People say that you have to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses, though since the beginning of the year we’ve focused more on watching the rainbow here at Prowly. Every month we looked at the magical rainbow-colored bar showing the company’s profits after breaking even on the overall costs. We reached the profitability threshold in July.
I won’t write that the last few months were like a marathon run, because I think the metaphor of a relay race is much more appropriate here—after all, each of us had to take over the baton at some point to reach the finish line. What do we see right beyond it? For the first time in our history we have gained more clients from the vast US market than from Poland. Some people still remember Prowly as a startup of just a few people. There are also those who have joined only recently and with a fresh look are able to offer valuable tips, especially in terms of greater foreign expansion. I’m somewhere in the middle. I joined Prowly a year and a half ago to work closely with Edyta, who created this magazine. It was a huge lesson in content marketing, for which I thank you. I have a real challenge ahead of me—to maintain the current level, but also to give it a personal feel. For each of us, this new chapter in Prowly means something different. Inspired by the previous text about the team (penned at the time of releasing the third version of our app), I decided to ask my colleagues the following questions:
What have you learned so far?
What are the biggest challenges you see?
What would you say to the foreign market?
Enjoy the read!
Joanna: There’s one market and it’s PR
Joanna: the heart and brain of surgery called Prowly. She’s a type of CEO who openly admits she is still learning, also from other people on the team. Apart from Sebastian, she knows best what path Prowly followed from the concept to the product that meets her needs as a PR specialist to the international SaaS, which does not lag behind global market players. As Asia says, being a profitable company does not rule out thinking about yourself as a startup:
“I think being a profitable company does not rule out thinking of oneself as a startup—frankly speaking, I would like us to remain a mental startup always because for me being a startup reminds me of agility resulting from being a smart guy. I believe that, from that angle, we are paradoxically becoming better and better, mainly because we are getting more skilled in prioritizing what we do business-wise. We’ve also put our heart and soul into our organizational culture. We have business goals and we are not afraid to pursue them. We have values and we are not afraid to be guided by them in our day-to-day work. And we are not afraid to change both, because flexibility is inscribed in our DNA. From this perspective, I would simply call us a mature startup”.
The photo was taken during our internal Design Thinking workshop. Two separate teams—from developers to customer service—searched for the most common onboarding problems and their possible solutions.
The biggest challenge? “Keep up with the growth rate we have recently achieved. This implies the need to be vigilant against potential threats related to e.g. rapid growth of new automatic customers in very little time.
The growth dynamics motivates us to constantly exchange insights within the organization and analyze the data underlying them. These, in turn, help us make the right decisions and take targeted actions. It’s a routine that requires us to be smarter than ever,” Joanna says.
For some time now, she stopped thinking in terms of the markets Prowly operate in. For her, there’s one market and it’s PR:
“Through our actions, we’ve proven that we are trustworthy and that we can build a long-term business relationship with every PR person, irrespective of their country, the size of the company or the industry they operate in. At the end of the day, our expectations—both professional with respect to tools and purely human with respect to even the quality of service—are very similar. We’ve managed to create standards that we are successfully implementing in relation to customers around the world, regardless of where we are now” – adds Joanna.
Kasia Nadia: We work with people and for people
Kasia is a good Prowly soul. After hours and during work breaks, she inspires us to lead a free-plastic life. I will not exaggerate when I write that she treats it as a kind of mission.
Kasia is a kind Prowly soul. After hours and during work breaks, she inspires us to lead a free-plastic life. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she’s on a mission.
It was also Kasia’s idea to have breakfast together. We are waiting for the autumn edition;)
For Kasia, Customer Success is not just about responding to users’ queries and problems:
“In our department, we put great emphasis on making our customers feel good about us and not afraid to ask any questions. I think the key to the success of not only the customer but also our own is that we like our work and the people we work with. I often get caught up in the fact that even when I’m sitting in front of a computer and replying to our clients on the chat I have a smile on my face. I try to understand each person and guide them according to their needs. What gives me the greatest pleasure in my work is training and meetings with our customers, I’m fascinated with topics related to User Experience and every new element of the application. I try to look through the eyes of our customer, not the person who knows Prowly from the inside out.”
