Markus Behmann, director and founder of VEO Capital tells us about building online businesses during a health crisis.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Markus Behmann: We are doing fine and we even have a lot more to do than before. While my family in Germany is highly affected by the extreme lockdown measures, they manage to do most of their duties remotely. However, a lot of my friends see their mental health and/or businesses affected and consider moving abroad to countries with fewer restrictions (i.e. Malta).
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded VEO Capital.
Markus Behmann: I completed my military service when I was 19 and moved abroad, collecting work experience in Italy and Spain before moving to Malta to pursue the Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Malta. After completing it, I worked for a prime broker as an account manager and started my own businesses in the digital marketing, technology, and corporate services fields. After a brief stay in Germany, I founded my company VEO Capital, bundling my various business interests such as the coworking space Glashaus, digital marketing agency VEONIO, and solutions for customer support outsourcing provider aLIVE Support. During that time, I also completed my Executive Master of Business Administration at the University of Malta. Now, with the pandemic, we seized the opportunity to develop technical solutions, i.e. a vaccine passport, and offer customer support solutions to various vaccination centers.
How does VEO Capital innovate?
Markus Behmann: We recognize problems, search for economically sustainable solutions, and subsequently turn the problems into opportunities.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Markus Behmann: My business suffered initially, also because we didn’t qualify for any financial aid. As a result, we pivoted the business model, supported our clients, developed new services and solutions, and subsequently grew our staff and revenue several hundred percent this year.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Markus Behmann: I learned from an early age to make tough decisions. My businesses often suffered financially because we kept people on the payroll whom we didn’t need – often for months. However, if you see your staff less as “human resources” but as teammates that work with you towards common goals that serve everyone, they will show you loyalty. And loyalty is all that counts.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Markus Behmann: We use mostly cloud-based solutions and we utilized them already before the pandemic. As a result, we were already before COVID mostly decentralized, and were able to continue business as usual. Many of our clients and business partners weren’t that well prepared, but we tried to help as many as possible to survive and grow.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Markus Behmann: We did not qualify for any government assistance.
Your final thoughts?
Markus Behmann: The pandemic is a true game-changer for everything from risk management to human behavior. It is the beginning of the end of the current world as we know it. Most businesses with old “offline” business models will die once COVID aid runs out, and the current financial bubbles will probably burst in the next couple of years if the economies do not recover as hoped. Tech companies are and will be the “winners” (if there are any) of this crisis, and it remains to be seen if Europe gets its sh*t together to break the US dominance in that sector. This is a unique opportunity to use the unprecedented financial aid tools to direct funding to sustainable and innovative startups, businesses, and government structures in Europe to develop alternatives to the almighty FAANG companies. Besides, the existing regulations, red-tape, and bureaucracy need to be replaced with actually business- and citizen-friendly solutions, e.g. automated tax calculations, complete digitalization and automation of all government services, etc. – currently, some too many actors benefit from inefficiencies/corruption in the system. Let’s see how it goes – there are even more opportunities in times of crisis.
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