Alex Schedrov is CEO, Director of Business Development, and Digital Strategist. He has a background as a Web Developer, Tech Lead and Architect and great experience in delivering digital and web applications to the world’s most prominent mid to enterprise organizations, such as Stanford University, Teach For America, The National WWII Museum, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DocuSign, National Audubon Society, Jane Goodall Institute, and YMCAs.
Alex Schedrov has been contributing to the Drupal community as a developer since 2010 and he has been a DrupalCon and DrupalCamp speaker since 2013. Two of his talks are included in the top-ranked sessions from DrupalCon Vienna. Alex also entered the list of top 30 Drupal contributors in 2016-2017, after which he confirmed his decision to change the role of a developer to the role of a manager and founded Drupal development agency Five Jars in 2017. Since the company’s inception, Alex has grown a team of interdisciplinary professionals whose services are used by such giants as YMCAs or George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Clients and employees note that Alex is focusing on digital innovations, creating the solutions in a simple manner, on a commitment to quality, on cross-technology integrations, thinking out of the box and making a significant contribution to the markets meaningful to the world.
Where did the idea for Five Jars come from?
Five Jars was founded in 2017 by a group of technology enthusiasts, digital experts, and dreamers with years of experience in other Drupal companies to deliver high-quality web solutions. The desire to be not just another web development agency but to provide clients with an exceptional boutique service has united these Drupal professionals. The central people core of the Five Jars is obsessed with honing processes, striving for perfect results even in small things and full ownership of the projects they work on. We gathered together only top talents to produce quality products and be as successful as our clients. Our enthusiasm, passion, and focus drive our efforts to meet our clients’ needs. We’re proud of our client partnerships, and we love what we do.
This year started for Five Jars with brutal events in Ukraine, so we had to adjust some of our strategic plans. Part of our team is located in Ukraine, so the main priority now is their safety and business performance in a force majeure. Nevertheless, our main business focus is on the growth of our industries, services, skills, and technologies.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Our team works remotely, so many team members are in different time zones. To be able to communicate with everyone, I practice getting up early. This habit also allows you to keep yourself in good shape, as the morning hours are great for activities such as jogging or a little functional training. Our team also holds a joint call until noon, where we update the status of all projects and discuss plans. After lunch, I usually have several meetings with clients in my schedule. I try to take small breaks of 5-10 minutes about every two hours, warming up and switching my attention from the main work routine. In the evening, it may be several one-on-one calls with colleagues, or weekly meetings with the marketing or business development departments, for example. I try to end the day with a light meditation to calm my nerves and not worry about tomorrow’s work tasks.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We will again have to discuss the eternal truth about how to eat an elephant! Planning, dividing large goals into smaller ones and delegating specific responsibilities to competent people is what underlies my approach to bringing ideas to life. It’s not a secret or a flashy groundbreaking solution, but these methods work – and what matters to me. At the stage of planning the path to the goal, I prefer to use the S.M.A.R.T. approach. S.M.A.R.T. is a mnemonic acronym, giving criteria to guide in the setting of goals and objectives for better results. This assumes that the goals are SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-bound).
What’s one trend that excites you?
Since Five Jars started as a Drupal agency, I’m looking at the trend towards an increased focus on open source. Proprietary software providers still dominate the market, but open-source software plays an equally important role. Business use of open source software is soaring. Moreover, companies are learning to tap into the open-source community for talent and to up-skill themselves. Open-source software will continue to be popular in the future, with the innovation cycle only reinforcing its status. As open core firms and the community fuel innovation, open-source software will likely play a foundational role in many layers of the enterprise software stack. As for CMS, they will become more and more native to the user.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Everything starts with a team. Here at Five Jars, we are convinced that the right team and culture are the way to our clients’ success. That’s why I stick to the habit of creating a comfortable environment for team members. In a daily format, it looks like supporting self-confidence and self-worth for everyone. Do not leave unnoticed the achievements of your team members, support their feelings, praise and share your joy.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I think I would advise my young self to be brave, not to doubt my decisions, develop soft skills and monitor the mental health of myself and my team. I would say that there are many challenges ahead of me, but I can handle them because I do what I love, and there are wonderful people around me.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
As a longtime Drupal follower, I think it’s better than WordPress for large projects. Many people disagree with me, but you just have to try Drupal Open Source CMS and get to know the community – and you will understand that Drupal is the best choice for a website of any size.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Set goals based on your abilities and describe plans for at least a year ahead. Describe OKRs for each of the departments and update these statistics once a month, and review OKRs every quarter. An analysis of these metrics will help you adjust tactics at the moment, and maybe even abandon some goals that initially seemed important, but in the process turned out to be not worthy of attention. Remember that it’s not the numbers and percentages that matter, but your team’s feedback and the ratio of their efforts and results. At the time of the emergency in Ukraine, this approach to analytics of our productivity helped Five Jars to reasonably allocate capacity and give up something unnecessary.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Since its founding, Five Jars’ developers have been core developers of the Drupal community, which makes us the ultimate experts in our field. There are many examples of companies that wanted to immediately offer services in many technologies, but the lack of high-quality expertise ruined them. We are now one of the best Drupal agencies in the world according to most of the ratings – only after that did Five Jars begin to grow the horizontal expansion of our expertise and services.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We learned a lesson that you need to start building a business development team as soon as possible. Clients and projects are your company’s fuel, so you have to start as early as possible. We didn’t know that and realized that a bit later. Nevertheless, we started building a robust process and team at a certain point, and it gave the results in the long run.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It would be great to see someone bring to life CMS as functional as Drupal and as simple as Wix. If there are amazing developers and marketers among those who read my answers – guys, I give you this idea!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I donate all spare funds to help my homeland Ukraine in the fight against the invaders. Every $100 is important and brings the victory closer. You can learn more about how our company helps Ukraine in this post.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Clear and timely communication is at the heart of any teamwork, so I pay special attention to convenient tools for working communication and collaborative development. I would say that Atlassian tools are a real find – and I won’t be unique in my statement. Jira, Confluence and Bitbucket allow us to take full advantage of collaborative development and track progress on any project. Access to any project is crucial for remote teams, such as ours, as it allows you to keep up to or quickly immerse any employee in the process. In our daily communication, the Five Jars team and I use Trello, distributing discussions of various topics into the appropriate channels. This helps keep the discussions from turning into a mess of a thousand messages.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My best book of 2022 is “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. It may help to put down stress and improve mental health. The experience of this book has been especially useful this year when our entire team was traumatized by the war in Ukraine.
What is your favorite quote?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t ― you’re right.” ― Henry Ford. I believe that most of the obstacles are only in ourselves, which means that we have all the power to overcome them.
- Take care of the people on your team: their health and mental health, their ideas, their support – this is what should excite you. Inspired enthusiasts are very expensive!
- Planning is worth the time you spend on it. A few hours of thinking about the next steps will save you a huge amount of money and nerves.
- Develop soft skills: sometimes flexibility is more important than technical skills. The ability to readjust and be open to change was what helped us this spring.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.