Before we started working with Beetroot, we were already outsourcing part of our work to a company in Poland, so it was quite easy for us to get started. That worked well and was obviously cheaper than if we would’ve hired the same number of people in Sweden. When it was time came to expand into the data processing portion of car.info, believe me, there’s a lot of data that needs to be processed. We looked in Poland first because of our experience, indications were 1/3rd of the cost in Sweden. Being optimization-oriented, we asked ourselves “is there somewhere else we can compare with?” and we discovered Ukraine. We read an article about Beetroot in a major, commercial newspaper, got in touch, and arranged a meeting. Although we thought Beetroot first only did development, we had a long dialogue with them and eventually decided to set up business in their offices in Poltava—a Ukrainian city of roughly 300.000 people.
Poltava—a medium-sized city
Poltava was a great choice since it obviously has a cost advantage over Sweden, Poland and the larger Ukrainian IT hubs. You don’t have access to the same huge talent pool like in Kiev, but there will always be trade-offs, and our experience is that people in smaller cities are more loyal and stay longer. In Sweden, we’re also based in a smaller city.
The most important qualities we looked for when putting the team together were English proficiency and mentality. The tasks of a data processor are quite repetitive: you need to perform the same task tomorrow as today, but better. Today, we’ve managed to assemble a great team that we can communicate with in English. We ensure this is the case by having candidates take a language test during recruitment.
The importance of Team Leads
While Beetroot’s HR take care of the team on a holistic level, it’s important to hire a team lead who speaks good English and can drive the day-to-day work (one of our first hires grew into a team lead role over time). If there’s one piece of advice I would give to someone who’s just starting their journey: hire a good team lead first, or at least someone who you think will be able to grow into one. Also, if you find a good match then don’t wait. Don’t say “we want to meet 7-8 more candidates.” The best ones will be lost to other jobs, if you wait too long to give them an offer.
Our current team lead do the first interview now. He really knows the work and knows what we’re looking for.
Visiting the team
Beetroot are very responsive, even if we ask a question on the weekend, they’re usually able to get back to us. And they help take care of travel for when you’re coming to visit the team. It can however take a while to get there from where we’re based in Sweden, roughly 12 hours all the way (but it’s still better than going to Asia). A tiny problem with Poltava in particular is that there is no really good hotel. The hotels there are ok but a bit “like my grandma’s apartment”. Clean, but not modern. Beetroot found an apartment for us to use instead—it’s good—solved the problem! Much better than a hotel.
One of our Swedish team members travels to Poltava every quarter, and I go there myself twice a year. The extended team and people you work with in Ukraine are like a part of your company and should be treated as part of your process. This type of setup won’t work if you see it as “us and them”. Communicate, inform and take care of them as a united team.
Overall, it’s worthwhile to build a dedicated team like we’ve done, even if there are occasional challenges. We currently have a team of 17, which we’re looking to grow, and it simply wouldn’t be viable to hire them in Sweden. The work ethic and morale actually trumps what we would get back home. The retention levels are also very good in Poltava, which means that we rarely need to look for new team members.