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Getting comfortable with the unknown – top tips from my entrepreneurial journey

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Getting comfortable with the unknown – top tips from my entrepreneurial journey 1

By Vaclav Muchna, co-founder and CEO of Y Soft Corporation

Entrepreneurs often have a lot going on when starting a new company – from developing a new product or service to trying to get market traction and hiring the right people. Needless to say, it can be very stressful and requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

Vaclav Muchna

Vaclav Muchna

While a crucial part of working in the startup world is to learn from your mistakes, the ultimate goal for any young entrepreneurs is to avoid making major mistakes that not only hurt the company itself but those who have chosen to follow them in their venture.This includes investors, employees, early adopters and the support of loyal family members.Here are some of my early experiences, mistakes and lessons that I have learned along the way as an entrepreneur:

Have a vision and be ready to fight for it

I began my journey in early 1998 in The Czech Republic, where entrepreneurs at the time had a bad reputation and were often known as people who would illegally steal other people’s money. So, you can imagine what my parents felt like when I told them that I wanted to become one.However, I legally needed their approval as I was required to register a business address as a limited liability company. My parents finally agreed under one condition, which was to continue with my university studies and get a degree.

At the time I was studying IT, which was a new topic at the university I was attending. While it was an interesting course, it was almost impossible to keep up with the university work while trying to set up a business. I was extremely passionate about my new venture and dedicated all my time to it. Shortly after, I got kicked out of the university, mostly for the fact that I didn’t show up much (Note: this was Masaryk University which my company now extensively works with, ironically).

The point I’m trying to make here is that you will have doubters and obstacles – a lot of obstacles – but you just have to be clear on your vision and be ready to fight for it. At the early stages of my company’s development I would take on almost any projects slightly linked to custom software development in order to make money. I had various projects going on at the same time and while some clients paid in cash, others would pay in shares. At one point my team and I had five global projects all at once and I felt like the king of the world. However, we failed in all five projects, all at the same time. It was devastating and shortly after my long-term business partner decided to give up on us. Luckily, I had another business partner. However, over the coming years we lost various employees along the way and it took us five years in total to grow and become a sustainable business of three employees.

We didn’t grow overnight but we never gave up because we had a vision and we worked really hard for it. 

Know when to ask for help

From the early days of starting my company I knew that I wanted to expand and become a global company. I always thought to myself that country borders were defined by politicians and that there shouldn’t be any borders when it came to business. When it was time to scale the business, I decided to sell through channel partners. I developed several partnerships and through multiple references and connections we started to spread around Europe, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe. We weren’t able to tackle Western Europe until 2008.

The key to our success was knowing our limitations and asking for help when it was needed. You cannot grow into a multi-million company without others and their help and this means different things for different companies. For example, for some companies this may mean taking the avenue of selling part of their company in shares in order to grow, while others may look for external investors or, in our case partners who assist with the sales channel. Whatever it is, decide what is important for you and don’t be afraid to go after it.

Always think ahead and innovate

Since the early days of my company, people kept predicting that paper printing would come to an end. It’s 2019 now and printing is still going strong, with recent research from Quocirca stating that the majority (64 per cent) of business users expect printing to still be important by 2025.

Still, you should therefore always think ahead of the sector you’re in and innovate as much as possible. Come up with complicated ideas that no one else has thought about and dare to make them a reality. While I knew that printing would remain as a crucial part of every company’s existence, I knew that we needed to diversify. 3D printing was not a new invention when I decided to explore it but with time and careful thinking, we managed to develop the world’s first 3D print management service.

Know your company values

As entrepreneurs we have a greater responsibility to create and manage our company values because one, we set out an example for others within the company to follow and two, company values are closely tied to performance. You might think that you are a young, fun and hardworking company but it’s only your employees that can tell you how things really are.In one of our company surveys, our employees ranked openness and innovation as our core values. We then decided to implement these core values into performance by offering financial rewards to those who exemplify these values.The bonuses at our company are now based on three areas: company performance, team performance and company culture fit. These bonuses are given quarterly and our employees’performance is judged based on group opinion, as well as individual performance and their personal KPIs. All this goes to show that culture really matters. If you want to make your organisation an inspiring place to be show it to your employees with your actions.

Always plan for the future

We now sell in over 100 countries and have 16 offices worldwide. Although this success did not come overnight, we had a strong vision from the beginning, we worked very hard to get there and I don’t have any plans to slow down anytime soon. Looking at the future, our core focus is in the US and China, but we’re always interested in exploring new countries such as India and Brazil. Whatever it is that you do, always remember to plan for the future. A sudden success or a client win might make you think that you’ve got it all figured out but if you want to build a sustainable business you have to be prepared for the future.

It all starts with a vision, hard work and planning.

