INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Focus on What You Can Control, Leave What You Can’t
Chris Van der Schueren, CEO at Zeticon tells us about the digital archiving platform of the future.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Van der Schueren: All are doing fine. Life has changed as a consequence of COVID-19, but during my career, I learned to focus on the things you can change and leave what you can’t.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Zeticon.
Chris Van der Schueren: In 1989, I graduated with a Master of Science – Business Engineering, specializing in the management of Informatics. After my military service, I started as a Systems Engineer in the mainframe world but realized pretty soon that my heart went more to entrepreneurship and business development around IT solutions. This way, I entered in the ’90s the US-based start-up world by setting up and developing the initial European subsidiaries for American start-ups. Around 2002, I left the “international” business and started my personal business to support and help Belgian-based technology companies. Zeticon was founded by Prof. Dr. Paul Lagasse as a spin-off of the University of Ghent and sold to the “Cronos Groep” at the beginning of 2018 as Paul had reached the age of retirement. Cronos groep is Belgian’s largest privately owned IT group. Mid 2018, I was requested to become CEO of Zeticon in order to further develop the company.
How does Zeticon innovate?
Chris Van der Schueren: Within Zeticon, we see innovation as a continuous process. Annually we reinvest about 20%-30% of our turnover in R&D. As a software company, Zeticon is a bit special. While many software companies aim to be the largest the fastest possible, we are proud that we succeed in growing on average 25% per year, without external funding as VCs, business angels, and others. Our focus is on quality, sustainability, and strong customer intimacy. Thanks to this approach, we succeed in building standard cost-effective, and scalable solutions and still have a nice, manageable growth. We don’t have to be the biggest but be the best in what we do.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Chris Van der Schueren: The Zeticon business model has been shown as pretty pandemic resistant. We have no demonstratable business decrease nor income losses due to the COVID-19.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Van der Schueren: The major change for Zeticon’s employees was the switch to continuous homework. While homework was already introduced into Zeticon’s normal professional rhythm, at a rate of 1 day a week, the switch to almost full-time working from home had an impact on a couple of informal processes, let’s say the coffee machine communication. This has inevitably an impact on keeping track of who is doing what and who is feeling good or a bit less within private or professional life. We have tried to cope with that by some “informal” lunch or end-of-week informal video chat sessions arranged. Some proposed by management. Some proposed by the team. But it only resolves partially the social needs of our team. Consequently, the social aspect remains our major concern.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Chris Van der Schueren: Customer relationship management is very important for us. Due to Covid-19, our customer relations are nowadays mainly managed through video calls as opposed to onsite visits. To manage this, several video call tools as Teams, Zoom…are used, besides our traditional ways (support desk, email…). We also keep them updated with our product developments by sending them email newsletters. But to keep it more personal, we add video content to it. Besides that, we have also organized webinars.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Chris Van der Schueren: No, as there was no need.
Your final thoughts?
Chris Van der Schueren: As I started, I am a strong believer in focusing on the things we can change, leaving what you can’t change, and resolving the problems when they occur. As for Zeticon, the impact is mainly on the social aspect, not the financial aspect. We currently focus in these times on how to support our team with that need.
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