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How a backup plan led Laminar Communications to launch an innovative app

COVID was the circuit breaker the company needed for its new chapter.

Alan Kepper - Laminar Communications

It will come as no surprise that the tech industry is incredibly fast moving.

In fact, Alan Kepper, Managing Director of Laminar Communications, has a saying: “If you don’t like it, just wait five minutes”.

And that’s certainly true for Laminar. It’s run at a consistently rapid pace, with innovation always at the fore.

“Whether it’s in how we run the business, our workflow model or our constant adaption of new technology, our pace is definitely a major factor in how the company is run,” says Kepper. “To operate in this environment, I feel that being honest with people cuts through wasted time and also allows people to be clear about what is in front of them.

“It has meant on many occasions I have had to take ownership of my successes and failures. By doing this openly and honestly, it builds trust and shows others that they can do this also.”

Over the last 12 years, Laminar has built a reputation offering custom information technology and communications engineering solutions to companies within the education, government and corporate sectors.

The company now delivers everything from network infrastructure and wireless wi-fi solutions to cyber security and SIEM (security information and event management) products.

“I want to see Australians using local technology rather than rushing to trust the options presented from overseas.” – Alan Kepper

The industry has always been a fascination for Kepper, driven by a fundamental need to make sense of things, as well as early encouragement from his father.

“I have been interested in electronics and gadgets for as long as I can remember,” he says. “My dad was into electronics and was a very successful businessman. He was one of the early pioneers of the IT industry and worked for Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce at Fairchild before they founded Intel.

“Even as a toddler I loved taking things apart to work out what makes them work. I did this to my father’s new reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was four or five, so he started bringing things home for me to take apart so that I would stay away from his nice things.

“I always knew what I wanted to do – electronics engineering. At university, I became more interested in analogue electronics, which led me to fibre optic transmission, wireless radio systems, control systems, power supplies and digital transmission modems.”

While working in the business has always been a natural fit for Kepper, the challenges have been in working on the business.

“My biggest challenge in business has been scaling while maintaining good cash flow,” he explains. “Scaling means a lot of things. It meant I had to find good people to do work I traditionally did. It meant I had to think about culture, recruiting and motivating staff.

“I had to work out when to recruit (do I wait until we are working 24/7 or beforehand?) and when to move people on.

“I overcame these challenges by finding other entrepreneurs, talking with them, copying ideas and trying new things. I had to deal with things that were new to me although I had spent years in the corporate world.”

As is fitting for such a constantly changing industry, the continual innovation has also helped Laminar to traverse a range of challenges.

“With COVID, I thought we would need to prepare for some staff to be out of action,” Kepper shares. “I asked staff to cross train. I also started an internal project in case we had engineers sitting around doing nothing. This project turned into our LamChat product and instead of being idle, the engineers became busier.”

LamChat is a new messaging service – think WhatsApp only Australian, totally secure and always free. It was launched by Laminar on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store.

“LamChat was really important for us so we could give back to the community,” Kepper says. “I want to see Australians using local technology rather than rushing to trust the options presented from overseas.”

In addition to Laminar’s focus on community, Kepper wants to see more females entering into STEM-related roles.

“As the business matures, we’ve been able to look at the bigger picture, at the industry as a whole,” he says. “Currently when we advertise, it’s like half the population are not represented.

“We want to help change that by offering opportunities like work experience, as well as enticing job prospects and considerable additional training options for all our staff.”

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