We talked to Alexandra Peligrad, CEO at Smartree, the leading provider in Romania of outsourcing payroll & personnel administration and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alexandra Peligrad: We are all doing well and we have been taking every precaution to stay safe, thank God. Until now none of us contacted the virus and now some of us are taking the vaccine, so things should only get better further on.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Smartree.
Alexandra Peligrad: I joined Smartree 11 years ago as the Chief Financial Officer, at a time when the company was in a transition process of being acquired by an investment fund. This transaction provided the opportunity for big investments in new business lines for HR services in Romania and the development of a super software solution for Human Resources Management that automates the HR processes for companies and which today is called MyStaff Software.
How does Smartree innovate?
Alexandra Peligrad: We innovate by developing HR solutions focused on streamlined processes for HR departments that rely increasingly more on automation, especially when it comes to the most time-consuming processes like payroll or employee timesheets. The pandemic forced us to accelerate the innovation initiatives and to add additional value to our existing products and services by developing new tools that enable the communication, exchange, and validation of payroll data between us and our partners into a single system of record.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Alexandra Peligrad: Fortunately we have quite a solid portfolio of clients and since we provide such critical services such as payroll outsourcing, the pandemic didn’t have a major impact on our business finances. The only implication that we see in this period is the fact that companies are requesting a longer payment term. Otherwise the types of services and products that we provide – payroll outsourcing and personnel administration, temporary working, and an integrated software platform that streamlines the HR processes – have a high demand on the market even in the pandemic period.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Alexandra Peligrad: There were some difficult implications at the beginning of the pandemic when all of us had to suddenly leave the office, which is a space where you spend a lot of time interacting with colleagues and change it with 100% remote work. The challenges were related to keeping everybody onboard, making them feel part of the team, and with the same level of engagement for the team results. I believe we found a way to support each other and work together to make everybody in the company feel as safe as one could be in the changing circumstances that we are experiencing. And I thank all of them for staying focused on their personal and team growth.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Alexandra Peligrad: We are taking a particularly close focus on our relationship, building with our customers and their specific needs especially during these times of crisis. We are using all digital tools to stay in touch and to reassure them about the continuity of our business. We are adding new services in our portfolio to match their needs and we are constantly getting their feedback about our collaboration as well as their concerns during these times.
Of course that in order to be more efficient and to communicate more easily we are using specific tools like a CRM platform that helps us track better all our interactions with them.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Alexandra Peligrad: There were no grants from the government that our company could benefit from, but there were some fiscal facilities from the authorities that allowed the monthly taxes and contribution on labor or VAT for example to be delayed for few months. Therefore the pressure on the cash flow was a little bit relaxed and we could use that money for other business growth-related initiatives in the short-term.
Your final thoughts?
Alexandra Peligrad: The crisis of Covid-19 forced us, and I think all the big and solid companies with solid internal rules and procedures, to find the really short way to improve substantially in the business flows and processes of the company and to accelerate all the digitalization and automation projects, and somehow we all did it!
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