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As January begins, just like every year I get more sentimental than usual and tend to look back on the last year’s successes as well as setbacks.
2019 has been special, as we passed our 10th anniversary. Last summer we had a magnificent company-wide event to celebrate this milestone. What surprised and touched us, the founders, was an extremely funny, but also moving and tear-jerking video, prepared for us by the whole team. It was an exceptional gift and a sign of appreciation that further fueled our motivation.
Predica is now 10 years old. Each year has been profitable and each year we’ve achieved growth. This, in and of itself, is a great accomplishment. In 2019 we managed to reach over 50% growth in revenue and the number of employees, which again surpassed our goals. It is thanks to the combined effort of all our people, which now reached 240.
In this article, similarly to the 2018 summary, I’d like to share not only the successes, but also the setbacks we had and the ambitions we have for 2020. I hope this gives you some insight into certain mistakes to avoid, and if you are our employee, partner, client, or maybe you’re just interested in what we do, you can find some details on what to expect in 2020.
We had several challenges that surprised us in their scale and difficulty. Growing as a company means you will face new challenges at each new stage defined by the number of people, the complexity, or the sheer size of business.
The key things we learned the hard way in 2019:
Predica started doing projects for US-based customers as early as 2012, but had no physical presence there till 2018, when we officially established our office in California under the leadership of Voytek Junak. We know that with our organizational maturity, technical excellence and global experience (23 countries and counting!) we can deliver exceptional quality on the US market too, but to achieve that, we needed local presence and a local branch. Now, just one year later, our impact and recognition in the region are growing. In mid-2019 Pete Orologas joined us to help drive business in the US and although we are still in the “pioneering phase”, we are starting to see the market take shape. 2020 will really be a make or break year for Predica US….we believe it will be make!
Below you will find some of the challenges our Predica US team has had to overcome.
Flying to the US is not the same as flights within Europe, where most of our staff is still located. Plus, the majority of our projects, as they transform critical parts of large organizations, require face time with customers to lead them by the hand through these transitions. Our solution to this is to plan well ahead, do remotely whatever we can, and most importantly, we already started to build out our local consultancy presence (with relocation and local hiring).
We had to adjust and move some of our people to different work schedules to accommodate for our US-based customers. Fortunately, we have some ‘owls’ in our team who appreciate flexible work schedule and enjoy to working in a different time zone.
All of us at Predica speak English, it’s our official language, all documentation and policies are in English as well, as we have employees from 10 different countries. However, unlike in Europe, all Americans speak native English and are not used to hearing different accents. This did impact our high-profile conversations onsite or via video, as well as our online video material. We provide intensive American English pronunciation lessons for our key consultants traveling to the US, and for our cornerstone video content we have a native lector.
We were surprised to learn how differently Americans communicate to Europeans. First off, Americans love the small talk at the beginning of every conversation, as building relationships in business is a priority. It’s all about people and kindness. Afterwards they move quickly to details, but you are expected to have a short and sweet pitch that clearly presents what you offer—consultative selling that is our bread and butter seems to find less ground in the US.
Last but not least, the US, or even a small part of it like southern California, is a huge market. We noticed a great demand for our way of doing IT projects in medium and large businesses. However, the competition is also strong—the number of Microsoft partners, all with loads of experience under their belts, is astounding. Companies like ours are usually 1,000 FTE—like everything in the US, it’s simply bigger! But we are not afraid of competition, as we know that what we bring to the table is unique (such as our Predica Way mindset).
But all this is a great learning experience, a possibility to grow our capabilities and become a more resilient company. We are not stopping, and we’re sure that 2020 will allow us to plant our feet firmly on the US soil.
As we grow, we find ourselves involved in larger and larger deals. This requires new skills from our consulting team (we have no direct sales team!). Enterprise sales is a tricky game, and we found ourselves loosing 3 major deals this year. Even though our offering was solid, we did not do enough ‘legwork’ in relationship building with prospective customers. It’s a great lesson learned, and we will surely invest in this in 2020, as we knew these customers would be a perfect fit for what and how we do it, they just did not know it 😉
We did, however, manage to win a few really large projects (1M+ USD). And as with all types of new endeavors, we hit some roadblocks. We found how critical expectation, stakeholder and project management are when it comes to these cases. We made some costly misses in these areas, and are now ramping up our project and engagement management skills to be able to run such large projects more efficiently and already see some major improvements. 2020 is likely to bring some similar scale opportunities and we are now prepared for them.
As a growing company, we have to make decisions fast. We always aim to base our choices and decisions on data (and we gather lots of it!). But for high-impact decisions, there also has to be a process defined, clarifying who makes the decision, how, who’s involved, what information is analyzed, etc. We made one costly mistake of overestimating office space requirements and signing a fixed-term lease. We give our people the freedom to work from office or from home, and more often than not people choose to work remotely some days, which decreases the need for office space. What we learned from this is that we needed to implement a slightly more rigid purchase-to-pay process that will allow us to raise red flags on such big commitments and engage the right people in the approval process.
Here are the key things we saw work for us as a result of decisions and changes made in 2019:
We have established presence in Poland, the US, Qatar, UAE, Egypt and a recently announced new country: Denmark. This gives us leverage to hire locally and understand the market better. These offices are relatively small (few consultants) compared to our hub in Poland, but they already make an impact.
Internally we are organized into business organizational units (comprised of Consulting, Delivery, and Managed Services) and so-called ‘Practices’ (Marketing, HR, Administration, Finance, IT). This year in Practices, we were finally able to catch up to business in many aspects. Just to give you an overview of the scale, the 38-people Practices team is handling the following responsibilities:
The Practices’ goal is to provide the best service for our regions and be competitive relative to the outside markets and services. It also serves as a core of our Predica Way approach to value delivery. I will definitely write more about it in 2020 to deliver an update on the concept and how it develops.
We had a challenging year, and it solidified our Leadership Team with 1 new person joining (Paweł Wrona). I believe in this team’s capability to take us to the next level in 2020:
We will continue hiring and working close to the customer. We’ll also make sure Practices is able to keep up with business demand. Finally, we want to ensure there is an efficient IT system and financial framework to expand to new countries and foster the ability to join us on this journey for partners.
We developed our marketing strategy 3.5 years ago with Tribe47 agency, and it worked well for us, but we’ve tripled in size since then and lots have changed. We needed a new strategy in place, which we now have, so you can expect some changes in how we do marketing. We’ll unveil new domain, position and website in Q1, and we hope to create valuable content geared not only towards technical folks, but also more focused on how we do projects (tools, frameworks) and how we impact our customers’ businesses.
We had really good success with our Cloud Governance Framework offering, selling 4 engagements in 2019 Q4. We will continue to gather the knowledge, tools and practices that we gained over multiple projects (more than 200 this year!) and package them into re-usable, quickly deployable services for all our customers.
The past decade has seen us take many risks, make a lot of decisions, and go through significant changes. Each experience has formed us in a different way and taught us a valuable lesson. We are stronger with every difficulty and better with every opportunity.
The previous year has thrown many challenges our way, but it also brought us a lot of success. It allowed us to gain a fresh perspective on how we operate and gave us the knowledge and space needed to make the necessary changes.
Our main strength, however, still lies in our team of talented, dedicated people who continually strive to make great things happen. And we wouldn’t be where we are without you, our amazing clients and partners who time and again place trust in us and give us the chance to grow and develop.
On behalf of all Predica I wish you all the best in 2020, many successes, high ambitions and don’t let the fear of failure stop you.
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