She admits that over the past year her view of business and the PR market has changed dramatically: “I can assure our current and future customers that I will do my best to make the application clear and transparent for all its users and that it will have no secrets from them,” Kasia comments.
Tomek: We’ve reached a stage of peace and harmony
Tomek is a type of a truly passionate front-end artist. Everyone on the team values his holistic approach, which is a huge advantage when it comes to working with other departments. Every conversation with him makes me realize I should think creatively about the product.
He joined Prowly two years ago. He admits that it’s not only the company’s financial standing and the app we’ve created that changed during this time… but almost everything:
“It’s been a long way to break-even since I joined Prowly a little over 2 years ago. Not only has the financial situation of the company and our application changed during this time, but almost everything transformed. From a slightly chaotic creation, we’ve become a well-organized team with processes and procedures. We share knowledge with each other and learn from our common experiences—after all, the marketing team, just like the Dev team, started working in Scrum!
[photo: Sales and Marketing working together]
I still remember well how implementing major changes looked like in the past—sleepless nights and stress. Now it’s a thing of the past, we are not afraid of sudden emergencies—you could say that we’ve reached a stage of peace and harmony, although things are never peaceful and quiet, as there is always something going on here, even if we’re talking about a teambuilding event Despite a lot of developments, we are still a good team, where working is pure pleasure, and that’s the most important thing.”
Speaking of a pleasant atmosphere, Tomek probably meant our integration events.
The biggest lesson for him? “Not everything that seems to be a pressing problem actually is one, it is worth waiting and giving yourself some time to think. And it is vital to ask questions—it may turn out that the problem lies elsewhere or there is no problem at all!
Challenges for the near future? Attaining a faster growth rate! It drives and energizes us in our daily work, and we have quite ambitious plans. Stay tuned! New features in Prowly are coming up soon!” Tomek notes.
Karolina: There’s no way we’re relaxing our efforts
Karolina was hailed the sales queen a long time ago. Currently, she has taken over the reins and manages the whole department. Every day, together with Michał and Patryk, she fills our wall with new contracts. She doesn’t like routine, that’s why she travels a lot. Talking with her can put you in travel complexes when you realize that she has already been everywhere. Fortunately, at work, she values stability and has been with us for over three years. I think she likes us—Karolina even convinced us to do yoga in the office:
“For me, breaking even is definitely something we’ve been working to achieve for a long time—so we’re happy that Prowly offers a product that is increasingly used not only in here in Poland, but also in the United States, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa. We are in the best place now—we started to grow in the US faster than we planned. We have a lot of work to do, but also a lot of zest and desire to make the product the absolute cornerstone of every PR professional’s work. At the moment, our work involves primarily online meetings with potential customers, which is the source of many unusual situations. Recently, for example, we held a meeting with a California-based foundation that deals with the protection of wolves. The person on the other side sat in a forest cabin and showed us pictures of the wolves they saved. Meetings like this allow us to get to know our customers’ problems and get into their shoes—this allows us to improve our product.
There are many challenges related to the role of Head of Sales: it primarily involves constantly struggling for growth in foreign markets, motivating the team and recruiting new team members. So there’s no way we’re relaxing our efforts,” Karolina says.
Iza: Perseverance is the recipe for success
Sometimes, during our team meetings, we go into so much detail that we need someone to ask: “How would you explain it to a 7-year-old child?” Iza is the person whose major responsibility is caring about the organizational culture in the company. And this is how she summarizes the principles we follow at Prowly:
“- Get down and get up.
– Give and take.
– Learn from others.
– Work efficiently, but don’t overwork yourself.
– Play on the same team.
These are just a few of the rules we live by in Prowly. These, and more than a dozen other, we have included in our onboarding guide and we strongly encourage every new Superhero who joins us to follow them”.
