The pandemic we are facing has shuffled the deck for all people in the world. Everyone has experienced changes in social dynamics. All countries that felt the consequences of the pandemic were united in their desire to overcome the virus, but at the same time, each country used its own practices to solve the problem in its own way.
Businesses also faced a new challenge, which had to be dealt with, adapting to new realities. Unfortunately, not all business owners were able to maintain their position in the market, yet there were those who managed to find the right algorithm in order to exit with fewer losses.
We had a talk to one of the leaders in the Ukrainian IT industry whose business has an international deployment. Mr. Solomon Amar, Founder & CEO of AllStars-IT Ukraine, a subsidiary of Israel’s AllStars-IT Group.
The conversation was about the features which his company was using in order to be able to withstand the difficult struggle in the pandemic period.
– Good afternoon Solomon Amar, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
The Covid-19 crisis has been raging in the world for several months and current trends still do not give a clear forecast when it will end.
My first question: how did you and the company receive the news regarding the quarantine?
Hello. Thank you for the invitation to the interview. At first, the quarantine news was a shock. The industry around the world was facing a new challenge and it has become clear that this is not going to be easy. News from all over the world focused on representing the pandemic and its spread, as well as numerous death cases. We held our breath and watched in shock as it began to create changes so quickly. However, it was important to move on, adapting to the new conditions. The main thing we realized is that we can’t stop and despair.
People often didn’t know how to react to the new situation, it became harder to maintain work as usual. We noticed that the people in the office and our clients became more tense and less tolerant. We realized that in such conditions it was important to keep optimism and look for a way out of the situation.
In my opinion, as a native Israeli, who was educated, served in the army and worked for many years in the IT industry, there is a certain feature in the Israeli mentality while facing a problem – the inner urge for immediate action, to seek for a way out of any crisis. We understood the problem and as a matter of course we began to act immediately, looking for a solution very quickly while using technological solutions for the social sense.
We faced new, unprecedented problems and tried to make quick decisions. Step by step we compiled new solutions which gave us results and stabilized the situation.
Everyone in our management team worldwide worked very rapidly and accurately, with energy, self-belief and motivation, so we managed to attack the problem and restore reality and we did it successfully.
– As we know, many employees around the world were forced to take unpaid leave, what kind of work format was introduced in your company and how did this affect your team?
We have two kinds of staff, Software Experts and Office Personnel. our
Software Experts, who are working with our clients didn’t have any change, business was as usual, while our clients were very impressed with how we confronted the challenges the crisis brought, We started by relocating hundreds of people to work from home with all their equipment, dealing with IT security issues and going through HR activities and employer branding remotely.
As for the Office Personnel, we had to stop all of the inner office activities that we usually held – like our known MeetUp Tech Party Line, and like our Happy Hours every week etc’. So the pandemic made some positions in the company not so relevant, so I would say that in 99% crisis did not affect our company. However, in some positions, where people are very much reliant on meetings, these people already dispute positions that are no longer relevant.
For example, we had some routine events that could not continue work in the same format as before, so we started to use other modern means of communication such as Zoom and YouTube for large MeetUps, Happy Hours and other events. Now, we are doing events mostly not via physical presence, but by virtual presence, on an invite basis. In addition, staff who are asking to organise small groups events in the office with the physical presence can do so while keeping the restrictions and group sizes.
– Due to this situation, many employees had to switch to remote work. How did this affect the motivation and performance of your employees, did they preserve the team spirit?
Yes. Once we understood the crisis was coming to us in Ukraine, we immediately established some mechanisms, some HR mechanisms that moved all of us to work without losing enthusiasm – we switched to establish a remote working strategy.
The events were held via Zoom and continue in such a manner. We created a work format that eliminated the possibility of risk for people. In addition, the government called for refraining from working in offices, so we tried to protect people while maintaining productivity. As for the specialists working in the office, we ensured required safety measures for all of them to feel protected and to make the working environment fun for them as our office equipment resembles the concept of a Google office.
Firstly, don’t forget that we work at the Gulliver Business Center. This is one of the best business centers in the capital. Everything is provided here for the safety of visitors. Antiseptics are available at every step. People have their temperature checked on a constant basis. There are devices for cleaning shoes. Cleaners work throughout the day, every day and everywhere to disinfect the premises. In addition, we have built and opened to staff a special room with ultraviolet lighting for disinfection. We have also made such innovations as offering electric scooters that allow people visiting the office without the need to use public transport, ensuring their further safety. We do everything to make everyone know that their health is kept safe.
