In a recent interview, Witold Leder, the CEO of Spyrosoft Solutions, takes us behind the scenes of this international software services company’s meteoric rise to success. Witold shares insights on Spyrosoft Solutions’ triumphs, challenges, and how they navigated through the pandemic. Read more to discover the driving forces behind the company’s inception and its unwavering focus on cutting-edge technology and client relationships.
How did Spyrosoft Solutions start?
Together with my colleagues (Łukasz, Daniel, Adam and Tomasz) from my previous company, we came up with the idea to create a new international software services company to focus on applying the latest technologies to the industry based on embedded software development. It was a perfect match because the first entity – Spyrosoft S.A., had so far focused on enterprise software/technologies.
We wanted to create a company that would provide software development services with cutting-edge technology. We started with embedded software development, and our strongest card turned out to be automotive. That’s why we became the smallest Software Tier 1 automotive company in the world – a company that provides software directly to car manufacturers.
Along with Konrad Weiske, we have known each other since working at Siemens. Our cooperation began with sitting down, chatting, and establishing the basics of the Spyrosoft Solutions setup within just 10 minutes. I enjoy relationships where you can sit down with someone, talk, spend time together, and great ideas come up. And since Spyrosoft Solutions was the third in the Spyrosoft Group portfolio, we have been building a joint back-office for the entire group since then. The fact that we managed to reach this level of growth in five years is a huge success. Last year we signed an agreement with one of our first clients on this cooperation level. This year we are still developing and concluding further agreements with OEM clients; unfortunately, we are not allowed to share the name here.
And how has the idea evolved with time?
We managed to create all the elements supporting the operations of new companies that have joined us since we created Spyrosoft. The idea was to build an organisation that would grow to several thousand people. We created the structure of business units and the principles of project management.
The leading company with a working back-office is still Spyrosoft S.A., but as I mentioned, we recently opened new entities. We developed the rules for operating the platform, which has become a plug-and-play platform. We welcome people with an idea for a company to join us – this is how Spyrosoft Connect, which appeared in the Spyrosoft Group portfolio this year, has come into existence.
What challenges has Spyrosoft Solutions encountered in the last five years?
The very beginning was a challenge. My friends and I already knew we wanted to open a company. We already knew that we would like to operate in the automotive and Industrial Automation sector. We had experience, skills, and an eye for a potential client. But we did not have anything else. We had no back office, and the company was founded the day before. How were we supposed to win contracts? Fortunately, we had a lot of connections.
At that time, Spyrosoft S.A. had already existed for 1.5 years and had a lot of achievements, although it was yet to become a large or widely known company. So, another entity – Solutions, had the opportunity to present itself as part of the Spyrosoft Group. It was not much, but at least I was able to bring a business card from a company that has existed for over a year to the meeting. Fortunately, combined with our branding and experience, all these factors allowed us to win the contract and get our first client.
What successes have Spyrosoft Solutions had?
We started as an embedded software services company and we developed in the automotive industry as the smallest Tier 1 in the world, but our goal was not to grow solely within those areas. Our most tremendous success so far has been in the automotive industry. This is the largest business unit in Spyrosoft. Automotive makes up 80% of Spyrosoft Solutions’ turnover and over 20% of the entire group’s turnover. For this reason, it has become our dream to be the smallest Tier 1 in the world. It is going very well, and we want to continue to develop in this direction.
Today, operations within the automotive business unit constitute not 100% but 75% of our work because we have also been developing other sectors of our activities. But there are other goals. We want to repeat and create this automotive success as part of the healthcare and life sciences, and in the industry automation domain. We want to work with the most significant medical and industrial manufacturers. Of course, we have a different pace of development for each of them. Because we have built a very stable basis for our business within 5 years, which is the automotive industry, we can now prioritise developing the healthcare & life sciences or industry automation business units.
From the beginning, it was important for us to build our presence in the world. It is also essential that a significant number of the people we employ are from all over the world: Romania, Croatia, the UK, the USA, India, and Germany. At the moment, about half of our employees already work outside of Poland.
How long did it take to develop the company?
