First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Arnon Rosan: We are doing alright. It’s definitely been a challenge with many months of remote work and with kids dealing with remote school. I have started to get back to the office full-time, but the other employees are still working remotely, so it’s definitely a bit quiet around here. I will say that I have been surprised by how efficient everyone can be working remotely. That said, I can’t wait for the day we will all be in the office again together as I definitely feel the loss of facetime and miss the more regular opportunities to collaborate and toss around ideas.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded EverBlock.
Arnon Rosan: I started EverBlock as a sort of “therapy” after having sold my prior business. I wanted something to do, and my kids joked with me about how I loved to build things and that I should be doing that. I kind of joked with them about making something we could build anything with and thus EverBlock was born. Prior to founding EverBlock, I founded and ran a company that manufactured modular flooring systems and temporary roadways. I guess that is what got me interested in modularity and with EverBlock, I’ve been able to take this concept to the next level.
How does EverBlock innovate?
Arnon Rosan: I look at markets and always try to ask myself what the market needs but is lacking. A lot of my time is spent exploring competitor’s websites, learning about different markets, and trying to understand the needs. Everyone on the team tries to listen to the markets, whether our customers or feedback and comments we receive on social media. When we kept hearing that some people wanted a more “traditional” looking wall, versus the cool and colorful EverBlock, we wanted to take what we had learned from EverBlock in terms of modularity and interconnectivity and to extend that to a new wall panel product, EverPanel that appeals more to a conservative application and market. The key is to be nimble and to react to market needs quickly. When COVID struck, we made sure people knew about how our EverPanel could be used to put up modular hospitals, testing centers, and shelters. Our systems went in quickly and could be customized to the varying layouts throughout the country. This turned out really well for us. Our EverBlock even came in handy for nurses’ stations and headboards, inpatient rooms and we were able to get these built quickly at remote sites.
When the need evolved, our modular products evolved with the need, so when additional hospital capacity was not needed anymore, we started to focus on school and office reopenings, and on the need to add classroom space, office dividers, and teacher screens. This led to the speedy development of our EverShield modular clear-screening portable partition, which ended up being quite popular for schools.
To us, innovation is really about iteration, and I am not a believer in seeking huge leaps forward as much as in refining the products one has and then adding variants that address the changing needs of the customer.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Arnon Rosan: We are grateful that our products are able to protect and help mitigate the spread of COVID. Our life-size building blocks, wall panels and portable partitions ended up becoming really popular because they are easy to deploy, easy to configure to any type of site, and designed to be easily cleaned and sanitized. We’ve built hospitals, school classrooms in gymnasiums and cafeterias, and provided protective screening for teachers. Everyone here is really proud of what we were able to accomplish in such a short time. Of course, every business is re-thinking its office space, and many are starting to reconsider the open-office floor plan. We’ve been doing a lot of work with offices, clinics, factories, libraries, museums, event centers, and more, working to help them meet new social distancing needs and guidelines.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Arnon Rosan: The most difficult of choices for us were to reorganize and reprioritize. It got tough around the time that we began to receive calls from State Governor’s offices looking to use our modular wall panels and building block systems to build out thousands of patient pods, medical testing sites, nursing stations and converting convention centers into temporary hospitals for COVID recovery and relief efforts.
Everyone really needed to step it up. Because we provide clients with a free design consultation using our 3D Virtual Builder tool, we got overwhelmed, and it became a bit of a triage environment, making sure that the most “real” opportunities were followed upon. I’m sorry to say that I am sure some customers didn’t even get a follow-up and we definitely hate to think of that. At the same time, our website was still taking orders, and those orders for temporary walls and portable partitions increased.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and EverBlock in the future?
Arnon Rosan: Fortunately, this has been a pretty decent surf season on the East Coast. That is my therapy and everything kind of disappears when you are in the water. Considering we were already on essential lockdown by the end of March, there were some nice early season, cold water sessions that probably wouldn’t have happened if we were still in the office. I also try to disaggregate problems and projects so that anyone task doesn’t feel oppressive, even if together with the overall task seems impossible.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Arnon Rosan: The unique part about EverBlock is that we really do not have any competition. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the reality is that we usually are competing against a traditionally built wall by a contractor. Maybe a bit with cubicle companies as well. To stay in the game, we are always looking to innovate. We have a fun new modular system coming out in a month or so, and we think it will shake things up a bit. Stay tuned to see what we’ve created.
In general, we are not here to compete; instead, we are here to alter the traditional market using unique new ways of doing things. Over time, I’d love to see a business that enables nearly anything to be modular – offices, rooms at home, etc.
Your final thoughts?
Arnon Rosan: It seems that nowadays, people are hunkering down and are afraid to take risks and chances. That’s totally understandable, but I also believe that these times, what are called “hinge” moments in history, also offer tremendous opportunities to those who go out there and find a way to solve evolving needs. We plan to continue to seek out those ideas and hope to continue to thrive, even as the world changes.