Interviews

Interstudia: Relax in(to) English

Roxana Moga, the director of the Interstudia Centre for Foreign Languages, explains why a company should invest in language training for the employees.

How did the story of Interstudia begin?
Interstudia was founded by Carmen Olariu in 1997. I took over the Centre in 2004, when she decided to retire. I had already been teaching at Interstudia when I was offered this opportunity. I always accept challenges, so, I began dealing with its administration right away.

Who would attend the courses at Interstudia at that time?
There were mostly open courses because many people wanted to go abroad at the time. Nowadays people of various ages and social classes are drawn upon our knowledge. Interstudia offers them the opportunity of learning a foreign language using a different approach than the traditional one: our teachers handle a complex teaching-learning process in which the focus is on learning rather than teaching. Our methods are interactive, immersive and entertaining. In other words, the activities proposed are based on communicating in the target language, in a laid-back, nevertheless effective atmosphere.

Currently, once they have signed up for an open course, our customers become members of the “Interstudia Conversational Club: «Relax in(to) English!»”. This is a benefit that we offer to everyone, regardless of the language they study.

Companies are also a very important segment of the market for us. Over the years, we have managed to develop and maintain good working relationships with all the client companies. In time, they have come to understand the great importance of having employees who are able to speak fluently and convey messages accurately, in a foreign language. We believe it is of utmost importance for any person who studies with us to feel at ease when speaking.

Could you provide us with more details about your in-company training programmes?
The training programme has as starting point the employees’ communication needs. The overall approach and the themes we choose for each course are based on the principle of effective communication, which we promote: our students do not learn to speak in a foreign language just for the sake of talking, but rather in order to effectively convey information and intentions.

What would be the advantages of such a programme?
Our vision embodies the idea that the skill of speaking a foreign language, namely, communication, leads to the creation of new opportunities for our learners both professionally and personally. In other words, our aim throughout the process of teaching a foreign language is for the students not only to develop their linguistic knowledge, but also their individual skills and their ability to relate to other people effortlessly.

Obviously, all these traits of the educational act at “Interstudia” are put into practice by our teachers. They do not only transmit information, but they are also great mediators and motivators. In short, by focusing on communication, we direct our actions towards people, for people and through people.

How do you maintain the balance between family and career?
Family and career coexist and the balance tilts as needed. I have got two little girls and I usually spend the afternoons and evenings with them. However, there are times when the professional side is more demanding and then I concentrate on it.

Have you ever wanted to live in another city or in another country?
I think Cluj is a very nice city. I have never been drawn to the idea of living abroad, probably because my family is here. I appreciate, however, the educational system and the degree of civilization of Western countries.

I would like to bring the best of them here. Actually, this is one of the reasons why I am so proud of belonging to the “Business Women Association” (AFA). Its actions are directed towards changing the community for the better in many ways. One of the main goals of the association is to transform the city of Cluj-Napoca into a cultural landmark, which has led to the development of various programmes, such as “Gala AFA”. Another programme developed by AFA is entitled “Time as a gift”, which we proudly support. We think that giving is a joy ; we are happy to offer the community the freedom to communicate, and thus get people in touch with themselves and with the others.

 

About “The Woman” conference, with Bogdan Ciocian


Bogdan Ciocian, Director at Libero Events, organizes for the second time at Cluj, the women business conference “The Woman”, an event in which AFA Cluj is partner from its first edition.

How the idea of this conference did came up?

The local business community is growing and we felt the need to organize an event to reflect this aspect, and in the same time, to help us develop as good and effective as possible.  In order to obtain that, all we can do is to bring together people who do perfectly the things they do. The great part was that we found in Cluj a trustful partner – The Business Women Association (AFA Cluj). I was impressed to discover an organization very well organized, having many projects ongoing and great future plans.  

To whom is the event addressed?

We invite in front of the public ladies who lead big companies or have their own businesses and who want to share their experiences with others.  We address to those who want to learn new things, to discover new life experiences and of course, to meet new people. It is also a great opportunity for business networking, because at every edition, there are more than 200 people in the room.

Why did you choose Cluj? Does the specificity of the city contribute at the success of the presentations?