Her adventure with Prowly started two years ago. She advises, supports and coaches in matters related to human development and organizational culture. Because she works closely with Asia and Sebastian, she has the opportunity to witness the beautiful process of the organization reaching maturity through the growth and development of its leaders.
Iza organized the Design Thinking workshop for us. We’ve already turned our ideas into reality;)
“Openness to feedback, readiness to introduce changes, constantly trying out new solutions, recognizing failures, that’s what got me in Prowly from the very beginning. We are still a small team, but we are constantly working to make sure that what is the result of our creative powers, and sometimes just hard work, is of the highest quality and best for our clients. And . in the end, give us a great deal of satisfaction!
We celebrate successes—the recently reached break-even, which strengthened us in the belief that perseverance is the recipe for success. Every month superpowers go to those who are building Prowly’s success in small and big steps—regardless of whether our sales abroad have gone up through joint Sales and Marketing activities or whether the churn rate is gradually dropping thanks to the excellent Customer Success team. Everyone’s effort is appreciated. By sharing our knowledge and passions, we are discovering new ways. For me, for example, it was setting out on a more eco-conscious way of life thanks to Kasia Walczak’s amazing ecology workshop.
Prowly today is a speeding boat that smoothly enters the deep waters of the business ocean. It sails wisely, but not aggressively. And is able to withstand storms and pirates ;) because we know that everyone holds their helm firmly and effectively proceeds towards a common goal” — she comments.
Marta: The break-even is not the end but rather a new beginning of a bigger adventure
The most patient person I have ever met, especially when it comes to designing e-books. Marta is responsible for the graphics behind Prowly and Prowly Magazine. She is a huge lover of Japanese culture. Marta has been on the team almost since the very beginning. How does she approach change?
“I have the impression (and I hope I’m not mistaken) that Prowly hasn’t changed that much. The startup team I joined a few years ago is still a team where everyone knows each other and works towards a common goal. Prowly hasn’t turned into a corporate machine, where responsibility disappears somewhere along the way and the decision-makers don’t let anyone speak their mind. But perhaps now we’re making more informed decisions, and we’re convinced that almost everything can be measured, and that it needs to be analyzed, understood and lead to conclusions.
One of the biggest challenges was identifying, among the many things that needed to be done, ideas for changes, plans of each department, needs of the constantly expanding group of customers, that is priorities. Those that are most important for the entire company. With so many tasks waiting in line, all of them are important, all of them should completed asap, but it is impossible.
Prioritizing projects and planning uniform objectives for the whole company are probably the biggest challenges for the team. It seems to me that summarizing the months together made us see what is happening in each of the departments and, above all, how the change in one affects the results of others. I think we are more organized, more analytical. We are learning all the time and probably this learning will continue because the break-even is not the end but rather the beginning of a bigger adventure:). And there are new ideas and plans lining up, plus plenty of good energy to put them into effect,” Marta says.
Bart: I like that we have a lot of freedom to try different things
He was nicknamed “Mr. Oatmeal” a long time ago. Bart proved that from a seemingly ordinary oatmeal you can conjure up a dish for breakfast, dinner and afternoon snack—he’s prepared so many different variations of this dish (I’m not going to list the ingredients that he sometimes used, as some of you may not be able to handle it). Bart is a marketing master of statistics and lead acquisition. Since when has he been on the team, the marketing bars have skyrocketed.
“Here’s a simple recipe for a successful startup: test, draw conclusions and implement them:
“I take care of the quality of data and the lessons we learn from it. I learned to pay more attention to it and I hope I’ve inspired the rest of the team (except for Sebastian, who’s also paying a lot of attention to it).
I think much of our growth was caused by the fact that we weren’t afraid to try different things, even if they didn’t work out all right in the end. What was important was that we drew conclusions as to why our actions were working (or not) and then put this knowledge into practice.
That’s why I like Prowly, I like that we have a lot of freedom to try different things (obviously there must be some logic to every idea). This openness is a real creativity booster. Then you can come up with new great ideas and learn new skills.
