Key takeaways from building a 120-people global software development company

Monika Chmielewska in

Blog/Startup Growth/Key takeaways from building a 120-people global software development company

I’ve had a chance to talk to Wojciech (CEO) and Anna (New Business Manager) from Polcode. They’re a Polish software dev company founded in 2006 that based their growth on clients abroad. Now it’s a powerhouse of  software development with over 100 people on-board.

We focused on the mechanics of their sales, which are complex and unique. The first thing that intrigued me is that they started spending on active marketing, branding and new sales channels in 2014. How did they manage the first 8 years?

Bunch of coding enthusiasts in a tiny office

Polcode was founded before it became the trend to focus on marketing first in newly-created companies. That’s why they invested everything into providing the best service possible, and not marketing it as such.

They always hired developers from the top tier. Doing projects based on time&material compensation, focusing on quantitative growth (more people+more projects=more revenue).

What’s interesting – they were never limited themselves to the local Polish market, and they hired only developers with stellar english skills. Which is absolutely one of the keys for smooth international growth.

That’s because communication is one of the most crucial aspects of long-distance, international deals.

For many years their sales were based on placing bids in tenders for software development projects – using various platforms online. What’s important is that they didn’t just take any project – they picked the ones that seemed most promising (in terms of value added to Polcode’s team).

Growth doesn’t have to be complicated

Having more than 30 people on board, management was starting to get painful. There was 1 manager per 15 developers. The solution was to start hiring Project Managers to ease the pain – and it worked

It developed into a model where each Project Manager runs a team of 10. What’s awesome about this is all teams cooperate – share resources and leads. If one team is 100% full and has no more capacity, they’ll delegate tasks to another team to be able to accept new clients and projects.

Polcode generated enough goodwill and noise that they started getting referred to – a lot. Which became the 2nd big source of new clients for them. It was linked to their portfolio. They where constantly building it by collecting data from finished projects.

100-person milestone and huge change in sales

As their team’s size gained a 3rd digit, a few realisations hit home.

  • One – it’s easier to double a company’s size and revenue when it has 10 people on board. Doing that with a 100-people strong dev company requires more than sizing up (hiring more people and bidding on more projects).
  • Two – competition is getting stronger, doing sophisticated marketing and taking advantage of rich new sources of clients online.
  • Three – the IT market is tough, and good developers are moving abroad because there’s more to be gained there.

This turning point happened 2 years ago. Since then, Polcode’s been investing in what they never spent money on before – marketing, branding, new sales channels (how to get sales leads).

Automating crucial but time-consuming matters like email marketing, they even created a dedicated content management system for salespeople to perfectly tailor offers for each client individually. We’ve had a part in this, since Polcode introduced cold mailing as a new source of potential clients with RightHello.

Salespeople at Polcode are meant to become mentors – knowing the market, development, refusing to accept poor projects and their clients’ bad ideas just to get a sale – to offer much more than just intermediation in signing a deal.

What did they introduce to their playbook – and how? “It all developed naturally, when you say A, you’ve got to say B”. They started with a rich online portfolio; it led to trips to global industry event; connecting with industry influencers on Twitter; creating content – blog articles and slideshare presentations, etc..

And they have a few other things in the mix – a yearly internship programme, which serves their brand image awesomely, and helps them hire talented developers. A few developers stay in Polcode after each round of internships.

Plus last year they organised training sessions about basics of building apps in Symfony and Ruby on Rails, which they want to continue doing every year as well.

Growth comes naturally

What I want to be the main takeaway from this is that growth doesn’t always have to be complicated. You don’t need “hacks” or an extremely sophisticated strategy.

You see, some things never change. Hard work and quantitative growth can be enough to build a powerful dev company when you’re dedicated and love your job like Polcode’s team does. And if you’re gonna focus on one thing from the start, Polcod proves it’s best to focus on delivering the best service rather then only marketing it as one.

At some point further growth is sure to become tricky. But automation and outsourcing are your go-to solutions for that, which will play a huge part in eliminating the bottlenecks that stop your company from growing.

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Monika Chmielewska

Chief Marketing Officer at RightHello, inbound marketing specialist with the focus on lead generation. Passionate about content marketing and social media. Obsessed with personal development.

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