Can you return to a company once you decided to quit? What is it like when your passion suddenly becomes an inspiration for some changes in your professional life? And where in the world can you expect the best wind? You will find answers to these questions in an interview with Maciek Czucha, Product Owner at Goyello, responsible for Webmerce, a platform for running online shops.
With Peter Horsten, the founder of Goyello, we met through personal contacts. It was in 2007. Peter and his wife Kasia moved to Poland from the Netherlands. Peter was just about to start a company here and was organising the team.
So you can say you were present at Goyello’s birth.
Yes, exactly, I started when the whole business was just about to begin. The key decisions about the first projects were actually taken at the kitchen table.
Why was it you they turn to and offered cooperation?
Just after I finished my studies at the Faculty of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics at Gdańsk University of Technology, I set up my own business – complex IT services for companies. What I was doing was in line with Peter’s plans regarding his new company. At first I was a developer. Only after some time I started to be involved in e-commerce and that is what I do today.
How do you recall the first years of your cooperation with Goyello?
What caught my attention from the very beginning was the fact that Peter was so open. He was always willing to consult things with the team, to get suggestions and simply to talk with us. From the very beginning he had a vision of his company in the future. He knew how fast he would expand the team and very precisely planned the number of staff in the following years. In 2012 the company was supposed to have about 80 employees and that was exactly the number of people employed then.
Despite that at one point you decided to quit.
That’s right. Another company offered me work when I was already working for Goyello. So at one point I found myself working for two companies simultaneously. I quickly realised that to be able to get fully involved and committed I have to choose. And it was the other company I chose.
So how did it happen that you eventually came back and have been working at Goyello till now?
Meanwhile I started an online shop. It was connected with my true passion, which is kitesurfing. It was supposed to be used by a group of friends, passionate about that sport just like me. We ran it together after hours. One day it turned out people from outside our group got to know about the site. They started to place orders and we started to earn money. Producers were sending us some equipment for testing. That is when I got interested in e-commerce.
And Goyello kept developing. Despite the fact that I quit we were still in touch. In 2012 they won a new client and had to expand the team. I applied for a job. It was the time when my daughter was born. I realised a permanent job may be a better idea than temporary contracts. Besides, there was a chance I could gain further experience in e-commerce. They were impressed with my achievements related to the kitesurfing shop and I was offered a job in the Webmerce team, responsible for a platform for the development and management of online shops.
What was your first project?
Well, I must tell you I was thrown in at the deep end. Webmerce was in charge of the official Eurovision webshop. I remember us sitting at the office in the evening, watching the contest and the traffic on the site at the same time. Emotions were huge! Mainly due to the fact our tool worked perfectly.
What is your role in Webmerce at the moment and what are you responsible for?
Soon after I joined the Webmerce team I became Product Owner. That is the position I have been holding till now. There are two priorities in Webmerce. The first one is to constantly develop the platform. We introduce new functionalities, test and implement them. The other priority is to keep in touch with our clients and build relationships with them. There is a whole range of actions we take in order to let our clients enjoy benefits of what Webmerce has to offer.
I cooperate with a team of e-commerce experts and developers. I also talk to our clients and show them how Webmerce can address the needs both they and their customers may have.
What is the difference between working in a project like Wemberce and being a developer?
An advantage of my job in Webmerce is that it is an existing product. I don’t have to wait till it is launched. It is a working solution. Any modification we introduce is implemented immediately and verified by real users.
In addition, I really like the way we cooperate with our clients. My job is to introduce them to Agile and explain how it works. It can be tough at the beginning. They have to realise that every time a project is developed in Agile there are certain stages we have to go through. First of all, we discuss the requirements with the team. Then we plan sprints and test the solutions developed in each sprint. Only then can the client get the solution and test it themselves. From my own experience though I can tell that clients appreciate the way we work. They can see we are effective, we don’t make any nervous movements and we deliver high-quality products.
In that model of cooperation we are more partners than contractors. Apart from the fact that we provide clients with consultancy service, we get valuable feedback from them. Thanks to that we know what solutions prove the most useful for their businesses.
