“WE HAVE Nothing TO PAY WAGES “And we raised it.”
SoftServe is one of the largest outsourcing IT companies in Ukraine. It was opened more than 20 years ago. Now there are offices in Poland, Bulgaria, America, Germany, Great Britain. The staff employs more than eight thousand people. But at the very beginning, everything was not so rosy.
At the Hrabli Battle event in UNIT.City, SoftServe co-founder Taras Kitsmey talked about what problems had to be solved at the start of the business.
We recorded the most interesting.
How to build a corporate culture
We initially understood that the best business strategy is a satisfied customer. When starting business back in 1993, finding customers was fantastic. Therefore, when we had our first client, we did everything possible and impossible to keep him.
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We tried to introduce value: if the client remains satisfied, then we can attract more orders. But there was a time of socialism: when at least the client was not loved, at the maximum – they hated.
This was evident from communication in shops, restaurants. That is, it was necessary to change the culture of people.
We have formed several slogans within the company
1. We will be successful only when our customer is successful.
2. You need to be as open as possible.
3. It is important to keep a promise: promised – done.
Now these are ordinary things, but then they sounded strange.
At some stage, they began to tell us that we love customers more than employees. It sounded like an accusation. It’s hard to say who is more important. But it was clear: only with happy employees will we have happy customers.
Maybe in other businesses it’s normal when dissatisfied people do their job and the company thrives. It doesn’t happen in ours. Therefore, we created the “we are in people business” approach. We work with people. It doesn’t matter whether it’s clients or colleagues, the main thing is that everyone is comfortable.
How to solve problems with salaries
The first crisis at SoftServe came in 1996-1997, when customers began to delay payments. Accordingly, we simply had nothing to pay employees.
What have we done? Raised salaries. True, there was one “but” – we pay half today, the second half later. It worked – everyone agreed. The staff went to meet us and waited a couple of months. We were sure that customers would pay everything, but later.
And so it happened. This nuisance helped build a culture of trust, which we maintain today.
How to open offices abroad
To be closer to our customers, we decided to open offices abroad. The first attempt was in 1996.
Two of my partners went to study in Toronto. One of them returned a month and a half later – with an order. And the second – in two years. With a 5-year ban on entering Canada. He violated everything that could be violated while he was illegal. Therefore, to continue to develop the office there did not work.
In 2002, we tried for the second time to open an office abroad – in the USA. We met an American of Ukrainian descent who was engaged in sales of services in Washington. She helped us.
Everything seemed to be going well. We organized a conference for the IT community to get to know each other better. I went to meetings, talked about our company. But in two years of work, we have not received a single client.
Why? Because Washington is a government quarter. In order to know this, it was necessary to watch the series “House of Cards”. What a pity that he was not there then.
How “burned out” in the Philippines
The first global distribution center we decided to open in the Philippines. They thought it was a klondike of resources, and people would work at any time of the day. But things did not go as smoothly as intended.
#1. Filipinos have a different way of thinking
In the Philippines, a process-oriented culture, we have a goal-oriented culture. When we give people a task, we don’t go into details about what needs to be done. We simply call the goal, and the person decides how to achieve it.
If the Filipinos say the goal, then you will hear in response: everything is clear, but let’s take it in order – explain in points what needs to be done. For them, this is nonsense: how a manager can demand something without explaining the details.
Ukrainians had to paint detailed plans so that the Filipinos would test everything without straining. It doesn’t work for us.
# 2 Filipinos used to keep silent about the unpleasant truth
In Ukraine, partly Western culture. We are honest with each other and easily speak both positive and negative information. If we understand that we do not have time to do something, let’s say so.
Filipinos believe that they can do everything. They will promise to complete the task until the deadline arrives.
Once I’m calling the director in the Philippines, asking if we can prepare mainframe developers for an interview. He replies: “Of course.”
I call again in a day, asking: “Is everything normal, can we expect a result in five days?” He says: “Of course, it’s easy.”