Cluj is a special city mainly because of this powerful women organization. This is the principal advantage. At every edition we have participants from the whole country. At the first edition we had guests fromTimişoara,Braşov,Sibiu, Satu Mare orOradea. Cluj is and it should be a dynamic city, the best thing that can happen to a business environment.

Maybe because of its academic center, people we work with are extremely well prepared. There are fields which grow and develop annually, like IT or the medical field.  In the same time, I am happy to see that Cluj maintained its cultural theme, through its festivals and special events which happen here every year. That’s how equilibrium between business and culture is realized.

What is AFA’s contribution at the success of “The Woman”?

We are living in a man’s world. In the business environment, all over the 20th century, people were used with men to be those who are thinking about strategies, launch businesses and so on. The 21st century brings a new way of thinking, and the woman has a decisive role. We see all around us women who take start-ups over control, run companies with hundreds of employees, an important communication company of our country is lead by a woman, as it is an important petroleum company also.

At the last edition we had the honor to have Mihaela Rus among us, CEO at Vitrina Advertising and AFA President, and for this time, the representative of AFA is going to be Olga Stanciu, Vice-President at Jolidon.

We address to all the women who want to develop their personal and business capacities, to grow as a manager.

What did you prepare for this year’s edition?

The first panel of the discussion is going to be about leadership and management, and it is dedicated especially to managers from different companies, to those from the marketing departments or general managers. Along with Olga Stanciu we invited Amalia Sterescu, a lady who runs one of the most important outsourcing companies all over the world. Also Raluca Georgescu is going to speak about this topic, Country Manager at Allegro Romania.

The second panel is called “The art of the business war” and it is dedicated to entrepreneurs. We invited experienced entrepreneurs who raised a brand, starting from the bottom, and came up on the market with Romanian or foreign products. One of these is Bibiana Stanciulov, the producer of “Topoloveni Jam”. The conference will bring into discussion subjects like PR and communication, also. Among our guests we have Elena Grecu, lawyer and intellectual propriety adviser, manager of the intellectual propriety agency, Nomenius.

What brings new this edition?

Every year we have a charitable component: the profit resulted by the signing up taxes (24 euro/person) is donated to a foundation. This time, the money is going to “Cherish Life” Foundation, founded and coordinated by Andreea Marin, who is going to be a speaker at the conference, also.

Moreover, because fashion is one of the fields in which women are very involved, we have Romaniţa Iovan and Irina Markovits among our guests. They will speak about personal branding, personal etiquette and the importance of a woman’s personal look in the business environment. We will have fashion parades, wine tasting, jewelry exhibitions and a book release, also. 

MBA a Child’s Play

She worked in assurance companies and built teams for the competitive and ultra-standardized environments of multinationals, and later on, by force of destiny, decided to come back to her first love: children, their personal and professional formation. Monica Dragu Covriga is today, the Managing Director of Lifenasium, a business venture that embodies the concept of “Clever Children – Kids’ and Teens’ Training” in Cluj-Napoca, a series of optional courses that cover all the stages of MBA for adults and more. 

At the juncture point between the experience accumulated in the past and the domain Monica Dragu-Covriga is involved in at present, there is the motivation born out of passion, which she has never denied, and which served as a key to success. “I really enjoy doing what I do. The decisions I made during my life are the result of this manner of thinking”.  This was my advice for all those whom I have worked with: work hard and enjoy it! No matter what job I had, I tried to put the right person in their right place, including myself”, said the representative of “Clever Children” – Cluj.

Testing a Business the Hard Way

În octombrie anul trecut a hotărât că sosise momentul să cedeze din timpul acordat carierei în favoarea timpului petrecut cu fiul său. Conştientă de faptul că în permanenţă priorităţile trebuie manageriate, decizia nu a fost una dificil de luat, deşi lucrase cu drag în cadrul companiei multinaţionale. Nu ştia însă că acesta avea să fie primul pas spre o carieră care avea să adauge plusuri în „arta” de a fi mamă şi, în acelaşi timp, să îi reînvie o dorinţă la care renunţase odată cu trecerea timpului.

