Robert Strzelecki is the CEO of the TenderHut Group from Poland. He graduated from the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology and has been working in the IT industry for over 20 years. He leads innovative projects, prepares companies for sale or restructuring, and also introduces complex IT systems within businesses. TenderHut is a technological capital group formed by 6 companies cooperating closely with each other:
– SoftwareHut – deals with the creation of IT systems and IT outsourcing.
– Solution4Labs has been implementing LIMS class systems in laboratories for years.
– LegalHut provides full legal advice for companies within the IT and high-tech sectors.
– ProtectHut focuses on cybersecurity.
– ExtraHut provides services in the field of UX & Design.
– Zonifero is a PropTech SaaS platform for office and office communication management.
– Financial Times 1000 Fastest-Growing Companies: 23rd place in Europe, 2nd in Central Europe and 1st in Poland.
– Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Central Europe: 7th place in Europe and 1st place in Poland
Tell us about TenderHut, how it came to be, and how you came to lead it.
“The company’s beginnings reach back to 2015 when my friend Waldemar Birk and I took over the TenderHut company – no revenue, no employees, no clients, and no hardware. Really, all we had was the sign above the door. What we had was our experience, persistence, and a clear goal – to build the IT company that we want to work for. We knew how to do this. First, we wanted to consolidate the regional, and then the national IT market, which was very scattered at the time.
Business-wise, we bet on outsourcing of services in the initial phase and on our own products in the next one. We first placed our focus on Western European markets, since Polish IT specialists have inestimable renown there, and lower labor costs let us grow quickly through investment in growth and further acquisitions. At the end of 2015, we had already earned nearly 1.8 million dollars in revenue, and by the end of 2018, after not even three years of activity, we reached 7 million dollars in the fiscal year. This strategy put us on the FT1000 ranking at 23rd place Europe-wide, and 1st in Poland as the fastest-growing company in the IT industry.”
What is currently happening at TenderHut?
“The TenderHut Group currently consists of 8 development centers and 250 employees who service six highly specialized IT companies in 8 foreign branches and one start-up from the PropTech industry. This model of functioning allows us to be experts in various fields, which is why there is a lot going on here. Solutions4Labs, this company in the group specializes in LIMS-class solutions and is just about to open its branch in China.
Together with our partner, it is planning to implement software at over 100 locations in the Middle Kingdom. Our programmers have created a specialized interface for the second generation of HoloLens goggles, completely changing how work is done at laboratories by taking it into so-called Mixed Reality. Zonifero, our PropTech start-up, has just signed a 5-year contract for servicing 5 of the most modern office buildings in Central-Eastern Europe. Fifteen thousand office workers will use our application on a daily basis. As a Capital Group, we are looking at our growth globally, recently with great emphasis on the markets of the Far East we mentioned before. We are also strategically preparing to enter one of Europe’s stock markets. Currently, we are looking at prospects on various markets, or the acquisition of a single, strategic investor.”
TenderHut was recently shortlisted for the FT’s 1000 list. What is the main propeller of growth at your company?
“People are what really push our company forward. All of the projects we are doing would not have been possible if not for our employees and our common vision of what we want to achieve together. From the very beginning, I assumed that only teamwork brings results. During the first years of the company’s activity, besides realizing projects, I also tried to invite as many people as possible to cooperate with us, so that we could execute international projects under a common banner. And so, 4 years later, our company of a dozen or so employees now has over 250. We created the Zonifero application to satisfy their needs and make work easier for everyone. It turned out that this internal improvement worked very well in practice, and what is more, it had potential for development. Today, Zonifero has become a commercial product sold throughout Europe. The dynamic growth we have recorded for all these years is only possible when you have a team, and rejoice in success with them as you solve the obstacles that appear on the horizon. That’s how you build the fastest-growing company in the region – together.”
Could you share a project that you are currently personally working on?
“As a company, we see enormous potential in Far Eastern markets. I dedicate a substantial part of my business activity to building relations in that region. It has a collectivist culture that is different from ours, where interpersonal relations are very important; which is why I take learning about China, Japan, and Taiwan, very seriously. I want to understand their needs and way of doing business. Preparations for capitalization of the company through entry onto the stock market, or acquisition of a strategic investor, is another extremely important activity. I remember not-too-distant times, when my team and I were sitting down to do some coding, with a smile on my lips. Today, my role is to bring interesting challenges, development and the best possible working conditions for my team.”
