No matter how difficult it may seem, if you do something that helps others, you will succeed. This one is connected to the topic of our chat today. During the pandemic, I once again was confirmed in my intuition that if your intentions are noble, you will always find your audience.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Astreiko.
Michael Astreiko is a CEO, and a Co-Founder of Synder product, and its parent company CloudBusiness, serving thousands of e-commerce businesses and accountants around the globe. Michael has a rich tech background with 10+ years of developer experience focusing on the e-commerce domain and FinTech. He is a proud father of 3 children and enjoys spending time with his family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I always loved science fiction, especially reading books by Asimov and Simmons with their vision of what the universe could look like in the future. These books made me think about the future and technology. I was great at math and physics and went on to study physics at the university. After graduating from college, I shifted into programming and eventually became an entrepreneur.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
At one point on my entrepreneurial journey, I have realized that hearing “no” and building your own products, inventing something new, will always come hand in hand. That’s why I choose to stay humble when I encounter any rejection. It shows me that we are on the right path.
At the same time, if you build something that is meaningful and helpful to others, you are bound to meet people who believe in you. Once you find those who have your back, stick with them. Do not listen to anyone else.
So, as you can see, there is no single quote, it’s more of a general outlook on life, but it has been very helpful to me. Entrepreneurs need to realize that “no” is a part of the game in order to go beyond constant doubting and have faith in themselves and what they do.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes, in fact, there is. I learned a lot from the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. Honestly, there is a lot in it that’s very helpful for entrepreneurs. For one thing, it shows you that ups and downs are a normal part of life. This book shows that Steve Jobs that brought us the iPad and iPhone wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t been kicked out of his own company, if he hadn’t lost everything and hadn’t started to live a normal life. I also appreciated how it made it clear that once there was that balance, a normal family life, appreciating those precious little moments with the people he loved, he became the Steve Jobs that we know — a person that wanted to change the world and was able to do it. It helped me confirm my inner feeling that family and family ties is, after all is said and done, the most important thing we have. It can serve as a great support system for everything else we choose to do.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before the pandemic, we at Synder were aiming at helping a whole range of small businesses (offline and online ones) automate their bookkeeping and easily get paid online. We were looking towards working with more small businesses, and our target audience was very wide.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
It started because we wanted to help individuals and businesses who lost offline revenue. We were looking for ways to help them, as this was also new to us. At that point, we have had a number of clients who used Synder in order to get paid online, and we saw that people are comfortable paying online. We have also had some clients who were offering services online and using Synder to automate their bookkeeping, and we saw that their business was doing well even during the pandemic. This gave us the idea of how we can help offline businesses.
From the developer side, we introduced more e-commerce integrations, such as Shopify, Amazon, and eBay to accommodate a larger number of businesses who already sell online or are just starting their online businesses.
Our support and marketing teams put together a series of seminars, webinars, and tutorial materials to help offline businesses transition into the online and start earning money there.
In the end, by helping others survive the pandemic we have widened our own horizons. Now we focus on automating the bookkeeping process for e-commerce businesses and helping businesses accept online payments at ease.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Once we started working with offline clients who were moving to the online, our customers started asking, “Why don’t you have Shopify” or “Why don’t you have Amazon?” integrations. This was the “Aha moment”. Once we added these integrations, we saw that, for example, 25% of all of our new users were Shopify users. This showed us that we are walking in the right direction.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Quite well. We also added other popular e-commerce providers, like eBay, and now automate the bookkeeping for a whole range of e-commerce businesses. We are planning to develop our partnerships with e-commerce even further and are looking at working with accountants directly.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife, my family, the people around me, and the company. In general, I’ve learned that it’s very important to maintain a good work/life balance. In a nutshell, the support of my family and the dedication of the people at our company constantly help me move forward.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
There was one story that we have celebrated in our webinars on how to move an offline business to the online. One of our customers, Jade, contacted our support team to thank them for their work and share that she wants to unsubscribe from Synder. Jade has been with us for a while, so our support team member asked what prompted her to leave. She shared that as a beauty salon owner she is forced to shut down because of the pandemic.
This story was shared at our brainstorming session and we thought that since we can help businesses accept payments online, no coding skills required, we can help businesses like Jade’s. We got in touch with her offering help in setting up a very easy way to get paid online through a payment link that she could paste into her Instagram bio (as an example), and very soon she got back to us sharing that she started teaching Instagram classes on how to perform beauty salon procedures at home. She used Synder in order to get paid and her revenue was quite inspiring! She told us that she had never thought about doing anything online, other than sending a marketing email here or there and that this experience has shifted her entire perception of being a business owner.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. When we first started out, it was easy to become discouraged by being new, by lacking strong partnerships, but once we have accepted it, it became easier to move forward, and several years later we serve thousands of people around the globe and are building great partnerships across the industry and beyond, such as this exciting collaboration with you guys!
- Visualization helps, but a year from now on you might be somewhere totally different from what you imagine today. And it’s great. I think one mistake that many young entrepreneurs make is they plan too much. They plan and plan and leave very little time for action. I think that strategizing is great, but it’s probably even more important to get to work and talk to real customers. You might find out that the problems you think they have aren’t so troubling to them, but there are other issues that you could focus on helping with. Here you have to be flexible in order to answer a real need that people have.
- It’s one thing to have a vision. It’s crucial that the rest of your team is aware of that vision. This is something I’ve been reminded of recently. In general, our corporate culture is very horizontal and we make sure to spend time consulting together on important matters. But I think sometimes we get so focused on details in our daily life that a grand vision, which is always evolving, might get a little blurry for some members of the team. That’s why it’s so important to sometimes zoom out and make sure you all are on the same page regarding the direction you are taking.
- Being different is an advantage. This was important for me to understand quite early on. When you start out, there can be a tendency to look around and build your strategy based on how others do similar things. I think it’s wrong. If you start a new company, it’s usually because you have something new to say, so you shouldn’t be afraid to say it without looking back.
- No matter how difficult it may seem, if you do something that helps others, you will succeed. This one is connected to the topic of our chat today. During the pandemic, I once again was confirmed in my intuition that if your intentions are noble, you will always find your audience.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I have 3 kids! They are 7 months, 2, and 6 years old. Two hours with them and I forget about everything else.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
It would be important to me, as it is now, to champion diversity. In my work, I see a constant reminder of the fact that when people from different backgrounds get a chance to succeed, it benefits everybody in the long run. This is something I truly believe in and would like my children to live in a world where it’s a reality.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I’d love to have lunch with Scott Cook. He created Intuit and at the end of the 90s won the competition against Microsoft and Google. In the US, Intuit‘s QuickBooks even today is a true industry leader and doesn’t have threatening competition. I think it’s a great achievement and I would love to have a chance to hear about things that Scott is proud of, and the things that he would change if he could go back in time. Such insights bring so much value to entrepreneurs, as they can point out towards potential pitfalls and unexpected opportunities. Real experience is always more complicated than theory or a story you may hear from somebody else.
How can our readers follow you online?
You are welcome to follow our company on Twitter or Facebook (@CloudBusinessHQ), or connect with me personally via Twitter (@MichaelAstreiko) or on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!