Stefan Eriksson, 2018-09-03
Teasers for the coming book about Konftels 30 years in business
In October 2018 it is 30 years since Konftel was formed. Our new book “The Sound of a Company – Konftel 30 Years” will be released at the anniversary. This time the story ends with a face to the voice. Here we have gathered some teasers from the book, so you can get a taste of what’s coming. After the release the book will be able to download as a PDF (and a beautiful but rare hard copy).
Available for download here (PDF).
Teaser 5: 2018-10-05:
The long and winding road
Konftel’s intense globetrotting in the mid-2000s paid off. It was profitable, fun and eye-opening – but also hard work. Was it really realistic for a company with just 15 or so employees to maintain this tempo and this success over the longer term, and still keep up with the pace of technical advances?
It began to dawn on the owner Gunnar Ekström and others, that they would need a whole different scale of resources if they were going to continue developing and growing as a company in the global market. It was Gunnar and his brother Hans who founded Konftel in 1988, based on Peter Renkel and John-Erik Eriksson’s first conference phone system in Umeå.
“I’d been there from the start and owned Konftel for almost 20 years. Of course, I had strong feelings for the company. I still do, because we’ve been on such an incredible journey together, from a basement in Umeå in the far north of Sweden to a presence in almost every corner of the globe,” comments former owner Gunnar Ekström today.
“I was about to turn 60 in 2008 and I wasn’t sure I was the right person to shift things up another gear and steer the ship in a new direction. In fact, the idea of selling began to grow in my mind from around 2006.”
“I understood Gunnar’s reasoning,” says CEO Peter Renkel. “He talked to us in the senior management team and listened to what we had to say from an operational point of view. It was clear that we needed more muscle if we were to continue developing – he was completely right about that – so we realised that selling was a must for the long-term future. At the same time, there was naturally a sense of nervous excitement, because when processes like this are set in motion, with so many powerful interests involved, you never really know where you’ll end up.”
And what followed certainly was exciting.
The company was about to embark on quite a long and bumpy journey: years of negotiations, hurdles and administrative complexities, illness, product delays and a battle to find a role as a small company in a huge global organisation.
That might sound a touch negative, but don’t worry – it all came good in the end. The Konftel brand has remained strong all along.
Teaser 4: 2018-09-21:
Volcanic eruption in Iceland and the horrors of a bus ride
Konftel started having meetings with distributors and retailers in northern Sweden. This approach turned out to be very popular.
One conference was held at the time of the major air travel disruption resulting from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010, resulting in the largest air traffic shutdown since World War II. People were stuck in a variety of locations, but lots of effort from Konftel staff and many others (there’s that cooperation again!), coaches from the south of Sweden were organised and all was well.
This coach trip was definitely very memorable thanks to lots of people. But there was a scary moment as well. The coach company showed films on the long journey, and one of them had a rather creepy theme – the downfall of our planet. There were no people on screen, no cars, no buildings. Just trees and a deserted landscape.
“Hey, what’s happening? Where are we going?” asked someone as they neared the end of the journey.
Lapland is a remote place, with few people, few buildings and a lot of trees…
Teaser 3: 2018-09-18:
Running your home from the fridge
The end of the 1990s became the ‘Eldorado’ of new ideas. The digital development enabled peoples’ imagination to run wild – new innovations were planned all around the world. Some became reality but many stayed stuck at the prototype stage.
One exciting product was the Screenfridge complete with a built-in computer. The idea was that it would become the heart of the house. Via the fridge you would be able to communicate with family members and the outside world through e-mail or videophone calls. You would also be able to surf the net from the fridge. There was television and radio and even the possibility to monitor video surveillance of your gardens and children’s nursery.
The idea was also that the contents of your fridge combined with a recipe library would form the basis for sending orders, when supplies ran low, to the local supermarket that in turn would deliver goods to your house a couple of hours later.
Well, as we all know we’re not really there yet, but we’re getting closer as the Internet of Things, IoT, is developing rapidly. Now, almost 20 years later, such ideas are really being turned into reality.
At the time it turned out to be no more than just another unrealistic idea. But luckily for Konftel, sound was involved – Konftel Technology was appointed as a consultant thanks to that fact.
… Konftel received many well-paid assignments and good contacts during these years.
Teaser 2: 2018-09-07:
“ In 1994 Telia wanted something smaller in a neat design…
“… the technician group were working in one place and had temporarily screwed their bits into a fairly large box with external speakers”, says former owner Gunnar Ekström.
“Things were happening quickly and time was limited. Johan and Tord at Struktur Design had been working in their place building a scale model of their design that we at Konftel all liked very much, but we still hadn’t managed to reach a joint solution for how to fit the technology into the design’s small shell”.
Hans, Gunnar and John-Erik took the equipment and went down to Stockholm. The feedback was very good from Telia but there was one practical issue.
“We were sitting there, a group of men in suits plus our chief technician John-Erik dressed in more relaxed attire, when one of the Telia managers put his hand up and pointed at the technical parts sitting next to the little creation from Struktur Design and said: ‘but how will you fit all that into this little thing?’
“John-Erik was the only technician in the room so he probably didn’t feel there was any point going into any detailed explanations. So calmly and slowly he just said: ‘We’ll just squeeze it together a bit’”!
Gunnar laughs at the memory… ”
Teaser 1: 2018-09-03:
The banker who was tired of bad sound
“It all started with a technically-minded bank manager, a sound problem and two hi-fi guys from Lapland in northern Sweden. Pretty soon a modestly interested businessman became involved in the search for a solution to the sound problem.
The year was 1987. Long before you heard of smartphones, laptops and tablets. Your phone was stuck to a wall outlet. But this bank manager in Umeå wanted something different for his conference room. Not just a speakerphone with bad sound quality.
Electrical consultant Peter Renkel got the question. Could he find something better?
Peter and his friend John-Erik Eriksson decided to build their own conference phone – from scratch. The solution was a success and a year later the Konftel company was formed.”