QArea’s CEO, Max Zorian-Garkavtsev, Reveals How His Team Braced Against a Global Pandemic
QArea President interview for startup.info
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: Thankfully, everyone is fine. We have been working on creating effective processes within our company for a very long time. This meant we were prepared to transition to remote work immediately, without suffering any losses in productivity or effectiveness, and allowing us to ensure our entire team and their families’ health and safety. So, everyone, including my family and myself, are doing fine. Thank you for asking!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded QArea.
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: The company was founded in 2001. The burst of the dot-com bubble obviously made us change some core aspects of our strategy. Early on, we decided that we would be laying a solid foundation that would support our company’s growth for decades to come. Our focus has always been quality and reliability. Hence the name — QArea, or “Quality Area.”
Our initial projects were all related to web development. Even though the bubble had burst, the internet didn’t go anywhere, and businesses still needed to build an online presence. After several years of development, we started expanding our QA team. We were lucky that many of our first clients shared our dedication to quality. So, we were able to fill our project portfolio with interesting projects related to both web development and quality assurance.
How does QArea innovate?
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: We never set out to “move fast and break things.” Our approach to innovation isn’t to create the next big thing. Instead, we like to take a step back and see what can be improved. So, we built two products that focus on quality and workflow efficiency.
DueCode is a tool that analyzes code repositories and, as you may have guessed from the name, assesses the quality of the code. It looks for things that may cause technical debt — duplicate code, readability issues, and other violations. Then, to take things a little further, it compares your code to thousands of other repositories. This helps developers see how their work stacks up against their peers and gives business owners (who might not necessarily have the technical background to perform these quality checks themselves) a bird’s eye view of how well their team has performed.
Our second product — DueFocus — is focused on team efficiency. While code is important, it’s the people and the workflows they follow that have a greater impact on the success of a business. DueFocus analyzes how long certain tasks take to complete and allows project managers to be proactive about finding potential roadblocks, helping team members that are struggling, and finding ways to improve processes within their team. Similarly to DueCode, it gives clients and business owners a bird’s eye view of how their hired team performs and whether their budgets are being allocated efficiently.
How has the pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t at least a little panic at first. We were prepared to take care of our team’s health and safety, but we wanted to make sure that we were on solid ground financially as well. We analyzed all our accounts to see whether any of them were at risk of being affected by the pandemic.
Our top priority was keeping our team happy and making sure “cutting expenses” didn’t mean firing anyone. We planned for three potential outcomes and were able to go with our most measured plan. We cut some overhead expenditures but managed to keep most of our teams intact and continue to work on their clients’ projects.
We immediately reviewed all our expenditures and cut anything that wasn’t a priority. We thought it would be better to do that proactively than risk hemorrhaging money and affect our employees’ livelihoods. For one of our locations, this included ending our lease on the office space since everyone was working remotely and seemed very happy about not having to commute.
Two clients were hit hard by the pandemic and had to stop working with us. Some requested a discount rate that we agreed to. Nineteen years of work has shown that a long-term partnership is always more important than any short-term losses or gains. By now, we’ve returned to our standard rates on all our projects while also proving to the clients that our reliability goes beyond good code and thorough QA.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: The most difficult choices are always about people.
We are dedicated to our employees, always investing in their personal and professional growth. We’re a mid-sized company, and everyone knows everyone. So whenever anybody has to leave, it’s unpleasant.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and QArea in the future?
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: Personally, I meditate and try to stay physically healthy. I take care of my diet, don’t eat meat, and obviously take all the necessary COVID-19 related precautions.
When it comes to the company — we’ve learned to do more with smaller budgets. We’re not going to continue overworking ourselves and operating in “crisis mode” as we did during the first month of the pandemic.
The dust has more or less settled, the confusion has been dealt with, and everything is going according to our plans and strategies. These aren’t the plans and strategies that we set out at the start of 2020, but we’ve adapted and know where we’re going.
This global crisis has helped everyone become more transparent with each other — from employees communicating their needs to clients requesting tweaks and changes in our partnerships, to us, as a company, being clear about what we can and can’t accomplish given these new limitations.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: There is a lot of competition. Too many companies to count. But we’ve found a niche for our company, and we’re fairly certain we’re the best vendor in this niche.
We’re the only mid-sized company in Ukraine with both a CMMI-DEV 3 appraised and ISO 27001 certified team. We’re adaptable and easy to work with. Our internal processes have been polished to near perfection, but we’re quick to change how we work if it helps us “mesh” with a client’s unique approach or requirements.
So, we don’t really focus on our competition too much. We monitor some companies, learn from their mistakes and successes, and apply what we can at QArea. If a new approach improves us as a team — we keep it. If something doesn’t work out — we change it.
It’s worked for us for nearly 20 years now, and our response to the pandemic has shown that knocking us out of the game isn’t that easy. We plan to keep building on the solid foundation we laid 19 years ago, placing bets on steady growth, investing in our employees, and working with clients who are as dedicated to quality and reliability as we are.
Your final thoughts?
Max Zorian-Garkavtsev: As James Clear said in his book, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” There are ways to win big on short-term investments and rapid growth, but focusing on long-term success is important. If there’s one piece of advice I can share, it’s that investments in operational efficiency and workflow effectiveness really pay off.