Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu of 3D Printare Scanare tells us about offering the best 3D Printing, Scanning, and Designing services on the market.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: I am fighting COVID-19 as we speak, I’m on my 8th day, and my whole body hurts among the other symptoms, but I think that thankfully I caught an easy version of the disease. Until now, I am the only one from my family that got it.
Regarding the other aspects influenced by this global pandemic, things are not ok on any of the businesses where my family or I are involved, both in Romania and Italy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded 3D Printare Scanare.
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: All the businesses that I’m personally now a part of are founded from 2015 onwards. Before that, I had smaller initiatives and by myself. As it turns out, it’s better to have co-founders to spread the decisions and the expenses until a business starts making money.
I’m a transportation engineer by trade, but in the past few years, I’ve moved very far away from that field because, in our country, corruption on a high level literally makes you sick. So now I guess I’m what is generally called an entrepreneur, but I like to see myself as a builder.
The main focus has never been just on making money but on building businesses that can provide a livelihood for me and everybody else involved.
How does 3D Printare Scanare innovate?
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: At 3D Printare Scanare in Bucharest, we strive to offer the best 3D Printing/Scanning/Designing services on the market, and we are not afraid to take big and complex projects because we established a very good group of collaborators which can solve any request that may come from our clients. Here I believe that resides our true power, the capability to involve other artisans and small companies in bigger projects; we certainly believe in creating a strong ecosystem where everybody wins.
Regarding our involvement in reducing the effects of this pandemic, in spring 2020, we joined a national network called PlanB. The main focus of the project is to develop open-source equipment that helps both the patients and the medical staff. We cover parts from the 3D designing and printing process, and we are also responsible for the Bucharest area in terms of the technical part of the project.
At The Fun Place (https://thefunplace.ro/), our main innovation was bringing together 3 different activities that go together very well, and, from our research, nobody in Romania (at least) thought of bringing them together. I am talking about Escape Rooms, Boardgames and a Pub with 40 seats, right in the Pitesti City-Centre. Our main goal was to bring their groups that consist of different people with different passions but all in the smart entertainment area. We called ourselves the first hub for smart fun. The idea with parties for 10+ people worked very well until a sudden global pandemic came.
At Fiddmark, we envisioned a system where the employers would have an extra benefit to offer to their employees (current and future) at a very competitive cost regarding the market. The idea is not disruptive, but we believe that honesty is very important in business, and this business is one where each one of the 4 sides involved is winning. The companies win the loyalty of their employees or have an extra-help in attracting new talent, the employees win access to the discounts offered with the help of Fiddmark Card wherever they are in Romania (for now) and find Fiddmark partners regardless of their home address or workplace city, the Fiddmark partners that offer the discounts win new customers to which they wouldn’t have access previously, and Fiddmark wins from selling these cards. The idea was on route to stardom when a global pandemic came and totally changed the labor market dynamics. Also, it didn’t help that most of our partners to date were different locations that were closed by Presidential Decree when the pandemic came into Romania.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: 2020 wasn’t a great year for any of the businesses, but 3D Printare Scanare stayed strong because it was the one that needed the least human contact with the clients. This allowed us to continue working and developing projects, although at a smaller rate than before 2020. In 2021 we managed to somewhat recover the rhythm from before COVID-19, but revenues are still lower than normal.
The Fun Place is currently closed because there are restrictions in place that seriously limit the business’s ability to at least break even monthly. Hopefully, we will manage to survive and come even stronger after the pandemic because I strongly believe in the potential of smart entertainment.
Fiddmark is watching the labor market dynamic to see where it can pivot if needed after the pandemic is over. During this time, we worked tirelessly on the platform and new partnerships, as well as looking for investors. This one has huge potential for rapid development, but it needs a true sales force team to get it to the next level.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: Yes, we had to make some harsh decisions, but all the decisions were taken keeping in mind the survival of the businesses.
At The Fun Place, when the Presidential Decree stated that we have to close the location, we kept the employees on the payroll for another 5 months hoping that things will go to normal faster than was the case. After those 5 months, we had to let them go because we were seriously jeopardizing any chance of survival for the business after the pandemic; we had to cut the costs at the minimum possible.
In the other 2 businesses, where the workforce consists of us, the stakeholders, we had to also close the employment contracts to reduce the monthly costs.
I’m not sure yet with what lessons we will go out from this pandemic, but right now, there is a general sadness because we worked so hard for everything, and we see them crumbling around us, and it’s not because we made stupid mistakes, this is the most frustrating part. We can’t influence what happens next; our hands are tied; we are literally powerless.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: Obviously, we use e-mail a lot, Trello and, funny enough, WhatsApp. Although it’s not a professional tool by any means, WhatsApp helps us a lot because it’s a way faster means of communication with clients than regular e-mail. Also, because we tend to involve more people in different projects, the Group feature helps us a lot.
Regarding customer relationship and customer relationship management, we have a very relaxed approach, and I guess we found the perfect mix between relaxed and serious discussions. This brought us a very high retention rate because the customers feel comfortable around us and working with us.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: The government issued a lot of promises but delivered very little. We took on 3D Printare Scanare, a microgrant of 2000 Euros that we used to buy materials, but after a pandemic of this size, that money means almost nothing.
Otherwise, at The Fun Place, we had to cover everything from the companies’ money and our own pockets, but those too are depleted.
Your final thoughts?
Alexandru-Sebastian Sandu: We hope that this sustained vaccination campaign will bring the expected results as soon as possible, and we as a society will be able to recover fast, and we, in particular, will be able to save all the businesses.