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Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans  

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Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans   2
  • Six in 10 (61%) of 16-25s agree learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way to get on the jobs ladder in the current environment
  • 59% would rather study a degree subject connected to a profession than one they are good at
  • 59% believe tech sector offers strong career opportunities and is voted most futureproof sector by 16-25s following the pandemic
  • QuickBooks launches free online programming course with Amigoscode to help young people kickstart their tech career

Nearly two thirds (63%) of 16-25s have seen their future educational plans impacted by the pandemic, new research from Intuit QuickBooks1 – the financial software provider – reveals, with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 driving young people to look for faster and more secure ways to get jobs.

And with more than half a million young people now unemployed – a rise of 35,000 from the previous quarter2 – six in ten (61%) 16-25s agree that learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way of getting on the careers ladder in the current environment.

With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of more ‘futureproof’ career options, the technology sector has been identified by 16-25s as offering particularly strong career opportunities (59%).

To help young people kickstart their tech career, QuickBooks – home to top UK tech talent – has launched a free online programming course with Amigoscode.

Careers-focused learning takes priority 

If they were to attend university or study for a degree, 59% of 16-25s would rather study a subject connected to a profession than one they’re good at, while nearly a third (31%) would only consider studying for a degree that would help them get a job in a sector that is likely to grow in future.

However, almost half (45%) of 16-25s are now reconsidering attending university at all. A quarter (26%) believe it is now more important to get on the job ladder than get a degree, while 19% don’t want to go to university because they are worried about their safety.

As remote learning becomes the new norm, more than a quarter (28%) of 16-25s now plan to carry out an online university degree (such as those offered by the Open University) instead of physically going to university.

Technology sector is voted most futureproof 

The research reveals 16-25s believe the technology sector is the most futureproof (40%), ranking significantly higher above the second most popular option (construction – 27%).

Almost a fifth (19%) of the 16-25s surveyed already have a career in the technology sector, while 34% are considering it – rising to 38% of those aged 16-19.

Of those who are interested in the sector but are not currently considering it, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing how to get a job in this area (32%), closely followed by having never received any information about the sector from careers advisors etc. (30%). A quarter (25%) don’t think they could afford to undertake the necessary training or qualifications to get a job in the sector.

Ben Brown, Head of Engineering at Intuit QuickBooks, comments: 

“With COVID-19 causing economic uncertainty and driving unemployment levels, young people are increasingly looking for ways to fast-track onto the careers ladder. And getting straight into the tech sector, which has proven to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, is particularly appealing. Technology, after all, is the fuel that has allowed many other sectors to continue operating.

“On-the-job learning is common in the tech sector, but to be a successful candidate, applicants need to demonstrate genuine interest and enthusiasm by having carried out their own independent learning. Employers can enable this by creating opportunities for young people to take part in free training courses and taster sessions, which helps them to gain valuable skills and decide if the sector is for them.

“QuickBooks engineers frequently host and coach participants through Code First Girls sessions – which are aimed at women looking to learn more about programming – and we are thrilled to be partnering with Amigoscode to offer a free programming course.”

Nelson Djalo, Founder of free coding resource Amigoscode and Software Engineer, comments:

“The perception of not having enough knowledge is the main barrier to young people getting into the technology sector. Skills can be built over time – passion, drive and a willingness to learn are the most important qualities to have. People from lots of different backgrounds and interests can get into the sector, and there are a whole host of roles aside from programming and software engineering.

“I offer programming courses and coding tutorials because I believe the sector should be accessible to anyone. I’m pleased to be partnering with QuickBooks to offer a tailormade course for anyone who is interested in getting into the industry and wants to learn more about programming.”

The Amigoscode x QuickBooks course is available here as a video, and here as a playlist. The 2.5 hour course and video playlist covers the basics of programming; the basics of Python and a project task (building a CV). Participants will also build a portfolio which could be the starting point of their tech journey/career.

Watch Nelson’s other tutorials on the Amigoscode YouTube channel here.

Case studies of young QuickBooks software engineers are available on request. 

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Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party

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Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party 3

By Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Christmas is usually a time of cheer and celebration, and the perfect way for employers to incorporate this in the workplace is by organising a Christmas party for their staff. However, things will have to be a little different this year due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the easiest, and cheapest, option for employers is to not go ahead with their annual festive plans, in the spirit of keeping Christmas alive some may choose to organise a remote party.

There are, however, some important things that employers should be aware of.

  1. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for employers to keep their employees’ wellbeing in mind, much more than ever before. This is why, even with something that can be considered a ‘treat’ for employees, people who are working carers, have been struggling with work-related stresses, may not want to partake in a Christmas party this year, however well-intentioned it may be on the employer’s part. It is therefore advisable that remote parties should be optional and not constrained to a certain timeframe in which staff must be in attendance.
  2. Employers should ensure that those in attendance do not feel excluded from any activities during the party. For example, if an employee does not drink alcohol and a virtual wine tasting activity makes up the bulk of the event, such a person would not be able to contribute to the fun and may therefore feel left out. Consequently, it may be better for employers to ensure that there is a wide range of activities available that cater to the individuals who are attending.
  3. When attendees and potential attendees, have been established and the activities have been finalised, it is in the best interest of the company to send out emails to them. It should detail what is expected of them at the event and highlight that the same conduct is expected of them at a remote party as it would be at an in-person event. It should also outline that the same disciplinary procedures would apply in a situation where an employee commits a form of misconduct during the event.
  4. Similarly, employees should be made aware that the same grievance produce applies – to ensure that if company rules are broken by an employee or a grievance with the company itself, the affected employee will be able to raise this with the company.
  5. Finally, while employees can use their social media accounts in their own personal time, including at work social gatherings, employers must ensure that the use of social media should be done in a manner that does not adversely affect the company’s reputation.

