The modern world is now chaotic and unpredictable, but its rapidly changing environment always opens up new opportunities. From acquiring new skills and experience to outside-the-box thinking formation, ‒ just catch the wave and ride. But the thing is that this maelstrom of events often creates obstacles that many successful companies fail to overcome. Identity problems, staff burnout, motivation loss, and misunderstanding of the global vector – all this is almost impossible to avoid in a certain period of time. Then, competition between offices comes along with problems with sourcing. The main problem is the communication inside the company is not adjusted and people don’t realize the company’s values, advantages and simply don’t feel comfortable working and developing which leads to the company’s failure.
Woman in leather ankle boots on pathway with yellow direction arrow symbol.
My name is Denys Khromov, CEO of Ragnarok Group, and I want to share my personal story of a great fintech journey where I had to face various obstacles and challenge myself in solving the problems of the company that was on the verge of closing.
When I joined the company as a director, it was a small development center of 24 people, and the risk that the ‘ship’ would crash was very high. There were many signs of this: the size of the company, the quality of work, the costs, and most importantly, literally no one, from customers to the internal RND, wanted to solve the problems that they had inside the company. So, what exactly motivated a successful manager to join a ship that is almost wrecked after a successful worldwide delivery for a fortune 500 company? The desire to grow as a person and professional, curiosity to find new horizons and non-trivial solutions, and more importantly, to check if there is a line, after crossing which the work turns into a routine.
The office was about to collapse, and I knew that only drastic changes would save it. When you find yourself in charge in such a situation, the first thing to understand is that there is no place for emotional decisions and actions. My first step was simple ‒ to collect all the detailed evidence. I infiltrated every possible crack ‒ from operational and project activities to the emotional state of employees and auditioning the hardware and tools at our disposal. It helped me to create a clear roadmap and a short-term strategy and I gradually began to see where to move, what could be changed immediately, and if there were other issues that weren't obvious.
I immediately understood that I have to win projects. The leader of the fintech was not satisfied with the state of the project and required changes. One of the things that helped me a lot is that he was open to feedback. Feedback is always important for every project, as it allows to improve and minimize negative customer satisfaction and many other things.
Gradually, some issues began to be resolved, and the main pillars on which the first steps to polish our “diamond” were built were triage, proper prioritization, and planning. For some experts, agile methodologies are also very effective, but despite the fact that we are talking about seemingly banal things, getting everything right is an art.
So, once a commitment plan was ready, the next essential step was on the way ‒ explain to the entire team what they are doing and why. Analyzing the whole situation and developing a strategy is one thing, but when you have to explain to the staff what will happen now, you face a new challenge. But not only that, along with conveying the whole idea to the team, it was also necessary to control this whole locomotive and whether it was going in the right direction.
As we all know, change itself is very difficult for many people. Some employees were not comfortable with the new working reality because they didn’t want to step out of their comfort zone. Some people are just not ready for new things, and this should also be respected and taken into account. I had a long talk with each employee and explained why we need these changes and what benefits each of us will receive in the long run as a person, as a team, and as an office. Those who did not agree with the plan or simply couldn’t keep up with it, had to leave because I needed exclusively like-minded people on the team. Also, I had to explain to those who continued the journey with me why others were fired. Transparency is as essential as oxygen and is a necessary remedy for certain problems.
It took some time before we improved the quality of our work and delivery, and as a result, we began to grow. This happened for many reasons, but one of the most important was the work done with the staff. In any business, employees are the key to success. That is why it is essential to work with the team as much as it is possible. You have to motivate them, help them grow, and make them proud to work for the company. The closer you are to your team, the more they trust you. If the team trusts you, the company will grow. It is all connected.
By a certain point, I knew the story of each employee. I knew when their path to IT has begun, and how they got into this company. I also knew their strengths and weaknesses and could motivate each and every person on the team. Despite the fact that I joined the company when it was on the verge of closing, I managed to create a strong bond with every employee and as a result, we became a family. Together, we went through all the difficulties that our company had: together we went through cutbacks, unstable cash flows, and many other things and it brought us together more than before.
Another important thing I want to highlight is that your company, indeed, depends on your people but it is always you on who the team depends. They follow you, they are a reflection of your actions and the decisions you have made. In addition, you have to wisely close a financial director, HR, and director, because they also set the spirit and tone for the whole team.
Company management must remain transparent to show employees that every process in the company works so that they know that their efforts have not been in vain. They need to see that their work is successful and brings the desired result. It makes a snowball effect: the more staff sees that their work is successful, the more they are motivated.
Even if you have taken into account all these points, do not forget to work on the company’s identity. The employees have to understand why the company they work for is better than any other, what are the values, and where we are heading to. For a product company, the issue of identity is extremely important because you are not an outsourcing company, you have a product and ideas that should move the company forward. Of course, you can’t do that completely alone. You need to have a trustworthy administrative team and expand it if needed.
Even though the company had to change its vector, which is never easy for employees, the main backbone of the team remained and we didn’t lose our main experts. Those people, who were not motivated enough or didn’t agree with the new reality of the company had to leave, so we hired new tech talents. This boosted our project activities and motivated us to achieve new accomplishments. We renewed the expertise that was forgotten and the company grew from 24 people to 100.
With domain expertise, successful customizations for clients, pursuit, and desire to help in any new initiatives, we shone bright like a polished diamond on a local market. In this case, it was crucial not to lose the vibe and keep on leading the team and the entire company in a decent way. The CEO of the company can be compared to a football coach: you have to analyze what’s going on, build the right strategy, speed up and slow down flanks, and initiate attacks to complete objectives. Just like with a football team, you must focus on the leaders of the group and earn trust and respect. You also have to control the KPI of other ‘players’, give them feedback, point out their weaknesses and strengths, discuss the vector and at the same time show your flexibility.
The company kept on growing and I ended up being responsible for the entire country and 3 other different offices. My motivation didn't decrease, on the contrary, I was itching to take a step forward toward something new. Then I became responsible for solving the same tasks in a new office, but in a different country, which was a new challenge for me. Indeed, I already knew what to do but there were new obstacles – cultural differences and a significant shift of the office to internal development. Let’s be honest, no one really likes to discover the continents again but the core solution remained the same – I had to work with the company’s leaders, engineering managers, and other employees to stimulate them to motivate their own team members.
The bottom line of my story would be short and clear as I believe that brevity is the soul of wit. Being an owner of the company is about being a grandmaster in all aspects. You have to feel your directors and understand their possibilities, work with leaders and stimulate them, expand your team and build trusting relationships with each and every player in your team. It is impossible to handle everything alone, you need the same-minded people to create a successful team which is the key to achieving strategic objectives. Without this, any office or company turns into its miserable shadow, loses key expertise, washes away knowledge, and, as a result, fails, but that's another story.