Episode 276 Featuring Alex Bond

Business Management with Volodymyr Katanskyi

Business Management with Volodymyr Katanskyi

Volodymyr Katanskyi is the Founder and CEO of Worklair, a one-stop solution for remote business management which includes project and quotes management, time tracking, invoicing, budget management, chat, and plenty more.

Volodymyr is considered an expert in telecommunication, productivity, and fin-tech software solutions, including Big Data and Blockchain technologies. His current portfolio counts more than 100 startups, Fortune 500 companies, and patent-pending applications.

On this episode, Volodymyr and I discuss project management, automation tools, organizing workflows, and much more.


What is Worklair

[00:01:02] Volodymyr Katanskyi: All right. So Worklair is one of my recent awards in response to the challenges I found in the management of some other companies. I take a helmet. So Worklair is a project management solution that spans beyond just tasks management, it goes into the financial data integration and gives way more data insights to management of the team. So the company can focus on the profitability and never lose track of it. 

[00:01:29] Alex Bond: No, that's wonderful. And I think these workflow organizational programs are becoming increasingly popular. And we'll talk about that a little bit. I'm curious first, what are some of these specific say like day to day operations that Worklair can help streamline for a brand or a company? 

[00:01:46] Volodymyr Katanskyi: Okay. So yeah, Worklair is kind of bread and butter to the operations daily routine. I would say like every time someone's working in a company begins his or her working day, they start from doing the check in within the system, letting efficiently everyone else do the work. Know what they are up to today. 

And in the course of the action, they can also automatically send the information through the system about what tasks they're working on right now. At the same time, the system tracks the time spent for specific tasks. So in the day to day operations, it becomes instrumental things to communicate between different team members. 

And without elaborating further, we also have chat as a, probably one of the main tools that we use, especially in their hybrid or remote working environment. 

The Rise of Worklair: Exploring the Influence of Hybrid Work Environments and Global Workforce Trends

[00:02:31] Alex Bond: You put it well yourself where essentially the hybrid work environment, especially I think this was kind of spawned due to the pandemic, but I'm curious your insight on if platforms like Worklair have become increasingly popular because of these hybrid work environments and more employees and just general brands are working from home or if it's more An increased globalization of employees.

For example, Debutify is a multinational company. So I work from the US while plenty of my team leads and producers and everything else work in Australia or the Philippines or something like that. So I'm curious if both of those things are accurate or one is more than the other as to why something like Worklair has become increasingly popular.

[00:03:18] Volodymyr Katanskyi: Okay. Yeah. I'm glad that you asked because before the COVID exactly, nobody actually was worried about much, you know, the remote working environment, most of the companies working from office. So it never been a thing, but I can tell doing this little sidestep is that working remotely is way more challenging than working in the office.

And part of this challenge comes out of for lack of the bad words, controlling the proper execution by your team, staying on track and efficiently synchronizing. One of the original brand names we tried to achieve was Synchronous, which is still like organization's name, Synchronous, but the trademark battle I mean, we lost this one, so we got to get with something else, but the idea is about, is about exactly to synchronize among different time zones.

And yes, COVID pushed that just straight into our battlefield. So we had Worklair and remote working operations way before this cataclysm. And now we are in this spot when everyone else is talking about that and people don't want to get back to, to going like conventional five days of working week. So yeah, it's propelled the industry into looking into challenges.

Like synchronize between the different time zones? How we are going to work with calendars, how are we going to, you know, meet with clients and how we can synchronize the team to work with these different time zones. And on top of that, of course, reporting, controlling, and seeing efficiently the transparency between each team member becomes extremely essential in such workflow.

Because in the office, like the length of the arm, you can just, I don't know, poke your teammate and say like, Hey, I just want now we must be more concise. We must now think about, wait, these guys probably working on something really important. Should I really you know, disturb him? And we build a lot of tools around that to increase the performance and productivity without losing the goodies that you normally would have from onsite operations.

Streamlining Communication and Collaboration: The Power of Integrated Platforms in Work Efficiency

[00:05:10] Alex Bond: Because with these platforms again, you mentioned the chat already, but there is a seamlessness when everything is streamlined in one platform where you can talk to people. You can reference certain tasks or projects or quotas and quotes and and all these specific things where you don't have to leave the app for is there pretty much anything that you would need an additional third party app or system to do? 

