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Ioana Mucenic (Minio Studio): “The solution was to look at what we do best and to strengthen our know-how”

Ioana Mucenic, CEO of communications agency Minio Studio, talks about what important decisions she took in the last two years of the pandemic. This year, despite the difficulties in the economy, the agency will stick to its plans.


Forbes: What has been Minio Studio up to in the last two years of the pandemic (2020 – 2021). Briefly, what have been the highlights of the agency’s lifetime?

Ioana Mucenic: These have been two intense years for us and I think it’s been that way for everyone. For us, it was a couple of years where we didn’t give it our all, as we usually do. Now I can say it was a good decision.

In 2020, when the pandemic broke out, in the personal context, the fact that I was pregnant, with quite a difficult pregnancy (Ioana is the mother of a baby boy – editor’s note), I didn’t have my usual leadership energy to “move the mountains” as I usually do. Although I suffered because of this at the time, because I felt we had to do a lot to get out of that situation, I realized that I made the right decisions.

Basically, in the last two years, we have slowed down, just sat down and looked more closely at ourselves, to see what we have to do, what we are doing very well, and what we need to do in the future.

Instead of getting into this rush of reinvention, because everyone was talking about reinvention, we sat down and thought about whether it was necessary to reinvent a job that had been going on for years.

We looked at our core services and explored this area more thoroughly. Instead of offering more services, we focused on offering very good services. Instead of going into that panic and the tension of the moment, trying to do everything, we said let’s do the things that we’re very good at and that people would come to us for, which is strategy.

We are a team of over 20 people with a very strong strategic pipeline. We are experienced strategists. So we structured ourselves better in this area: strategy. We are very good at strategy, we are very good at creative and digital. We focused more on those services.

On this occasion, we wanted to evaluate ourselves, whether we are as good as we thought we were. We entered festivals. We came with the impression that festivals are for very big, network agencies, which come with very big budgets.

We wanted to measure our strengths. We had a very pleasant surprise that gave us confidence: we won 14 awards in 2020! That year, we were the most awarded independent local agency. Of these awards, we were most pleased with two Effie Awards, a Bronze and a Silver for two heartfelt campaigns, Durex and Tuc. We also won other awards at major international festivals.

Also, like any manager in tense times, I looked at the financial side. I have accelerated this area during the pandemic. We have very good financial software that allows us to look at the figures in real-time. This has helped us a lot in making decisions. This software helped us during the pandemic and it continues to help us a lot now.

In 2020, everybody worked very hard, even this slowdown, as we say, did not make us sit on our ‘bellies’. My colleagues have worked very hard, we just haven’t reinvented things and brought new services, but rather, we have focused on ourselves. And this led to a lot of fatigue.

I remember in 2021, we came in with terrible fatigue. I had the feeling, at the beginning of last year, that I was in a constant race. So, in 2021, I put the focus on the team. Let’s get some rest, relax, and then we looked a lot at how we work with our colleagues!

Then, we experimented with many work formats, both work from home and hybrid. We implemented the system of working from different workplaces, in different countries, and it caught on.

In addition, we made a new program, which we hope to keep this year, for example, we all worked for a week together in Bușteni, which helped us all. We have been experimenting and trying out what suits us and what suits our colleagues.

At the end of the year, we did some recruiting. We had two years slower than our usual pace and entered 2022 with “all sails up” – as they say.

Throughout this period, I have learned that it is not good to just go along with what everyone else is doing. It’s not good to get into these generalized panics where everyone has to change, innovate, adapt, and relaunch. There are times when it’s good not to be at full speed, to slow down, so we can think.

We have also learned that people are not robots. People worked very hard, they stayed overtime and it was natural to get tired. It is normal in this situation to have quieter periods. We don’t have to be at full capacity all the time. It is very important to protect our people. We have to know our limits and always go back to the things we are good at. The good solution has been to look at what we do best and build on our expertise.


Forbes: Did these decisions also take into account how the agency’s clients performed?

Ioana Mucenic: We always look at clients and talk to them. We try to understand how they are impacted and affected by the crisis. At the end of the day, the development of your company is very much up to you, meaning that you look at the context, you take the context into account, but your plans and decisions are still in line with your objectives, with where you want to go from here.      


Forbes: What are the business/life lessons you’ve learned in these two years as an entrepreneur?

Ioana Mucenic: I have 16 years of entrepreneurship. I started entrepreneurship in college. During these years I have caught several crises. Already, I can imagine what I will tell my grandchildren! These are exciting times. The “normal” is this turbulent situation we have to navigate through. I think we are living in historic times.

In this period we learned that you have to focus on yourself. What you can control is what you do. The context is so confusing that you have no foresight about what might happen in the future. Then what you can do is focus on yourself and what you can do in the situation.

You need to stick to the plans you have set. Of course, we don’t always achieve what we set out to do either, we sometimes change the direction. The important thing is to know what you have to do and go along with the wind of change.

We have plans, we have a business vision and we go forward no matter what. It’s important to have that resilience.

Things happen so fast and dramatically, that you can’t stop and reinvent yourself every time. You have to go on with your plan, know where you want to end up, and adapt your tactics.


Forbes: In an interview with Forbes Romania at the end of last year, you said, among other things, “We are going into 2022 with all sails up”. How “up are the sails” after three months into this year? In other words, how was the first quarter for Minio Studio?

Ioana Mucenic: We are at 45 degrees! (Smiles.) We started very strong, in January and February, we were right on target.

Of course, March came as a shock to everyone and we slowed down. I remember in the first week after the war broke out in Ukraine, we had a déjà vu, another crisis! A lot of clients called me during that period. We had about five projects that were canceled. Some clients were significantly affected, either they had factories in Ukraine, or they were taking packaging from there, or they had supply problems, or they weren’t going to communicate as cheerfully as I had planned in the campaigns. It was another moment when things went off the script.

Now, at the end of March, we’re back in business. Clients have started communicating again, they’ve recalibrated their calendars because a lot of projects have been delayed, and we’ve already started placing dates on these campaigns. Things are moving forward.


Forbes: What are Minio Studio’s plans for 2022?

Ioana Mucenic: I don’t have the same sense of optimism that I had at the beginning of 2021 when I was hopeful that the pandemic would end once the vaccine was available. We expect the economy to be worse, there is talk of stagflation. The conflict in Ukraine continues. It promises to be a rather turbulent and troubling year.

But we have already had two years where we have slowed down and we will not have a third. So we are going ahead with what we have planned. We have ambitious plans this year.


Forbes: Do you expect an economic crisis in 2022?

Ioana Mucenic: Everyone expects an economic crisis. There is a reduction in consumption.


Forbes: Do you anticipate a contraction or freeze in marketing budgets?

Ioana Mucenic: A reduction in budgets has been observed in the first months of the year. Several companies reduced their budgets, precisely because they are affected by inflation. But expectations have not decreased, which means that very good results are still expected, even if budgets have decreased.

So far, we don’t have dramatic decreases, but there is a caution, so to speak. We knew from the beginning of the year that the budgets would be somewhat lower than last year. That was to be expected.

At the end of the day, the business has to move forward because it has no choice. As long as you have competition in the market, you also need marketing and communication.

View the whole interview on Forbes Romania’s Facebook page.  


Source: Forbes