Tamas Puski, founder of IseeQ tells us about business recruitment.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tamas Puski: Although these are challenging times for everyone, my family and I are doing great. We had to go through an acclimatization phase, our daily routines and practices obviously changed, but I think the outcomes were majorly positive for us. We live in the outskirts of Budapest, our daughter still has access to daycare here, and I am able to work from home while my wife is on maternity leave. IseeQ provided me with all the equipment, support and trust I needed for both my work and my psychological safety, and I find that I am more productive in this setting. It’s easier to arrange things within the family as well. I spare 2 hours a day by not commuting to our office, which I can now spend playing with my child. Busy parents typically find it hard to balance the time for work and family equally. This setting made it tremendously easier for us. Our communication with my wife has also improved, previously we were often too tired to chat about our days in the evening, and now we can exchange information throughout the day and react instantly if needed. Transparency can also be a great help: I let my family know when I am really busy with work or when I can afford to spend some time away from my computer. Our days and schedules fit together like a puzzle, and it’s just easier to manage.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded IseeQ.
Tamas Puski: I joined six months after our business launched. As I’ve been here from the very beginning, I got to experience all the hardships and the incredible progress we’ve made. I started as a researcher, made my way through all the positions, and now I work as a co-CEO. Climbing up the ladder, my responsibilities grew constantly, and I’ve got the chance to personally do all the different tasks and practices that are part of IseeQ’s daily operation now. During the pandemic, the changes in the market contributed to a change in our company culture, which gave me new standards regarding everyday work. I consider being able to manage my own time, spend more time with my family, and work fully remotely a huge benefit.
How does IseeQ innovate?
Tamas Puski: Even though it’s really challenging, I think we are able to innovate effectively and quite quickly. We have to give context for innovations and evolve within that framework, pushing forward-thinking methods as much as possible. I never believed in measuring our success to competitors’. We always set our own milestones to follow. We started borrowing well-performing practices from different companies within Hungary, but as the population is small, we quickly turned our heads abroad. We take inspiration from more innovative sectors and tailor them to our needs. Valuing personal relationships has always been one of our top priorities, and we get very useful ideas from people outside our industry as well. Recruitment is always a turbulent business, but as an independent agency we are able to adopt reforming changes quickly- which can be a huge advantage and a great risk as well.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Tamas Puski: Our reaction was a little delayed and we also made some mistakes, but we managed to remain humane and even to grow. In such a human-driven business, we operate by helping others and their sense of comfort, which sets the standards for our reaction to the crisis too. The goal was not to reduce salaries and keep the numbers aligned with our previously set goals. Our mantra was “The way’s only forward”. The focus was on things we could do to profit off of the situation, so we introduced a new, aggressive sales policy and greater transparency between all of our employees. There was an action model too, divided into quarterly objectives in case the pandemic hit us harder than expected, but thankfully we never had to act upon it.
Compared to our yearly target, there was a 10-15% gap in profit, but we managed to keep the bonuses and extras for our colleagues. It was a really useful experience, it validated our place in the industry and swung us out of our comfort zone, thankfully changing us for the better and resulting in growth.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Tamas Puski: Introducing strong transparency within any firm is risky, but it really paid off for us. Giving context to this practice was a daily struggle, alongside keeping the team together. We had to pay special attention to the human factor, and we continue to do so to this day. Given the stormy nature of the consulting industry, it’s hard work to maintain personal and professional relationships which only grow in number. Inspiring and motivating our colleagues is a constant challenge, but definitely a challenge we are eager to grow together with.
How did your customer relationship management evolve?
Tamas Puski: It did not really change, we value interpersonal relationships to the maximum, fair play is always kept in mind. If anything, it’s the tone of the communication that’s changed. We encountered many new relationships, which provided us with a great mirror of the market. Insights of outsiders affirmed that our reaction to Covid was relevant and professional.
Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Tamas Puski: We have meetings on discord each morning, where everyone is given a few minutes to tell the others about their work. The platform allows colleagues to communicate through multiple “channels”, each dedicated to a different topic. This keeps the flow of insider information smooth, and also helps to maintain team cohesion and motivation. We recently added Monday morning video calls to our schedules, this is the time we talk about personal matters we usually would in our coffee breaks in the office. We like to make up for the quality time we lose with the elimination of the office, so we also organize team buildings much more often.
Our quarterly evaluation meetings are organized monthly now. The board presents all employees with the statistics we track our progress through, and there’s always an opportunity to ask questions at the end. Transparency is really important for us, so showcasing these data is essential for everyone to oversee everything that’s happening. The slides and other important documents are also uploaded to Google Drive, so our future employees will be able to check them out and familiarise themselves with our direction a bit more in-depth.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Tamas Puski: Our industry was not included in the first stage of the governmental support plan. At the very beginning, we realized we had to get through this on our own, and made our plans accordingly, so we were not surprised at any point. From 2021 we were given some benefits like tax reductions that support us with our finances.
Your final thoughts?
Tamas Puski: I am thankful for the change of mindset and the new opportunities we were able to gain from the pandemic. Even though it was hard on the society and on our sector as well, it was a true learning opportunity and a really valuable experience, and even though it is often looked at as a tragedy, I always try to look at the positive outcomes.
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