How Navy SEALs Methods Help Us Run a Company

16.11.2018 | 5 min read

From working secretly in one room to creating projects for globally renowned brands – 10Clouds’ CEO tells us how to get through a difficult time of quick business take-off and how to match it with actual development. This article was originally published on AntyWeb – one of the most reputable technological websites in Poland. We believe that it will help you to understand better how 10Clouds works, so we’ve decided to translate it.

A spot-on idea, a promising product, a strong cash injection and a fall: this is the story of not just one popular start-up. Companies such as Color, Zenefits or Homejoy were once the hot topic of the entire technology milieu; now, their names are recalled but as a warning for newbie entrepreneurs. Each of them failed for a slightly different reasons, but the vanity of their owners, irresponsible resource allocation or the lack of long-term thinking all come down to one: wrong management.

However, blitz growth doesn’t always end badly. What steps to take for the company to operate smoothly, even when it quite quickly starts to employ not a few, but over 100 persons? This is the question we asked Maciej Cielecki, the 10Clouds CEO. 10Clouds is one of the leading Polish companies, creating web & mobile applications for global customers. Last year, it was featured on the Deloitte and Financial Times lists of fastest-growing businesses in Europe. After all, it’s likely to end up there again, planning to increase its income by as much as 50 percent in 2019 and try its hand at even larger projects.

Maciej Cielecki, CEO of 10Clouds

Leading a company, you need to stay alert

– In the first months after setting up 10Clouds, with Michał (co-founder – ed.), we were secretly stashed in the doctoral students’ room at the University of Warsaw. And not just that! Even the first employees started coming to our “office” in time. We only rented out own place when we really had to, as the University employees discovered our conspiracy. Funny times – Cielecki says. Now, 10Clouds have a large seat in Warsaw’s district of Saska Kępa and offices in Poznań, Wrocław and Atlanta.

You can’t run a company of 100 as you would run one of 30

Yet at times, it was a bumpy road. According to Cielecki, if the company’s management doesn’t realize it’s time to lead it differently at the right moment, its fate can get very sad. In 10Clouds, the big changes started last year: – I must admit it was only then that we realized how many company matters needed the new approach with the operational scale we reached – says the CEO. – We had a rigid sales and HR program that didn’t perform. We were mainly filling the management posts from our employees, which, in the long run, led up to skill shortages. On the other hand, we couldn’t train these managers enough for them to keep up with the 10Clouds’ growth pace. Of course, these people did their best, it was only our fault.

Crisis at ease with the Navy methods

The tide has turned with a few of the CEO’s conversations with friends running their own companies and business mentors. One of them recommended that he read Extreme Ownership, a book that sheds a light on the successful leadership in the U.S. Navy Special Forces: – We realized that if we want to expect our people to take ownership towards us, we need to do the same towards them. This allowed us to change the company work culture. Now I feel that the failures are mine, and the successes belong to my mentees: unless you work out this approach as a manager, people won’t speak honestly of their problems and admit their mistakes –Cielecki explains.

He also claims to be happy when one of his employees argues with him: – It shows they care for the good of 10Clouds, and not only their own. People are often afraid to comment on their bosses’ actions, but no one is infallible. A blown-up ego and excessive self-assuredness are fatal in business. I appreciate constructive criticism.

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It was one of the factors that contributed to 10Clouds changing other operational aspects: to name but one, to pay more attention to the choice of projects taken on and employee development: You can’t run a company of 100 as you would run one of 30. Not so long ago, at job interviews, almost all candidates said they would like to join us because of the pleasant, homely atmosphere. It’s nice, of course, but I’d prefer to hear that they can learn a lot, or work on really interesting projects here. Luckily, after a year, we can already see definite results of the changes we introduced, says the CEO.

10Clouds today: working ground-breaking technologies

More and more well-know brands knock on 10Clouds’ door, including the Chinese giant Baidu, for whom the company prepared a chatbot system, as well as Forbes, Pinterest, Asmodee (one of the board game market leaders), Legia Warszawa or even Facebook: – Working with such clients builds our own brand. After all, they can work with nearly all software creators all over the world, but 10Clouds is whom they choose. Recently, even one of the large Silicon Valley customers came to us, as they conducted large research on European companies and decided we’re simply the best. Goodwill bears fruit: now, we focus most of all on corporate clients, Cielecki explains.

10Clouds’ designers working on one of the projects

According to the 10Clouds CEO, the key to success is also the continuous readiness to change and the ability to hunt promising trends early. Over the last year, the company completed over 20 Blockchain-related projects, also for the biggest players in the industry, and recently opened an internal team focusing on artificial intelligence and machine learning: – This is a natural development path, we’ve been seeing the potential for a long time. The identity verification and face scanning technology we developed will soon be used to fight trafficking in Mexico, says Cielecki. – Machine learning is not just impressive features in new smartphones. Artificial intelligence will change the world, and we want to help in that, he adds.

Just the beginning?

10Clouds closed last year with income at nearly PLN 15m and over a hundred employees. Yet this is only the beginning of the journey, as according to Cielecki, companies such as 10Clouds only survive by constantly developing: – Until the end of next year, the number of persons we employ will approach 200 – we can afford that. We also want to reach an income of PLN 30 million. We’re also looking for more and more ambitious ventures. Aiming high, we’re already recruiting for two key posts: we’re looking for heads of sales, who will get even more potential out of us.

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