Meet The Team: Q&A Session with the Huddle EVP of Operations, Mario Zdelican

January 31, 2024

Meet The Team: Q&A Session with the Huddle EVP of Operations, Mario Zdelican

This new exciting series embark on a journey behind the scenes of Huddle. Each week we will sit down with one of our team members and gain insights into their role, experiences, and perspectives.

In this edition, we sat down with Mario Zdelican, Executive VP of Business Operations and co-founder at Huddle. Mario plays a pivotal role in steering the company's growth and implementing operational strategies.

As EVP of Operations and a Co-Founder, what are your primary responsibilities, and how do you ensure operational efficiency and effectiveness within the company?

As EVP of Operations and a Co-Founder, I am making sure the company runs smoothly.
Implementing right operational strategies is a key for company success. Taking those big-picture company goals and figuring out how we can make them happen on a day-to-day basis, constantly collaborating with the executive team to make sure our operational plans are in sync with our growth ambitions, whether we're expanding in the USA, UK, Croatia, or beyond. It's all about making sure we're moving in the right direction together.

Consistency is key. I ensure that all our processes and procedures are on the same page, keeping our company culture strong and unified.

And let's not forget about keeping everyone in the loop. I am all about fostering that collaborative environment, making sure everyone feels heard and connected, no matter where they are in the world.

And that’s not always easy. Smooth cross-functional workflows can be a challenge, especially when everyone's working from different corners of the globe. But with support of our amazing People & Culture and Ops teams, we always find a way to make it work.

Can you tell us about your professional journey leading up to your role as EVP of Operations at Huddle and also being a co-founder? What experiences have shaped your approach to business, leadership and ultimately founding Huddle?

Started as a Junior sports trader at Ladbrokes back in 2008, and actually was recruited by my co-founder at Huddle, Leo Gaspar. It has definitely been a long journey for both of us. Went through various trading, risk and product roles within Ladbrokes and later in other companies I have been a part of. Obviously having experience within multiple roles in the sports betting industry, as well as being part of corporate and startup environments helped me to understand this particular industry, but more importantly to understand how to manage complex projects which include different departments, roles, managing egos and expectations, both internally and externally.
As far as being a co-founder and starting up a company, I believe it is very hard to prepare yourself for all the obstacles ahead. You can read about it, learn from other people's experiences, but at the end of the day, every journey is different and special in its own way. The most important thing is try to enjoy the ride, good days and the bad ones. The bad ones are where you learn the most about yourself.

We asked Leo Gaspar how he has personally learned from the other founders, and vice versa, as mutual learning among the founders is often a dynamic process. It would be interesting to get your take on that topic as well.

The obvious answer is that the 4 of us possess different skill sets and can learn from one another, which is the case on a daily basis and what makes us a good founding team from day one... But more importantly for me, understanding and respecting each other's styles of leadership and management skills, setting egos aside and doing our jobs in Huddle’s best interest. Regardless of the fact that our common goal is Huddle’s success, we are all different individuals, with different backgrounds and personal goals. Learning to respect and understand that has definitely been a learning curve.

Scaling a company comes with its own set of challenges. What were some of the operational challenges you encountered as Huddle grew, and how did you address them?

Starting a company from scratch is a challenge in its own class. In the beginning it was 4 of us and a vision. To build a functioning operation based on that in a very short period of time in different locations was extremely tough. And on top of that you can sprinkle some high expectations in terms of delivering a product which is a game changer, you get yourself a lot of sleepless nights.
There are big challenges in balancing the allocation of resources, including developers, product managers, and support staff, which becomes more complex as the company grows.
Communication breakdowns, where maintaining effective communication becomes challenging, leading to misunderstandings and decreased productivity. Recruiting and retaining top talent becomes more competitive as the company scales. This is just to name a few.
Obvious operational challenge came upon us when we merged with Deck Prism. Maintaining, actually in this case from scratch, creating cohesive company culture was challenging as the team expanded significantly over night, geographically and in terms of cultural diversity. Of course the difference in approach to development was a given. We needed to reinvent, define and communicate company values. Foster a strong company culture through regular communication, and leadership that exemplifies the desired cultural traits.

As a co-founder of Huddle, what strategic decisions have been instrumental in driving the company's growth and success?

I believe that there is no particular one that changes the course of any particular company, but in my case and based on the fact that we needed to grow and function with immediate effect, talent acquisition was very crucial. Developing a strategy for recruiting, training, retaining top talent and managing their expectations is no easy task. Surrounding yourself, and other managers within the company with people who can provide quick impacts, grow fast and be a cultural fit in a day where global culture is evolving as fast as technology, is a process which takes time, but i believe we built more than good foundations on which we can continue to build.

Looking back on your journey with Huddle, what have been some of the most rewarding moments or milestones for you personally?

Our immediate success and impact in the industry is very rewarding on its own. But for me personally, being able to witness the growth of this company, teams within, but particularly certain individuals who are growing every day as experts in their respective fields, but also as people and leaders is the biggest reward.

And looking ahead, what excites you the most about the future of your company and the industry it operates in?

Every day is an excitement on its own, hence I try to enjoy the ride. This industry is evolving rapidly, new markets opening, which bring different client expectations that we are trying to manage and deliver upon.
I am very much excited to see what Huddle’s ceiling is, mine personally as well. But in all honesty I hope that day is far ahead.

See also Q&A Session with the CEO Francesco Borgosano HERE and with CBDO Leo Gaspar Here