Georgiana Dragomir, Grapefruit: „Being an end-to-end digital company means we offer a seamless experience to our clients”

Miruna Macsim 10/08/2023 | 17:17

Launched in 1999, Grapefruit has been known in recent years for exceptional digital user experiences that solve business problems and make people’s lives easier through digital projects and campaigns (UX & UI, software development, digital marketing). The company’s representatives understand that success is not just about delivering great products or services – it’s about building trust and collaboration over time.

By Romanita Oprea

 

BR sat down with Georgiana Dragomir, managing director of Grapefruit, and found out about the company’s latest news, never been presented before, as well as her view on the latest digital trends and the three essential skills or processes a business should cultivate to effectively navigate periods of change or crisis.

The last time we spoke, in 2019, Grapefruit reached 1,000,000 euros in revenue. How have things changed since then? How has your business evolved?

Since our last conversation, Grapefruit has undergone significant developments. In the past years, we’ve seen dynamic progress, marked by excitement, growth, and a commitment to excellence. Despite the challenges of 2020, we remained committed to expanding our business internationally. We extended our reach beyond borders, now happy to be working with clients from Germany, Switzerland, and Malta.

Moreover, we enhanced our internal processes to ensure a high adaptability rate to client needs and the ability to tackle challenges with agility. The result of our collective efforts is evident in a remarkable revenue increase of 170 percent. We reached almost EUR 2.7 million in revenue, thanks to our team’s dedication and hard work.

Additionally, we co-founded the Digital Innovation Zone, an exciting European digital innovation hub. The hub’s founders include nine other companies, clusters and universities. The hub aims to help SMEs and public institutions in the manufacturing and healthcare sector in their digital transformation journey. We drive innovation and create a positive impact in our community in the NE region of Romania.

Our partnership with Ingenium, a European University alliance, further showcases our commitment to collaboration and progress. Supported by associated organizations, this project embraces the diversity and unity of European cultures.

Our journey has been one of growth, innovation, and unwavering excellence. We eagerly expect the promising future ahead, as we continue forging international partnerships and leading digital transformation in our region.

Your company doubled its employee number in 2020, we’ve even seen you’ve been hiring all around the country. Could you tell me a little more about how has your team evolved since then?

During the pandemic period, we experienced significant growth in our workforce, doubling the number of employees by successfully recruiting talent from various cities across the country. Consequently, we undertook a comprehensive restructuring of our recruitment process, streamlining it from seven steps to a more efficient four-step approach. Additionally, we introduced both onboarding and offboarding processes.

To ensure the smooth assimilation of new colleagues and enhance their engagement, we adapted to the new hybrid working model. We proactively developed tailored solutions for our team members, which included organizing team activities, and webinars, and fostering a culture of flexibility, particularly for those who required it. Recognizing the importance of fostering a sense of unity among employees working in different cities, we arranged special weeks when they visited our office from Iasi, enabling them to experience office work and establish stronger connections with their colleagues.

Last year marked a significant milestone in Grapefruit’s history as we organized a teambuilding event to strengthen team bonds. For the first time, we engaged a specialized company to facilitate enjoyable team activities.

In terms of organizational culture, we annually revisit Grapefruit’s core values, revalidating them with each team member, and take proactive measures to effect any necessary changes. Furthermore, we dedicated efforts to employer branding actions and activities, culminating in the creation of an Employee Value Proposition based on extensive internal and external research conducted over a period of six months.

We’ve already reached the middle of 2023. What are the company’s main goals for the second half of this year?

Our primary focus remains on expanding our client portfolio, both on a national and international level. We confidently showcase our top-notch services to a broader audience. Furthermore, we are thrilled to be finalists at the prestigious Go Global Awards in Rhode Island, USA! The anticipation is high as we eagerly await the results, hoping to bring home exciting news to share.

Over the past six months, we meticulously developed an NPS (Net Promoter Score) system for our clients, set for implementation in the latter half of the year. This initiative came as an ongoing goal of ours to ensure client satisfaction and deliver up to client expectations.

Also, we are in the works of building a trusted ecosystem of partners that offer complementary services to ours. By synergizing efforts, we will provide a more comprehensive array of services to our clients through a dynamic digital ecosystem.

At the same time, we are in the process of crafting a brand-new targeted marketing strategy with a fresh approach than what we were used to (making this possible by welcoming to the team our new marketing manager Cătălina who has a wealth of experience when it comes to B2B lead generation).