În urma unui research care avea ca scop identificarea unei variante extra-şcolare de educare a fiului său, Monica Dragu-Covriga a aflat de cursurile „Clever children” dedicate copiilor între 6 şi 13 ani. S-a documentat profund, după care i-a contactat pe iniţiatorii programului din Bucureşti. În urmă cu 5 ani, câţiva tineri, traineri pentru adulţi, au avut ideea de a adapta cursurile pe care le susţineau celor mari pentru a fi pe înţelegerea celor mici. O echipă de pedagogi, psihologi şi metodologi  a lucrat la metamorfozarea programului. Jocul a fost elementul esenţial, cheia  procesului de traducere în limbajul copiilor. Jocurile captează atenţia, pun mintea la lucru şi duc la rezultatele dorite.

Astfel s-a născut „Clever children”, prima franciză românească de training pentru copii care, prin Lifenasium, vine  în completarea educaţiei primite de cei mici la şcoală sau în familie. În cadrul programului, copiilor li se arată, de exemplu, cum să se comporte atunci când călătoresc, când iau micul dejun, cum să aleagă un cadou şi cum să îl ofere, cum să se îmbrace sau cum să înţeleagă diferenţele culturale. „Foarte important însă este că aceşti copii învaţă să se comporte într-o situaţie nouă, în care trebuie să îşi descopere propria personalitate, să fie în armonie cu ei înşişi şi cu cei din jur, să se poarte natural şi fără să se mai lovească de starea de disconfort care uneori însoţeşte acest lucru”, sublinează Monica Dragu-Covriga, una dintre primele mame care şi-au înscris cu încredere copilul la „Clever children”, după ce a cumpărat franciza iniţiatorilor şi a făcut ca acest lucru să fie posibil şi în Cluj.

15.000 People now Have MBA Diplomas

Last year in October, she decided the moment had come for her to assign a part of the time she dedicated to her career, to her son.  Being aware that priorities must be managed at all times, the decision was not hard to make, even though she worked hard in the multinational company. Yet, she didn’t know that this was the first step towards a career that would add value to the art of being a mother, and, at the same time, would revive a wish she gave up as time went by.

After a research with the purpose to identify an extra-curricular activity to educate her son, Monica Dragu-Covriga found out about the “Clever Children” Courses, dedicated to five up to thirteen year old children. She documented thoroughly, and afterwards contacted the program initiators form Bucharest.  Five years earlier, a few young people, who were adult trainers, had the idea of adapting the courses they held for the adults, so that they become fathomable for the little ones. A team of pedagogues, psychologists and methodologists, worked at the metamorphosis of the program. Play was the essential element, the key of the process of translation in child-language. Games are captivating, put the mind to work and lead to the wanted results.

“Clever Children” was hence born, being the first Romanian franchise for training children that, through Lifenasium, completes the education received by the little ones in schools, or in their families. Within the program, the children are being shown, for instance, how to behave when traveling, when eating breakfast, how to choose a gift and offer it, how to dress up, or to understand cultural differences. “The fact that these children learn to behave in a new situation, in which they have to discover their personality, to be in harmony with themselves and with the ones around them, to behave naturally, and without being confronted with the state of discomfort that sometimes accompanies this, is of great importance”, Monica Dragu-Covriga underlined, as one of the first mothers to enlist her child in “Clever Children”, after buying the initiators’ franchise, and making this also possible in Cluj.

Negotiation or Firmness

“As parents we never know whether to negotiate or to demand that children do certain things. They are waiting to understand the reason behind it, but are not always capable of understanding. We, as parents, need to find the way to make them resort to a thing that does not always have a reasonable explanation. These courses make children think about the same issues that preoccupy adults, but from a different perspective”, says Monica Dragu-Covriga, the woman who, wishing her son, and other children as well, get as good an education as possible, has invested in a business that will develop at the same rate as her son.

Source: Transilvania Business

The Designer Who Brings Joy after the Crisis

Genoveva Hossu will pin Cluj on the map of the famous brands Ralph Lauren and Christian Lacroix.

Ambitious, exuberant, detail-oriented and always on the move, she is comfortable wearing both rubber boots on construction sites, and the Chanel pip toes to the business meetings. This year she will bring, for the first time in our country, the Ralph Lauren and Christian Lacroix decorations. The designs a la Cluj have not passed unnoticed as the Vogue magazine in Italy dedicated a generous space to her project at Belvedere.

