We talked to Raquel Tiburski of Diário Escola, the successful school app in more than 400 schools in Brazil and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Raquel Tiburski: Fortunately, we are all fine. We’ve been following all the hygiene and health protocols and keeping social distancing. Considering all the burden this pandemic is imposing on all of us, I consider myself extremely fortunate. Also, we didn’t have any losses in our home circle or close friends. In our small little bubble, I could only complain about small setbacks. Anyway, we’re glad we did our “homework” so far: we’ve protected ourselves, and hence the others, and we’ve done our share to control the pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Diário Escola.
Raquel Tiburski: By the end of 2015, I was proposed a challenge: lead the sales of Diário Escola. I was supposed to establish the area and reach extremely aggressive goals. In return, if I’ve managed to achieve it, I would become a partner in the company. I had never sold anything in my life… Scared and excited by the opportunity, I dived right in. In two months, I hit the goals, and, at the end of 4 months, I doubled the figures initially proposed. It’s been more than five years at the head of the sales team since its foundation.
How does Diário Escola innovate?
Raquel Tiburski: We have innovation in our DNA. Diário Escola was created to bring together the three stakeholders of an important triad: schools, students, and families. We started by replacing the old and obsolete paper agenda and bringing the digital transformation for their communication, innovation on its own.
It’s not just a simple improvement from manual processes. Diário Escola optimizes the entire school communication, making it online in real-time and drastically reducing its costs. But the advantages are not restricted to it. We deliver, literally, communication compliance and control in the palm of the hand of the school management team.
As a natural evolution process, the more the app was used, the more we were demanded by new solutions, and hence new functionalities were developed. This customer focus, the attention we have to our customer needs, and their challenges pushed us to an organic and continuous improvement of our product, always in close collaboration.
The strength of the partnership with our customers arises from the agile and consistent delivery of effective functionalities with a pleasant and intuitive user experience. It is innovation, in contrast to the old and rough management systems: inflexible and complex solutions the user has to adapt to.
As a result, by delivering simpler, more intuitive, effective, and efficient solutions close aligned to our current customer needs, Diário Escola grows, innovates, and becomes the best super education app in Brazil. As a matter of fact, it only increases our responsibility and commitment to help our partner schools to overcome the current difficulties and get prepared for future challenges.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Raquel Tiburski: The covid-19 pandemic is affecting all the businesses. To a greater or lesser degree, the impact is undeniable. However, at the same time, it imposes our customers’ (K12 schools) financial challenges – unfortunately bringing some of them to bankruptcy –, by default of their customers (families). This pandemic also accelerated their digital transformation, especially in the educational field, when all of a sudden, schools were forced to change from a physical to a virtual learning environment.
There is a saying in Brazil: pain teaches you how to groan. We immediately focused on addressing the urgencies of our partners. From this unprecedented context emerged several insights and demands necessary to handle this new situation. Diário Escola concentrated all its efforts on developing tools and technologies to meet the demands of the school management.
This attitude and posture, I believe, was our strength to withstand the reality of the financial crisis that many economic sectors went through, especially the Education one.
So, not only did the Diário Escola super education app deliver the security, control, and functionality in compliance with necessary government protocols for the reopening of schools as well as, in real-time, it allowed to monitor the school community and generate accurate reports of all activities. We were able to provide a superior experience to school management.
We were in the front, standing side by side with our customers! Two of our customers were the first ones to reopen in Brazil (Manaus) in 2020: the school Colégio Connexus and the Creche-Escola Bebê Bombom kindergarten. Both schools acknowledged Diário Escola as a great ally in the safe return to face-to-face classes.
The year 2020 wasn’t easy. Surprisingly, it is in this challenging context that Diário Escola grows to become a school management app. Complete as a management system and yet simple as an app, Diário Escola super education app delivers complete pedagogical planning, efficient financial control, and by the end of 2021, the school’s marketplace.
We are a certified Google Partner company (the only Brazilian scholar communication app). As a result of this successful partnership, we have full integration with Google Classroom.
Restless and curious entrepreneurs, we are leaders in our market segment. This places us at the forefront of innovation in school technology. To illustrate, Forbes magazine published research carried out by the North American platform of global intelligence for education HolonIQ. According to them, Diário Escola is one of the 100 most innovative EdTechs in Latin America!
Finally, our finances suffered a negative impact due to the pandemic. However, we have grown economically. What I believe is due to the fact that we have (re)positioned ourselves and are attentive to the opportunities. And, of course, above all: to work! Indeed, a lot of work…
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Raquel Tiburski: In fact, the human resources issue arose at the beginning of the pandemic. We always valued a lean and efficient team. We started 2020 with four partners and two more employees. As a result of what I said in the previous question, we ended up growing, and, therefore, the decision that the four partners had to make was not difficult. Today, in 2021, our team has grown up to 8 employees!
Nevertheless, I’m aware that we are an exception, compared to most companies, not exactly because of the financial or economic situation, but with regards to purpose and vision. Of course, at the beginning of the pandemic, like everyone else, we were caught off-guard and went through moments of doubts, uncertainties, and inaction. And, at that moment, yes, we took into account difficult choices, including a possible lay-off.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” In fact, in times of crisis, opportunities arise. So, we sharpened our senses, analyzed, studied, and, above all, listened to our customers. We aligned goals and expectations, knuckled down, and worked hard. However, it should be noted; we are a company that learns. I believe that this is one of our differentials: combining strategic intelligence and hard work.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Raquel Tiburski: One of the pillars of our business model is, yes, the relationship with our partners. We use management techniques and tools that optimize and make the relationship with our partner schools as effective as possible. Therefore, in addition to management actions, techniques, and tools, we value proximity, active listening, and great empathy in all processes.
Knowing how to listen, stimulate proximity and establish a permanent dialogue are simple and amazingly effective actions. It’s like we say in one of our slogans from the Diário Escola super education app: be present, always!
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Raquel Tiburski: Not really. I know that this is not the situation of small Brazilian companies, only. In particular, I have no conviction whether this is good or bad. I believe that being able to walk on one’s own legs is important and favors the constant search for better management, better practices, efficiency, and effectiveness.
Your final thoughts?
Raquel Tiburski: My final thoughts are dedicated to our partner schools: stay firm, resilient, and attentive! The pandemic was devastating for private schools. Particularly for those that aren’t part of a corporate chain. Enduring the pandemic is not for amateurs. It sounds like a joke, but it is the honest truth! Covid-19 came to separate best run from bad run schools.
Doing what must be done and focusing on overcoming the setbacks generated by the pandemic is an attitude that distinguishes the best-run business (schools). This is the most efficient way to keep the schools open and educating safely.
Unfortunately, many schools will not be able to make it through the entire pandemic. A sad fact. However, those that overcome the challenges will experience growth and expansion. The changes imposed by the pandemic are here to stay. Public schools were unable to keep up with these demands and the evolution of teaching-learning processes.
Right there, we will have a high demand for students and fewer schools. So stay strong, resilient, and attentive! Every cloud has a silver lining.
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