[00:05:37] Volodymyr Katanskyi: Yeah, that's another good question and been a real pain for us to use different systems. So now with Worklair, it's not one system because We believe the communication is extremely important when you refer to something, you know, connected to the requirements because it's directly impact the contractual agreements.

So if you lose small details, usually it ends up the organization that provide the services losing money. So we didn't want that. Plus every time you have a new team member, you know, having the zoo of different apps was differently a killer. So we don't, we use Slack in the beginning before we had a Worklair and Asana, and it was like constant loose of context.

What we're talking about, the client, they want to talk whatever they want. The team members also become very loosey about that and tracking of something we call finding the single source of trust was impossible. So building the chart, the integral component of the Worklair on top of tasks management solved this issue partially.

And secondary, instead of using the conventional comments, which you might see in the platforms like ClickUp, Asana, and other project management tools was completely replaced by having a chart associated with the task. So instead of having comments, we have chat. So it becomes more reactive, more fluid conversation around specific subjects.

And on top of that, we gain access to a very structured knowledge base generated out of the, out of such interaction. So instead of, you know, like, looking around for scattered requirements in this channel, like searching it, like endless searching. Now the search is very fast because we know that we can start with the subject and find the all conversations that are related to the subject.

It's not always working this way. There's still some resistance. For people to cope with it, but we are getting closer to the state when we don't have these lousy conversations in the channel. It's all, everything has subject. 


Efficiency and Organization: Simplifying Workflows with Unified Platforms like Worklair

[00:07:22] Alex Bond: Yeah. So people aren't talking about memes or jokes and all of them, you know, it's easy for stuff to get lost in the shuffle that way too.

For example, when I prepare for these podcasts, I'll write the questions maybe on my notes app. Sometimes, sometimes it'll be in an email, sometimes it'll be in a task and in our organizational platform. And I got to search through all four of these things, when it'd be nice, if it could just all be in the same place and I'll be it.

I will take blame for that because sometimes it's just quicker to do it in my notes app. And that's, you know, my story. I'm curious if Worklair is best utilized for any specific project or any specific task or, or maybe even a specific industry, for example, you know, is it best for sales is best for marketing. I mean, what's kind of the prototypical vision or use case for Worklair. 

[00:08:10] Volodymyr Katanskyi: I'm going to start from a very simple thing that the main prototype was our own agency. They're another business I run for it's called startup craft, where we develop custom solutions for blockchain, et cetera. So we take the exemplary of requirements. We had a software development agency. We had a mix of operations, such as we worked with the design, quality assurance, and other software development agencies together. 

And yeah, the prototype I would say would be any service provider, either in software development, design, quality assurance, and maybe marketing, but Worklair is more specifically aimed at making your team work in proper internal operations, tracking time, having a proper report, report it to the client. 

Worklair is very friendly to invite the clients because they can quickly get the insights without these back and forth communication with project managers. And it's all about these internal parts. You can make notes for yourself. Like you can send messages to yourself, like in Slack or any other platform. 

We still can do this. You can create a space to organize your own stuff, but mainly it's, it's designed for the teams. That are there of the time tracked, they work with billable time, or even if it's a fixed price contract, they still want to have accountability, both financial and qualitative inside the system in one place. 

So they don't scatter around. For example, if you don't use time tracking at all, there's a different ways to approach that. Maybe some fixed price salaries. I personally think it just reduces the precision, but in this case, work where I won't be of much help. That's true. Like if you don't track time. You lose the precision and the precision is what we try to outstand with other tools. 

If you are working in the industry when there is like more than just time tracking, you need to connect some different metrics associated with specific tasks that might be along the track in the roadmap, but not necessarily available right now.

So probably the first companies that would enjoy that Would be software development, design, marketing, and quality assurance, or any other kind of consultancy service based type of company. 