It is a great success that within five years, we have reached the level we are at now. Sometimes at fairs or events, when we talk about what we do, we hear the question, “But how?”. People are surprised that it’s possible to build a company operating at this level so quickly. From the beginning, it was crucial for us to deliver software as a product along with the highest quality. That’s why we initially created a Quality Management Team, unlike other classic software houses.
Celebration is probably our biggest weakness – when we look at what we have already done, we do not stop to celebrate that but immediately start thinking about what we can do next. That is why even small occasions are important, even casual meetings in the office. Instead of coffee and doughnuts, we may share a birthday cake to get into a more festive mood to celebrate our milestones. In such moments, you can briefly break the routine and look at all the successes from a slightly different perspective. We get to spend some time together, to talk, to laugh. It’s significant for the overall atmosphere at work.
Why was Quality Management so important for Spyrosoft?
As I said, it was essential for us to deliver software with the highest quality. We began to do that when we were a company of only 50 people – companies usually don’t do that. The idea was to create a structure for a few thousand employees immediately, and we wanted to do it at the highest quality standard possible. We started by introducing international standards like ISO 9000 and ISO 27000, as well as TISAX and Functional Safety, the medical standard ISO 13485. That’s how we stand out from others – by delivering all the software as a complete product, not just as a component or a part of something bigger.
Our software is created according to the best process standards so that we can work with clients from highly regulated fields like industrial, medical or automotive. Awareness and understanding of those industries help us to work with our clients. We understand that it helps to maintain the safety of people. Our experience is a huge advantage – we know what mistakes we do not want to make because we are not performing for the first time. It’s not that we don’t make mistakes anymore. We make them, but we know how to learn from them. When establishing the company, we already had many years of experience. Each of the founders had at least 15 years of experience in the industry. And this is one of the factors which explains why we are doing better than other young companies on the market.
Is it because relationships are a key element in Spyrosoft DNA?
Relationships are the most important thing that allows Spyrosoft to function as it does today. I mean both the relationships with the clients and the relationships with employees. Sometimes when we compare these two types of relationships, it turns out that as a service company, we only have clients – clients who pay us and clients whom we pay. Both groups are our clients because the service company cannot achieve anything without them. People are the core of this company. Of course, our primary asset is the ability to connect these two groups. Clients who need IT solutions and clients who can provide them – but acquiring both clients-business partners and clients-employees is a very similar process.
What is crucial to maintain those relationships?
In both groups, recommendations are key, which is the best way to measure our quality. Clients recommend us to new potential clients, but our employees also recommend us to new potential employees. As many as 47% of employees who joined Spyrosoft last year came to us via the referral program. That is a huge success. That is why we keep emphasising that relationships are crucial and we value them. We may reach new people through existing contacts, which allows us to enter even the initial stages of business negotiations with a more open attitude and with trust.
Of course, we can develop our business where we do not have any contact points and do not know anyone, as sometimes it’s essential. We simply build valuable new connections. We achieve our goals, but the effort is much greater than when we can rely on existing relationships. We are not a heartless corporation that says, “Relationships are not important; how much money do you want to make?”. Since Spyrosoft is a group of business entities, we can build closer relationships within each of them and develop our network of contacts within the entire group – and beyond.
What makes Spyrosoft stand out?
As I mentioned, it’s our approach to building relationships and an organisational culture that focuses on solving problems and implementing solutions. All this, connected with our ability to work with technology within the context of a specific field, is a great combination.
Technology alone is not enough. It’s like a tool, like a spoon that you may use to dig a hole and eat your soup – only in one case, it will be much less effective. It works the same way with programming languages. They can be used in different ways in different fields of specialisation. The client does not need to know which solutions will be the best for them. They do not even need to know what solutions are available. We are supposed to know what tool to use in which context. We are there to explain why a given solution will work in the most effective way possible. We show we are a technological partner for a client operating in each industry.
