Creative Labs Canada has come up with a creative solution to the unforgiving economic climate: teleworking.

In September, the company closed the doors to its Etobicoke, Ont., office and sent its staff home where they’ve been working ever since. The move was done quietly and without any official

statement. But Creative Labs Canada director Mark Jamieson, (speaking from his home), says that assurances were made to the company’s channel and retail partners that service levels wouldn’t change.

Teleworking is a model that Creative Labs has adopted across North America, says Jamieson, where sales people representing specific territories often work from home.

The closure of the Etobicoke office followed a May 31 staff reshuffle, where four administration and marketing personnel were laid off. “”I think we went through a bit of a hiring frenzy during the good times, and when business came back down to earth, we said, ‘Where can we survive without certain bodies?'”” says Jamieson.

Marketing and administration chores once in the hands of Canadians are now being looked after by Creative Labs Inc. headquarters in Milpitas, Calif. “”To have somebody physically located here in Canada doing that same function . . . that’s one area where we can shed that headcount without necessarily losing any efficiencies in our business. That’s really the way we’ve justified it,”” says Jamieson.

Katherine Matheson used to handle marketing and public relations for Creative Labs Canada. She says she has “”no hard feelings”” and is now running her own public relations business from home. Her marketing duties are now the purview of Jamieson, she says, and the PR has been moved back to California. “”It was just an economic decision. It was a reorganization. It was not just the Canadian office, there were other offices involved.””

Jamieson confirms that restructuring efforts have been going on at the company for the past 18 months. Creative Labs’ Florida office, which handled Latin American customer relations, has undergone similar changes to those in Etobicoke.

Creative Labs’ partners were kept in the loop during those changes, insists Jamieson. According to Alex Nobile, vice-president of product management at Synnex Canada Ltd., “”Our account manager changed, but we still have an account manager, and Mark Jamieson is still involved when he needs to be. We really haven’t seen any deterioration in terms of service.

“”I rarely went to their office anyway. They usually come and see me. So that was not a big deal.”” Nobile says that sales of Creative Labs products have actually been on the increase.

To facilitate its relationship with retailers and end customers, Creative Labs has also hired three people to do in-store product demonstrations and training, bringing the total workforce to nine.

“”With new stores opening up (like Best Buy coming to Canada), and emphasis being placed on retail, we wanted more feet on the street and more direct customer contact with resellers and that kind of community,”” says Jamieson.

There may be a new line of Creative Labs products next year. Jamieson wouldn’t specify, but says they’ll be in keeping with the company’s focus on the desktop market. They “”might actually be significant players for us and a large percentage of our revenues may come from these new categories,”” he says. “”We’re still in the development stages.””

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