Accessibility and User Adoption: Navigating Worklair's User-Friendly Interface for Seamless Team Integration

[00:10:12] Alex Bond: And I'm curious how specifically user friendly it is. I mean, for example, does using Worklair require a brand to have kind of one employee that's at least one employee that might be designated to organizing tasks or organizing workflows and that sort of a thing, or is it user friendly enough to where everyone can kind of jump in and it just becomes second nature to all the team members or employees, or is there kind of like a Worklair admin that needs to be installed internally?

[00:10:44] Volodymyr Katanskyi: Yeah, that's a very interesting question, because to answer it, first of all, we need to understand that Worklair and similar tools are the tools. They are not the same. actually associated with the style of management you prefer. 

So I would say if you select the framework, like lean framework or framework where you do not require this separated person, like the dedicated person to manage the entire stuff, it will be more than enough for the team members to follow some.

I would say rituals, some procedure to work with this efficiently. And I believe generally that for the teams up to like maybe 12 to 15 people, that shouldn't be the case as long as everyone is like responsible. In my experience responsibility and such discipline is very hard to achieve. 

So being realistic, I would say for anyone who would start, they would still going to be someone who watches after other team members, kind of like project manager, someone who is more on like on a high level, who is not like, you know, in the field, but it's probably on the, on the like command center.

So this person probably would need to spend a little bit more time in the beginning, ensuring that every process went smoothly, but then it's easy. Like chart is natural. You don't need to enforce much just by saying like, Hey, let's discuss requirements in this channel, you know, other stuff in this channel, and then everything that's connected to specific clients business, let's do this in the task chart.

That's it. That would be the ask about the communication. And this is a big part. And when it comes to time tracking this is something that usually causes the negative comments thinking process because of the controlling aspect. But I would say it should be perceived as reporting aspect. Because there is a two ways to approach the reporting.

You might ask the team member to report by the end of the day what they did so far, or you can just ask them to click the button to reflect what they're doing right now. So to me, the second is the best. Because it gives additional benefit for letting everyone know in real time what they're up to. And so to summarize, it's all about the process style you have.

It can be more soft on these requirements, even on those I have mentioned, or it can be more strict, but I believe unlike like ClickUp, when you need to spend like hours and hours, just to understand how many things work. It's always surprised me. Like you pay for the tool and then you pay for. People who know that tool, how to work that tool.

So part of illusion I see here is that they mix the educational component of how to run project management, which is fine. This is pretty straightforward with using specific tool, which I think should be part of the of the package you buy when, when you pay for the subscription for the tool. So this is kind of different things.

We try to make it so easy to understand that you probably don't need to do any like preliminary coaching, educating yourself. So yeah, it should be easy, but we just started and we love to hear the feedback from people. I can't say it's going to work for everyone. Yeah, but definitely much easier than ClickUp or similar alternatives.

Distinguishing Worklair: Setting Apart from Competitors like ClickUp and Beyond

[00:13:36] Alex Bond: Well, and that's great because my next question is actually about ClickUp and you kind of already gave me an answer, but I'm curious if you could expand on it a little bit. What separates Worklair from other similar platforms? And you mentioned some of the similarities or specifically differences that it has from ClickUp, but what about the rest of them? I mean, is it just that barrier for entry that ClickUp has? Could you expand on that a little bit for me? 

[00:14:02] Volodymyr Katanskyi: So that's very often asked question. And the answer is ClickUp, Asana, more advanced tools. They try to work for everyone. They get too deep in some aspects and it creates a huge problem.

For example, for agency businesses for, for up to 120 or 150 people, I would say you don't need that complexity with hierarchy, for example, like what ClickUp did looks pretty cool, but in reality, the more nesting you have, the more complex it is to manage. So, for example, in Worklair, we removed the nest level of the task down to two levels.

It's gonna either task or subtask. We removed types completely of the task. We think this is like, should be decided by the team. So we just use tags. And ClickUp in their effort and their work to go that universal for everyone, building so many tools, they didn't, they didn't build essential tools to me.

If I'm going to use ClickUp, if I would imagine we go away from work there for whatever reason, like experimental, and we did this specifically, by the way, not only we need to learn the way the hierarchy work, we need to spend hours and hours to make it work for everyone else. So for me, it might be not that complex because I'm inside this field about the project management tools, but for regular folks that doesn't want. We are not paying them to cope with the tool we force them to work with, we pay them for the specific job. 

