GRRRR! The Four R’s That Helped a Michigan Manufacturer Navigate the Pandemic and Find Its Roar.

March 1, 2022 @ 11:41 AM

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger – but over this past year Byrne dug deep and found its growl ahead of schedule. While no one can deny that COVID-19 has packed its share of challenges, from business shutdowns and hiring shortages to supply chain issues, the pandemic has also presented countless opportunities for the manufacturer to reframe these difficulties and help their customers win the recovery.

Back in June of 2020, the company discovered a change model outlining the four phases of pandemic recovery that consulting firm McKinsey & Company1 had recently created, and the thinking really resonated with Byrne’s leadership team. Those four R’s – Respond, Reflect, Reimagine, and Rebound – provided the perfect framework for their own resurgence plan.

So, with four R’s – and a “G” added up front for a growl, for fun, and because Grand Rapids (GR) is right up the road – this is how Byrne made GRRRR their own


The world was already changing; the pandemic just revved things up. Luckily, at Byrne, they already understood the power of the pivot, allowing them to not only survive uncertainty but to grow in it. Early on, when many companies were forced to shut down, Byrne witnessed the heartbreak of families physically separated by COVID-19 and quickly stepped in to create Power Comm Stations that allowed patients at a local hospital to connect with loved ones. In a little more than a week, they were also able to design, mold, produce and donate face shields for over 5,000 frontline workers. Responding meant staying agile, focusing on their values, building community and just sticking with it – addressing new challenges and opportunities together.


By examining the new ways people interact with brands and buy products, Byrne created a plan with transformation at its heart. There were company-wide quarterly reviews of their four R’s, but this reflection came more regularly too. “Honestly, in those early months of the pandemic, each day brought with it a conscious decision to either laugh or cry,” says Dan Byrne, company CEO. “It also meant really exploring what people needed and looking at where we could create the most benefit.” For the entire team, a thoughtful, optimistic mindset allowed them to continue important work and support each other with a story or smile – even from beneath a mask.


Looking at yourself with critical honesty is never an easy task, but it’s what Byrne had to do. They needed to explore and reimagine how to best support customers, partners and employees alike. In doing so they created H & H (Health and Habitats) Champions, an internal effort to focus on making their own workspaces more conducive to team productivity and happiness. For customers, they created products like Powered Fence and Branching Work From Home Kits to bolster the new work hybrid in the office and at home. Here, it was about continuing to put that reflective, innovative thinking into action with new priorities for an ever-changing work/life landscape.


The world is in constant flux. We can’t control everything that comes our way, but we can control how we rebound. At Byrne, this step meant pushing forward as a team with creative employee support and recruitment strategies including increased pay and other incentives. They also added alternative approaches to work, like new Night Owl and Weekend Warriors programs that have allowed access to a previously untapped population of motivated local talent. Rebounding has meant problem solving supply issues across the board as well. “By working closely with our domestic and global partners over these past months, and by searching out new resources wherever necessary, we’re continuing to make improvements,” says Troy Smith, Director of Materials. “We’ve also implemented a Big Risks Reap Big Rewards strategy, buying larger quantities of materials across all aspects of production to help ensure inventory.”

For Byrne, this last R – the toughest of the four – has been about perspective too. In 50 years of business, they’ve learned that if you believe the challenges will break you, they probably will. But if you believe you have the power to stand up to each obstacle, strengthen your position and work with your employees to build a brighter future, that’s the win.

“We haven’t got it all figured out and we’re still facing our share of complications alongside Byrne suppliers and partners,” continues Dan Byrne, “but we hope that sharing our story might be able to offer some support to other companies that are still struggling right now.”

GRRRR! The exclamation, heard often throughout their buildings, speaks volumes about Byrne. Like a strategic reframing of the company’s long-standing family motto, Certavi Et Vici – I struggle, I succeed – it’s a roar that tells the world that they’re ready to take on the next challenge. And while disruptions are sure to continue, by focusing on core strategies, operational excellence, increased agility, and getting products in customers’ hands, Byrne will continue to navigate the tough times with greater positivity and success.

Here’s to finding your own company’s roar and making every year your Year of the Tiger.


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