We learn actively and grow continuously. Advancing as a company and as a team, it is important that we are able to pass our knowledge to new people and have it all the time in the back of our heads, so as not to make the same mistakes—only then will we be able to continue to grow dynamically.”
Ada: We’re trying out new ways, but we’re not doing it blindly
With Ada in the room, there’s no way it’s going to be quiet :) She loves Italian music, and professionally she’s in charge of the finances and making sure that everything runs smoothly. In a nutshell: we can’t do without her!
Her adventure with Prowly began two and a half years ago. She left the corporate world to join the startup. What, in her view, has changed the most? “First of all, the app itself has evolved with its refreshed appearance, new features to meet the needs of the market and our customers, new people on the team and new positions. For me, apart from what is visible on the outside, the way of looking at the company’s finances has also changed. Compared to what I first experienced, every change at Prowly (even the smallest one) always involves an analysis of potential benefits vs the costs it implies. We’re trying out new ways, but we’re not doing it blindly.
Ada and Karolina (Sales) talk finances
I’m happy because as the company grows I am learning new things and gaining a fresh look at finances, new applications and new working methods, which I knew little about. I learned how to look at the budget more flexibly (of course within reason :D) and generally how a technology company works.”
What would she say to the foreign market? “Prowly is not only valuable content. Prowly is, above all, a cool app, which offers great possibilities and allows you to save time on doing PR. It’s an app created by young people. An app that is constantly developing, changing and keeping up with the needs of the PR market. It competes with the biggest brands on the market, not only in terms of price, but above all in terms of quality (and that’s not bragging, this is how our customers see us). Finally, it is also an app where your contacts are safe (and as we all know PR is all about contacts),” she sums up.
Darek: Never work alone if you don’t have to
Darek works in the Product Team but also maintains close contacts with marketing. After all, he translates marketing ideas into HTML. Being communicative and open is key here and Darek has all these features. He joined Prowly in May as one of over a hundred candidates for this position as junior front-end developer—for him, it’s a miracle that Prowly chose and trusted him.
What made him stand out? “Above all, I think, being able to handle the tasks during the interview at the pair programming stage and then a cool idea for my CV, which proved my commitment to great design. Achieving this would not have been possible without me being driven by personal growth, as it allows me to derive satisfaction from what I do and translates into higher quality the code I create. Today, after 4 months, I feel that my knowledge of development has increased at least several times. It is amazing. I learned that I can quickly identify and improve my weaknesses and that it’s really worth learning Angular, which is not an easy technology to embrace. I owe it to the people at Prowly and the organizational culture they create because here each of us is part of it, we feel that we are all contributing to it and that we all know we have a mission to complete, so we just act. The biggest lesson for me was “never work alone if you don’t have to”.
What does it mean? “Well, if we are part of a team then we don’t have to work alone and it’s worth keeping this in mind, as there are many benefits to it: we see things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to notice ourselves, we can address problems faster, and, most importantly, we make knowledge exchange possible. But somewhere in the back of your head you must know that you have to respect the time of the other person. Break-even? We’ve achieved it, so what is the next break-even point? I haven’t been here long enough to subjectively assess the scale of this event, but I think the challenge will be to maintain the status quo and keep developing, and, at the same time, continue implementing new bold ideas that are reflected in the roadmap for Prowly’s product. It will be even more pleasant, easier and more effective!”
Patryk: I like Prowly for daily challenges
Patryk has been at Prowly since early this year. At several internal meetings, he was hailed the new king of sales. Since he joined us, he’s learned about himself that he could be patient. He’s also learned to listen and not only talk, he definitely got to know the work of PR specialists and journalists better, and learned about the problems and challenges they face.
What does he like about Prowly?
“As a platform, I like Prowly because it helps many people in their daily work and opens up new opportunities. As a company, I like Prowly for a great team, for daily challenges, and for huge support.
I think the major challenges might face now is making sure we’re constantly growing, not resting on our laurels and not getting caught off-guard—so far I can see that this is something we shouldn’t be worried about—the whole team is very committed and motivated,” Patryk says.
