Codrin Arsene is the CEO of Digital Authority Partners, an award-winning Chicago digital agency and HealthcareWeekly, a healthcare business news magazine. Originally from Romania, he received full scholarships to attend the University of Chicago where he received both a Bachelor of Arts (with honors) and a Master of Arts degree. He formed Digital Authority Partners in 2016; it has grown into a multi-million dollar consulting business. Healthcareweekly.com was launched in early 2018 and now commands over 200,000 businesses readers. In this interview, we speak with Codrin about his path to success and future plans.
First off, can you tell us a bit about Digital Authority Partners?
Digital Authority Partners started in 2015 as an enterprise implementation partner. At the beginning, we teamed up with a few agencies and worked “on call” to provide digital strategy services to clients. Now Digital Authority Partners serves as a digital transformation implementation partner for some of the largest Fortune 500 companies in healthcare, financial technology and government.
What exactly is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the idea that you can use technology to solve day-to-day problems people and companies have. So the question any digital transformation initiative must answer is: how do you use technology to provide a better experience to your end customers, streamline your operations and reduce your costs. To accomplish this, you build new processes, software and systems that make people’s lives easier, whether as consumers of or employees at a company. Sometimes you have to completely reimagine and change your business model. A classic example is Groupon, which started as a deals website, moved to become a drop-ship retailer of goods and then a platform for selling vacation packages. The company went through many digital transformation stages.
So how does a company go about digitally transforming?
There are different ways to go about it. To oversimplify, there are typically two major drivers of digital transformation – internal pressures, external pressures.
Internal pressures are typically tied to managing costs and optimizing processes. In simple words, companies see their operational costs skyrocketing and are exploring ways to reduce them. Consulting experts like Digital Authority Partners come in and ask obvious, sometimes uncomfortable, questions that executives may not want to or may not think to ask. We might as such questions as: are your teams actually collaborating across functions or do they work in silos? Do you have a “test and learn approach” or do you operate in a waterfall manner? Do you actually track the right Key Performance Indicators and have the right data analytics companies to turn data into insights? What is your customer’s journey when interacting with your company? Do you have that mapped out?
When working on external pressures we help companies think strategically about what they do to create exceptional user experiences and how they can improve their processes to redefine the consumer experiences they provide. Digitization and digital transformation are all about removing frictions and creating value to end customers. Voice technologies, artificial intelligence, blockchain, virtual reality – these are all technological means to an end – tools for creating the most convenient delivery and consumption of services and products for an enterprise.
In your opinion, why don’t enterprises innovate more often?
It’s simple: fear. Ironically, fear can be a catalyst for both change and stasis. Here’s a mind blowing fact. If you look at Fortune 500 companies from 1955 and compare them against today’s list, only 60 have survived the last half century. That tells you how difficult it is for enterprises to remain relevant over time. It all comes down to fear. To innovate, to be brave, to be bold – that requires taking calculated risks. The higher you go in a company, the fewer risks you are willing to take. So most enterprises make small steps towards innovation. Other types of companies, startups in particular, are not afraid to fail. So they develop new solutions and take many enterprises by surprise.
Let’s take the two industries in which we do more than 50% of our business – healthcare and financial services. Oscar Health, ZocDoc, Flatiron Health, Zenefits or even Fitbit didn’t exist 10-15 years ago. Now they are each worth more than a billion dollars. In financial technologies, companies such as Social Finance, Credit Karma, TransferWise have also gone north of a $1 billion valuation. What makes this amazing is that most of these companies do not necessarily provide services that differ from their traditional Fortune 500 competitors. Instead, they do whatever they do better, faster and with more user-friendly experiences than anyone else.
Innovation doesn’t mean you need to do something new. You just need to do something better than everyone else. Unfortunately, big companies usually struggle to shrug off the old ways. Or are afraid to change their methods.
How does your company help enterprises innovate?
Basically, we ask the right questions. Time and again we’ve seen companies do the wrong thing simply because they lacked a user-friendly perspective. We come in and listen and then ask more and more questions until we get to the bottom of their problems.