Let’s discuss achievements. Can you share some key results or milestones that Grapefruit has accomplished recently?

Sure, we’ve achieved some significant milestones recently, and we’re excited to share them with you:

  • We’ve explored new industries, including education, through our collaboration with Ingenium. This partnership has allowed us to look deeply into the education sector, helping allow us to learn and specialize in this new and exciting industry.
  • Our recent website launch was, believe it or not, a true accomplishment, haha. We wanted our website to reflect the best version of us, just like the saying goes, “The cobbler always has torn shoes.” We decided it was time for us to get “new shoes” so we managed to launch a fresh online presence.
  • We value how others perceive us, both internally and externally. To gain insights, we conducted and created our Employee Value Proposition (EVP). It’s a compelling declaration of who we are as an employer, and we’re thrilled that it matched accordingly and resonated with people from our research.
  • Our Leadership Team (LT) has grown with a new member, emphasizing our commitment to nurturing growth within the company. Providing opportunities for career advancement empowers our team members to evolve and develop their skills.
  • We’ve improved our onboarding process by introducing video tutorials. New employees love these efficient resources, which cover crucial aspects such as timesheets, core processes, Jira, and Confluence. They can watch and review processes at their own pace.
  • Employee satisfaction is a top priority. Thus, we implemented a robust retention strategy and cultivated a positive work environment that fosters growth and collaboration.
  • In 2021, we developed the Digital Evaluator Tool to help companies assess their digital maturity. Its success extended to being presented to the European Commission, and we received positive feedback. Based on that, this year we adapted it for use in Digital Innovation Zone.

These few achievements are a glimpse of our impactful year.

Can you share a recent challenge that Grapefruit faced and how you managed to overcome it?  

The shift to remote work has brought challenges, especially when trying to connect with clients on a personal level. Gone are the days of casual coffee meetings or quick lunches. Now, we have to plan and organize meetings in advance, like a never-ending game of schedule Tetris, haha!

Face-to-face interactions were unique, allowing us to read expressions and build rapport. Adapting to this new remote landscape has been a personal challenge for me. Despite the changes, I am committed to finding innovative ways to foster meaningful client relationships and provide exceptional service, even from a distance.

In your opinion, what are the three essential skills or processes a business should cultivate to effectively navigate periods of change or crisis?

One of the most crucial factors in navigating the business landscape is flexibility. This applies not only to the way we conduct business but also to our approach to leadership and organizational culture. By embracing a flexible mindset and implementing it within our organization long before the pandemic, we were well-prepared to adapt swiftly, earning the trust of our clients even during times of crisis.

At the heart of every successful company are its employees. We recognize the importance of fostering a cohesive team with shared visions and values. Taking a people-oriented approach, especially during challenging times, positively impacts the quality of our employees’ work, leading to remarkable outcomes.

As a leader, it’s essential to place trust in your peers. After all, you hired them for a reason – their expertise and skills. Micromanaging can hinder their growth and performance. Instead, allow them the freedom to excel while periodically conducting performance checks to identify potential issues and offer support when needed.

Embracing flexibility, emphasizing a people-oriented approach, and trusting your team members are critical pillars in navigating business challenges and ensuring continued success.

You label yourself as an end-to-end digital company. What does that imply?

Our area of expertise doesn’t end at the implementation stage. Our agency offers digital solutions covering all stages of product development — from the concept stage to its full implementation, support, and maintenance. Moreover, we offer web development, as well as design and digital marketing services. Another term for it would be “a one-stop-shop agency”.

Furthermore, we are expanding our end-to-end digital company to become an all-in-one solution. You may ask how, well, it would be along the ecosystem we’ll be building. We’re embarking on a project where multiple entrepreneurial companies that offer complementary services to ours come together, uniting our strengths to provide comprehensive services to our clients.

Being an end-to-end digital company means we handle the entire lifecycle of digital projects, offering a seamless experience to our clients. And once we make our ecosystem alliance official, we aim to become an all-in-one solution, providing even more value and a diverse range of services to meet our client’s ever-evolving needs.

What are your thoughts on the latest trends in the digital industry? 

Low-Code Platforms: Enhancing Development Efficiency

  • Low-code platforms are gaining popularity in the digital industry, offering a development environment accessible to non-technical users like business analysts.
  • Through user-friendly graphical interfaces and drag-and-drop tools, businesses can efficiently design and implement custom software applications without complex coding.
  • This cost-effective solution allows quick insights into the viability of digital products within their ecosystems.

