We talked to Jeff Golfman, founder of The Raw Office, about office supplies and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jeff Golfman: Our immediate family is doing great. No one has been sick and we are all staying safe. What has been challenging is everyone working from home and balancing the day-to-day grind of work/life balance as we are always “at the office”. Finding ways to turn off work and create personal time has been the focus. The big bonus has been no more commuting to work. That part I love the most.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded The Raw Office.
Jeff Golfman: I was a supplier to Staples, Office, and Office Max for several years, and during that time, I was able to take a look behind the scenes and I did not like what I saw. These large big-box retailers are not offering the best solutions to client’s businesses and consumers alike. I thought that there had to be a better way. One where people, planet, and profits are all in balance and in harmony. Where a true win-win supply partnership is generated. Where great service, price, and transparency are offered. In short, I had the vision to start The Raw Office.
How does The Raw Office innovate?
Jeff Golfman: We innovate by listening to our customers. This pandemic has created so many new requirements for keeping offices, homes, governments, and medical practices safe. And as the science and experience grows and the pandemic landscape shifts, our product offering, and service have to keep up. We can only do this by asking questions and listening. By truly partnering with our clients to deliver on their needs.
Our Customer Service team builds meaningful relationships with our customers. It’s only by brief, regular check-ins that we keep on top of the shifting needs of business and consumers.
We are a tech company with a very nimble and agile team. Regular meetings between our tech development people, and the rest of our team, those who use the tech, are crucial. Issues are solved in hours, not days.
Our goal is to automate what can be automated and personalize and customize the rest. Therefore, the best of tech and human power delivered together to provide the ultimate customer experience.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Jeff Golfman: Since we launched the Raw Office over 5 years ago, we’ve been offering personal protection and safety equipment (PPE), selling items on or platforms like masks, sanitizers, wipes, gloves, and the like. However, pre-pandemic items were less than 1% of total revenues. As a result of the pandemic, we very quickly expanded this part of our businesses, and today the PPE segment is over 90% of the revenues.
So for us, the growth in PPE has caused our business to explode. Last year our revenues grew by 21 times versus the year prior and we are aiming for another 5-10 times growth this year. As a result of the pandemic, we’ve emerged as an international importer of PPE, building relationships with manufacturers and customers throughout the world.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Jeff Golfman: In the last year we have tripled the full-time staff level of Raw Office in order to meet the demands of the growth in the business. Hiring people during the pandemic has been an interesting challenge as we are all working from home and we don’t meet in person as a team.
With so many of our client businesses also working from home, we’ve expanded our “work from home” product offerings on our platform. Our business customers still need to provide remote workers with everything they need to work safely from home: office supplies, ergonomic desks, chairs, footrests, and PPE.
Our technology allows users to set up accounts in which workers can order what they need from a pre-approved curated list of products. They don’t need to collect receipts and submit expense claims – products are automatically delivered the next day on UPS to the staff’s home address and then charged on a net 30-day invoice to the company’s corporate GL codes. This saves the business a ton of time and money doing reconciliations and reimbursement claims for staff.
We think that in the future most companies will continue to have staff work from home and from the office on a rotating basis. Maybe 2-3 days per week at home and 2-3 at the office. Our technology is well-positioned to allow the business to manage this effectively.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Jeff Golfman: To be honest, we’ve missed the face-to-face with customers. Zoom is great, but we are looking forward to being able to meet with more of our customers in person again soon.
Pipedrive is the CRM that we use and it’s an excellent tool for us to track progress, manage relationships, and ensure the correct cadence for communication with our customers.
The best technology that we use at Raw Office is our own in-house software that we built that we call the Raw Switch. It is an AI-powered tool that allows businesses to quickly save money and improve eco performance versus their current office supplier.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Jeff Golfman: As our revenues grew during the pandemic, we were not eligible for the majority of the government programs offered. We did tap into one small wage subsidy program and another small interest-free loan program, which was helpful.
Your final thoughts?
Jeff Golfman: The Raw Office is a certified B Corp that is disrupting the market for office supplies for large corporations and small businesses. The Raw Office, helps businesses save money, control costs, and be more eco-friendly with its 100% carbon neutral supply chain and Artificial Intelligence-powered ordering platform.
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