Todor Madzharov, co-founder of MEAVO Office Phone Booths tells us about acoustic office solutions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Todor Madzharov: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today! We are doing fine, the pandemic has been really tough, on us and on many people. But we are trying to take the positives. Specifically, it has actually allowed us to spend more time together at home, which is always a good thing. Luckily, we managed to stay away from the virus too!
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded MEAVO Office Phone Booths.
Todor Madzharov: After finishing my Masters’s degree in London, I spent several years working in the digital marketing industry for companies such as Ogilvy and most recently, the highly successful startup JOB TODAY, as a CMO. It was at JOB TODAY, where I met my co-founder, Thomas. We actually needed a quiet place for calls in the office, as we shared a space with the sales team. Upon researching phone booths online, we were astonished by the high price point – it didn’t make sense to pay 10k for a phone booth! That’s when we decided to create an affordable phone booth with all the features necessary for the busy modern office.
We were incredibly lucky with our timing, as the demand for such a product has skyrocketed recently. Especially in the post-Covid workplace, people need more spaces for video conferencing and they also demand more privacy and safety. We are seeing the office space evolve in front of our eyes. We actually just completed a huge survey of 1000 UK employees and business owners and the results are quite curious! We will be sharing these soon.
How does MEAVO Office Phone Booths innovate?
Todor Madzharov: The way we approached manufacturing is, I believe, really different from how established furniture manufacturers do things. Since all Thomas and I knew was software development, we approached the phone booths business as if we were creating an app. Release an MVP, do lots of testing, lots of iteration, constant upgrades, always looking for what to upgrade and improve next.
Some of our manufacturing and logistics partners were skeptical of our approach, but our products keep getting better and we deliver a better and better experience to our clients. A usual office furniture product can go unchanged for decades. I don’t think we have gone 2 months without improving ours!
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Todor Madzharov: The first lockdown in Q1 and Q2 2020 was tough. Sales crashed, as all offices got shut. Our warehouses got full of booths that were already paid and manufactured, but we couldn’t deliver and assemble them due to the lockdown. Our supply chain got negatively affected too. Our manufacturing got slower, due to strict safety measures in the factory. Luckily, we saw sales bouncing back in June and we have been growing really well since. However, the global supply chain, all freight, is still feeling the impact of the interruptions.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Todor Madzharov: We hired our Country manager for Germany just before the Covid-19 outbreak and the first lockdown. We kicked off operations in January and by mid-February, we were looking at an unknown amount of time with no sales or almost no sales. We were put in a no-win situation, especially as we wanted to be as fair to our staff as possible. Thomas and I decided that we didn’t want to let any of our staff go unless we had no other choice. So we tightened our belts, cut all non-personnel costs where we could, and kept going. Fortunately for us, this decision was rewarded a few months later, as our German Country Manager managed to sign some huge deals for us and turn the year around. This was a lesson for us that, most often than not, if you support your staff in difficult times, you will reap the benefits afterward. In the UK, we also didn’t let go of any of our staff, however, we had to take advantage of the furlough scheme for 1 person for a bit of time.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Todor Madzharov: We didn’t need to change much due to Covid specifically. We have always tried to communicate openly and frequently with our customers – during and after the order process, before and during the delivery and assembly. And of course, after the assembly, as they start using our products, we are really keen to hear back from them about their experience with the pods. We don’t use any special tools and just try to be flexible with our clients and adapt to how they prefer to communicate – emails, phone calls, WhatsApp, etc.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Todor Madzharov: We only took advantage of the furlough scheme and are grateful to the government for the opportunity to do so.
Your final thoughts?
Todor Madzharov: We are living through a turbulent time and one, which will have a lasting impact on our world. The workplace has changed forever. This is creating new challenges, but also exciting opportunities for businesses, old and new. At MEAVO, we have a really aggressive plan for the remainder of 2021, releasing several new products, including an office meeting pod. At the same time, I hope that we will all learn from this and create a better balance between our work and private lives.