Maja-Erol-Authority Partners Founders

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has changed and continues to change the way companies operate around the world. No one can expect to emerge untouched, and many companies will find their business and their company culture transformed as a result. Companies had to create improved strategies for successfully working remotely, building conditions that support our health, and developing guidelines to enforce safety measures. Leaders are forced to adapt as they learn, and as they see medical data and new directives that result in new working conditions. AP has established a long-term strategic plan. These goals mark the step forward in our journey to success. As the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has created a massive plot twist, AP changed priorities, took all necessary steps to protect the business, supported its clients, and made the best decisions for its team’s safety.

In this interview, Maja and Erol Karabeg, Founders of Authority Partners, share their thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 and driving the business forward in the new normal.

Maja Karabeg, Co-Founder of AP

AP: What is the biggest professional challenge for you today?

MK: “We are all in this together” and COVID-19 pandemic has significant impact on the world around us, Authority Partners included. In 2019, we developed and put in motion our strategic plan for the period of 3 years, 2019-2021. This plan is very ambitious, and we didn’t take in consideration something like this happening. We changed our priorities and took all necessary steps to protect our business, support our clients, and make the best decisions for the safety of our consultants.

AP: What is the biggest personal challenge today?

MK: I like to compare the company with the human body, and company culture and values with our DNA. DNA is vital for all organisms. It holds the genetic blueprint for proteins, and it is the instruction guide for life and all its processes. By guiding each individual cell, DNA drives the development of the whole organism. We see the same dynamics with company culture and values. It is very important to keep them “alive”, and it is becoming more challenging during these times of physical distancing.

AP: What changes have you made to keep your business operating?

MK: We have well defined processes and methods, so it was easy for us to move from the offices to the safety of our homes.

AP: What have you implemented to stay competitive?

MK: As the part of our strategic growth, we decided to start adding more international consultants to our teams back in 2018. Currently, about 25% of Authority Partners lives and works far from our technology center location. We are spread across 27 countries and 13 time zones. This global reach was important for making our remote-work methodology rock-solid, and it became even more useful to us and to our clients in the time of COVID-19 pandemic.

AP: What advice would you give startup founders to keep managing costs and cash flow efficiently during a crisis?

MK: Have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. Stay positive, open a line of credit if you already don’t have one. Monitor your cash flow weekly, adjust monthly if necessary. Stay close to your clients, and your vendors. Have open conversation with your employees and explain your plans.

AP: Is working remotely a new thing for you?

MK: Remote work is not a new concept for Authority Partners, as a lot of our consultants have been doing so for quite some time now. Obviously, COVID did force us to increase the percentage of remote workers to almost 100%, but we are glad that we are able to keep everybody safe, while still monitoring our KPIs to stay efficient.

AP: The general prediction is that tech companies that don’t adapt to remote work post-COVID-19 will fail to attract or retain employees. Do you think there’s going to be a general shift to keep remote work? Do you think employees are going to be less willing even to accept office jobs?

MK: We believe that there is a need to keep remote work for the time being. But we also need to keep in mind that some people prefer working from the office, and as we realized lately, many of us find everyday human interactions and connections very beneficial. The world was ready for some changes, and this pandemic will speed them up. We will continue watching the situation, and will reopen the offices for normal use when the time comes. However, safety is the top priority.

AP: How do you feel that remote work has benefited us, given that we already have this implemented and people are used to it?

MK: With the obvious answer, remote work has benefited us in the sense that we are less susceptible to contracting the virus. Also, remote work allows people to live and work literally anywhere, and in our case, it means in 13 different time zones across the globe.

AP: How do you keep your employees happy?

MK: We want Authority Partners to be an environment where everyone’s opinion is heard and valued, as well as a creative space where employees are encouraged to promote their own ideas. We are always looking for ways to improve our processes, and feedback from employees is vital to our progress. For this purpose, we have ongoing initiatives and mechanisms in place (Annual Employee Engagement Survey, Employees Satisfaction surveys, 360 degrees feedback, Ambassador Pool, regular program and Town Hall meetings, competitive salaries, many perks including regular annual checkups) and during the pandemic we organized online Yoga classes, Arts for Kids classes, bedtime stories for kids, etc. In my opinion, we live our company values. AP is very dynamic environment, expectations are high, so it is a fantastic place for people willing to grow professionally and personally. The possibilities are endless.

Erol Karabeg, Co-Founder of AP

AP: How well-prepared was the tech industry for the crisis?

EK: This pandemic was a shock for the tech industry in many of the same ways as it was for any other. However, luckily for the technology industry, and more specifically for software companies, we were already used to collaborating across physical distances. Therefore, switching to remote work was not such a big change. This fact helped a lot in minimizing the destabilization effects of the pandemic.

AP: Has the global risk of a pandemic been fundamentally underestimated?

EK: There were certainly many who were voicing dire concerns about the increased risks of spread of infectious diseases in today’s interconnected world. Also, due to population growth, people are expanding into more and more previously undeveloped areas which house fairly isolated eco-systems. These two factors significantly increase the risk of contracting and spreading new pathogens. However, to be able to answer your question with any certainty, we’ll have to wait and see how often we encounter pandemics in the future. I am sure we’ll factor them into more risk profiles in the future, but in today’s global “just-in-time” economy, where every fractional increase of efficiency gets amplified 100-fold through the leverage of global capital markets, pandemics are still rare enough to fall beyond the concern horizon for most businesses and institutions.

AP: The demand for highly qualified specialists is increasing in the tech industry. Is the pandemic now putting a sudden end to this trend?

EK: Short answers are “no” for the near-term, and “we’ll see” in the longer term. What I mean is that suddenly changing business conditions are forcing companies to innovate and adapt at even faster pace then before. So paradoxically, we are currently witnessing an increased pressure to use technology to minimize the effects of the pandemic on the business. However, if this pandemic continues well into the following year, the global economy may cool down enough to slow the pace of all investments, including investments into technology. Right now, we are not seeing evidence of this risk materializing.

AP: Do you expect any cool technological innovations in the Tech industry in 2020 and a more significant shift?

EK: We are witnessing increased focus on technologies that allow people and companies to transact business remotely. It’s an interesting change as it allows everybody more freedom to work and play from anywhere in the world. However, it’s hard to be excited about these advances, because we are forced into it by the pandemic. Personally, I am still more enthusiastic about some of the pre-COVID technology trends. Ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the way we interact with technology cannot be overstated. AI, in conjunction with the current massive movement to rebuild everything around us into open programable platforms, will soon completely change every familiar object in our households and workplaces. And finally, when you add the rapid spread of 5G data networks as the third significant development, we now have the makings of a “perfect technological storm”.

AP: Do you feel confident in your business post-COVID?

EK:I am extremely confident in the abilities and talents of Authority Partners consultants, and in the “tribal knowledge” that we accumulated in the past 22 years. This know-how, collected in the form of our company culture and business processes, is an invaluable resource in the times of crisis. We are on track to achieve our strategic goals for this year despite the pandemic. We are goal-oriented, and even through challenges like this, we are determined to deliver and execute as we normally do. On top of that, every disruptive event creates new opportunities. Who better to capitalize on them, then a software company like Authority Partners?