Mr. Turk, first of all, our compliments for the incredible agility and speed of your response to our interview request. Perhaps this is a hallmark of innovative companies?
I think that agility is not only a prerequisite for innovation, but also for the survival of all companies in the global market that is currently shaken by tectonic changes. Digital transformation has pulled the rug from under the feet of certain corporations, giving a chance to small businesses and startups. The rules of market competition have changed and victory is no longer guaranteed to the largest companies, but to those which are the fastest and most willing to change.
A survey by Dell found that 95 percent of respondents — large corporations — are concerned about their survival and fear that smaller companies will take their place. This is a confirmation that the market is, in a way, “upside-down” and as such offers a great opportunity for those who adopt change and innovation as the very core of their business.
Only if you focus on your people, respect them, give them purpose and the space to grow, you can expect exceptional innovation and results.
And there are no better foundations on which to build these values than agility, capacity to welcome and respond to any change and dynamic request by your customers. However, agility is more than speed. It is a change in the direction of thinking and company culture, as it requires courage to give employees the space to experiment, and for them to feel safe to make mistakes. Only if you focus on your people, respect them, give them purpose and the space to grow, you can expect exceptional innovation and results.
The topic of the issue is VISION. What is your vision for the company you have been running for many years?
When Vip Mobile arrived on the Serbian market twelve years ago, we started off with one base station in a field. The fact that we have been building a company on our own, practically from scratch, has been a challenge for us, but also an opportunity to be pioneers and innovators, and to create a completely unique brand. Our vision was to make Vip a different story. So we had to step out of the crowd – out of the comfort zone and learn to recognize and be guided by the needs of our customers when creating new products, offers and functionalities.
Perhaps the most important thing is the fact that we have brought Braveheart to Serbia. It is an internal initiative during which our overall operations have been committed to complete transparency and fair treatment of our customers. Guided by Braveheart, we were the first in the market to lift the customer service call charges, call connection charges and rounding up to the minute and we have introduced a free trial – 30 days free use of our services. The NEO revolution followed, the first free 1GB when roaming, followed by NB IoT technology and VoLTE, our first steps towards the upcoming 5G revolution.
Twelve years later, we can proudly summarize the results. With almost one billion euros invested to date, we remain the largest Greenfield investment in the country, with our 4G network covering more than 97 percent of the population. Customers have rewarded our courage and willingness to take risks, which is why apart from our coverage, we are continuously expanding our Vip family, which brings together over 2.3 million customers and 1,400 employees.
Our vision was to make Vip a different story. So we had to step out of the crowd – out of the comfort zone and learn to recognize and be guided by the needs of our customers when creating new products, offers and functionalities.
How important is vision for business activities in today’s uncertain environment?
For me personally, vision is the most powerful tool that I have encountered in over 20 years of my career because it has the unique power to bring different ideas, people and resources together for the same purpose. Vision inspires, calls for action and generates a unique energy. It motivates individuals and organizations to commit, persevere and do their best to make it happen.
A true vision comes from the heart, not the head because you have to give yourself freedom and use your imagination to see and feel something that does not exist yet.
It is also a very practical guide to creating plans, setting goals, making decisions, and coordinating and evaluating work on any project. It helps organizations and teams focus and team up in particularly complex projects and stressful times.
Many companies understand the value of a true vision. Unfortunately, only a few can create it. A good vision is clear, involves changes in attitude, it is positive and big enough to inspire and open your mind to everything you can achieve. Most importantly, true vision comes from the heart, not the head because you have to give yourself freedom and use your imagination to see and feel something that does not exist yet.
The telco industry has suffered serious blows from disruptors, primarily from popular communications services such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype, etc. How does your company deal with them?
When Vip mobile arrived on the Serbian market, it introduced the Uber Syndrome, a competition that appears out of nowhere and causes concern with traditional telecommunications companies. The healthy competition we fostered when we arrived stimulated faster growth, development and transformation of existing business models for the benefit of all customers. That is why, as the youngest operator, we understand how each new player turns that wheel of change for the better – how it motivates everyone in the market to be even more valuable, agile and innovative.
The situation is similar with regard to the new digital ecosystems and OTT. They are radically changing the needs of customers and raising the scale of their expectations from us, the operators. They make us accept competition and the idea that we must innovate if we want to survive.
When these services appeared in our market, Vip responded proactively and provided additional gigabytes and free internet for their usage. This is a good example of how all participants in the mobile ecosystem should collaborate: digital and OTT companies and operators, in order to provide benefits for all parties.
They say that a successful company is one that invests in the development of its employees. How much is your focus divided between employee development and KPIs?
They say the real purpose of management is not to grow your business with the help of people, but to develop your people with the help of business. We at Vip know this and we know that we have crossed the path from a startup to a successful corporation thanks to our people.
This is the reason why we have adapted our corporate culture to their needs. We invest in their knowledge, skills and expertise, we guarantee them a safe environment and the same working conditions and promotion requirements. We strive to provide them with a good work-life balance and support them in the most important life role – parenting. That is why, apart from being the Most Desirable Employer, we are also recognized as the Most Gender Sensitive Company and the first Family Friendly Company in Serbia.
In today’s dynamic business life, it may be easier to focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) instead of People Performance Indicators (PPIs), but at the end of the day, goals are still achieved by employees. Reports are helpful, but if you want to really get to know your company and the way it “breathes,” you need to reach out to your people instead of numbers. We at Vip have a golden rule to make sure our employees are okay, so that our results are okay.
They say the real purpose of management is not to grow your business with the help of people, but to develop your people with the help of business.
And finally, in one sentence, what advice would you give to all current and future leaders, how to survive and succeed in business?
“Earn their trust” is one of the best tips I have personally received. Build your business on sound foundations, on fair and transparent relationships, and success will be guaranteed.