Of course, we may deliver front-end, back-end, and embedded systems for the automotive industry, but our systems are fitted for this specific business unit. We adapt our solutions to the automotive industry’s needs and do not just deal with the project from the programming language side. It is also important that we stay up to date. We know what solutions are used by the given industry, what are chosen by different players in the field, and what trends are discussed at conferences. Therefore, all those elements are needed to be a technological partner rather than a supplier of programmers and developers.
How is it possible to achieve that and stay up to date?
We must keep up with all the industry changes and offer a ready solution for our clients. That’s why we focus on establishing new, highly specialised companies within the group, such as Spyrosoft Synergy, established by Spyrosoft S.A. and Spyrosoft Solutions. We want to have end-to-end solutions (a one-stop-shop) to support all the needs of our clients.
For example, Spyrosoft Synergy operates within the robotics industry, and its specialists are experts for all business units in HMI – Human-Machine Interfaces, i.e., the interfaces and processes that allow communication between humans and machines. It includes all types of displays, but also voice solutions or haptic solutions. Thanks to the structure of the Spyrosoft Group, a company such as Spyrosoft Synergy can develop within such a narrow specialisation and follow trends in its field continuously, focusing only on this one type of business operation.
However, this is a strength not only of the company, which receives the support of the group, but also for the entire group. We want our clients to know that when they encounter any challenges related to a very specialised field of their activities, they may turn to Spyrosoft because we have specialists in every, even very narrow areas, of operations or industry. If your problem is related to software, come to us. We have experts in a wide range of fields, so we will be able to solve it for you. Moreover, we also have partners who specialise in hardware so that we can take care of hardware-related issues! At the same time, we do not forget about clear, direct communication, which is the basis of trust in our relationships with the clients – if we cannot solve a problem, we will inform them about it.
How does pandemic time influence Spyrosoft Solutions?
During the pandemic, we were thinking a lot about and discussing how we could diversify the engineering skills that Spyrosoft Solutions already had on board. We checked which domain is sufficiently regulated and, at the same time, needs similar competencies. After much thought and planning, we opened the Healthcare & Life Sciences business unit. I consider it a great success that everything we have achieved as part of Spyrosoft Solutions is organic work – there are no acquisitions, investors, or venture capital. We must constantly consider how to most effectively invest every zloty we earn in the potential we have. Our development is due mainly to the fact that we have made the right, well-thought-out decisions at every stage of our business, and I am proud of that.
There is nothing extraordinary about our day-to-day work. It is just work that has to be done, step by step, day by day.
And what are Spyrosoft Solutions’ plans for the future?
Our plans for the entire Spyrosoft Group are published on an ongoing basis on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. The most important thing is to continuously strengthen the presence and position of Spyrosoft Solutions within the group. It is my priority as a CEO. Although, of course, we must remember that the entire group’s development is also our success because we are all connected. Again, by strong bond – this time at the level of managers of the group and of its components.
I also see a specific challenge for the future here: we need to find a way to manage all the companies as effectively as possible, use our strengths, find ways to develop and reach agreements, and not focus on what can go wrong. And if something goes wrong, we must first stay together if we face a crisis. It is essential to be better prepared in the face of the situation than we were at the beginning of the pandemic. At that time, we were going full speed ahead, so when the pandemic broke out, we hit the wall – full speed on. Then, we had to – let me use a sailing metaphor here – not so much reef the sails and sail a little slower, but even lower the masts, plug all the windows, and transform into a submarine, because it was not a bad storm, it was a tsunami.
Fortunately, we have not lost a single crew member, and now we will also do everything to ensure no losses because these are not just employees that work for us. These people work with us, with whom we have this relationship at the client-company level. This is also a challenge – not to lose what we have already built and what we already have should a crisis come.
How does Spyrosoft operate in the current world crisis?
Communication in times of crisis is paramount. If we maintain good relations, it ensures transparent communication. We do our best to carry out a good relationship with customers by being honest about the current situation. It’s alright at the moment – there’s a crisis, but we’re not in a position like our competition, which is laying off employees or doing restructuring. We approached the situation coldly, based on our experience from the last year. You can never fully prepare for a crisis, but we do everything to foresee a worse scenario. We have changed our plans and want to stay on the current course.
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