We talked to Nino Cometti, CEO and Partner at dreipol, a Zurich based agency specializing in the design and development of user-facing applications like web and native mobile apps, and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nino Cometti: Thank you for asking. My family is doing well health-wise. Business-wise they were unfortunately hit hard as several members are active in the travel industry.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded dreipol.
Cometti: I have a growth mindset. I believe that I can learn anything I want. Frustration doesn’t hold me back, success from others inspires me, and I learn from setbacks. As an entrepreneur, I am a group-oriented person and prefer to start with a self-experienced problem. I guess that makes me a communitarian. I see a strength in my ability to stay calm – combined with a good portion of empathy. As a designer from the fields of communication design, branding, and packaging design, I realized 17 years ago that my future lies in the digital world. After traveling for a while, I enrolled at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) and started studying Interaction Design. I had the desire to be self-employed for a long time. After all, several members of my family have built up their small businesses. During my studies, I met inspiring and wonderful people. I founded dreipol with three of them in 2010, right after graduation. We had the knowledge and confidence that our skills were needed. That there is a market where we can help other companies to realize their digital visions and products. dreipol has grown continuously over the last 10 years. With this growth, I also wanted to further my personal development. I’m currently completing my General Management (EMBA) program at the University of St. Gallen (HSG).
How does dreipol innovate?
Nino Cometti: We innovate in two areas. On the one hand, we innovate ourselves. I understand innovation as a constant process of becoming better. At dreipol, we do this primarily in small steps. On the other hand, we help companies innovate. We help industries transform themselves by supporting entrepreneurs in building innovative digital products.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Nino Cometti: In 2020, we were one of the privileged companies and able to close the year in the black – even though we did not quite achieve our defined targets. Ultimately, we have also been struggling with dwindling projects for several months. It has become much more difficult to win new projects and customers. I miss the many social events to actively cultivate relationships. Digital coffee meetings with existing clients are something I’ve done too little of so far, unfortunately. This is certainly on my to-do list for 2021.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Nino Cometti: For us at dreipol, it was clear from the beginning that we would keep our team and continue to invest in it. So we even managed to grow a little during 2020 and filled all the positions of employees who had resigned. I see crises as opportunities, but that only works if money has been set aside for «bad times.»
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Nino Cometti: We work closely with our customers in workshops, co-creation, and agile settings. Before the crisis, we were always in the office. Of course, we had to reposition ourselves here. So we introduced Miro – my new favorite tool – and switched to Google Hangouts and Zoom meetings. To be honest, even if personal contact only takes place via the screen, I think online meetings and online workshops are simply more efficient per se.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Nino Cometti: When the Swiss federal council announced that there was a simplified procedure for the advance notification of short-time work, many agencies and SMEs immediately decided to go for it. Of course, we looked into the issue at the time and discussed these options. But we did not want to expose our team to this uncertainty. So we didn’t apply for short-time work or free loans. Instead, we set up an internal task force that looked and still looks for new projects to fill gaps that have arisen.
Your final thoughts?
Nino Cometti: I have read about several companies that have stopped their innovation projects or downsized innovation departments in 2020. For me, this is an incomprehensible and short-sighted reaction in times of crisis. I am very pleased that we have customers who continue to invest in this area. They see the light at the end of the tunnel. After all, this is not the first crisis. Ultimately, I am very sorry that entire industries are struggling. As I said, I experience this closely in my own family. But I also see opportunities, especially for industries like digital health, MedTech, and Edtech. Logistics, digital commerce, food, and SaaS models could also see an upswing. And let’s not forget the evergreens, like insurance or banking. For dreipol, the current situation also means, above all, that we have to realign ourselves and deliver innovations.