Vadym Zotov

Co-Founder of Devox Software

Vadym Zotov is a co-founder and CEO at Devox Software, an IT outsourcing company in Ukraine.

Such a choice of the industry was not accidental. Vadym graduated from Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute and started his career as a .NET developer. In just four years he got a leading position and shifted to a managerial role in one of the biggest outsourcing companies in Ukraine.

At the same time, Vadym started a few businesses in retail, restaurant and furniture industries. He’s got interest in entrepreneurship and entered an MBA program at Lviv Business School of UCU in 2016. While studying there, he completely defined his business area and set up Devox Software in 2017. The company provides web & mobile development services as well as UI/UX design, quality assurance, and DevOps.

His background in software development helps him to find a common language with programmers and tech specialists on the client side. One more thing that helps him to hold negotiations successfully is his interest in psychology. Vadym attends psy and NLP workshops regularly because it facilitates communication and gives a better understanding of human behavior.

Where did the idea for Devox Software come from?

I was thinking about setting up my own business for quite some time but I realized I need more experience to make this dream come true. I started as a software developer and got promoted to the top-level position in a company with 3000+ employees. It allowed me to look at the IT outsourcing market from different angles and get a sound idea of how that business works indeed.

I noticed that outsourcing as an industry acquired a poor reputation because of a few dishonest companies and the rest just put up with such a stagnant negative attitude.
Business ideas come from problems. That’s how I came up with the idea of Devox Software. I want to run a values-driven company that focuses on trustful relations with clients and high quality of services.

The very name of the company bears some traits of my disgust to stagnation. For me “devox” is DEVelopment + EVolution. If you want to build a successful company, you should strive for constant improvement.

And the letter “x” at the end… Well, it’s a trend, you know. Like SpaceX. And we follow the trends 😉

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I always have lots of plans so I have to get up early to squeeze it all in 24 hours. I am not an early bird but I wake up with pleasure due to my clearly stated goals and my wish to achieve them.

My day starts at 7 am. I work out in a gym and arrive at the office at about 9:30. Meetings with clients, in-house standups with department managers, workshops, final interviews with candidates for key positions are my daily routine. On average, I spend 6 hours a day on meetings.

As for my free time, I dedicate it to my family, friends and personal growth.
If you want to stay productive with such a tight schedule, you need to mind your goals every time you make a decision. And setting your goals correctly is key to productivity. Your goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. I treat every goal as a small business plan with its clearly stated steps and deadlines.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I turn ideas into goals and break a goal into a few achievable stages.
For example, my ultimate goal was to set up my company. I started from collecting information about the field and analyzing it. In my case, it was studying for an MBA. My experience in outsourcing companies also was helpful at that point because I already knew the bottlenecks of the business and was ready to avoid or solve them.

The next step was to assemble a team. That’s the point where you should be watchful. I paid attention not only to a qualification but also to mindset and soft skills. My aim was a values-driven company, so the way of thinking was our “glue” that bonds us together.
In my opinion, you need the following resources to bring the idea to life:
– Information;
– Knowledge;
– Time;
– Soft skills;
– Capital resources;
– Network.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Humanity generates tons of information every day. Due to Big Data, we’ve got a chance to study it and find tendencies. Predictive analysis is the trend that excites me the most.

Just imagine how many problems you can solve when you have a forecast on your hands! You can predict business risks, avoid epidemics, prevent accidents or crashes.
Statistics is power.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

When your workload increases you cannot do everything by yourself. No matter how hard you try, you are torn between a pile of tasks and as a result, you lose focus and become counterproductive.

Thus, delegate and control – that’s the lesson I’ve learned from my business. Use outsourcing to concentrate on your key responsibilities and entrust the rest to reliable and qualified people.
Delegate as much as you can to your trusted key team members. Control execution without micromanagement.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be self-confident.

It’s great if you make the right decisions. But don’t be afraid to make the wrong one. The idea is to draw valuable insights from both types of experience.

You make a mistake fast, you learn from it and have time to recover. It’s better than investing a lot of time and effort into preparations first and discovering that you’re in the wrong way.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The truth is relevant. Something can be true for me but false for you.

Why so? Each person has his/her background, experience, tastes, etc., so the truth is subjective.
For example, early birds vs. night owls. Who is right?

When you sit in judgment on an idea, mind 3 points of view at least – yours, your opponent’s and objective ones.