What would he say to the foreign markets? “I won’t convince you to buy Prowly. I won’t sell Prowly to you. I will make you desire Prowly.”
Dominik: I’m impressed with Prowly’s ambitious mission of creating a comprehensive hub for the PR world
Dominik is a new face on the team. He comes from the gaming world, worked as a journalist, and joined Prowly as Product Specialist—his position draws from all his previous professional experiences.
“I would like to make our tool as immersive and intuitive as possible so that in the era of micro-experiences our customers could seamlessly work on their public relations. Conquering foreign markets, including the US market, requires in-depth knowledge of the app’s end-users, their preferences and drive for specific designs, UI and communication. As for retention and engagement, the business challenge is largely to analyze a considerable amount of behavioral data and make key data-driven decisions. I’m impressed with Prowly’s ambitious mission of creating a comprehensive hub for the PR world, from which you can not only write an engaging press release and publish it in a virtual press room, but also distribute it to the journalists you know, check the effectiveness of your actions or find completely new media contacts. The model of mutually complementary functionalities has become increasingly convincing for American customers,” Dominik says.
Piotrek: I’ve experienced how important it is to have a good team and good communication
“Prowly is a big app so I had to learn a bunch of new technologies at the beginning, get in the flow of things, but because I did, I can say now that in the first few months of the year, I “fired like a slingshot” when it comes to coding.
Over the last year, I’ve learned a lot not only about programming, but also about planning what I will be doing in the nearest future (sprint), taking into account, among other things, my skills, the help of other people, training to get better, searching for information on unknown topics and also creating my own solutions. I’ve experienced how important it is to have a good team and good communication to provide quality software at the right time.
I also got to know what individual departments do, how they actually come together and must at the same time understand each other in order to work well together and thus achieve their goals such as the break-even. I like Prowly for the atmosphere at work, the possibility of further development, the approach to people, taking care of relations between employees, teambuilding trips, events with customers (this I think is super cool).
I think that the biggest challenge is making further decisions competently, creating successful features, obtaining valuable leads to not only maintain this level but also to constantly improve it”
Michał: I discovered that I can survive the apocalypse
Together with Karolina and Patryk, Michał works in sales. This tall boxer (boxing is his sport) hides a kind soul, we all grew to like. In short, everyone has a soft spot for him. Michał has been on the team for a short while, but he can already boast successful sales stories. When Prowly celebrated break-even, it was Michał’s second month with us. How does he see the team?
“I really wanted to work at Prowly because I wanted to start working for foreign customers. On the other hand, I was a little afraid of the job. Now I know that working with foreign customers gives me a lot of fun and satisfaction. I discovered that I can survive the apocalypse. I love every person in the company, it’s strange, isn’t it? Every problem can be solved together and whenever I need help from someone I get it immediately. Prowly is like a family to me.
The biggest challenge for me will be to attract even more foreign customers than ever before and to convince them that our product is better than anything others offer,” he comments.
Michał also has a message for potential foreign buyers: “It’s time to say goodbye to old providers who limit you and just want crazy amounts of money from you, leaving you with no say in any issue related to their product. Open up to changes and try our platform. What you’ll get is a real impact on our product and freedom,” he says.
Ania: The company’s customer-centric attitude is contagious
Just like Dominik, Ania just joined Prowly. During most of her professional career, she has been developing her project management skills abroad, working for TalkWalker and EuroDNS. After returning to Poland and before joining the team, she worked for NapeolonCat as Customer Success Specialist. As the new leader in the Customer Success department, Anna’s responsibilities will include developing strategies for building relationships with app users and launching projects in this area.
As she says: “I see joining Prowly at an exciting time like this as an opportunity to influence the way our growing customer base uses our app. Prowly has a fantastic Customer Success team and it’s a joy to work with them. The company’s customer-centric attitude is contagious and I’m really excited to be able to contribute to that. Prowly is growing quickly and it’s definitely been a challenge for the team to keep up. They’ve done a great job so far, and I’m hoping to keep up the pace and provide our customers with the best service possible.”