A year-end letter from our founder

Will there be a HUONE after this pandemic? A question everyone’s asking, our customers, employees, my investors as well as to myself. 

It goes without saying that the event and meeting industry around the world has taken a toll with Covid-19 pandemic. While it is still an on-going battle, we are happy and proud that we are still here fighting. Usually, our past seasonal greetings have been about acknowledging and celebrating the hard work over the year and wishing everyone a joyful new year ahead. This year’s letter might be a tad more sombre, but we wanted to share with you our 2020, the reality first.

HUONE 2020 in Numbers

  • We’ve lost 45 team members 
  • We’ve handled 1855 meeting cancellations since March 2020
  • In 2020, we’ve lost 5M€ in revenue 
  • In 2020, we’ve hosted: 17000 guests (28% of last year‘s)
  • In 2020, we’ve hosted: 1449 meetings/events (36% of last year’s)
  • 7 out of 10 customers recommend HUONE to a friend/colleague (Helsinki, compared to 8/10, last year)

Dear customers of HUONE,

The year 2020 will be remembered by generations. For HUONE, we first heard about ‘Corona’ from HUONE Singapore in January and I flagged it as a ‘potential risk’ to our investors the same month. Little did we know at the time, it was going to be a ‘worldwide pandemic’ later on. 

HUONE Singapore was impacted first, then in mid-March 2020 it also came to Finland and Denmark in full force. Overnight the turnover dropped to zero. Ever since then, the whole company has been doing everything it can do to manage the crisis. The strategy focus changed from expansion to crisis management. It was for me personally a major test of leadership in how to steer the company to survival in a time of crisis. 

As a leader of a company with 65 employees, the one thing that I am most proud of is my teams in these three countries we are in. HUONE has been the Great Place To Work 2 years in a row, and our high team spirits are shown in our very high NPS (Net Promoter Score, compared to the industry-standard) we get from our customers. HUONE is a blind believer of ‘Happy employees = Happy Customers’. 

You can imagine the pain when we had to put the entire staff under layoff. I sat in front of a computer breaking the news, with two lines of tears coming down. I had no answers to any of the questions from the staff and laid off the entire company. I’ll never forget that day. From that day on, transparent and honest internal communication became my number one focus. 

When HUONE reopened in June for Safer Meeting, we benchmarked the Singaporean SOP in battling the virus spread. We introduced and trained our team members a set of strict ‘Preventive Actions’, starting by wearing a facemask, no matter what. Despite having very little cash left, we invested in manufacturing the meal-boxes with lids, as we didn’t believe serving buffets to customers was the right thing to do. More actions and efforts followed in order to provide a safer place for our customers to meet in small groups and keep our head above water. 

We have been fighting the Covid-19 pandemic for the 11th month now. In Finland, we are in the middle of the second wave. As a group, we have lost 5M€ revenue thus far and said goodbye to 45 colleagues. The rest of my teams are overworked and tired from the constant changes in government guidelines, their job insecurity, lack of sales and cancellations. 

Despite taking one negative news after another, our teams are still giving everything they’ve got to save HUONE from the pandemic. We are pivoting, we are innovating and striving to provide a safer place for those who need to meet for work that cannot be done remotely. We believe that having a small controlled group, plus having a hybrid option (with remote participants), you can meet safely and work productively at HUONE. 

Only together, we can overcome this 

Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major hit to all the tourism, hospitality and service industry. As a responsible business, HUONE stands side by side with the local authorities to prevent the virus from spreading for instance, by offering free cancellations and larger rooms for safe distancing. This is an extremely challenging time for all of us. As the founder of HUONE, I truly believe that with all the actions and pivoting we’ve been implementing, HUONE will be able to crawl out of this pandemic alive, full of wounds but stronger. 

Christmas is near, and soon after is New Year 2021. The pandemic has lasted longer than everyone had hoped. Please know that HUONE is not giving up. We are responsibly upholding the strict safety measures providing a safe place for small groups to meet. We are doing everything we can to save HUONE from the pandemic. We want to host you again, hopefully soon without a face mask so you can see our smiles better. 

If you are wondering how you could help, you could start by planning the next year! You can book your kick-off, training, workshop or team meeting with us. You can play a part in saving a company that you love. 

With your safety and our beloved HUONE in mind, on behalf of the entire team in HUONE, I wish you a calm relaxing Christmas and a Happy New Year 2021 without the Covid-19 virus. 

With love,
Evon Blomstedt
Founder and Group CEO of HUONE

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