Second, following Google design sprint methodologies, we’ve adopted a process that allows any enterprise to go from idea to user testing to an actual prototype in only one week. Enterprises spend too much time and effort hesitating on what to do. When we come in, within a week,we test their ideas, make a prototype of whatever the deliverable is (such as a chatbot, a voice skill) that can be used and tested and put them in front of new customers. Then executives can quickly and clearly see whether their own customers will use those ideas. It’s incredibly powerful. We also assist our clients with building the products we have researched for them.
Lastly, we help people navigate the complex field of emerging technologies – when and why to use artificial intelligence, how to take an enterprise mobility strategy to the next level, what to track to understand the performance of a digital initiative and so on. You’d be surprised how many enterprises do not have a good analytics strategy in place in order to really understand consumers’ pain points.
What industries do you usually work with?
We have generally worked with large enterprises in the healthcare space, fintech, retail and manufacturers. However, we have significant business in 40+ other industries.
Talk about HealthcareWeekly. Where did that idea come from?
It came from our commitment to digital innovation. We realized early on that many enterprises struggle to keep up with innovation in their fields. Since healthcare is the largest vertical we work with, we wanted to create an online platform that keeps executives up-to-date with the latest trends in artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, chatbots, voice technologies and more. We thought we would attract 5-10,000 people a month. But now we’re at 200,000 monthly visitors and growing. We look at HealthcareWeekly as an extension of our core business, but one with its own P&L. Our mission is to educate, advise and help enterprises build NextGen digital experiences. HealthcareWeekly is our educational driver for this industry.
What do you think are the biggest trends in digital transformation to which enterprises should pay attention in 2019?
It’s hard to pinpoint all the trends because it depends on what stage an enterprise has achieved with its digital transformation initiatives. So I’m will talk about the one trend that will have an impact on nearly everyone, even though only a small number of companies have this innovation on their radar today. My bet is that the most transformative trend for every enterprise over the next year is voice technologies. Think Alexa, Google Home, Cortana etc. The reality is that by 2020 50% of all searches will be done by voice. Voice technologies are redefining how people quickly find the information they seek. It’s the user experience-free technology. With 70 million people owning a smart assistant device, I have no doubt that voice technology will be the single most powerful driver of digital transformation in the next 2-3 years.
An Interview with Mariana Toncu, Founder of Bestyn, a Social Media App for Neighbors
Bestyn is a multifunctional app that makes it easy for neighbors to connect, share information, and collaborate. Apart from helping neighbors connect, Bestyn also acts as a marketplace for neighbors located in the same communities and enclaves. Bestyn also ensures that users never miss local events like garage sales, birthday parties, charity events, and more serious community events, like death or accident.
In short Bestyn is meant to change the way communities interact. We recently interviewed its founder Mariana Toncu to know more about the app.
Mariana, Thank you for talking with us. Bestyn has just entered the market. What is your number one goal with this app?
Thanks for having me. Our number one goal is to enable easy connections between neighbors. A lot of apps that are available right now don’t have the ability to use maps tactfully to understand who is around. You may have neighbors with special skills that you are looking for. For instance, they can advise you for free just because they are in your area and they can help you with your needs as a good neighbor. But how do you get to them? This is where our app comes into the picture. Apart from this, we also want to reduce costs for the people in the neighborhood for different tasks. Using our app, people will have to pay less for marketing and advertising which can be really helpful for small businesses.
What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor?
Right now there’s a lot of information everywhere and it’s kind of hard to select the right information and also it’s kind of hard to find the team and explain to build the right app that people can join and stay connected with their community. It’s not that there is a dearth of good people but it’s very hard to put to them to work together for one idea. Moreover, when you are launching a new app, it’s another challenge to find what exactly people are experiencing using your app and what exactly is their feedback about the app.
How and when did you come up with the idea of Bestyn app?
