Tomáš Vrtík: 2020 Recap in Expandeco

Wednesday, 13. 01. 2021

How was the year 2020 from honest point of view of our CEO?

A big thanks to my colleagues

I'd like to start by expressing my gratitude to my colleagues. I really appreciate you. I am truly grateful that we were able to rely on you throughout the whole year. I am aware of your contribution to Expandeco and I feel a great responsibility for all of us.

I am very glad that we have been working with many of you for the second, third and even the fourth year already. Despite new challenges coming and going, and often increasing demands, you still remain part of the Expandeco family.

I am not able to give you any assurances, and I don't intend to do so. I am not a politician. But I promise you that you can still count on our fair approach and support in bad times. That's what family is all about.

Covid-19, what a struggle!

Well, I feel sick when I think about the outbreak of the pandemic. We didn't sleep much back then. We were truly worried about what would happen to us. I am not ashamed to admit that these were not only business concerns, but also existential ones. It was a very stressful time, but fortunately, we managed to deal with it thanks to some difficult, very fast and good decisions.

Anyway, to give you an idea of what was going on, I’ll describe what our regular clients were going through at that time:

The first group were clients who wanted to expand, but we couldn’t make any progress for them. Since the borders were closed, we couldn’t travel and resolve the necessary administrative matters such as opening bank accounts, VAT registration, etc.

The second group were frightened clients. They had planned to work with us, and we had agreed on all the important things, but with the arrival of Covid, they put a stop to their investment plans. 

The third group were clients who grew so fast during this period that they did not have time for further expansion. In short, it was not in their power to serve even their home markets (especially SK / CZ).

So in fact no one expanded, for all sorts of reasons. All of them understandable and logical.

During this unprofitable time for business, we used our network to start up businesses to cover our loss of income. That's why you could wear our Slovak-made masks, which you bought, for example in the DM drugstore, or you were served by a lady behind the counter in Tatra banka wearing the nitrile gloves we supplied. Well done to my colleague Filip, who despite the complicated situation, seized the opportunity, and thanks to whom we were able to see through these deals in March and April.

We helped the company Gevorkyan to start and distribute their own protective masks through a customized e-shop. It was challenging, two worlds with different mindsets came together: the offline and online, but I am  sure that we managed it together and I am very grateful for this experience. Today, Gevorkyan is going their own way. We thank them for their cooperation and keep our fingers crossed for them. Once online, forever online ... :)

Paradoxically, the Covid crisis has helped us clean up our finances, clarify our priorities, and increase efficiency. After the initial shock and a few months of freezing development costs, we took another breath at the end of the summer. Clients began to renew their expansion plans. And we've been back on track ever since.

Summer screw-up

I checked last year's report and it also mentioned having had a difficult summer. It happened again this year. In Romania, this time, in the reverse logistics department. We didn’t cover our growth in time and we didn’t have enough control over staff.

Many thanks to the Slovak branch, which helped its Romanian colleagues by operatively withdrawing the unprocessed packages, saving us from impending disaster with its literally heroic performance.

Prioritization, "the arrival of new blood" and advice from Michal

In the second half of the year, we sorted our priorities as much as possible. We want to be the best international call center. We want to be the best translation and localization agency. We want to provide the best reverse logistics services. Not in Slovakia or the Czech Republic, but in the whole region of Central and Eastern Europe. Of course, we still remain an export "cornerstone", which you can always rely on comprehensively during your expansion.

Without experienced people, these goals would be impossible. As the company board, we sometimes felt tired and could see our limits. Whether you like it or not, you can’t cut yourself in two and suit everyone. And even if you could, then you’d feel minced and ground like a meatball.

We finally managed to hire some more senior people for our team. In this article, I would also like to welcome our new colleagues, Andrea Tesáková (Head of Localization), Peter Kleinedler (Head of Marketing), Tomáš Růžička (Country Manager for the Czech Republic) and Paweł Bilczyński (Country Manager for Poland). I wish you the best of luck!

At the same time, we needed some inspiration from outside. We looked for opportunities for advice, mentoring and came across Michal Truban’s fresh project, Bezcyklenia.sk (editor's note: Mentoring focused on cyclical processes and enhancing the business growth).

Michal and I had an introductory steak and beer at “Mäso od Romana” (editor's note: the good old days of open terraces). A few months later, I can say that Michal's mentoring helped us significantly and we’ll be continuing with it in 2021.

So I’d like to share a few practical tips with you:

  1. If you want to move, resp. you feel like you are stagnating, try mentoring and get inspired.
  2. Avoid unsuccessful "wannabe" consultants and mentors whose results and references are not worth it.
  3. Learn from people more successful than yourself. I know that turnover is not everything, but check out Finstat, for instance, when you are choosing a mentor.
  4. I recommend keeping in mind one more important thing. What business has your potential mentor led or is leading? Are there any similarities between your businesses at all? I realize that there are different opinions on this, but I am convinced from my experience that a certain business similarity is key in mentoring.

A few numbers and plans

Our turnover has significantly grown from 950,000 to approximately 1.4 million euros, which is 53% YoY growth. A turnover of 2.5 million is planned for this year.

We have more than 50 internal colleagues and we expect the arrival of about 20 new colleagues - if you feel that this might be an opportunity for you, feel free to contact me. By the way, we are currently looking for a senior manager for a call center, for example.

We currently have 14 active collection points across Europe and provide support in 10 languages. I believe that we will make full use of Ukraine's strong potential in the near future. We have already completed the first activities for the opening of our services in Greece. Our goal remains to build a complete infrastructure for the whole of Europe over the next 2 to 3 years.