We talked to Max Savonin, CEO at KeenEthics, an ethical web and mobile development partner and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Max Savonin: Even though I followed all the quarantine regulations and safety precautions, COVID-19 did not pass me by. Luckily, I have successfully fought it. My family is doing fine as well, so thank you for asking!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded KeenEthics?
Max Savonin: During the last year of receiving a degree in economic statistics, I jumped into the world of business. I helped to build up quite a few startups, and two of them have turned into successful companies. However, I was still looking for the initiative I would truly love. In the meantime, a childhood friend of mine was working for a few software development companies, but he wasn’t happy with how they did business. The two of us understood that, with my business acumen and his technical experience, we could set up a company which would do software development better. This is how KeenEthics was founded. Also, we established a non-profit initiative “Let Kids Move”, which would be funded from KeenEthics profits, in order to help Ukrainian students be healthier and happier by being able to change postures dynamically while they are studying.
How does KeenEthics innovate?
Max Savonin: The thing which makes KeenEthics different from its competitors is “Ethics”. We believe that technology has to work in favor of social good, so we have joined the Tech4Good movement from the day we were founded. KeenEthics helps its employees to be healthier and happier, cares about the environment, stands for the interests of Ukrainian students, and interviews other Tech4Good leaders to spread their ideas. We look for ideas which make people better and more ethical, and we help to implement these ideas.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Max Savonin: The pandemic made us reconsider our business priorities. In particular, for the sake of our employees’ health and comfort, we had to move 100% remote. This way, our office expenses reduced greatly, so we significantly increased our employee well-being budget, hired a mental health officer, and started sending out regular presents. As for the income part of our finances, we were lucky enough that almost all our clients found a way to mitigate quarantine risks, we have engaged new projects, and our business did not suffer much from the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Max Savonin: Going remote was the most difficult decision. Almost all our employees used to work in the office, and we did not know what to expect when they started working from their homes. We predicted a drop in productivity and performance, loyalty and involvement. Of course, some people struggled with working remotely, and some even left KeenEthics. However, in general, our productivity and loyalty stayed on the same level as before. Hardworking people began to work even harder, so we made them have more rest. The most difficult thing, however, turned out to be the recruitment and onboarding process. On the one hand, pandemic and remote work let us hire people regardless of where they live. On the other hand, retaining newcomers who treat their team like some faces they see on the screen turned out to be the most difficult task ever. Our HR managers are still fighting for the loyalty of our newest employees.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Max Savonin: Our customer management was and still is 100% remote, so our communication did not change much. Yet, what we miss so much is going on business trips to clients or showing our clients around our dear city. Also, together with our clients, we spend less time on strategic planning and more time on risk management. 2020 showed us that regardless of what you plan, you have to be prepared for the most unpredictable events.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Max Savonin: KeenEthics did not apply for any government grants. At the same time, the governmental help with Let Kids Move — our non-profit initiative — had to be put on hold because the Ukrainian government is now busy with more urgent issues.
Your final thoughts?
Max Savonin: COVID-19 has had a controversial impact on Tech4Good. On the one hand, the issues supported by Tech4Good have receded into the background. Quarantine, healthcare, and vaccines became the centre of global attention. On the other hand, global society reevaluated their priorities and understood the true value of being helpful and kind to each other. The pandemic helped the new leaders of Tech4Good emerge — for example, Marc Sloan and his company Covid Tech Support. From the business perspective, remote work became a norm, and it opened new opportunities to work with companies that have worked only with local providers recently.