I am an immigrant from Eastern Europe and I came here a couple of years ago. I was stuck when it came to communicating with neighbors and connecting with the community where I’m living. In the market, there are a couple of apps but because they do not have a friendly interface, people don’t want to use them. People want something like easy access and at the same time stay updated with news and post news.
One of the biggest issues in modern day society is the fact that a neighbor does not know his or her own neighbor. How does Bestyn solve this problem and help people connect with their neighbors?
Bestyn has come up with some features that no app has. For example, a user can post events. This, I think is one of the amazing things that the user can share with his community. Another amazing feature is that you can access the map and you can instantly see who is around you and also you can message him and ask for a piece of advice or ask for help.
A lot of features are still under development but we are more than happy to receive the feedback and get more information about what has to be done and what people want from their community and neighborhood.
Bestyn is more than connecting people with their neighbors. Tell us more about those features.
The closest person to your house is basically your neighbor. In case of emergency, your neighbor can be of great help. Your neighbor is around you. By accessing the map you’ll be able to see all your neighbors around you and for safety. For obvious safety reasons, you will not be able to see the exact address of your neighbors. However, your neighbors will be able to know about it. You don’t have to go to their doors and knock them. That’s why you can ask through Bestyn app for advice and help instantly.
App security is a major concern nowadays. What preventive measures have been taken by Bestyn?
It’s true that app security has become a cause for concern. When it comes to Bestyn, you are going to share your address with the app which will help us serve you better, but when somebody will take a look at your profile, they are not going to see the exact address where you are. So the app is going to indicate just the street in the city where you are. Thus your exact location is not going to get divulged.
Also, you will be able to see people in a radius of 10 miles. Thus the concept of neighborhood remains intact.
Which locations do you serve?
We designed this app to cover all areas and countries so pretty much everyone who has a phone and wants to join this community. By joining this app now, you may help other people that will join this app later. We encourage everyone to join this platform and also the people who use this app to invite their neighbors and stay connected during this tough time.
What plans do you have regarding the expansion of Bestyn. Especially during the ongoing pandemic.
Bestyn App is going to come up with more features for the users. It’s going to be hard initially so we are going to first translate our app in the most spoken 15 languages, and bring more features that will reduce the cost of everything from services to ride-sharing, sending money, and just selling products and scaling businesses.
Want to know How a 27 Year Old Bought a Beach Lot? Find out in this Interview with Trishie Dela Cruz, Founder of Bride and Rose
The ongoing pandemic has made things hard for most of the entrepreneurs worldwide. Businesses, big or small, have suffered a lot during this pandemic. However, the situation has opened doors of opportunity for some individuals too. So why wouldn’t we Interview someone who managed to buy a beach lot when many are being forced to liquidate their assets.
Trishie Dela Cruz is one such Entrepreneur who managed to buy a beach lot when many are struggling to pay their bills because of the pandemic. An entrepreneur at heart since her childhood, Trishie is the founder of Bride and Rose. We recently interviewed her to know more about her success and her overall entrepreneurial journey.
Trishie, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur so far.
I started being an Entrepreneur way back 2012 and I had 2 careers in 2 different industries before I finally ended up here on the final path that I am already in.
First, I was a full time blogger, I attended events and promoted products, then I had a privilege to do solo traveling, and I loved it so much that I opened up a backpacking Travel agency and became a Travel Expert. I lead team buildings and developed a backpacking prototype.
I lost my time in blogging and focused in traveling the world and running my agency. Unfortunately, competition became very high and travel deals became lower and lower that it was hard for me to compete anymore. The stress that the business gave me was not worth it. When my husband and I moved to a house from a condominium, we bought tools such as circular saw and built our own furniture using 2nd hand palettes.
I shared it on my social media and blogs. One of my readers wanted something similar for her wedding. She asked us to do a bohemian table made of palettes. And then that’s how when it opened doors to wedding industry. We built those bohemian tables, I outsourced suppliers and I created wedding packages, which was by that time, not a trend.
