Zuhlke took the plunge and entered the Asian market in the summer of 2017. We opened the first office in Singapore, and operations also commenced in Hong Kong in March 2018. Now it is time to take a look at how things have gone with HOOQ, our first customer in Asia.
Shortly after opening the office in Singapore, we succeeded in acquiring a prominent local customer in the form of HOOQ: The video streaming provider is growing rapidly, is well-funded, and aims its tailor-made services at various markets in Southeast Asia and India. Zuhlke provides support for this expansion with expertise relating to methods in the areas of innovation and software engineering. I would like to highlight here the crucial factors in establishing this first, mutually successful cooperation.
Building up trust
When a company decides to work with an external partner, it does not want to take any risks. The client wants to be sure that the investment quickly and enduringly achieves the desired added value.
How is that possible if the partners do not yet know each other? Ideally, the external company is recommended by a trusted person within the client’s own network, as this provides the best sense of security. Word-of-mouth recommendation was indeed crucial in this case: HOOQ’s CTO had a friend at a British company for which Zühlke UK had successfully completed large projects in the field of mobile banking.
Building a good relationship between business partners requires plenty of perseverance. A convincing PowerPoint presentation or a single dinner are not enough. Looking back, it is also apparent from this case that numerous individual interactions are decisive in establishing a long-term and stable cooperation.
We receive tips from our own network almost every week; this can facilitate the preselection of possible partners, but what really matters is the steps that follow. Initial discussions and a two-way clarification of needs and services were not sufficient for HOOQ and Zuhlke to get together. A presentation of services made from Europe via Skype did not live up to expectations in several respects. Nevertheless, we maintained regular contact with the decision-makers at HOOQ. And, even after opening our office in Singapore, it required a number of further meetings before a first agreement came about, around eight months after the initial contact had been made: The streaming provider wanted and wants to become more agile, and was therefore looking for support in the form of a first Agile Project Manager. Zuhlke sent an expert, who impressed from day one and thus broke the ice.
Delivering quality and exceeding expectations
Michael Fleshman, CTO of HOOQ, mentions two factors that were particularly impressive after the joint start: The high level of competence of each individual Zuhlke engineer and the flexibility of the local Zuhlke management. We were not the company’s first external partner and HOOQ had experienced some unsatisfactory collaborations in the past.
The tangible added value that the team from Zuhlke provides is multi-faceted. Core elements in this include expertise in methods related to the fields of Agile and Scrum, and project management, as well as theoretical and practical skills in modern software development and coaching.
This added value provides the basis for a long-term and stable customer relationship, although there are several other decisive factors as well. Seemingly secondary factors, such as the immediate availability of the Zuhlke management when questions arise, visits by Zuhlke’s top management from Europe and mutual invitations to events, all play a role in enabling people, at all hierarchy levels, to get to know each other better and this leads to increased trust.
From the point of view of a Business Development Manager, I consider this path to achieving a solid customer relationship to be exemplary. It was clear from the outset that HOOQ and Zuhlke Asia had a range of common interests. But the path was still quite a long one until we finally got together. It is only when the motivation to make things work develops and matures at every touch point that something big can really start unfolding.