"A startup is a leap
of faith."
Andrey Lobanov's (Algorithmics) rules
of business

The founder of the Algorithmics online school, Andrey Lobanov, is the next star of our Business Rules series. We launched it to encourage established entrepreneurs to share their experience with those just starting out. We learned from Andrey Lobanov how he supervises his partners in dozens of countries, what qualities he values in employees, and why he doesn't want to do business with friends.

Enjoy what you do
When I started Algorithmics, I didn’t have a clear concept but I knew for sure that the project would have to correspond to my key life goals.
First, it would have to be something good in terms of karma, something that creates value for the world. Education works well for that goal.
Secondly, the project had to be large-scale — working on something small wouldn’t inspire me. I wanted to start doing something that could be deployed around the whole world.
Finally, it has always been important for me to enjoy what I do. And it drives me when I am able to learn something in the process that I didn’t know before.
It all came together in this educational project for children.

Learning should be playful
I tried to combine the best practices from the Russian and Western educational systems in our product.
The Russian system is hardcore. It involves doing lots of tasks and practice. But it’s never really explained why we need all that: sit down and solve problems — someday it will come in handy. In the West, the opposite is true: the focus is on getting involved in the process, on gamification. But that also means the depth of study may suffer.
These approaches have their pros and cons. The results are likely to be better for children from Russia. But will they want to continue studying this subject when they graduate from school? Maybe not. How many of your friends who studied music in Russia regularly play a musical instrument now?
From the Russian approach, we took the tasks and enhanced the practice; from the Western approach, we took the gamification and the explanation of why we were teaching all of this. This kind of methodology works well everywhere: in China, Malaysia, or India, or in the United States, Spain, or Mexico.

How Algorithmics went online
Before the pandemic, we were a 100% offline business. As the coronavirus began to spread, the team suggested going online.
As early as March, when our offline schools were beginning to shut down, I went through several difficult days when I only wanted one thing: to hide in a corner and cry. It seemed like we were screwed and nothing could be done about it. But then I pulled myself together and started looking for opportunities. In the end, we rebuilt rather quickly. We redesigned the platform, retrained our sales managers and franchisee partners, and redesigned our methodological guidelines. In some countries, our clients didn’t have to be convinced at all — they themselves wanted to switch to remote learning.

Now we operate 50% online, 50% offline. We were able to keep more than 90% of our clients. And now I can already say that the pandemic has made us stronger. It’s as if we’d been standing on one leg before, but now we’re on two.
About the benefits of self-development
An entrepreneur must develop along with the business — rapid growth requires instant adaptation to changing realities.
To figure out a $1,000 or a $1 million marketing budget requires different qualifications, sometimes conflicting approaches. When you have two salespeople, you can maintain a database of contacts in Excel, when you have 50, even CRM wouldn’t be the first option.
We all develop in very different ways. Some people read books or attend courses, others just reflect. It isn’t that important what you do to rise above yourself.

Why the product isn’t the only important aspect
Business success is determined by two things: packaging and sales. I often see poor quality but well packaged products that sell well. I’ve almost never seen quality products in poor packaging — they probably die out too quickly.
You can make the best product on Earth, but if people don't know about it, it won't work. Invest in custom development to understand what to focus your packaging and sales on. Find out what really matters to the client. If you aren’t great at marketing, find people on the team who know what to do. If you can't afford it, get yourself a mentor. That’s also an option that works.

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