Peter Horsten, VP Software Development Europe of Aspire Systems, came to Poland for the first time in 1995. He fell in love with the country, and after many years decided to open a company there. He talks about the history of Goyello and merger with Aspire Systems with Piotr Nowosielski and Adam Łopusiewicz from Just Join IT.
When was the first time you thought about creating Goyello?
I studied electronics and worked for PPT Telecom (Dutch Telecommunications), where I quickly became a manager. However, I realized that no one taught me how to be one. That’s why in 1994 I took up sociology. A student trip to Gdańsk was organized, and I was amazed with Poland.
You returned to the Netherlands, and after some time you started a family. However, after a dozen or so years of your first trip to Poland, you came to Gdańsk to live there. Why?
Working in a consulting company, I got a job to assess what types of IT services are popular in Poland. In the Netherlands we did outsourcing to India, but at that time we knew that it wasn’t for everyone. I felt that Eastern Central Europe could be an interesting alternative.
In 2006, together with my wife, we began to think about transferring to Poland permanently. We both had a good job in the Netherlands, but we felt that it was time for change. A few months later a friend, who was considering investing in Poland, reached out to me. We quickly came to the conclusion that outsourcing IT projects to Polish companies would be a good solution. He was looking for clients, and I was busy acquiring contractors.
What was later?
After some time, we had our first potential customers. When they heard about the planned move, they suggested that we build an onsite team in Poland. I liked the concept, so in 2006 we created Goyello.
How fast was your development in the first years? After what time have you achieved your first goal: employing 25 employees?
We employed 25 people in the second year of the company’s existence. As for the team, we were growing at an average rate of 20-35% per year. Of course, many factors influenced this. The economic crisis, which was much more felt in Western Europe than in Poland, slowed down our development. Still we increased our revenues and grew each year.
What was your role and tasks at Goyello at that time?
I did everything except sales, because that’s what my business partner was doing. I was a so-called “Solutions Guy”. When we found a potential customer, I immediately got on a plane to the Netherlands to determine his needs and persuade him to cooperate. At the same time, I was recruiting people. I was also organizing lunch and cleaning the toilets. Fortunately, my wife dealt with legal, administrative and office matters.
Wasn’t this too exhausting for you?
I was under the so much adrenaline that I wasn’t tired. At the beginning, we lived and worked with my mother-in-law, and the table in the dining room was our desk. Every day we worked up to 2-3 at night, to get up at 7:00 the next day to get the children ready for kindergarten.
But most of my workday was just pleasure. Of course, we had moments of doubt or dissatisfied customers. These were less pleasant moments, but they are necessary to become stronger and learn. As long as I saw the development of the team, it gave me a lot of energy.
What were the biggest challenges that appeared with the development of the company?
The most important thing is that at some point you must trust others to do the job just as well, maybe even better than you. It wasn’t always easy.
Can you say more about delegating tasks to the employees?
Quite early, I had to start to rely on several people and trust that the code we are delivering is ok. This level of trust is built step by step, task by task, project by project. That’s how I started. And because we decided quite quickly that I would stop programming, I had to learn to trust my co-workers as quickly.
When was the first time you thought that Goyello had become a “big” company?
People often ask me about it. I’ve heard: “Wow, Peter, you’ve got 100 employees, it’s amazing!” The problem is that most people don’t know how we came to this number. For me, the growth was organic and natural. At one point, when we had twenty developers, HR became a very important element of the company. I was not able to assess the work of the team by myself. Now, we employ 120 people.
What makes people stay at Goyello?
I guess we attract helpful, polite people, who loves sharing knowledge. They trust each other and ask questions willingly. We are friends, we go out together, we play board games. That’s what attract people to us.
We often ask potential employees why they want to join us. We also collect feedback from people who leave: what they appreciated and what we could improve.
How have you, from the manager’s perspective, tried to shape the work culture in the company?
Probably you won’t believe it, but I haven’t tried to shape or plan it. It just happened. The company’s culture is based on the values of the people creating it. When I was looking for the first employees, I was subconsciously looking for people with a similar way of thinking.
What mistakes do you remember from the time of building the company?
At one point, we had to introduce employee evaluation methods, but they were far too complex for our needs. We created a huge system that no one needed.
Please explain why have you decided to sell the company to Aspire?
After 10 years, me and my business partner began to wonder what to do next. He wasn’t interested in developing the company further, he was looking for a way to leave and sell shares. I still wanted to grow my business and attract more European clients.
Running the company alone didn’t seem like the best solution, so I was looking for a potential business partner. The entire search and selection process took about two years. Finding a partner who shares the same values wasn’t easy. I won’t say that I almost gave up, but it was close. Finally, through an international network of advisers, we came across an Indian company that has been looking for investment opportunities, preferably in Poland. It was Aspire.
Why did Aspire bought the company instead of opening a branch?
If you come from India, China or even the USA, you can’t just say “we will do business as we used to, and we will definitely achieve success”. It doesn’t work this way. You must be present locally, understand in what ways you are different and how you can benefit from these differences. I wanted us to be partners. The Aspire Management Board shares similar values and faces similar challenges. A special concern for the client and for the employee is one of the important characteristics of both our companies.
What changes can Goyello employees expect after the merger with Aspire?
Our basic values won’t change. People may think that since the name and colours of the company have changed, everything will be different. But the company’s culture is the team that is still here. Aspire Systems Poland should be similar to Goyello in the core of business culture. We will still have great people. We will do cool things together, not only at work. This doesn’t mean, however, that nothing will change.
We’ll have different type of projects, more clients from the financial industry, and software engineering will become our main goal. We created a new team strictly for clients in the finance industry. Being a global company, we can also scale projects better.
What is the future of the company?
The future should result in the same healthy growth we have had so far. But now we will be closer to European customers. Aspire needed a local presence, marketing or IT department. And the merger with Aspire will certainly help in attracting the best talents!
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