We talked to Mirko Cuneo of Nextre Engineering about their mission to give other companies tools and strategies tailored to them to help them grow, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mirko Cuneo: Thanks for your interest; luckily, we’re all fine. We followed the rules right from the beginning, and we did not get sick. We hope to continue like this. At first, it was a bit difficult to keep the girls at home all day; they felt a great lack of socializing with their friends. But they understood that it was for an important reason and, together, we found new rhythms during the days.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Nextre Engineering.
Mirko Cuneo: I am an entrepreneur, and in my life, I have been part of various businesses and saw them born. I became CEO of Nextre Engineering in May 2017. At that time, I could count the number of employees on the fingers of one hand; literally: there were 5 people. Today, however, we are more than 100, and our goal is to continue growing. The services we offer have expanded compared to before and are significantly improved. In my Company, we deal with software development, ICT consultancy, and strategic digital marketing activities. Our mission is to give other companies tools and strategies tailored to them to help them grow.
How does Nextre Engineering innovate?
Mirko Cuneo: When I became CEO of Nextre Engineering, we were only involved in website development and e-commerce. Right from the start, I wanted to expand our services and create the new digital marketing department, which is now called Nextre Digital and is the second soul of the Company. My marketing department is made up of various professionals who deal with SEO, Advertising, Copywriting, Social Media Marketing, and Digital Strategy. Now we can give a complete service to our customers. We follow them from the conception to the website development, up to the strategic promotion on the market. At the same time, I also started a Business Coaching service because I want to be supportive and share my skills and experiences with other entrepreneurs who are in difficulty and want to relaunch their business.
I strongly believe in training, which is why I have also created professional development paths within the Company. These courses are dedicated to young people who want to become full-fledged developers and make a career in this sector.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mirko Cuneo: This pandemic has caused a blockage for many businesses that had to suspend their services, and this has caused a drop in revenue for us too. If one sector is in trouble, it inevitably creates a ripple effect on the others as well.
In our case, however, we were able to keep most of the activities going and at almost the same pace as before. I sent everyone to work from home, but thanks to our type of work and technological availability, we have continued to provide our services and to be of support to our customers.
Unfortunately, during some months of 2020, I had to lay off some of the people who work with me and make them work only a few days a week and part-time because the work was not enough. But we got out of that situation quickly enough because of the variety and completeness of the services we offer and for which we are required.
The economic regime is not like it was before the pandemic, but I have already seen an improvement in recent months. I also feel a great desire to start over and a desire for growth in other entrepreneurs.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mirko Cuneo: As I said before, I had to put people on layoffs; for me, this was a difficult thing. I looked for whatever solution before I had to, but in the end, it was necessary. But even more difficult was not being able to renew the contract for some of my employees. I really didn’t want to do that.
For the rest, rather than making difficult choices, I had to make targeted and far-sighted decisions. When the first lockdown began, I had to reorganize all the work from the office to home and re-establish the flows and communications between myself, my collaborators, and all the other members of the development and marketing teams.
The technology, and our preparation to use it, allowed us to be advanced in this sense, and this allowed us to carry on the projects we were working on without any interruption. The relationship with customers has shifted to virtual meetings, calls, and video calls only, but this has not been a problem for us.
Perhaps every now and then, there is a bit of difficulty in conveying communications within the teams as before when you just had to get up from your desk and enter the other room, while now you have to organize a video call. But these cannot be considered difficulties.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Mirko Cuneo: Fortunately, in the Company, we were already using some tools for managing activities. The extra step was to adapt the Agile methodology in a very short time; we are talking about a few days, even to departments that had never been designed for smart working.
In general, we use tools such as Google Meet or Zoom for video calls both between team members and customers. Besides, we rely on software such as Trello and Zoho for the management and organization of tasks and to follow the workflows even if remotely.
Finally, we have refined the use of a CRM for managing incoming leads and already active customers.
To maintain the cohesion of the group and the participation of everyone in this new business life, alignment calls were immediately provided in the morning and before the end of the working day. This was very useful in keeping the group together, in facilitating communication and collaboration between people.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mirko Cuneo: Apparently, my competitors are other Web Agencies and Software Development Companies targeting businesses and professionals. But it’s also true that not everyone out there is as expert as they say they are.
When a customer addresses to a company to buy this type of service, a relationship of trust and esteem must be established between the parties. Not all agencies or businesses are suitable for any type of need.
We always try to build a bond with our customers to really understand what they want and what their goals are to find the best way to help them.
In short, competition is everywhere, but with targeted services and our value offer, we are able to have our space in the market; indeed, we have also expanded it.
Your final thoughts?
Mirko Cuneo: The pandemic has put all of us in a completely different situation than we were used to. It tested us and made us lose many points of reference, many of the certainties we had. Perhaps one of the lessons we need to learn is that we need to be ready for change, whatever it is.
Especially if you want to do business, you need to be an active part of the world and the period in which you live. I am also referring to the use of technology and the fact that companies and entrepreneurs must be structured to face this time and its crises.