However, for more complex platforms and apps, a low-code approach may not be sustainable in the long run.

The Rise of AI and ML: Empowering Digital Transformation

  • AI empowers organizations by providing valuable insights into customer behavior, demographics, and preferences, enhancing decision-making processes.
  • ML enables companies to leverage data effectively, delivering personalized experiences tailored to customer needs.

The widespread adoption of AI and ML in software solutions aims to augment intelligence and efficiency, freeing the workforce from mundane tasks and enabling strategic decision-making.

Change Management: Embracing Successful Strategies

  • In 2023, change management is critical, and successful strategies involve:

o Prioritizing employee engagement, as engaged employees are more likely to embrace and support changes, leading to faster adoption and successful outcomes.

o Integrating technology and digital tools to streamline change initiatives, facilitating collaboration, communication, and data-driven decision-making.

o Shifting from traditional, linear change management to Agile and Iterative approaches to develop flexibility, adaptability, and continuous improvement, allowing organizations to effectively respond to evolving challenges.

When confronted with an unexpected shift in objectives or an adjustment in a client’s operational approach, what strategies do you employ to guarantee swift adaptation, not only within your immediate team but across the entire organization?

We employ a dynamic approach within our organization. We recognize that our company’s reality can sometimes be “a bit of everything”. We have entrepreneurial independence offering flexibility, while our procedural nature requires structure. Our Leadership Team oftentimes ends up debating which approach to take, depending on the context. The somewhat funny aspect is that we are perfectly balancing entrepreneurial and operational mindsets, seeking a middle ground to find the best course of action.

But, when a situation calls for following procedures, we stick to them diligently. On the other hand, when flexibility might be a better option, we quickly adapt and embrace change. Our AGILE organization fosters a culture of adaptability, making it easier for our teams to respond swiftly to new challenges.

To ensure smooth adaptation, we conduct a thorough analysis of the situation, mapping out strategies and assessing potential impacts on the organization and our teams. We then have an open discussion with all our employees, where we present the decisions we made, encouraging questions and discussions before implementing any shift.

In summary, by striking a balance between entrepreneurship and procedure and promoting a flexible mindset, we empower our organization to adapt quickly and efficiently to any circumstance.

Can you share a recent project or campaign that you’re particularly proud of and why? 

We’re excited to share our recent achievement—collaborating with Universitatea Tehnică „Gheorghe Asachi” from Iaşi on the groundbreaking Ingenium project! It’s a European University alliance of 10 universities from 10 EU states – Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, France, and Romania – aiming to represent the diversity of higher education. During this collaboration, we provided expertise in digital strategy, communication, website architecture and a digital brand book.

Representing Romania, an Eastern European country, alongside esteemed universities from other EU countries represented a moment of immense pride. We were thrilled about the potential impact of this project and fully committed to its success.

We traveled to Germany to present the strategy. After a truly long journey to get there, we managed to arrive just in time and present our team’s work. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. We were proud to represent Romania and showcase the incredible potential Romanian specialists have when it comes to the digital industry.

It’s an honor to contribute to such an ambitious initiative, and we look forward to making a meaningful difference in the realm of higher education!

What piece of advice would you offer to a similar company trying to navigate the ever-changing digital industry?

First, staying updated on emerging technologies, trends and digital industry shifts. Needless to say, it’s crucial to know these updates in your clients’ industries as well. This knowledge allows you to engage in meaningful discussions with your customers about new technologies that can fuel their business growth, optimize processes, and gain a competitive edge.

Second, having the right people in the right roles is paramount. Recognize the unique strengths of your team members. For example, did Anna from QA prove herself to be excelling in project management? Ask her if she would like to shift career paths and give her space to grow. Similarly, when recruiting, look for people who possess both the experience and mindset that align with your company’s vision. This will ensure that your team will be aiming at the same goal. Investing time and giving your employees new opportunities will undoubtedly have a significant impact on work quality and client satisfaction.

The third aspect revolves around conducting thorough review meetings, both quarterly and yearly. Unlike simple list-making sessions, our quarterly and yearly meetings are comprehensive and last 1 or 2 days. The goal is to fully grasp our current standing, learn from past challenges, celebrate achievements, and create actionable plans for the upcoming quarter or year.

These practices proved to be essential for us in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of the digital industry.

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Miruna Macsim | 28/06/2024 | 12:25
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