To conclude, remote parties are the perfect way to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that employees are rewarded for their efforts, there should be a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the company and its employees.

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Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world

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Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world 4

By Paul Routledge Country Manager D-Link UK and Ireland

As the world continues to adapt in varying degrees to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and enterprises will find themselves adjusting to more permanent, new ways of working, problem-solving and service delivery. Governments and global leaders have already introduced new measures to support these adjustments, and as a result we have already seen many companies re-evaluate how they work as well as how teams are organized and provided for. As the pandemic remains a fixture of this year of which the impact will continue to be felt in the year ahead, it’s becoming clear that the role of technology and the innovation therein will be key to ensuring businesses can weather ongoing the crisis.

For many businesses, until recent years, the vast bulk of network management was conducted and carried out on location at the client site. However, the value of remote network management has fast become an asset to businesses in the 21st century – giving IT service providers more capacity to manage a larger number of customer sites at any given time.

In addition, remote network management solutions play an important role in increasing transparency across sites by providing a complete view of the status of different networks via comprehensive interactive dashboards and informative management systems. For example, Nuclias by D-Link offers an easy to set up network management solution that provides flexibility to make onboarding, studying, troubleshooting, and reporting network activity quick and easy.

For IT service providers, establishing new ways of working is particularly important. As they seek alternative methods of supporting customers in different locations, many will be looking to the advantages that remote network management has to offer.

Before the pandemic, D-Link Europe explored the state of play of network management and challenges its partners were facing in this space. The study found that, 75% of IT service providers in Europe were already using remote access tools to support or manage network infrastructure on customer sites, yet a quarter (25%) were still relying on in-person visits to resolve network issues for customers.

Interestingly, the findings show that the larger the number of clients a provider has, the less likely they are to use remote management tools. Only 22% of European IT service providers surveyed provide more than 50 customers with remote management services. Complete adoption of remote network management methods will be a gradual process, yet the pandemic and the government restrictions in place across much of Europe have a part to play in creating the circumstances where in-person visits occur much less often if at all.

As a result, it is likely we will see a more permanent adoption of remote networking management systems – as businesses work hard to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and an unpredicatable year ahead. The point of this will not only to provide network management services in a more efficient and less time-consuming way but also to uphold the safety measures now expected of most workplaces.

This is particularly pertinent in an environement where businesses are limiting contact in the workplace and adhering to safetymechanisms also seen more widely in society – including technologies such as group temperature screening cameras as well as track and trace systems. There is a clear opportunity for IT service providers to make the most of remote networking management tools’ benefits to uphold the safety and health of their own employees, as well as personnel at client sites by reducing unnecessary human contact.

An additional benefit to be reaped from remote network management is how IT service providers can economise on time spent travelling to and from client sites, in addition to time spent resolving issues on-site. D-Link research found that 60% of European IT service providers spend between four to six hours per week installing and configuring new wireless or wired networks at client sites. This additional time spent travelling to and from client sites puts employees at particular risk, especially as they often travel long distances to get there.

What’s more, in terms of the time technicians usually spend at client sites, when it comes to configuring a replacement wireless access point, only 31% of providers feel they can keep this service under one hour. Remote network management allows technicians to use this time more effectively. Nuclias by D-Link, for example, will enable administrators to stay on top of any management tasks like creating guest networks, adding Wi-Fi to additional locations, updating devices and upholding network security.

Furthermore, IT service providers will be able to offer their clients more benefits, by providing centralised management and more visibility of their network, allowing them to act on network disruptions and problems before they become pervasive issues. Nuclias Cloud is designed for smaller businesses who lack in-house IT skills, such as hospitality and retail chains. These companies can benefit from easy network expansion and implementation of updates without the need for additional training.

Remote management solutions, like Nuclias, are also well-placed to support the growth of IT service providers as they look to offer more managed services. Not only do they enable teams to provide deployments but also increased administration services and supervision of client networks; resulting in improved reactivity to issues and better quality of service. The added advantage of unlimited scalability, thanks to the use of cloud-enabled devices, means providers can also keep resources and costs low – generating a more significant return on investment.

Right now, it still feels like there is some way to go before normal life resumes – however, as the long-term impacts of COVID-19 become more apparent, companies worldwide will need to continue to relying on innovative technology to tackle workplace concerns. With solutions such as remote network management playing an important role in supporting service providers and their clients as they do.

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