I found what I really love. Ever since I was a kid, I loved beautiful things, flowers, laces and fabrics, jewelries. I backed up my career by enrolling to courses such as Professional Events Management in Enderun, attended the Teddy Manuel Master Class, and took Interior Styling at SOFA(School of Fashion and The Arts). I am now a wedding designer and own a concept store of all things beautiful. My happy place, my childhood dream ❤️
Of all those years, despite the different industries I’ve been in to, there are two things that I never stopped doing. Building/creating and selling. When I was a blogger, I built my own walk in closet, I built an office for my travel agency, and now, I have built 2 boutiques for my wedding designing career. But there’s no smooth sailing in business especially when you’re starting. There are many ups and downs. I even built a nail spa and salon and closed it down in less than a year. That’s why the 2nd thing is selling. On the side of my careers, I always make sure to have many streams of income. I am resourceful, I always have something to sell anything under the sun, but discretely; That I am not broadcasting or showing to public.
Before my entrepreneurial days started, I was a rebel. I parted here and there. I went to every night clubs in the metro. I’ve seen how drugs and alcohol change people and ruin lives. I was young that time and I already saw the importance of time and the value of what we do in life. One day, it put me an end and realized that all those selfless nights wont give me a direction in life. I graduated early on that kind of phase in life. I learned the hardships in life early. After that phase in life, I lost my privilege of studying in a way. However, I wanted to study. I wanted to achieve things and get what I want. That’s why I started to dream and focus on my goals. That’s when I started blogging, it was my first source of income, and I was 19yrs old. It was also the age that I was able to buy my own car. I started to decide what are my dreams and goals in life, early; and I think that was my edge.
You are just 27 and have achieved success which many envy. When the world is reeling down under corona pressure, you managed to buy a beach front lot. Mind sharing some of the secrets with our readers?
It was really one of my dreams to have a beach front house. It’s been quite awhile already that I was looking for a beach lot, even before the pandemic. But most properties for sale are sold by hectares. I stayed up to date with the trend, I saw a developer selling beach front lots but the beach is a black sand, so it’s a no for me. But I know that many developers will develop same idea- into a different beach. And I was right, there were new developers across the country who started selling smaller cuts of beach front lots. And it is fast selling! So, with the savings I had, I took advantage of it. And it’s a bonus that lots are cheaper during these days of pandemic.
Wedding industry has been hit hard by this pandemic. How did you manage to survive this pandemic?
Yes this is 100% applicable to me. My business was really affected. First, weddings were not allowed. 2nd, malls were shut down, and one of my boutique is located in a mall.
I am never a quitter. I took advantages of the opportunities. I took advantage of my digital skills and I have and focused on online marketing. I took advantage of being seen more by audience since almost every person is in the house, browsing the internet. I took advantage that we were one of the firsts in the industry that started intimate weddings even before the pandemic started. I took advantage of my extra time to research and redevelop our business plans and strategies, and as well as to improve things that need to be improved such as websites, our social media feed, portfolios, etc.
How and when did you come up with the idea of Bride and Rose?
The idea of Bride and Rose concept store started when I was in New York. It was inspired by Kleinfeild- Kleinfeild is the largest bridal shop in the city that carries different designer bridal gowns. If it worked in the western countries and is being patronized already for decades (since 1968), then it will definitely work here in Philippines too.
Few days before I traveled to New York, I attended a short curriculum at Harvard University in Boston that teaches us how to prototype and innovate.
I wanted to innovate Klienfield Bridal by adding a working space for different wedding suppliers, because I’ve seen that there are many suppliers such as coordinators, hosts, invitation suppliers etc. who do good in the industry but don’t have something they called their own office or space.
The moment I went back to the Philippines, I started the prototype and that was my first wedding concept store boutique- Shabby Chic Style Studio. The prototype was a success, and after 2 years working almost 24hrs to run this business, I am already confident enough that Bride and Rose will work. Using my savings, and getting investors to add more to the capital, we then built Bride and Rose.
