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Adapt Yourself!

We speak with Qualifio, a successful Belgian firm, about COVID and more

Qualifio enables large brands and media to engage audiences across digital channels. With headquarters in Belgium and offices in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain, the company serves more than 400 business clients across Europe. We spoke with Antonio Molina Cubero, the Head of Marketing.

Good morning, Antonio. Thank you for speaking with DECISION.

Thank you for having me.

Let’s jump right into it. Most professional business developers say that the structure of the economy is completely changing. What goes through your mind when you hear sentences like this?

I think the economy has always been changing. It is nothing new, but in the last decade, the changes have indeed been more visible, especially during this year with the COVID outbreak. I think this pandemic has multiplied the speed of this change, but there was already intense debate about topics that just exploded during this year.

What is your opinion about 2020 so far?

I think we are living a historic year. It’s the event of our generation, and we’ll study it at schools in the coming years. We cannot change that, but what we can do is adapt ourselves and make the most out of that. I consider myself an optimistic person, and I think this year is teaching too many things, in a tough way indeed, but it’s a learning that will accompany us in the future.

You only need to check how companies are pivoting their strategies, how managers are facing hard situations or how employees are changing their priorities to realise that this year is like an MBA for professional life. When the COVID-19 is gone, because it will be gone, the learning will stay. And I hope these learnings will make us better leaders, employees, friends, parents, and human beings.

COVID-19 attacked people’s private and professional lives at the same time. How did you feel about this in your area (business-wise and private-wise)?

As I said, I consider myself quite an optimistic person. COVID-19 arose in Europe when I was arriving in a new country too. So, it forced me to stay alone during the lockdown. What could I do? Well, stay positive: take the time to focus on Qualifio, read a lot, cook, write, think, keep in touch with my family and friends and support people who are suffering more.

What can you do as one single person? Stay calm and use this time to become a better person, manager, etc. Complaining about this situation is pointless. I prefer to work on what I can control.

Business-wise, my approach has been the same. When you have a team, you cannot allow yourself to start complaining or looking for excuses. Your plans have changed, so let’s change ourselves too. Let’s pivot, stay together, ensure people, motivate them, challenge them, and become stronger than you were a couple of months ago.

Your business has witnessed strong development in the few last years. How has this COVID-19 affected your future development so far?

COVID-19 has acted as a trigger in many cases. During the last years, we have had a strong development because digitalisation was a hot topic for the companies, especially in marketing. Milestones, like GDPR, stated the importance of privacy in data collection and the recommendation to have a professional approach on data strategies (collection and treatment). These facts are still relevant, and on top of that, you see how COVID-19 has boosted online consumption in terms of content, eCommerce, social, etc. Many different segments of the population are now using the internet more heavily than in December 2019. Brands are aware of it, and they are trying to be part of this conversation, by understanding their communities better, engaging them and being part of their lives.

All these facts make us optimistic about the future. But it does not mean it will be more comfortable. We are going to face enormous challenges, but the basics are right, and our buyers have understood the value that a platform as Qualifio offers.

What do you think: what kind of business tasks should good, responsible managers complete right now to prepare their businesses for the near future?

I think each business is facing its challenges which need to be tackled with a different “hard skills” range. I have not the right context to talk about business tasks but what I can do is talking about something is familiar to everyone:

I think business is today more than ever all about empathy, with your team, customers, partners, etc. We are not going anywhere alone. COVID-19 has shown us how connected we are. In my opinion, a good manager now should focus on building his/her plans and teams considering this: empathy with the rest of the stakeholders of your company is going to allow you to manage your team differently, decide with other reasoning, read data with a different perspective, create a message with different wording, or prepare your offer with a different point of view. Summarising, investing in the importance of empathy in business will allow you to lead differently.

What are your main challenges right now?

We have a reasonable basis in terms of the market. Of course, this pandemic is hitting the marketing budget of our potential buyers. Still, on the other hand, the lockdown is showing them the importance of differentiating their presence on the internet with a professional data stack. At the same time, this situation is showing the possibilities of interactive marketing to many brands. All challenges are inspiring our market about the importance of engaging with their communities.

What changes have you already made to your business’s strategy?

As a scale-up, change management is part of Qualifio’s DNA. We are used to iterating, pivoting, trying, getting wrong and getting right. Later on: home-office, efficiency focus, customer centricity and other concepts are now in all the conversations, and it is something we were already talking about internally and externally.

Of course, the COVID-19 outbreak pushed us to rethink our process, putting more emphasis on efficiency. Because of that, we have been acting regarding our team structure, our marketing & sales approach, cost prudence, product roadmap, etc. But again, nothing dramatic happened and should not occur.

More and more news is about the future solvency structure, which will have two very different, separated poles: premium and mass. What do you think about it?

I think this debate is not new. Maybe it has been boosted because of the exceptional circumstances. But you can always distinguish between two types of business approach: the one who is successful based on the volume and the one who is successful based on the value. It is a strategic choice, but I don’t think it’s something new. All companies have faced this decision. If they didn’t, well, they may be in trouble, but this is another topic.

What advice or recommendations do you have for other managers all over the world for the next six months?

I only can talk about what I do every day: adapt yourself. Our history has shown that change is constant so the adaptability should be too. You should be ready, and it’s more about a mindset than a sprint.

Being always alert, eager to improve, ready to be challenged is what maintains us fit. There will always be external factors like COVID-19 maybe with other names and natures, that can cause the same shocks on your company, so your role as a manager is to be ready and make your team prepared, which is different from having a plan. Plans are coming later on when you know what to do.

Thank you very much for joining us, Antonio!

The pleasure was mine!

 


You can learn more about Qualifio by visiting their website: https://qualifio.com/