Business and pandemic, options for winners – Article published online on

This pandemic, like a shaorma of success, offers something for everyone – fatalistic – justifications for failure, opportunistic – new business ideas, anxious – new fears … and so on.

By March, faced with the threat of an aggressive virus about which little was known, the reaction of the population and business was, as evolution has taught us (fight/flight/freeze), to freeze. We had little to fight with and nowhere to run. We all hoped it would pass in a few months and we would be back to normal. Expenses were cut, expectations were lowered, rainbows were drawn, masks were bought. And time passed, and as resources thinned in this hibernation, we understood that normalcy had changed.

So unless you want to have a small business mismanaging a big one (pun intended), this business repositioning needs to be done on a well-grounded basis. New customer needs, concerns and desires need to be understood, processes rethought and the links between them rethought, so that the organisation can better calibrate itself to the market and move forward to succeed, despite the difficult context. How? The answer will almost certainly be disappointing, because there is nothing miraculous, spectacular or disruptive-innovative about it: ISO, especially ISO 9001 – quality management, but not at the “coloured paper on the wall hanging” level.

“The entrepreneur comes with a vision, and in this respect, if we look at European Union statistics, Romania is doing quite well – the rate of company creation is slightly above the European average, so there are people with optimism and a desire to do something,” said Claudiu Aiftimiei, CEO of Systema SRL.


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“But vision is the heart, let’s say, for an organism. For it to live, you need a whole system, down to the capillaries, to deliver what you need and when you need it to each cell. If ISO 9001 is implemented in a serious way, with the involvement of the contractor and the key people in the company, then this circulatory system is mapped correctly, is efficient, detects malfunctions and demands corrective action.”

Implementing a management standard is no guarantee of business success. It is, however, a necessity, especially for SME entrepreneurs who, unlike corporations, cannot mobilise human, financial and know-how resources to develop effective management systems from scratch. Depending on the profile and size of the organisation, other types of certification can be selected – ISO 14001:2015 – environmental management, ISO 45001:2018 – occupational safety management, ISO 22000 / HACCP 2018 – food safety, OHSAS 18001:2007 – occupational health and safety, ISO 27001:2013 – information security, ISO 13485:2016 – medical device quality management, etc.

We know that not all areas of business were equally affected by the pandemic or the first wave of the crisis. An additional tool in support of the HoReCa industry and its customers is the TRUSTMARK certification, offered by Systema, by which organisations certify their compliance with the legal rules in force and best practices related to combating the risk of infection of customers and employees.

“COVID-19 brought a health crisis, an economic crisis and a crisis of confidence. Health protection measures that earn the trust of customers and employees are essential for good business. This is the rationale that led us to develop TRUSTMARK certification. In Romania it is so far the only domestic initiative, but internationally, large hotel chains, for example, are trying to standardise how to manage the necessary precautions in a pandemic. It was a pleasant surprise for us that companies in tourism-related fields, such as cleaning services, also applied for TRUSTMARK certification. It’s a confirmation that we understood the need well,” says Claudiu.

Ca să verificăm încălțămintea cizmarului, l-am întrebat pe Claudiu Aiftimiei cum a reacționat Systema la tot ce a adus pandemia.

„A fost o situație neașteptată, o schimbare foarte bruscă. Serviciile de certificare impun auditul la fața locului, dar mai toți clienții își suspendaseră activitatea sau se mutaseră în online. Cursuri de calificare nu puteam ține, nici măcar partea teoretică, deoarce nu au fost de acord autoritățile competente. Nu știam nici cât va dura, așa încât prima reacție a fost de a limita cheltuielile neproductive; am implementat telemunca acolo unde a fost posibil, am înființat o Celulă internă de criză, activă zilnic, prin intermediul căreia luam rapid deciziile importante – operativitate vitală în contextul în care situația se schimba rapid (vineri plecam încrezători de la birou, iar luni reveneam în cu totul alt context, mai negativ). Comunicarea a fost esențială – săptămânal Directorul general transmitea un email către tot personalul firmei, cu prezentarea situației financiare, tehnice și a unor detalii legate de sănătatea colegilor. Apoi, pe măsură ce au început să se limpezească apele, am mutat mare parte din servicii în mediul online și am dezvoltat chiar acest produs nou, certificarea TRUSTMARK .

It was very important to know our internal levers and to have a coherent organisation so that we could resize the budget without affecting the viability of the business, and for that I thank my auditors and my demanding colleagues.”

Any advice for entrepreneurs from your experience as a general manager and ISO specialist?

Optimism and a positive attitude towards change must be maintained, but it must be coupled with education and rigour. The Romanian is resourceful, and that can be his curse. Why be a handful when you can get it right by doing things methodically, step by step?”


Systema SRL has been representing the United Registrar of Systems Ltd. group in Romania for 13 years, with headquarters in the UK and offices in 41 countries, one of the largest certification bodies in the world. The main products and services are: ISO and TRUSTMARK certification, approved qualification courses, customer satisfaction monitoring systems.

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