Can you compare Webmerce to other similar solutions?
The thing is that we don’t see Webmerce merely as software. We see it as a wide range of services included in the package our clients get. We provide them with a set of functionalities and advise on how to use them in order to grow their businesses. To a certain extent we become the managers of their online shops.
Increasingly, we take on such tasks as customer service, shipping, payments, and even the correct presentation of products. We help our clients create proper product descriptions and photos to ensure they are presented in an attractive way and will sell.
Also, we analyse traffic on our clients’ sites and advise them on the best marketing actions. Here are two examples. One of our clients was unaware of a great potential their brand had on the Norwegian market until we showed it to them. AmberVend, a shop selling Baltic amber jewellery manufactured in Gdańsk has recently got a new, Chinese language version. From our analysis we learned that there is great interest in such products on the Chinese market. So, to put it simply, we help our clients build their brands.
What shops are currently managed by Webmerce?
We have shops operating in various industries, both B2C and B2B. Those include tour operators, sports equipment, underwear, window decorations, amber jewellery and products from local artists and artisans sold in shops dedicated to different tourism regions in Europe. Since the beginning of 2015 we have launched 5 new sites. Several more are to come soon. What is important, since the launch of Webmerce no client has decided to end their cooperation with us.
Is e-commerce an interesting and growing sector?
It sure is! I think trade is fascinating. We have been buying and selling goods since the very beginning of human race. Today trade is ruled by the Internet. E-commerce is an extremely dynamic sector. I admit Poland is way behind the leaders but what distinguishes us from other market players in Europe is the biggest percentage increase in online sales in the recent years.
Customers of online shops have more and more trust in e-commerce these days. Previously even the tiniest purchase on the Internet entailed a detailed research as regards customers’ opinions on a given shop, for fear of fraud. Today the customers’ trust is no longer jeopardized. Thanks to that the sector can develop.
Webmerce has recently won a competition organised by Olivia Business Centre. You can now rent an office in one of OBC buildings for free. It is a new stage in Webmerce history. What plans do you have at the moment?
I believe the new office will make us more recognisable and let us gain even more trust, which is essential to establish new business relations.
We are going to keep convincing our clients that they should build their own brands. They can always sell their products via popular online auction sites or global platforms like Amazon. However, if those entities raise their fees overnight, a problem arises. That is why it is best to rely on one’s own site and one’s own strong brand.
My most immediate professional goal is to organise a trade conference in our region. I think we lag behind the central and southern Poland. And after all, we have a huge potential and experience!
I am also involved in the ThinkLocal initiative. We promote local trade by connecting buyers and sellers operating and living in the same city or province. The aim of our actions is to support our local economy.
You have been working at Goyello for three and half years, excluding the break. How do you benefit from this job?
I became an experienced specialist in e-commerce, which gives me great satisfaction. I have an expertise gained in practice. I contact clients directly and they trust me. As a Product Owner I also have a pleasure of working with a team of professional Goyello developers. We can count on each other. The results of this cooperation are amazing.
I participate in trade events, where I share knowledge and get some valuable feedback. I can implement my own ideas as well.
And after hours you are into an interesting sport…
That’s right. For eight years I have been doing kitesurfing. It is a water sport in which you use a surfboard and a big kite you control for cruising and jumping. Great fun!
Where in the world can you find the best wind?
All year long there are places in the world where the wind is great and the weather is beautiful. The Polish coast, where I live and work, is also a great place for kitesurfers, good to start doing this sport. We have excellent conditions all year round and water freezes less often in winter these days. 😉
And if you were to recommend an ideal kitesurfing location?
I would recommend Brazil. I have been there twice myself. It is a great place to do kitesurfing. Apart from perfect weather conditions from September till December, it is always warm there and beaches are wide and safe.
Are there any dreams connected with kitesurfing you would like to fulfill?
I would like to learn to better ride on waves to be able to face a really large wave. I would also like to cross the Atlantic in a yacht one day.
Good luck then, both in sports and in business!