How do you think you can share your success to others and Please share some mantras with our readers so that they can also achieve their pie of success.
“Never Stop Dreaming Your Dreams” this is my 2nd tattoo(out of 8), in my wrist. It was a quotation from my mom and I lived to that. Never stop dreaming because your dreams are what will drive you to do and achieve your goals in life. Dream big and inspire people. And help people in any ways that you can help even in the tiniest things because blessings will come back double. Value people who share the same dreams with you.
Also, I love studying and I invested a lot in my education because I believe that it is important to invest in yourself. Not only I pay for experiences, I buy books and PDFs of information, formulas, and resources. It cost me a lot and recently, I made an E- library of these resources and I’m selling it just for fraction of the price. I believe that this E-Library will be helpful to anyone who is struggling in business or who just started their business or those who want to start their business.
You can buy the E-library resource here: https://brideandrose.com/products/zero-to-six-figures-online-business-e-library?_pos=1&_sid=4d1866847&_ss=r
Trishie dela Cruz blogs here and is also available on Instagram
An Interview Willy Hobal – CEO & Founder of Hobal Luxury Collection
Willy Hobal is the founder & CEO of Hobal Luxury. We recently interviewed him to understand more about the luxury market and his entrepreneurial journey.
Kindly describe your journey in the Hospitality industry.
It all started when I was 9 years old. I started working at that age cleaning a house. The owner of the house was working in a hotel and I admired her a lot. I was a kid and I was fascinated by her profession. I used to tell myself that one day, I will be working in the hotel she is working in and I will be doing what she is doing. About 8 years later, I started working in her position in exactly the same hotel. It was then, when I discover my passion for hospitality. The same passion led me into opening my own business in the Luxury segment and into helping independent luxury hotels.
What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor?
Fear to failure and impostor syndrome. It hit me hard. I had to be strong and over a period of time I built a stronger persona that helped me to overcome my fears and finally start my own company.
How and when did you come up with the idea of Hobal Luxury Collection?
It was last year, 2019. I remember looking for days for a representation company that covers the main European markets and offer an integrated sales, marketing and PR services, all in one, with a cost-effective budget. But due to my frustration of not finding the services I needed, it gave me the courage to design the hotel representation company that I always dreamed of working with.
Luxury Brands have suffered a lot during the ongoing pandemic. How is your brand tackling with the challenges?
Indeed, most of the industries are suffering a lot because of Covid-19. However, lockdown restrictions are being eased and people are starting to travel again. What I can predict so far is that the luxury hospitality will increase because of the need of distance, space and privacy and this is a golden moment for luxury independent hotels. We are working a lot more with digital connexion and everything currently is home based. However, before the pandemic, it was our idea to design to freedom to work from home.
How do you connect travel agents with luxury hotels and how do hotels benefit from it?
For us, the travel agents pay a very important role in this industry. It doesn’t matter how digital the travel industry become, the travel agents will always exist. We are in constant communication with travel agents to update them about the new offers, changes and upcoming events of the hotels of our collection, inviting them to visit the properties, maintaining the relationship and creating new one, signing new contracts, and other strategies in order to keep the hotels in their portfolio and sharing updated information they can offer to their clients. The benefit for the hotels come from the result of the implementation of those strategies with travel agencies.
How do you differentiate your brand with the other brands working in the luxury segment?
Our integrated services is a major offering for independent hotels. Our services help them know that they will get the best coverage with a cost effective budget. But also our core values; Quality, Trust, Creativity and Passion are present in our DNA. We love what we do, when you do what you love, things are hard to imitate.
How is the travel and tourism industry going to revive from the damages done by this pandemic? What are your company’s plans in the near future?
These are very unique times, Having said that, people will not stop traveling. What I can see or predict for the next months is that hotels and travelers will take the necessary measures for safeguarding health and safety while traveling. Just like other businesses, the ones that adapt to these times are the ones that will survive. Our main plan is to keep working hard. Hard work is a characteristic that defines me and my team and no matter what happens, we will keep working hard everyday.
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