver a professional service to all our customers. This could not have been possible without the understanding from our customers and the committed support from our manufacturing partners and whilst it has been tough, I am very pleased that we have now come through it.
I have always said that I invest more time with our manufacturing partners than our customers and whilst many people may not understand this statement, I strongly believe that Cardwave needs to have a strong manufacturing base as we’re often asked to turn on a sixpence and literally ‘move a mountain’ for our customers. We are a services organisation and our customers expect high standards of us, so of course my team and I will always do everything possible to help them. If we don’t have the support and loyalty of our manufacturing partners then it’s difficult to offer the premium level of service that we’re so proud of. Customers are still very much our number 1 priority and we have a great team of people who will be taking the lead in ensuring we are their number 1 choice to partner with.
Whilst we wrestled with supply of product for our customers, we also wrestled with our internal processes and took the decision to implement a new, all-encompassing ERP system. Most of the hard work has been done now and already we are seeing the benefits in greater efficiency and real-time information so this was a very worthwhile investment that will stand us in good stead for many years to come. It is our intention to roll out more functionality in 2019, some of which will directly relate to our customers and improve the quality and speed of information they receive from us.
One of the highlights of 2018 for me has been the growth and success of our SafeToGo® brand. We’ve been selling hardware encrypted USB flash drives for several years now under the SafeToGo® name but 2018 was always expected to be a big year for us. We were forecasting a growth in business leading up to the enforcement of GDPR in May, and whilst sales have continued to increase month on month, it is only now that we are seeing rapid growth. Many companies are still not sure what GDPR means to them, and more still haven’t taken any steps to ensure compliance, so expect us to be banging the SafeToGo® drum for a little longer as it really is such a low-cost, simple solution to implement.
I believe very strongly in our SafeToGo® products and we have invested significant resources in redesigning and restructuring our portfolio. Customers will see new products being launched in 2019 including SafeToGo® 302E for SMEs, biometric for high security workplaces and authentication products that fit every application in every market. We will also be changing our internal structure to give this opportunity a clearer focus and dedicated resources as I believe we have a compelling and innovative product range to be successful. This was recognised when SafeToGo® Solo won the prestigious ‘New Product of the Year’ at the Computing Security Awards in October. To receive this award from your peers is a very humbling experience and we have built on this success with the recent launch of our new SafeToGo® Solutions website. We are also keen to grow our channel partner network so we will be focusing on finding the right partners to share in our success – applications are welcome!
In late October I took the very difficult (and personal) decision to resign as Vice President and Secretary of the SD Association. I have been actively involved in the Association for many years serving on the leadership team for over 8 years that has overseen the introduction of new standards for SD cards, including UHS-I, the A1 and A2 Application Performance Class and more recently SD Express. I have left some very good friends behind and whilst they may miss my sense of humour (that’s what they’ve told me!), I am confident they will be fine without me. Participating at the highest level in your market is important and Cardwave will continue to do this where possible, but it’s time for new people with new ideas to take their seat at the table.
I want to spend more time growing our business in Europe and I have to be ready for whatever Brexit throws at us, plus I want to spend more time supporting my colleagues in the US and growing Cardwave Inc. We have now been operating from Texas for three years and we had to move our operation in July because the original office just wasn’t big enough. The business opportunities in North, Central and South America look very promising so it is important for me to focus on this.
Finally, the most common question I have been asked by my team is what has been the most stand-out moment for me this year. I didn’t have to think long before answering, and the answer is my team. Any business owner will tell you that you can’t run a business without people, and whilst I’ve had my fair share of challenges, I know that Cardwave wouldn’t be the company it is today without the loyalty and motivation of the team. We all share a common purpose of trying to do the very best for our customers and we all take pride in what we are doing. We all win together and sometimes we have to take the knocks when something goes wrong, but Cardwave has many skilled people with a cast-iron commitment to excellence and this was evident when we won an award in June for ‘Flying the Flag for Swindon and Wiltshire’. This was a big award for me because unlike previous awards, it was a real surprise to win it. I may have been the person collecting the award but I am humble enough to recognise that you cannot achieve many things on your own.
I therefore want to place on record my thanks and appreciation to everyone who has worked hard for the company this year, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
So here’s to a restful break for all my colleagues, customers and suppliers, thank you for your business and your friendship and we look forward to a fantastic 2019 – a year in which we will celebrate our 15th anniversary!
NOTE: Our offices will be closed 22-26 December 2018 and 1 January 2019.