So we want perfectly 100 percent of time spent into doing the job they're being paid for, which is respectively being charged for our clients. Now with ClickUp, it's similar tools. I found people not necessarily even spend so much time on using this tool, but having a cognitive load of remembering all of these nitty gritty.

The time is always the price in the beginning, huge price in the change management, and then it's still cognitive load. So ClickUp misses financial data integrations a lot. Like their timesheet management is so bad. Every time I hear right now, people trying to create some custom solutions around these deficiency or use some add ons or use Zapier.

And it ends up them spending so much time losing still the precision because integrations never works. As good as native system and you can't keep them accountable. Like when we use the Asana app stuff, which is going to be replaced probably right now with a ClickUp time tracking Hubstaff had a good time management.

So even something that we used six years ago before we went to the Worklair, it gives us something that ClickUp still doesn't have, they don't have good time management, time sheet management. And on top of that, it's a tip of the iceberg having time management. You need to map onto the financial data.

So now your top management team can focus on goals. Like how profitable we are this, this project. Do we have a problems here? Should we prioritize efforts on fixing this? So they don't have this at all. People use spreadsheets. Second, they don't have chat. You got to pay for that. And yeah, this is a problem.

We already discussed the tearing apart the context. Third problem. They don't cover such essential tools, such as like invoicing bills. You've got to use different tools. You've got to use different integrations. If you have the data about time tracking, timesheet management, task, like what stops you from adding credentials, putting somewhere in the settings.

That's what we did with the Worklair and generating voice automatically. Easy. Another, another area, workload management or resource planning, something we are kind of improving right now because it's a very complex task, but it's another problem. Like when you work with the agency, I hardly see when one person to work with.

In one project, that would be very easy. They usually, you know, you've got to work with schedules and other stuff. So if you go these advanced level working with schedules, they, I mean, the similar tools, they simply don't pay much attention to something that is really might be important. So to me, they have like pretty cool tools.

It's like Trello on steroids, but they are missing so much essentials that I can't. I can't say ClickUp or Ride or Asana is a project management tool. It's tasks management tool. Just for project management. I can't ignore financial data. I can't ignore communication. I can't ignore, you know, proper integration with other operations of the organization.

I simply can't do that. It's not efficient. And yeah, that's what probably would differentiate us. And to add on top of that, you might think, oh, these guys cover so many tools, but we don't go deep enough to, to make it like look Titanic. No, we just cover what's needed. And if let's say a new cost client comes in and saying like, Hey guys, it probably would be nice to have this.

It's not a big deal for us to add as long as there is demand. So we stay lean, we try to adapt to the customer's need, and we don't build like something that unlikely going to be used by majority of our customers base. 

Embracing Lean Efficiency and Transparency: The Significance of Data Transparency in the Worklair Business Model

[00:18:38] Alex Bond: No, and that's great. I think you epitomized it very well as saying, staying lean.

I've had some success with, with Monday for another project that I use because it is pretty lean, you know, and in my humble opinion, I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of what I like and what I don't like. But one of the uses was it didn't get bogged down by all these extra stuff that I didn't need it for.

And I think that, you know, just to pivot a little bit, I think there is a lot of value in being able to communicate to a potential client or brand and saying, you can use it for this. It's great for this. It might not be good for that. A company is going to be pretty likely to work with you and Worklair because of that transparency.

And I know that data transparency as well is a major foundational building block of your company. How important is data transparency and transparency at large do you feel to the Worklair business model? 

[00:19:40] Volodymyr Katanskyi: Yeah that's a good question. I like to associate it with the example of the movie called Moneyball.

[00:19:46] Alex Bond: I love that movie. 

[00:19:47] Volodymyr Katanskyi: You're right. I love it, right? Because this is, where the national football starts becoming data driven. Instead of like using some abstract delusionary metrics, they start to get these more precise metrics. And I've been working with some project called fantasy insiders in the past, which is about fantasy sports, very popular in United States, of course.

