It goes without saying that COVID has been a historic crisis. Its effects have drastically changed every part of society. Businesses, of course, were impacted. Workers were impacted. Communication and travel were impacted. Health was impacted. The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published the results of their small business survey about exactly what some of the major effects of the pandemic were.
One of the survey’s main findings was that small businesses started struggling mere weeks after the emergency was declared. Over 40% of the survey’s respondents had temporarily closed with almost all of them citing the drop in demand and employee health concerns. Shockingly, a decline in active employment by 39% on average was reported by the early summer of 2020. Industries that had a harder time adjusting to remote or reduced on-site work were displayed the sharpest declines. Another major conclusion of the report regards the clear fragility of small businesses. A whopping 75% of the survey’s respondents did not have enough cash to last more than two months. Needless to say, maintaining a connection with their customers through the pandemic was a life or death priority for many businesses.
Fortunately, when industry leaders, small business owners, and employees all put their heads together, the magic of mutual interest emerges. Andre Cvijovic, the founder of Referrizer, is one such industry leader that has proven himself capable of bringing different interest groups together for mutual benefit. Referrizer is a marketing platform that assists small businesses in communicating with customers. Cvijovic’s company has emerged as an essential component of an economy adapting to change by keeping markets alive and jobs intact. With the help of the Referrizer team, companies such as Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts (TSMA), Ethos Greek Bistro, and Salad Box US, have adapted their approach to providing service safely and healthily during the current COVID crisis.
Mr. Cvijovic’s story began in Bosnia and Serbia, where he started out as a freelance Web Developer. He earned enough through referrals to expand his business and do some traveling. He took on projects while vacationing in Florida and soon had a reputation in the area. The combination of good weather and good work won him over and Andre decided to stay in Florida and make Fort Lauderdale his home. This is where he currently resides with his wife, who is a cancer researcher at the University of Miami, and their daughter.
Mr. Cvijovic realized that by creating scalable marketing infrastructure, he was multiplying other peoples’ business, even during quarantine, and applied that strategy to his own company. A small, underexploited niche was referral marketing. Thus, Referrizer was born. Andre’s team’s first project was developing a method for restaurants to increase their reviews. This was accomplished by installing a unit that trades free wi-fi access for a customer’s phone number and review. In addition, Referrizer’s program filtered the reviews so that good ones went straight to the restaurant’s Google page and bad ones were analyzed for the feedback necessary to improve services. This program took Referrizer’s restaurant clients, like that of Ethos Greek Bistro and Salad Box US, from having around 60 reviews total up to 800 reviews in just a few years. The system was so successful that it needed to be optimized to limit the number of reviews posted per day.
Even bigger challenges were overcome during a historic Florida hurricane and the contemporary COVID pandemic. During the hurricane, businesses were quickly shutting down. Andre’s team came up with ways for their clients to communicate with their customers to boost morale. They created a texting plan that helped a client that makes an average monthly income of $120,000 make $17,000 in one single chaotic day. Applying lessons learned from the hurricane, Andre and his team took their experiences to Daniel “Tiger” Schulmann’s Martial Arts school (TSMA) and helped him adapt his training programs to constantly changing quarantine protocols and CDC guidelines. As the largest martial arts school in the U.S. with 42 locations, including in metropolises like New York City, this was difficult.
Dan the “Tiger” Schullmann was very impressed by the value Referrizer brought his school at the price that they brought it. “The best thing about Referrizer is the communication, they’re always available and their customer service has been amazing,” states Schulmann. Some of the schools have had to close their doors for months. Even now, two of his locations in New York have to remain shut due to pandemic restrictions there. Without Referrizer, the martial arts school was having trouble keeping in contact with their students all over the country. “Their technical support was excellent, of course, but it was their guidance that was essential,” he raves. “We use Referrizer for many aspects of our business. Having the ability to easily send emails and texts to all our students is important. As we introduced our virtual classes, Referrizer provided the tools and the expertise to assist us in promoting classes to our current students as well as to former students as a reactivation effort.” With the help of Referrizer, the martial arts school began and continues to offer virtual training to their students, even as their schools reopen.
Referrizer has since expanded and now offers a lot of products on its platform. All of these products are meant to streamline the marketing process, which reflects Mr. Cvijovic’s mission: “free people from unnecessary work” so they may focus on their strengths. This philosophy extends to his management style as well. “Everybody in the company owns a piece of liquid equity,” he says. As the company grows, their collective dream is to sell it at the right time to benefit from early retirement. Referrizer stands as a means to mutually benefit all who communicate with and through it, pandemic or otherwise.