We talked to Yulia Koroleva, chief business development officer at Code Inspiration, about custom software development, and this is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yulia Koroleva: Thanks, pretty fine. There is no strict lockdown here in Belarus, so we live almost like before the pandemic, but following some anti-epidemic measures adopted by our government, that is, social distancing, wearing masks, using antiseptics. Everything else is like before the COVID pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you joined Code Inspiration.
Yulia Koroleva: I joined the company more than 4 years ago. Before Code Inspiration, I worked in B2B in a Head of Sales position. I’m co-owner and Chief business development officer at Code Inspiration. This is a family business. The second founder, co-owner, and CEO is my husband. We have warm and close relations here inside the team. And key team members have been working with us for several years already.
How does Code Inspiration innovate?
Yulia Koroleva: The thing is that clients address us with new business ideas aimed at innovations: simplification of some processes via digitization, making a new product for some markets, improvements of existing products or services, adding brand-new features that are just entering the market or have not yet appeared on the market. So we are an agency that supports the technical part of the development of our clients’ innovative business ideas.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Yulia Koroleva: Well, when the pandemic and lockdown hit EU countries a year ago, some clients paused or stopped the development of their projects, especially those who ordered travel apps development. A number of clients asked us for some flexibility options, and we rediscussed the scope of their contracts and changed the development plans according to the new development strategy of their innovative custom software. Most clients whose business operates online decided not to stop the development at all. Otherwise, they would lose market share.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Yulia Koroleva: Indeed, due to the fact that some clients paused or stopped their projects, we had to cut some staff members at the beginning of 2020. However, there is another aspect: many software development companies in our city have reduced staff also, and we noticed that there are some experienced and valuable developers available on the market, which are difficult to hire at non-crisis times. So we decided to hire them and, in such a way, strengthen the team and development capabilities, which was impossible before the COVID crisis.
Surely, we also had to transfer to remote work when the pandemic came to Belarus. We didn’t face any significant difficulties here: managers agreed with developers to maintain schedule and Agile practices, make daily and weekly plans, and, respectively, make daily and weekly reports.
As a result, we noticed that performance of some developers increased after transfer to remote work. However, some employees didn’t demonstrate expected professional qualities working remotely, and we had to terminate contracts with them. All in all, the company managed to transfer to remote work to minimize pandemic risks for employees and keep all the development plans and workflow to fulfill obligations to customers.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Yulia Koroleva: Since we are working in a B2B niche, offering software development and consulting services for startups and large companies, we cannot say our pool of clients is big. We simply use our own internal CRM system with basic features, which is enough to manage relations with customers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Yulia Koroleva: No, we didn’t. Since the government did not adopt strict lockdown in Belarus and business entities continue working as before or remotely, government authorities directed support to the national healthcare system mostly.
Your final thoughts?
Yulia Koroleva: Surely, the COVID pandemic and lockdown brought plenty of problems for businesses. But it is important to understand that crisis times will end sooner or later. And those businesses that think about it, who prepare to post-COVID reality now – will for sure get the best after the pandemic and lockdown.
At Code Inspiration, we say that not the strongest businesses will survive, but ones the most adaptable to the changes. So, we would like to advise any business owner, manager, freelancer, or individual to be flexible and think about post-COVID times even now, how to live and work then. Be it learn something new, support others with useful content, prepare or pivot a startup, take part in an online conference, revise and network with existing Facebook/LinkedIn contacts, etc.
Here is also a short motivational video which we prepared for a flash mob a month ago.
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