I started to realize why people need that magic. And the founder recommended to watch this movie and I like it. So absolutely data transparency for, for many reasons is very important. And for your internal operations. It must be pinnacle because if someone is asked, like, hey, how profitable you are, can you answer like how good you are in numbers?

A small amount of people can answer that without going into details, gathering the information and probably missing a lot of other metrics in the process. So data transparency important to me, to every responsible team members. For example, if you have. Project managers, I believe they must know what would make you as organization owner or organization top management happy.

And mainly it's the profitability. You want to have everything have to be green, balanced, like everything's on time. We don't have overtime. We are staying within our, let's say, margin goals. We want all these metrics to be satisfying and to have these confidence. You must, in my opinion, inform the respective parties because if they don't see this information, if they just operate the metrics, such as how many tasks are completed, even when the things will be done, it's very limited.

They must know how they can make things work better when they know the goals for the margin, for example, whether we are in good percentage, right. And to have this information, they need sorry, to have this confidence in reporting this and having no surprises, they must have as much data as possible.

Our project managers can see in real time who's working on what. And for example, if something is deprioritized, and someone forgot to update the respective team member. They can react very fast because they often watching this real timeline. And this is beautiful because if it's not notified, this was back in my own experience when I was software engineer someone's coming to me like, hey, do you do this task?

I'm saying like, wait, it's going to be next. I'm going to finish this one. And then I go to the, Oh, wait, the one You're working on. It's like, it's no longer needed. I was like, what? It's like Thursday. Four days working to that task and you're saying it's not needed. He was like, yeah, just stop it. I was like, wow.

Now, of course, it's not my mistake that I've not been notified timely about that, but the company loses money in the end of the day. It's not about the game finding who to blame. I believe the most important first party to blame is the party who established the operations and processes, meaning the organization is to blame.

Now, if you have enough data to react, you will probably never end up in such inconvenient conversations, you know, like, and losing money as a result. So I think data transparency is very important. And when you work in time and material with work there, you know, clients can see the data as it goes. If you work in the fixed price, If the task is done, they see like estimation you did is 100%.

If task is not done, they pay you nothing. Very fair. In reality, internally, of course you can make tasks faster. So this is going to be extra bonus for you. Or you can over time spend more resources, but again, it's a fixed price. This is important to hard coded principles of the work engagement inside the system. And this is what contribute to the proper data transparency and trust in the future. 

Navigating Automation: Strategic Insights for Balancing Efficiency and Human Engagement in Business Operations

[00:23:19] Alex Bond: And I think an additional part of this, obviously it's a cliche, but time is money philosophy is the proliferation in automations. And that's something that Worklair helps a lot of brands and a lot of it's a users with as well.

So I'm curious if you have any sort of advice to companies on when they should lead Lean on automation and when they shouldn't, because I feel like we're not necessarily there yet, but we might be on the cusp of where everything's automated. 

And then you have people who are sitting around looking for something to do, because they automated all their stuff a little bit too much, you know, so I'm curious if you have any sort of advice there on when to automate and when not to maybe if there's specific tasks or what have you.

[00:24:06] Volodymyr Katanskyi: Well, that's a very good point. I have to admit, I was kind of inspired by what automation can do, but theoretical and practical things are not very connected. The reason is when you automate too many things, you got to maintain these automation. Something changes, you're in bigger trouble than if you wouldn't have any automation.

And it also might scale the error margin. So while I like automation, we are living in a amazing time, especially in this year when we see AI rising. And I believe we don't have like, I got, I got to fully admit in Worklair, we have a lot of native things that might be considered as automation, but we don't have this, you know, automatic automation workflow configuration in all this chart.

And with AI rising this year, I started to ask myself, do I really need it at all? Because right now we develop something that will be called AI driven project management. That means AI representation of your project management manager as a person doing a lot of different various tasks. And I realized if you can train this to do what, what the company used to do, you don't need to maintain automations.

You don't need to create automations. You simply focus on the processes you build. And these artificial intelligence will just pick it up. And I think this is how we can skip automation at all. We don't need it. AI can do this job for us. It's like cloning your project manager, if you wish to simplify the example.