Of course, we have added some rules and standards for everyone who comes to work. About half of our specialists come to office on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, others – on the alternative days. We have worked on a plan to minimize time in office. In addition to preserving the team spirit, our specialists have asked us to put back as much team activities as we can because they are missing their colleagues and team spirit, because it is a very unique environment, this is what makes us special, this is what makes us an AllStars-IT team. We miss each other, but we have worked hard to preserve our team spirit.
– The IT industry generates many startups by talented programmers. How did the conditions of the pandemic affect their creativity?
Given the pandemic conditions it is harder for Start-Ups to raise funds as before, yet from what I can see, I don’t believe that the pandemic has affected people’s creativity, on the contrary, it has caused people a better ability to think outside of the box and people try to become even more creative than ever.
– Which startups, do you think, have the greatest chance of attracting investments today?
I think the market of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data has a good perspective. This kind of startups are going to explode in the next few years and the reason is that the world is ready to accept a move into newer technological advances by the automation of computers and manipulation of aggregated mass data.
– We have big problems on international exchanges; most of the money that startups attract is concentrated in Europe and America. How things are today, and what you can recommend startups to succeed in raising funds?
As the Israeli market provides AllStars-IT Ukraine with a lot of work with startups, we, as a service provider, who is working close with these startups, have the understanding and of the mentality that is required to raise funds in order to enter the markets in the US and Europe. We see among our Israeli startup clients a pattern of success to raise money. Most likely startup entrepreneurs don`t understand that funds which are invested in startups don`t invest in the idea, they invest most likely in teams. Ideas can always be perfected, funds invests in teams that they believed can accomplish the idea and launch it successfully. I think that Ukraine has many startups and much money invested in the area to further develop the field of technology. Yet, there is a lack of experience for Ukrainian startups in approaching funds, they don`t exactly know how to best present themselves as promising team as well to present their ideas, therefore, they aren’t able to receive fundings and progress.
Ukrainian startups can learn a lot from their Israeli mates. Last month, we performed a free, open to all, On-Line MeetUp Tech Party with Mr. Tal Catran, my Israeli colleague who gave a lecture about how exactly startups should raise their first investment from serial investors, Tal has a lot of experience in this field and I think this kind of leaders Ukrainian startuppers should follow and connect.
One should focus not on raising money, but raising the right team, this is the key to success. Investors understand this and therefore invest their money. Ukrainian startups have put their efforts into the ideas, but not into process of working on marketing their idea to investors. Many Ukrainian startups have good ideas, but they dont have the right leader to push it forward.
– What is your personal secret to business success?
I think that consistency, self-belief and management skills to build a team, not a company, are crucial. Firstly, be consistent, if you have a nice idea, you have to believe in it, you have to be consistent even if it seems like you are almost done or beaten. Never stop and never give up on perfecting your ideology to be a success in your field.
Secondly, self-belief. You have to believe in what you are doing. If you do not believe in what you are selling, why should others believe in you, so I believe in what we are doing and always trying to do it better, pushing myself to further excel.
Thirdly our approach in empowering people. I don`t believe in micro-management, my resources are better invested elsewhere, I`m giving my people power and freedom to do what they do best, As a result, you don`t bring someone to “work for you”, you better encourage people with your idea.
And to sum up my answer I will add that the type of Israeli based global companies we bring to Ukraine are the best for the Ukrainian IT-people, who work for us. They become exposed to the highest quality and latest technologies existing in the world today.
– Are your specialists afraid of you?
No, they are absolutely not afraid of me, I believe they respect me. Most of them are my friends and we have a very unique work relationship, which I call “flat-management”, so we don’t have a rigid hierarchy. This means that I see each of them as a self-manager and they are my colleagues.
– Many people have become big pessimists and do not know what to do next because of the coronavirus, what can you wish for such people?
I would wish for people to remember and understand that we are all-together responsible for our current state and our future, not the coronavirus. The coronavirus happened one day, yet, we are all in control of our own reality. Yes we have to be careful to follow the instructions of the government’s regarding public health, but that’s the only change in our lives – the way we need to adapt and changes our social interacts, but we are still responsible for the path our future takes. Don’t give up on your hopes and dreams, don’t look for reasons to give up, this will eventually pass.