This article is going to be retrospective, maybe a bit nostalgic and more personal than any of my previous posts.
We started Predica in June 2009, over 8 years ago. We currently employ nearly 90 full-time employees, have a solid leadership team built not just of owners, and a few weeks ago we moved into a new 800 sq. m. office space. This put me in the “reminiscence mode” and got me thinking about how we got to where we are today.
There are lots of elements that played out well for us, but several did not. And in those moments that did not play out all that well, our (founders’) role was critical.
Teamwork and people – how we started Predica
In the late spring of 2009 Pawel and Grzegorz approached me with an idea to start a new business together. They had the dev skills and needed a guy with some infra knowledge (who at that time was me :))
I was working at DELL back then, which gave me great exposure to the sales side of doing business (thanks to Klaudiusz Zagdański, Maciej Szeląg and Jacek Zadrożny for those valuable lessons!). But, after 1.5 years, I felt that there wasn’t much more left for me to do there. Greg and Pawel couldn’t have reached out to me at a better time. I decided to make that step and within a few months I left DELL.
To this day, I don’t regret that decision, and I feel very fortunate that things played out this way. Running your own company is a (strenuous) adventure that I cannot compare with any position I held at my previous employers – a greater locus of control and greater responsibility, much wider scope of activities, and a learning journey in itself.
What kept me going through the tough times was the solid connection I’ve always felt with my co-founders, employees, key customers and partners. I did not want to let them down, and I think they felt the same way, too.
Openness to change – the milestones in Predica history
Having your own business requires tremendous flexibility and ability to change. Big companies can afford to stay on the same track for longer. However, in order to compete with them you have to be faster, more agile. The lack of big capital requires you to react to the market very quickly.
I remember sitting down in our first office in the early 2010 and looking at our whiteboard with sales leads. It was showing just 2 (TWO!) positions. Today when I open our sales dashboard (in Power BI, of course!), I see 50 new sales leads added every month on average. We’ve come a long way!
But also the reason why we are where we are today is because we are very open to change. In fact, we have done 3 major pivots of our business model and now implement a significant change every 12-18 months.
The early days
Probably only a few people know this, but Predica started in 2009 as a product company with a SaaS offering (built on SharePoint 2007) for lawyers (yep – we’ve learned the hard way that we were a bit too early with it in that specific industry :)). The software was simple but I think revolutionary for those times and the industry.
We were able to compete both in features and pricing with market leaders in that space. We’ve built a great product – we were technical guys after all! But our lack of market research (or being too early?), and sales & marketing abilities killed the product. This was where the first major pivot happened.
Again, luck was on our side, and Jakub Zagórski (our fourth co-founder, with whom we’ve parted ways in early 2011) during his MBA studies found a new customer (who is still with us today!), later we added another (foreign) one, thus effectively becoming a software house.
We worked hard on both of those accounts, again jumping into delivery mode for our customers. We opened a branch in Bialystok and grew to about 25 people.
What lost us was again the same story of focusing too much on our comfort zone of software delivery capability and neglecting the sales and marketing. We were also at risk because of having 90% of revenue from just 2 customers.
The second major pivot happened in the early 2011 – we had decreasing work from both of our customers, and had to shut down the Białystok branch. It was a really tough experience – we had great people on board, and letting them go was painful. But this was the only way for us to survive.
We got back to basics, focusing on a more consultative approach for the customers – how to give them value out of their existing Microsoft investment in a fast and efficient way. The third time around, the luck was with us – or maybe if it’s the third time, it’s not really luck anymore? Who knows…
We met with Tomasz Onyszko, who was running his small consulting shop (Connected Dots) focusing on Microsoft Identity & Security. After some discussions we decided to join forces and Tomasz became a co-owner with us at Predica.
It was a quick process – why? We knew Tomasz from Microsoft, but most importantly, our values were fully aligned. I just knew I could trust him and rely on him 100%. To this day I don’t regret this decision – Tomek is our CTO, the marketing ‘face’ of our company, a great business partner and friend.
Since 2011 our primary business model has not changed – we are a project-oriented company, doing technology consulting on Microsoft platforms.
But we have not stopped changing, or rather evolving. We add service lines to our business, optimize our internal processes (what used to work with 20 people does not work with 80), bring new people to our leadership team.
However, a third wave of innovation is on our doorstep – maybe not a true 180-degree pivot, but an expansion of how we work into new areas and new business models. More on that later – stay tuned!
What kept us going – our four elements
That’s more or less the story of Predica, never ‘written down on paper’ before. But before I conclude I’d like to add the four key values (in addition to the ones above) that kept us, the founders, going through those tough moments:
- Long-term thinking and persistence. We were always in it for the long run. We’ve always wanted to build a lasting company, and that does not happen overnight. This requires tremendous persistence, while being smart and knowing when to change approaches.
That’s also one of the reasons I left the corporate world. In the end, it was very often the quarterly or yearly sales figures that counted. People could not focus on the bigger picture.
- Growth mindset. At Predica we are hungry for knowledge – we read a lot, share and exchange ideas, best practices. And we are not afraid to fail and learn as much as possible from our mistakes.
If you wish to know more on that – I recommend the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck.
- Frugality. By no means does that mean we are cheap. We give our employees a significant education budget and spend a lot on our internal systems to make operations smoother. We spend money where the value is, often paying high prices for best-of-breed software solutions. Plus, of course, as at any professional services company, over 80% of our cost is the people.
However, being frugal and modest allows us to save up for the tougher times, or have additional capital to invest in new ventures (e.g. Nofo intercom).
- ‘Triangle of power’ and strong customer focus. We coined the term triangle of power along with its graphical representation about a year ago. It is a simplified model of our key values.
Be one step ahead – no matter how big we get, we need to act swiftly. This means we always strive to be the first to respond to any inquiries from the market, employees, partners.
Be challenger – when you work with us, expect to be challenged. We will not simply follow what the customer says if we think it’s not right.
Make it happen – we focus on the end result. Technology is worth nothing if it’s not adopted and used.
We cultivate and constantly improve our culture and it revolves around the customer. Throughout my professional career I’ve always been on the consultant or service provider side – and frankly speaking, I cannot imagine another world. I guess even when Predica has 1 000 people I will still enjoy visiting our customers, talking to them, and doing my best to help them succeed. It’s just ingrained so deeply into our DNA.
There’s a lot more on how we work and what we value, but that’s a subject for yet another post to come. Stay tuned – and subscribe to our newsletter, so you don’t miss it!