Despite setbacks caused by COVID-19 and the floods in Queensland and NSW, hearing tech company Audeara (ASX: AUA) is keeping a steady hand on its growth plans as it continues to forge relationships in both the Australian and US markets.
In its most recent ASX trading update, Audeara reported revenue rose 28 per cent year-on-year to $330,517 in the March quarter, mostly driven by its wholesale division.
However, the company also notes that unexpected weather events in key markets on the east coast of Australia created a challenging operating environment which saw revenue fall by 43 per cent compared to the December quarter.
Speaking with Business News Australia, Audeara CEO Dr James Fielding explained how COVID-positive staff and the flooding disaster across Queensland and NSW impacted the company at the start of the year.
“Clinicians themselves were being diagnosed with COVID and having to go into lockdown. Those staff shortages across the country definitely impacted the clinics,” he said.
“Then you add the floods and all of the people that lost their businesses and their homes…at one point one of our partners had 20 of their clinics underwater.
“[That] definitely means that they need to be focusing on core priorities - keeping their team safe [and] reallocating staff. It definitely slowed things down which is why we were really encouraged when March came back and April is looking nice as well.”
The company’s stockists have grown from roughly 800 in November 2021 to reach 1,041 as at 31 March. The jump is largely attributed to the addition of Amplifon, Audika, and Sonova subsidiaries Connect Hearing and Blamey Saunders hears (BSh) to its Australian network.
Fielding is also looking outside of the nation for growth, having returned from the US a few a weeks ago after talking to six of the seven largest audiology clinic groups in the States, which represent 40 per cent of that market.
Reflecting on the trip, he considered it a positive and “productive” experience.
“It's really quite encouraging the amount of respect they have for the Australian market,” he says.
“Amplifon, Starkey, WSA - all those guys that we are in strong relationships with here was able to go over and [give us] leverage. We’re really trying to extend what we've been doing and open all those doors – and so far, so good.
“The US is such an enormous market that they have a lot of pull in clinical areas. 10 years ago, you wouldn't get time of day, but now there's quite a strong reputation for Australian tech - especially health tech - and it was really great to see that come off.”
To manage the increasing demand, Fielding says the company is in the process of hiring three new team members and plans to move its lead salesmen from Queensland down to NSW – opening a position in the Sunshine State as well as Victoria.
Audeara’s expansion plans also include Europe, where the company recently hired István Nagy who will grow the company’s network in Hungary and Poland. Prior to joining AUA, he spent nine years at Sonova Group as a director and seven months with Amplifon.
“We’re going through our hiring processes to grow the team,” Fielding said.
“We've been running 800 to 1,000 clinics with the same team that we had when we had 200 clinics.
“We've really reached a great tipping point where more resources will equal better outcomes.”
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support