We talked to Sergii Shanin of eTeam about IT consulting and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sergii Shanin: Perhaps, like everyone else, we had to adjust the way we live. We were expecting our first child, so we took this really seriously and reduced the number of social contacts to a minimum. Nowadays, as happy parents, we prefer to spend our weekends in nature and try to avoid crowded places.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded eTeam.
Sergii Shanin: In May 2016, my partners and I identified an opportunity in the rapidly growing software development market and founded eTeam with me becoming the CEO of the company. eTeam’s mission is to use a combination of the latest technology and an agile development process to deliver best-in-class software solutions. The customer base started to grow fast from our network of business contacts, and, at the same time, we started to build their own product, Sapience – one of the first API-focused self-managed platforms to identify vulnerabilities and assess security risks. It was launched in July and received extensive media coverage from multiple sources.
How does eTeam innovate?
Sergii Shanin: To be successful in the IT consulting business, we need to keep an eye out for new advancements in our industry. This innovation has been driven both externally by our customers who expect the most cutting edge solutions for their needs and internally by the corporate culture of learning and curiosity. For example, our team has recently launched a new service that uses Open Banking and modern data analytics to allow customers to prove their solvency without filling in endless paper forms, uploading bank statements, or payslips.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sergii Shanin: The COVID outbreak had a major impact on the software development business overall. It has especially affected those customers and vendors who relate to travel, hospitality, brick and mortar retail, ads, etc. But on the other hand, there are coronavirus winners that have benefited from social distancing and isolation. Over the past months, we’ve seen an increasing demand for our services from companies that work in telemedicine, video conferencing, e-commerce, online gaming, etc. During the outbreak, our main strategy was to help our most affected customers get through the pandemic as much as we could. It often required giving significant discounts for our services or downscaling the team at a moment’s notice without paying penalties. As the situation is starting to recover, we’ve managed to retain all our major clients and grow our business by almost 50% from new customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sergii Shanin: We’ve made a lot of difficult choices during this period, but perhaps the most challenging one was to give up our office that we had leased for over 5 years. This decision came as part of a major initiative to reduce the company costs by 30% at the beginning of the pandemic. It allowed us to save some costs and avoid layoffs during the most critical times. Looking back, this flexibility and ability to act quickly allowed us to cope with the crisis much better than for many competitors.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and eTeam in the future?
Sergii Shanin: To help our employees deal with stress and stay optimistic during self-isolation, we introduced everyday activities that they can engage in over Zoom. Those activities include workout, yoga, and nutrition classes led by professional trainers who were also affected by the pandemic and were really excited to have classes while fitness centers were closed. Our teams warmly welcomed this idea and will likely stay even after things are back to normal.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sergii Shanin: Our competitors include large outsourcing firms as well as smaller dev shops across the world. We believe that deep product management expertise, excellent software development processes, and best practices in Agile and DevOps and strong innovation culture will allow us to stay ahead of the competition. Additionally, we are working on a new product that will allow developers to collaborate more effectively during remote work.
Your final thoughts?
Sergii Shanin: Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of changes and quickly react and seize new opportunities. Our example shows that even during an economic downturn, it is possible to streamline the business, make it more efficient, grow the customer base, and improve the company culture.
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