We talked to Leart Zogjani of Symbolt, the only platform for graphic designers and clients to design and change text together, without breaking the design and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Leart Zogjani: Fine, luckily, none of my close family members have been diagnosed with Covid, and we’ve all continued work, so there’s nothing to complain about there. It has gotten too much at times, with all the quarantine and not being able to meet clients or leads or even going out for fun, but it’s nothing we can’t work through.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Symbolt.
Leart Zogjani: Well, I’ve been a graphic designer for 15 years now. I’ve been running a design agency (Skins Agency) for just over 6 years, lecturing at universities for 5 years and a new product owner for just shy of 2 years. Having all this experience has made me lucky enough to work with such a big variety of clients. This experience allowed me to see some major problems that were present in design to this day. That pushed me to co-found Symbolt with my brother.
How does Symbolt innovate?
Leart Zogjani: With Symbolt, we let the clients deal with the copy and the designers with the design. It’s a co-creation platform where the clients can edit the text on the designed document, and no matter the amount of text added or removed from the designed document, the design will automatically adjust and not let the design break.
Let’s say you have a 100-page document that needs designing and layout. And the design has been done, but there needs to be a change from the client. Let’s say there’s a paragraph change (adding or removing one) on page 6 that’d ruin all of the following 94 pages of the designed document because you’d have to automatically compensate for the missing paragraph, which will be apparent in the following pages. This is where Symbolt enters in and automates that entire process. Having two main modes (Designer and Client) allows the client to make comments and change the copy without having to call the designer and lets the designer not only design from scratch with easy and simple drag and drop features but also pick from multiple ready-made templates for the document.
This not only makes the process a lot shorter but also eliminates most of the work that goes unpaid by the designer, like revisions to the text, and streamlines the progress of communication.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Leart Zogjani: Well, it certainly hit us, being design-oriented in a crisis situation usually means that we’re one of the last industries to cross people’s minds. We did see a drop in our income and clients interested in our services. But we were lucky enough to be able to work remotely and be far safer than the people working the front line and even luckier than those who lost their jobs or even their lives.
When we weren’t working remote, we’ve done a total of 180 on our office routines, and that clearly reflected on our finances as well, besides the shortage of clients, there have been extra costs with extra office/sanitary supplies, extra office cleanings and deep sanitizations, more costs of heating as we kept windows open at all times to minimize the risk etc. Beyond that, we had won an acceleration in Prague back in November, which lasted until March (StartUp Yard Acceleration Program), which opened us up to a whole new market and a lot of new leads and contacts, which after finishing, we applied for visas again to continue our stay there, but sadly couldn’t due to the Coronavirus outbreak. That meant that all physical meetings were impossible, and we had to turn to calls and emails during a pandemic, which not a lot of investors were open to giving investments at that time.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Leart Zogjani: It got harder working remote, especially being a new team and just starting to form cohesion. After the main waves had passed, my brother (co-founder) and I were constantly on the opposites side of the argument of should we continue working remotely or back in the office. The main lesson that we got is that some people definitely work so much better remotely than at the office, and that’s something that no amount of “home-ifying” the office will fix.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Leart Zogjani: The design agency we mainly work with international clients, we didn’t get to use any specific tools that we already weren’t using. Regarding Symbolt, with all the new clients on new software, it did get a bit hectic at first, but as there weren’t many new challenges (that we hadn’t faced with the design agency), we managed it without the need for any extra tools.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Leart Zogjani: Yes, we were lucky enough to have won a grant from the government. It was not enough to keep the business afloat, but as a consequence, it was enough to kick start our digital marketing campaign, which did help us out a bit in raising the public’s awareness of us.
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