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Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone To Lead Through COVID-19

Lubrication Specialties Inc. Founder & CEO Chris Gabrelcik shares the strategy that grew his company during a pandemic.


It’s no secret that 2020 was a challenging year, especially in the automotive industry. With automotive travel dropping as much as 48% when the pandemic began and fewer people leaving their homes, companies in the sector were staring at a grim 2020 and beyond.

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As a business leader, it is difficult to know which direction to turn when everything feels uncertain and you’re constantly second guessing every decision. But, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to lean into that uncertainty. 

While many companies struggled, LSI grew 75% year over year as a result of stepping out of our comfort zones, leaning into innovation and monitoring shifts in behaviors and trends worldwide. Weathering COVID-19 is a big feat, and it is much easier said than done, but we’ve found the following tactics can be helpful.

Lean Into Your People

Boosting morale can be challenging when it feels like the headlines in the news each day are increasingly heavy and optimism is low. Inspiring a culture of innovation and inclusion is foundational to weathering hard times.


Encouraging your employees to bring new, innovative ideas to light, inspired by the latest trends is a great place to start. Empowering your employees goes a long way in allowing the company to consider all angles of the current situation and ways to innovate, troubleshoot, and problem solve – and often boosts morale in the process.

As a leader, reflecting on the people who motivate you to move forward can help during challenging times. Remember why you started your company or took on your leadership role in the first place. Was it to challenge employees to think bigger? To create job opportunities in your community? Whatever the reason, embrace it. 


Then, take that motivation and share it with your team. Talk about how thinking ahead can help you all work together toward a common goal. You may be surprised by how far transparency will take your team when it comes to weathering the COVID storm.

Listen To Your Consumers

Trying to tell consumers what they need is a counterproductive strategy, especially during a time of crisis. Instead, consider taking a step back and surveying consumer trends. 

For example, the number of people commuting back and forth to work was slashed, and there was less demand for individual vehicle maintenance products during 2020. On the flip side, there was a mass shortage of hand sanitizer and a big influx of people taking road trips with small family groups, thus creating an opportunity for automotive suppliers. 


As a result of listening to customers, LSI entered the RV market for the first time with a line of additives and lubricants that protect the engine, transmission, fuel and oil systems and slide-out mechanisms of RVs for improved performance, fuel economy and reliability. Additionally, we modified our production line to manufacture around 200,000 units of hand sanitizer since the beginning of COVID-19.

Trust Your Gut 

As a leader, if you feel that there is an opportunity – that is within reason – don’t let uncertainties stop you from taking a leap that could propel your company forward. During the pandemic, many business leaders scaled back M&A and R&D as a result of the many unknown variables on the horizon. 


But, if your gut is telling you that the time for a new product or service is now, trust it. Rather than play it safe and stay conservative, LSI launched an entirely new division called LSI Chemical during the pandemic that focuses on solutions for the industrial and commercial side of things, including the automotive, marine, power gen, fuel, and mining sectors. 

Launching new protocols, processes, or products that prioritize larger industry concerns – such as combatting climate change – can help set your company up for long-term success. 


Think about how, as a leader, you can make the most of this time, especially if your company is scaling back production. As you dig into trends that are being both revealed and accelerated during this strange time, you can put long-term strategies in place and consider a move that you might not otherwise have thought about that could position your company well in the future. As long as you have the human and financial capital to make it happen, trust your gut and continue innovating. 

About Chris Gabrelcik

Chris Gabrelcik is one of a select few in the entire world that holds both titles of Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLS) and Oil Management Analyst (OMA). He is also a member of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE), and Association of Diesel Specialists (ADS). He attends annual STLE and ADS conferences to remain informed on the latest scientific advances and studies available to the industry. He began Lubrication Specialties, Inc. in 1997, and since the development of Hot Shot’s Secret THE ORIGINAL STICTION ELIMINATOR in 2004, his company has grown rapidly and continues to do so as he strives to bring forward the highest quality products possible to his customers. Lubrication Specialties, Inc. is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau.



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