FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: What is the biggest challenge to the BPO industry nowadays?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: Most articles are about how to attract talents, but these are usually written by companies who are about to recruit the same amount of people they dismissed during the first months of the COVID era. I think the biggest challenge is not simply to retain talents, but how to articulate your culture toward them. As Peter Drucker says, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and this is more valid nowadays than ever when the majority of the colleagues are working partly from their home environment. Culture is everything. This is the magic that decides whether we like Mondays or hate, whether we are inspired to change perspective every minute or keep our standard job description as written, whether we are looking for lasting partnerships with Clients, vendors and colleagues or believe in an isolated professional bubble.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: Has your employee retention strategy changed due to COVID?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: Definitely. How we used to develop and keep culture together has changed dramatically in the COVID era. Integrity, transparency, respect, open-minded approach, and other values are best spread by personal collaboration, experiences and failures lived through together at that moment. And this moment is just different via 2D sitting in our home office and staring at the screen. While experimenting with certain new -rather technology-driven- elements of onboarding and training, we had to emphasize the importance of physical collaboration.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: Does it mean you made your decision on the office/home-office/hybrid approach?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: BPiON provides 100% Digital Business Process Outsourcing, all Accounting and Payroll services delivered in the secure cloud. So, the physical presence in the office is not necessary for the processes.
We try to remain agile and when a situation comes happy to change our policies and organization norms accordingly, but now we believe that 2 days a week office work is essential to keep a healthy feed of the culture. It is like being on annual vacation when the first week is accompanying the new situation and circumstances, while the second week is where you enjoy most and can be inspired.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: Has the COVID era brought any significant changes to how you provide services to your Clients?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: Basically not. Our current engagements remained the same and every month we have to do bookings, closure, payroll runs and similar high-value financial administrative tasks. On the other hand, we had to allocate more responsibilities to senior, experienced and loyal colleagues because their subordinates are remote and who needs more people management. Furthermore, we had to integrate subject matter experts in order to maintain the quality of our services and solutions. In our practice the real-life experiences and a continuous creative challenging attitude is important. What our Client could experience from this change is that we have become more of an advisory firm than an administrative one and now more than 30% of our consolidated revenue from Poland, Hungary and Romania comes from one-off consulting nature, such as tax advisory, process optimization, system localization and improvement, due diligence and on-site engagements.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: You mentioned the 3 countries where BPiON Group has offices. Are the market changes or service providers’ reactions different by these jurisdictions?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: We have just started in Romania, so I might not be in the position to make any market-wide conclusion, however happy to share my view on Poland and Hungary. In my opinion, size matters, like in many other cases. If your market in Poland is minimum 4 times higher than other CEE ones and you act more of a regional corporate hub, the initiatives you accelerate in order to strengthen your organization against this new disruptive threat like COVID is more fundamental, since the cost of it is spread over a bigger organization. We are involved in more long-term, structural projects in Poland and rather shorter-term corrective rapid actions in Hungary. It does not mean that we are not enjoying the enormous revenue growth implication of the Hungarian financial restructuring project, however, once they are done, we have to go to market and fight for the next one facing the same global/regional competitors. While in Poland we can invest more into structural changes in order to assist strategical changes on the Client-side as well (such as acquisitions, integrations, centralizations, SSC expansions, etc.).
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: Is this new market situation reflected in your regional investment strategy?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: First of all, we do not believe in long-term strategies. We classify ourselves as an indefinite purpose company, therefore following our WHY statements (Simon Sinek: book of “Start with WHY”) is more important for us than reaching financial results every year. It does not mean that we are happy if any of the projects are loss-making, but we can live with more than 12-month returns or breakeven projects if it gives significant fuel to our cultural growth. One example is that we entered Romania without any market study or detailed budget calculation, we entered there since we knew the Romanian proactive service approach to improve decision makings and create quality solutions and we found our local country manager who can spread our WHY testaments and values there. Whether it will result in profit in a year or 2, is a different question. We are in the service industry, where culture matters more and less CAPEX heavy markets, so we can afford the luxury of similar decisions.
On the other hand, we are big enough with approximately 100 experts onboarded, so regional wide investment decisions should be made as well. Our main focus is to strengthen our Polish operation which still grows over 100% annually and to transform our local cultural differentiators into a regional one. Local decision-makers have time and capacity to learn, experience and understand your culture and how it creates value for their organizations, while regional decision-makers are more into pure facts, like references, IT infrastructure and cyber security and other terms of the engagements. These used to be secondary a decade ago while becoming USP nowadays.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: How does BPiON strengthen its infrastructure to meet new requirements and face cyber threats?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: We believe that we started our operation just in time when the new cloud applications and functionalities became widespread and carefully tested, therefore we were born in the cloud. Having our infrastructure completely under the Microsoft AZURE cloud fits well into our culture of fast and flexible decisions, where we can easily scale up the scope and size of the IT requirements. You can not spend enough on cyber security, since this is one of the biggest threats of every business nowadays. We believe that our actions are well supported on a group level by the highest registered Microsoft partner IT provider in Hungary.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: Have you faced any Client requirements where you had to refuse the scope?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: This is not an easy question since it is in our DNA to be inspired through ideas and change perspective, therefore we hardly ever say no to Clients. We never refuse due to IT requirements, since we can easily isolate and create customized solutions for every Client, which exercise is managed by our internal digital transformation team. We have rather seen cases where there was no cultural fit at all between the Client and us.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS by ProProgressio: How do you see BPION in the future?
Béla Kakuk, CEO, BPiON Group: We believe that as long as we focus on our internal culture, especially during COVID affected periods, it will have an impact on our service level as well as Client loyalty. So far our employee attrition rate is less than 10% and our Client churn is less than 1% and we enjoy every day of our business life following our WHY testament.
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