Manuel Fandos of tugesto tells us about the most complete online advice.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Manuel Fandos: Fortunately we are all in good health, thank you for your question. We are looking forward to getting the world back to normal activity.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded tugesto.
Manuel Fandos: We, the founders of the company, are both lawyers. Lidón Serra takes a practical approach working mainly in the courts, while I have a corporate and management vision of the business, dealing mainly with the development of projects, staff control, etc.
The firm started up at the end of 2010. And while we currently address all the legal needs that self-employed and other businesses may require, the birth of the project was linked to the legal management of non-payments. As lawyers, we provided services to clients in the transportation sector that had a very particular problem: they had a large volume of unpaid debts due to the sum of small amounts owed by multiple debtors, and hiring a lawyer to recover each of the debts was not profitable.
Thus, we thought we could automate the payment order process -which could be managed without a lawyer or solicitor- and provide it to our clients, allowing them to make use of as many proceedings as they needed for a monthly fee so that they could recover their unpaid debts without having to spend a substantial sum of money. Therefore, we guided our clients through the whole procedure, and we provided them with all the necessary documentation.
It was highly successful in terms of sales, and the system was son implemented in other sectors. Due to the fact our clients trusted us, the subsequent step became natural: we became their lawyers, assisted them in the day-to-day management of their business, for which they wanted more from us. Hence, we launched the accounting, tax, data protection, and, most recently, labor and employment projects.
How does tugesto innovate?
Manuel Fandos: The concept of our company already represents an innovation. We have transformed the work method of traditional consultancies to an online consultancy with a high degree of technological component.
All our services are provided online, for which purpose we have internally developed a SaaS with AI, machine learning, and OCR technologies, among others. In addition, we also use different cutting-edge technologies that improve the usability of the client. Laravel and Vue.js are the two frameworks we use in programming languages, vuetify, and bootstrap as CSS frameworks.
Internally, the IT department evolves year by year, adapting the service to the client’s needs and implementing periodic improvements.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Manuel Fandos: I believe that it is too premature to assess the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but in general it has not had overall negative effects on our business model, given that our main characteristic is that we provide online services. Although it is true that there has been a loss of freelancers and business closures, it is also clear that every day more and more people are re-inventing their businesses. And surely, this situation of confinement and distrust in the physical exchange of documents represented a good opportunity for our business model. Our clients were already managing everything online, without the need to go to the office, never having to take the documents to the office. For them, it has been a relief to be able to operate in the same way they did without the confinement, and for most of them a need had emerged at this point that they did not have before, once they tried online consulting, they have left it behind.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Manuel Fandos: At the beginning, we were uncertain and confused, but soon, we opted for teleworking, which we implemented quickly and efficiently and still maintain today for most of our employees. In those early days, the collaboration of tugesto team was total; we all rowed together in search of solutions to the chaotic situation we were experiencing.
As a lesson learned, I would highlight the importance of maintaining a flexible structure that can adapt to new situations. It is vital to have a clear objective, being aware that the route to achieving it is not one single and locked but must be open to change.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Manuel Fandos: The relationship with our customers has always taken place online through the platform or the customer service telephone numbers. In this sense, the way we manage communication with our clients has not changed.
On the tugesto platform, our clients talk directly to our advisors through a space dedicated exclusively to communication. It is a simple system through which the client sends a query to the expert, indicating its priority, and in which we commit to giving an answer in less than 48 working hours.
Admittedly, the pandemic has shown us that customer portfolio management is very effective. During the first months of the state of alarm, customers were requesting more information than usual in the uncertainty of the situation, especially those interested in subsidies to reduce the economic impact on their businesses. This demand for information was met seamlessly.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Manuel Fandos: No, our capital is privately financed.
Your final thoughts?
Manuel Fandos: While Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on companies and freelancers (especially small and medium-sized ones), it has also been an opportunity for them to digitize.
Companies had to adapt quickly to a way of working that was unknown to most of them, however, in our case it has not meant a great deal of effort to adapt because we have been online since our beginnings.
Our reflection is that Covid-19 has only advanced the path to which most businesses are destined: to digitize all procedures and formalities (both external, such as communication with public administrations, —and internal— such as their own accounting and taxation).
Online business management is a natural consequence of the technological advances that have occurred in society and has great benefits: convenience, speed, and savings.