Such an approach facilitates communication. It helps to reach a common vision.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Before you start a new business, test your idea. Try to satisfy early customers with the minimum viable product (MVP) and refine it gradually. Why do lots of startups fail? They come up with a great idea, polish it, add more features, polish new features, add some more until it’s too late to release such a product. It took lots of time and capital resources and you got nothing in the long run. Efforts for the sake of efforts.

Focus on your core feature, make it usable and check if the market needs it. Improve your product only when you make sure it’s in demand.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Every sustainable business should have a strategy for 3 years minimum. However, it’s hard for young companies to plan and forecast the future for such a long period. What can they do?

Make your goals measurable, it will help you to understand if you are in the right way. For example, in Devox Software we take into account financial metrics, customer satisfaction, customer lifecycle value as well as customer loyalty, etc. As a result, we track our business in real time and we can make the right decisions before it is too late.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I heard that investors are more likely to give money to those who have already failed and managed to recover. There is a good deal of reason in such a statement.

It’s doubtful that your first business will be a success. It’s your first try and mistakes are inevitable just because theory differs a lot from reality and there are pitfalls that you have no idea about. So, business is like “start – fail – learn from mistakes – start”. Fail to succeed 🙂

When I was working in an IT company, I decided to try my hand in the restaurant business. But I had no idea how it works: I didn’t know how to choose the place for a cafe, I didn’t know the audience’s needs. I was daring enough to start a business without proper knowledge in the area. It was my mistake, but on the other hand, it was a good experience that showed me the importance of marketing research.

I started my software outsourcing company when I had 10+ years of experience in software development. And the first thing I did was research.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Business idea comes out of a problem. If your product/service solves a real problem, it’ll gain its customers.

Let’s take IT security. It is becoming an integral part of our everyday life, but market demand is not covered by traditional educational establishments. University curriculum is cumbersome indeed, but you can start private courses with a flexible approach.

For instance, HackerU, Israeli higher school of cybersecurity. Yearly revenue of their single branch in Moscow is 2 million dollars with $500K EBITDA. This branch was settled only 2 years ago.

If you are not interested in cybersecurity, have a closer look at the IT market in general. It’s very changeable and constantly updating, so new areas of expertise spring up regularly. Find new and popular things and make it convenient for people to learn them.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

If you have time on your hands, look out for yourself. I dedicate the best part of my free time to self-development. Thus, my best recent purchase was a psychology workshop.

C-level position presupposes constant negotiations, and I strive to make our communication efficient.

When you work with your employees under the same roof for a couple of years, you’ve already established tight bonds for good communication. But what if you want to hire a new person or discuss a contract with a potential customer? How to understand a stranger?
It’s important not only what people say, but also how they do it. Gestures, mimics, tone of voice, and even the word choice matter a lot.

If you’ve watched “Lie to Me”, you know what I mean 😉

I’m interested in human behavior in general. And if I can apply this knowledge in business, why not?

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

G Suite products, no rocket science. They are simple, user-friendly, easy-to-use and cover all my business needs – written and video communication, calendar, tables, documents, etc.
One more advantage, it’s so popular that it requires no special instructions on how to use it.

We’ve tried some project management systems in our company, but they would take a month of Sundays to understand their functions. Unfortunately, some systems are too complicated to simplify our lives.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” – Howard Schultz

I read this book a long time ago before setting up my own business. And I strongly recommend it to those who consider starting a company or scale up one.

It’s yet more proof when you think big, believe in your idea and really want to make it come true, you will achieve your goal.

What is your favorite quote?

“Too many rules stifle innovation.” – Sergey Brin
You can do without rules only if you are a one-person company. In all the rest cases, you have to build processes for each department separately. But strive for balance and breed no bureaucracy. An abundance of rules annoys employees and slows down business.

One of our corporate values is simplicity. We take into account only the necessary because our priority is the result, not the process of achieving it.

Key Learnings:

  • Delegate and control. Outsource to concentrate on your key responsibilities and entrust the rest to reliable and qualified people. Control execution without micromanagement.
  • Before you start a new business, test your idea.
  • Start – fail – learn from mistakes – start again. Fail to succeed 🙂
  • Your goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • It’s great if you make the right decisions. But don’t be afraid to make the wrong one. The idea is to draw valuable insights from both types of experience.