Recently, SmartExperience, the well-being services provider operating in Romania, chose to expand in Switzerland. BR met with Alecsandra Ionita, well-being specialist at SmartExperience and discussed about the company’s plan for this year and the market trends.
By Romanita Oprea
How would you characterize Alecsandra Ionita – the business woman?
I’ve been running the corporate well-being division of Smart Experience for the last 7 years and it certainly hasn’t been easy. Being a successful businesswoman really comes down to personality. I’ve always been fiercely independent, confident and determined to succeed. And whenever I meet other female entrepreneurs, they share similar characteristics.
You were trained as an English professional at the University of Foreign Languages in Sibiu, then you expanded your knowledge by getting a Masters in Advertising and Communication at SNSPA, a BA in Marketing & Management and this year you became a Certified Trainer. Tell us more about those steps in your career. Why choosing this path?
Ideally, everyone would know their true calling early in life and find happiness in their work, but it often doesn’t work that way. I remember reading a survey of young professionals where the results stated that the average people are expected to change careers three times in their lifetimes; lifelong careers may not be the norm any more. I knew from a very early age that my skills are mainly in the communication, artistic and managerial field. Having this in mind, it was kind of easy to choose my professional path.
Before becoming a well-being specialist you were a professional in sales, corporate affairs, communications and business. How did this experience help you in your activity at Smart Experience?
Each previous job, up until becoming a well-being specialist, helped me to become the business woman I am today. My years of experience have prepared me well for this role: I spent years working in customer care, corporate sales and communication – and nowadays to run a successful business you need a complete set of these skills.
What do you want Smart Experience to stand for in the market?
Our mission is that Smart Experience becomes the first option for well-being programs and that companies that seek quality, experience and results to access our numerous platforms for guaranteed success.
You were the first company to bring the word of well-being in Romania. How hard was it to change perceptions, to educate the market and to make it a popular meaning as it is today?
Pioneering is never easy, but essential for progress. I remember the amount of work I had to do back in 2010 when people were not even familiar with the term. Lucky for me, there were two companies that understood the concept and were experiencing some organizational changes and they were in need to boost engagement. Thus, when the request met the offer – it led the way to a new trend: wellbeing@work.
How has the competition affected your business and who is your competition at this moment?
Competition is essential for the successful operation of a market economy. But in our case, the other companies that offer different approaches in well-being are helping to spread the word and educate about the work-life-balance trend.
How would you characterize the well-being market in Romania? (with its pros and cons)
Well-being is on the rise in Romania and will continue this trend as long as there are companies willing to invest in their employee’s welfare.
What do you want to improve about it?
I am constantly searching for ambassadors inside companies that are willing to engage in the quest for promoting a healthier lifestyle at work.
Who are your main clients at this moment?
Our clients are form different industries: telecom, pharma, IT, automotive, banking, and shared services.
Do you want to change the current balance and add some more clients in a certain area?
Yes, in the second semester of 2017 we are targeting the production industries, as we are receiving many positive feedbacks.
How is the typical client that sees the need for well-being?
The typical client in need of well-being is the employee that seeks continuous development, that understands the importance of health prevention, eating and staying healthy 24 hrs.
How has the clients’ perception changed through the years when it comes to well-being?
The clients’ perception changed a lot throughout the years. If well-being started as a package of benefits such as free gym subscription and ticket meals, in 2017 a well-being program consists of three main steps: diagnosis of well-being at work, implementing a personalized program and measuring the effects of such a program.
How long are we still, as a market, from what you desire it to be?
We are still at the beginning, if you ask me; and we have a long way to go until we reach a full coverage on the market. We can only speak of few companies that are investing in such programs, and they are located mainly in four big cities of Romania: Bucharest 60 percent, Cluj 20 percent, Timisoara 10 percent and Iasi 10 percent.
You recently opened an office in Switzerland. What made you take that decision?
The desire to open a headquarter outside Romania has been haunting me for years. Up until this year I’ve prospecting the developing potential of this field in several European countries. In 2017 we’ve succeeded in making this dream come true by having the necessary resources in order to take that step.
How different is the well-being market in Switzerland?
According to several studies conducted at a global level regarding the population’s state of well-being, Switzerland ranked three in the World Wellbeing Index top which proves that there is a culture orientated towards the well-being types of activity and a big openness towards the programs that are focused on health, including the specific activities that imply eating, working out and the psycho-emotional balance.
Another factor that determined our choice was the enthusiasm that came from the people in Switzerland regarding this field of activity, shown in different discussions and meeting we had on this topic, a fact that gave us the courage and determined us to choose this country in order to develop and launch our first office outside Romania.
When it came to choosing the city, the decision was about Basel because the city is situated at the crossroads of three countries, the area being famous for the dynamic economical developing potential.
What types of services are you offering in Switzerland and how different are they from the ones in Romania?
A part of the activities in the Switzerland portfolio are also present in the Romanian one. Of course, there are different programs, the Swiss organizational culture having its specific particularities that we are always taking in account when elaborating the well-being programs for this country.