How does a typical workday look for you?
“A typical workday is difficult describe, because every day is different. I spend part of my time at business meetings held in various corners of the globe, so the airplane has become my workplace, and sometimes my bedroom. I don’t like to waste time. When I travel, I always pick the hotel nearest to the meeting place, and when I’m at our headquarters, I start the day rather early, at about 7:30 A.M. A morning review of the media – that’s my little ritual while I drink my morning coffee. Then the first meetings with the chiefs of individual companies. Before lunch, I have a habit of looking in on every team, exchanging at least a few sentences with employees. I generally have several work meetings or international talks during the day. Once a week, I meet with my coach and take an active part in meetings of the national association of IT companies. It’s a great initiative of company chiefs, where we exchange experiences, train our employees and share business contacts.”
What is your overall vision for the TenderHut group?
“We are an IT company, and we believe that technology should make daily life easier for people. It is on the basis of this precept that we create all products, whether it be our own, like Zonifero, or commissioned by our clients. Such an approach to business makes us reliable in the eyes of our business partners, because it let’s them know that they can simply depend on us and that we will always provide them with valuable, easy-to-use tools that satisfy their needs. We wish to grow on the foundation of common values, and I think we have been successful thus far, since our employees understand one another perfectly and are capable of carrying out even the most complex projects despite the fact that they are working at 8 different locations. We have worked out a unique organizational culture, and together, we can change the world.”
Poland has become the bedrock of many exciting startups and companies. What makes it so?
“Poland is a nation of 38 million that is very open to new technologies. 25 years after Poland’s transformation, there is no difference between Polish and Western consumers. We are large and prosperous enough as a country, that a series of products can be tested and prepared for scaling here. The Fintech industry is a great example of this, where the Poles are clearly leading, and individual solutions are being implemented here. The same goes for the PropTech field. Our country is undergoing a boom in the commercial real estate sector, and the technologies accompanying it are being developed at a rapid pace. Thanks to this, our youngest child – Zonifero, is growing quickly. Poland has become a technological sandbox of sorts, where new technologies are tested, then scaled to the whole world. We have the best programmers in the world, and we learn how to create innovative solutions quickly. New legislation packages in the form of a simple joint-stock company and the highest economic growth in Europe are also factors that drive innovation.”
What is your biggest professional achievement, to date?
”My professional achievements have always been linked to a passion for creating and building from scratch. Before founding TenderHut, I had the opportunity to co-create the success of two companies, later valued at over 40 million dollars. After several strategic projects like this, I made the decision to build my own company from the ground up. That’s how TenderHut Capital Group was born. The most difficult element lying at the foundations of the lightning-fast growth strategy that I adopted, was the integration of entities we had taken over. Actually, there were no quarters that ended without the takeover of another IT company. Since 2016, we acquired a total of 7 software houses along with their employees. It is an enormous challenge to create a close-knit team when the organization is growing so rapidly. Right now, the growth of TenderHut Group is my greatest professional accomplishment, and looking at the successes of individual companies brings me great joy and satisfaction.”
What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?
“My mentor, friend, and partner was Waldemar Birk. A generation older, but he had enough energy to rival a twenty-year-old. Without his support, I would not have made the first step to start my own company. Courage and care for people are values that Waldemar always championed and that were forged into the success of our business. “What can I do so you can do your work better?” – Waldemar always asked team members this question. Today, I’m the one asking it. Despite the fact that Waldemar is no longer with us, as he passed last year, his optimism and positive attitude to the world stays with us. Working with him was the best lesson in business for me. He was the one who made me aware that success can only be achieved by working together, in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual support. He taught me how to be a CEO.”
Name one business leader that you look up to
“Pursuing a goal and creating a business according to their own vision and enormous diligence are qualities that I admire in others. It just so happens that people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates have those qualities.
I think that these three figures have much in common with one another, despite appearances, so it is difficult to point to any of them as my business leader. Each of them is at a different point in their lives, and with slightly different priorities. Musk’s refusal to compromise, Bezos’s systematicity and Gates’s philanthropy are traits that arise from where each of them is right now. I would not be surprised if Elon Musk will be perceived as mankind’s greatest philanthropist 30 years from now. Elon simply has other priorities right now, he is focusing on his business, just like Bezos and Gates did in their time.”
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