And you know, the most advanced developments I'm going to share here, it's called AI agents. It now allows different AI systems to talk with each other. Imagine you have PMEO consisting of AI, like this, this AI project manager working this project, this, this, and this, and they cooperate between each other.

It's like absolutely mind blowing where we're moving at, where we're heading at. And I think automation, while it's important just to get back on track with this question, I think it won't be that relevant once we see the huge advance in AI, because by the end of the day, everyone can admit setting up automations is a very tedious task.

It's very expensive and very complex too. It takes a lot of efforts and something changes or new team members come in. It becomes additional resources needed to spend to make it work. So while they're cool, if you have automations, yeah, you probably, you probably will use to it and this is cool, but I would say minimize the amount of automations.

Leave only essential automation something that you realize the impact of not having it is significant and calculated don't just think oh yeah it's again no calculate it in time whether you need to keep it in mind this is one i would say currency and another how much time it takes. Everything else it's better to cut because it's in the end of the day, you still work with people and people do the actual functional you know, execution of the task or the job.

And they also can make mistake, even within the automated scope, they might miss something or automation can backfire automating something that probably would need like another round of thinking through, you know. 

Identifying Crucial Workflow Overhauls: Common Challenges Companies Face in Workflow Organization

[00:27:06] Alex Bond: Well, and then you add in the fact that 2 people could end up automating something that then conflicts with itself or say, something needs to be fixed when these automations are built on top of each other.

It's kind of like a Jenga tower where you can take one little piece out and the whole thing. And then you're spent. I'm spending all this time and money to try to fix a problem that wouldn't have even existed if you didn't even use the automation to begin with.

So I think there's a lot of value in what you're saying, especially if you can circumnavigate that via artificial intelligence is communicating each other because that way they're not doing the same workload. They're kind of building with each other instead of against each other. I think that's a really, really smart observation. I'm curious in your experience.

If you've seen, for example, what might be the biggest overhaul that companies need, really, really need when organizing their workflows just in general. I mean, that's kind of the real, as you said yourself, bread and butter of Worklair. So I'm curious if they come to you for a specific problem over and over and over again. 

[00:28:12] Volodymyr Katanskyi: Well, I'm going to reflect a little bit. And I think the most important question to ask for any organization owner or top management to be honest with themselves and answer how comfortable they are with the existing system.

And I love to ask this question very often, can you go sabbatical for six months, minimum, or one year or two years, knowing that your business is in good condition. Not accounting, like maybe growth, but just existing operations. Can you just step out? And this would probably explain how good the workflow it is because over the time, the system must operate flawlessly, in my opinion, and not only counting internal operations, but also hiring, firing and boarding new clients.

So looking at the workflow, realistically seeing how many parties are involved in the certain processes and how resilient the system is, if something changes. is the most important thing they can do. And I would say, I will never stop saying, do not stop simplifying things. The more simple system it is, the much easier is to scale it.

It's startup craft. We picked at 125 engineers and I can tell we've been candlelit with five project managers, which it's very small amount of manage management team, mainly because we operated very simple processes and it took us a lot of time and energy to make it simple. It tend to be, I would say hard for everyone to educate themselves, to play by the rules of the game. 

For example, like you said, it's so convenient for me to make a note or it's so convenient for me to do something on the side, but if you just, in my opinion, if you fall into, into that feeling and doing something that is convenient to you, it might have a more dramatic impact on the team. So always thinking about. Okay. I'm making notes for myself. It's fine. 

I think you could totally do that. It's just you, but when you work in a team, you shouldn't think about yourself in the first place. You must be really honest. What my team members would react to this, what are they going to spend time, whether they have enough information to take action. So workflow, I think is important to have enough data transparency and respect to each other. 

So everyone can be on the top of their productivity. And finally, never forget why we are doing the business. It's falling back again to this question about being honest with yourself. We are here despite the problems and challenges we solve to make this world better, we still need to be accountable of the profit.

It's our resources. It's our motivation in many ways, no matter who going to say what resources are impossible to subtract. And it must be not maybe main factor driving the business, but one of the vital and most important, you might have a mission, but maybe on the same statement, you must make it work. You might make it like productive is in the end of the day, you can't do much business without money flow. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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