Is your approach international or traditional?
We believe ourselves to be pioneers in decorating at a local level: we help the people who resort to our services to actually define themselves. The space that we are presently using has the same standards as any showroom in Paris or London; it can be transported there any time. I personally love the classical style and I use elements from the past, whereas my associate, Ioana Mezei prefers the contemporary trends. The most important thing is that we complement each other.

You attended design courses in London, with Kelly Hoppen. Is it safe to say you have already breached into the elite of the design world?
We’ve just signed a contract with Ralph Lauren, a brand we are premiering in Romania, but the negotiations have been extremely difficult and have lasted for 2 years. I eventually persuaded them to come to the heart of Transylvania: they were surprised we were not from Bucharest; it was something quite new for them. The decorative textiles will be sent here directly from the USA. Ralph Lauren will have its own special section. This year, we are bringing the Christian Lacroix brand, as well.

Are you considering the Ralph Lauren fashion lines too, even if it’s a completely different field?
It is possible that we collaborate on this project; my partner is very much interested in this direction.

What is the project you consider the most important in your work so far?
There are several: the Belvedere Society Club project, where we brought equitation in the public space and this was featured also in Vogue Italy magazine. Also the “Ship” in Iulius Mall, several resident houses or pension houses in Switzerland, Austria or France. At present we are working on two public projects and five private ones.

What value must the apartment have for a person to afford a decorator?
You can decorate a one room apartment, the most important thing is that your living space reflects your own personality and this is where the consultant comes into play. I am not adept of showroom houses, meaning you get your furniture from the store and bring it at home. Our mission is to help people create a space which reflects their personality.

What is the necessary sum to redecorate a two-room apartment and feel we’re getting a brand new home?
It can be done with no more than 2500 euros. Many of those who decide to work with us are surprised to find out that it’s a cheaper option than just buying what comes along, and that decorators suggest better and cheaper materials and we also get better offers than one can find in catalogues.

How did the Children’s Ship in Iulius Mall come into being?
I was just passing through the mall and I thought it was perfect for it. I later on suggested this to the managers and they accepted. I am glad it was such a success.

Can you feel the economic crisis in your field?
I am inclined to say no, the demand hasn’t gone down. Instead, we are working 12 to 14 hours a day, depending on the project. I have an interview now, and then off to the construction site and in the evening, a business meeting.

How much do you have to invest in a venture like this one? How do you measure the client’s satisfaction?
It’s hard to say how much I’ve invested; we have to keep up with the trends. One cannot afford to stock up. Our yearly turnover is about 400.000 euros. We take it one step at a time and we don’t stretch our arm further than our sleeve can reach. If we have satisfied customers we get recommendations, as well. Satisfaction can be assessed in our client’s aftermath behaviour: some of them send us flowers every year.

What is the opinion on decorators these days?
The new leaders form the Romanian Architects’ Order have already expressed interest for the local market. They realised they cannot take care of everything and so, they address for our services.

How are the students doing? Do you work with them?
I would say I have worked better with students from Arts than the ones form the Design department.

What are the trends for this year?
Natural elements are preferred; the closeness to nature and the predilection in colour is for blazes like: red, green and turquoise. We want to restore joy after the crisis.

Source: Ziua de Cluj

Transylvania Business: “The Napotex Model”

Cornelia Nagy is the perfect prototype for a successful manager who knows how to reinvent her business and adapt according to the market evolution. Thus, she succeeded in transforming Napotex in a business that overcame the crisis and became a genuine gold mine. 

Cornelia Nagy is very knowledgeable and is passionate with art and history. Her office, tastefully decorated, expresses a strong and open personality concentrated on the future without overlooking the past lessons. Consequently, Egyptian papyruses of very good quality are set together with a Globe that signifies openness towards the latest technologies that predict the future ones. The practical history lesson taught by Cornelia Nagy is derived from the examples of the great conquerors. Like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, she occupied strategic points. The most important one is represented by the logistic base situated right across the International Airport in Cluj-Napoca, the main air gate in Transylvania and, at the same time an important commercial hub in Eastern Europe.

This lesson determined a lot of the people who know her to resort to a comparison with Angela Merkel, keeping the necessary proportions. Thus, If Angela Merkel reinvented Germany and transformed it from a country that was afraid for its future and encountered structural problems, generated by the great differences among the formerly communist lands and the capitalist ones, in a state where the future starts today, Cornelia Nagy reinvented Napotex. In the first stage, during the torment of transition, she avoided one of the biggest mistakes made by other managers: giving privilege to the central office spaces and neglecting the periphery.

