We talked to Anton Zhuk, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Whidegroup about how they create high-performing eCommerce stores and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Anton Zhuk: My family and I are located in Ukraine. As we have pretty flexible quarantine restrictions in the country, nothing oppresses me much in my everyday life. It is not mandatory to work remotely, so the Whidegroup office is open, and almost all employees come to work every day. My son goes to kindergarten, but during the last year, all holidays there are held without parents. Digitalization entered this sphere of our lives, too, so all parents watch videos from kindergarten. Yes, definitely, my family and I face difficulties with traveling, but that is not the thing that makes me feel depressed.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Whidegroup.
Anton Zhuk: I am an engineer myself and have previously worked as a Project manager in an IT company. I founded Whidegroup in 2013 with my wife. These were hard times for Ukraine in political and economic aspects. The main idea was to unite technically powerful specialists in my industrial city and make a difference in e-commerce worldwide by means of a small but skilled and passionate team. We really felt these powers inside, and that’s what we do during these almost 7 years at Whidegroup, working with small to medium e-commerce businesses all over the world.
How does Whidegroup innovate?
Anton Zhuk: We don’t provide unique services in the industry, but we do uniquely provide these services. All specialists at Whidegroup, starting from office managers, understand the e-commerce industry and are aware of the operational processes e-commerce businesses usually face. We inculcate thoughtfulness, nurture deep involvement and educate our specialists to treat each project as unique (that is how it is actually). We innovate in the way our developers help solve business problems and don’t give them tasks to simply develop code. There are many technically good developers, but only some of them are experts in the business side of the projects they work on. Whidegroup developers are e-commerce specialists. First of all, they understand how processes in e-commerce stores selling jewelry differ from those in e-commerce stores selling furniture, but they know the priorities and know what is important.
During the COVID times, we are passionate about helping merchants to move their business from offline to online ASAP. And I believe all development companies should follow this idea supporting businesses.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Anton Zhuk: Before the lockdown was announced, we started two projects from the HoReCa industry. So as you understand, our clients faced not the best times and asked for discounts and postponed some projects. Yes, it affected our finances, but we try to keep balance as other clients, in return, are on the rise right now.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Anton Zhuk: No, fortunately, there were no hard decisions for us. Our HR politics became more flexible – we allow both remote and in-office work during these times. Previously we only considered local candidates on open vacancies, but now we accept remote specialists from other cities. We understood that this can make us even stronger.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Anton Zhuk: Nothing really changed for us in this customer relationship process. We are based in Ukraine, and our clients are based in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and other countries. We always had calls, video chats, and maintain such communication now. But we actually became even closer with our long-term clients. I believe the lack of real communications affects this. We speak more and discuss not only working topics but share more details of personal life with each other.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Anton Zhuk: No, we didn’t apply for any government grants as the IT-sphere was not affected much. There are a lot of businesses that require more of such help.
Anton Zhuk: COVID-19 times is a strength test for all industries. But like each crisis, it pushes entrepreneurs to be more creative, flexible, try new approaches in business operations, test hypotheses and improve ways of doing business. It always impacts positively.