Napotex kept and expanded the logistic base in Someseni, near the airport, which became today one of the key-points of the economy in Cluj. During the years of the real estate boom, when other managers attempted non-realistic investments, in the hope that prices would continually rise, Cornelia Nagy opted for an organic and healthy development and invested from Napotex own resources. Accordingly, the start of the economic crisis found Napotex as a very stable venture and with excellent perspective, while other similar companies in Transylvania were hit as if by a tsunami during the recession. At this point, Napotex is considered a model of applied economy, worthy of being followed also by other managers.

A Realistic View

Cornelia Nagy’s managing method can be abridged to a single word – realistic. She took over a commercial company, but, at present, the Napotex ventures are generated by renting. The structure of the business has been thoroughly modified, after she realised that many of the commercial companies activating in the centre of Cluj, that were also clients of Napotex were about to be seriously affected by the mutations generated with the opening of the two malls in Cluj. To this phenomenon added the unfair competition and the massive importing of bad quality goods brought in from Turkey or China.

Instead of relying on its position of logistic centre for local companies that produce goods, like textiles, Napotex betted on renting warehouses to companies activating in different fields, and so diversifying their activity reduced the risks. ‘For 18 years, Napotex succeeded in staying profitable, and the investments were made without any credits.” says Cornelia Nagy. The prices demanded by Napotex were the most correct, meaning that, during the real estate boom, they were not pumped up artificially. This is also the reason why no one from Cornelia Nagy’s clients has so far complained about the rent price. “The people, tenants, appreciated the honest partnership we proposed.” says the General Manager of Napotex.  The stability offered through this partnership constituted a good basis for the tenants’ expansion in business, despise the crisis.

”I can say I get very involved. I no longer have one business, now I have 40”, says Cornelia Nagy jokingly. She strives at helping her clients as well as an entire internal department at Napotex. At present, the company Cornelia Nagy is administering is a model of efficiency. With only 9 employees, it serves 40 clients that generate a turnover of 400.000 euros and a profit for this year of 150.000 euros. These numbers are solid arguments for the major stock-holder of Napotex, SIF Banat-Crișana, to keep Cornelia Nagy’s managing in the long run.

Transformations

An interesting aspect concerns the change that the job market has undergone. Eighteen years ago,  Napotex had 150 employees. Nowadays, the airport logistic corps includes the same number of employees, but they are much better paid than the 40 employers from Napotex. At present, 85 % of the Napotext premises are used as warehouses, while 15 % function as offices. This year, Cornelia Nagy will continue to make investments in order to increase the comfort and the quality of these buildings. As a result, all the people who own warehouses in Apahida or Turda, for example, want to open offices in Napotex, says Cornelia Nagy. Moreover, the extension of the International Airport of Cluj-Napoca and the new by-pass Vâlcele – Apahida will also attract a lot of interest in the logistic base of Napotex.

Source: Transilvania Business

Simona Baciu: “I don’t believe in an elite oriented teaching system”

Dafina Suciu: What does the International School mean to you as a project?

Simona BACIU, founder of The International School in Cluj-Napoca: The International School is my second nature. This would be the definition of my professional career and of my beliefs. It is a larger version of my family. It is a project in which I have faith, a project in which I have invested passion and time and which brings a new hope every day.

D.S.: Where did the idea to implement such a project in Cluj come from? (more…)

Business Woman: “AFA Cluj – benevolent actions for community support”

Interview with Mihaela Rus, the president of AFA Cluj.

Who are the members of this association and what are its objectives?

Our association has no less than 74 lady members who are either running their own businesses or holding managing positions in various companies, or work as doctors, teachers, psychologists, jurists etc. All of them are active women and willing to participate in the change for the better of Cluj, a city which they love with all their hearts and which they respect. We are trying to fill the generation gap, to support talent, to invest in education and particularly to create a healthier and a more beautiful environment for us and for our children. I have seen in time that our example can convince and that many other ladies, business women, wish to join us so that the number or members will increase in the future.

You said that you are trying to fill the generation gap, to support talent and to invest in education. Could you give us an example? (more…)