Netguru’s Feedback Culture & Economic Optimism with Gosia Madalińska-Piętka
“When I hear that this is like 2008 or the dot-com crisis, I’m not sure. I believe there will be only more and more work for tech businesses. We saw during Covid that people still needed to buy online and find services, and businesses needed budgeting or e-commerce tools.
"There’s no other place I’d rather be right now than in tech.”
What makes a company culture more than mere bluster? And what role does a CFO and their finance team play in nurturing this culture? In this episode of CFO Yeah!, we go deep into Netguru’s growth journey to find out.
Gosia Madalińska-Piętka is CFO and board member at Netguru. Gosia joined as Head of Finance in 2016, having previously served in senior accounting and controlling roles at Tech Data and Hewlett-Packard.
Netguru provides consulting services in product development, software solutions, and product design. Since being founded in 2008, it has completed more than 1000 projects for clients including Volkswagen and IKEA, and has more than 900 team members all over the world.
We spoke about what makes Netguru one of the fastest growing companies in Europe, Gosia’s work to modernize its finance processes, and the focus on culture and community for a largely remote team.
Building Netguru’s finance function
We have to go all the way to 2016. First of all, we didn’t have an accounting system. So I couldn’t see where the numbers were coming from. I also needed to really understand the business, the management team, and the cash forecasts.
The most important thing was to hire very good accountants. I wanted my books to reconcile to the bank account, first. Once I had control of that, I would be able to create reports and budgets.
And the company had already been operating for about eight years when I joined, so there was a lot of data. I needed a clear balance sheet, and then I could start building the budgets.
Moving from paper to digital processes
In my first few months in the role we had a tax audit. I had to personally travel throughout Poland (where Netguru is based) to collect all the paperwork. We had accounting services in different cities, and I needed to collect all the invoices to show to the tax service.
So this was part of hiring those accountants - I had to move everything to one spot where I felt comfortable that it was under control. This was the most important task I had to do.
I have this mission and vision of the finance department: I want to have everything ready for any third party that needs to review our financials the moment they need it.
This gives every CFO, founder, and management team peace of mind. That could be a VC, a bank, or a state auditor.
The path to hypergrowth
In finance, we’re often trained to wait until we’re out of resources to get more. But our founders always built the company ahead of the curve.
I get this question a lot from other startups: when should we have a CFO? When you want to grow, you have to do it fast. And when founders have to deal with invoices and financial matters, they’re not focused on growing the business.
As soon as you can afford it, hire the leadership you need to get where you want to get. You need a plan, and to understand who you want to be in the future. Then hire the people and create the processes to get you there.
Financial modeling in economic uncertainty
Modeling is harder than it used to be - it’s a hard couple of years. When we talk to our clients, they see uncertainty and can’t plan as far ahead either. We need to be much more agile and work closely with them to ensure that we’re in sync.
Forecasting is also more important at the moment. But it’s not clear that things will be worse for service businesses. Some companies will switch to external support (like us) because they can’t hire internally. So that’s actually an opportunity.
And there is still a clear need for tech skills and talent. So we are possibly in a lucky spot.
When I hear that this is like 2008 or the dot-com crisis, I’m not sure so it’s true for us. I believe there will be only more and more work for tech businesses. We saw during Covid that people still needed to buy online and find services, and businesses needed budgeting or e-commerce tools.
There’s no other place I’d rather be right now than in tech.
How to nurture company culture through the finance team
We have seven company values. And one that particularly matters for my team is “act in a way that makes the company proud.”
When we get a request or when we execute our core processes, we need to do our job in a way that makes the company proud. That means being inclusive, building diverse teams, and being client-centric.
We also work to build an “inclusive, transparent and socially responsible culture” that’s another value. Socially responsible means that we don’t source from companies known for devastating the environment. And we would even pay an extra 10% to a vendor that actively protects the environment.
A small example: we had lunches and breakfast brought to our offices every day. We asked the vendor - and put real pressure on them - to change from plastic to paper wrapping. We negotiated and were willing to pay extra to make it work for them.
So that’s our culture in procurement and vendor management.
And the biggest thing is the headline test: I don’t want anything in this company where I would ashamed if it leaked out.
A culture built on feedback
We promote feedback a lot - and I know many companies say that. But we have three ways of gathering feedback:
The annual review where you give feedback on the whole company.
Every time you meet with your manager, you have a form to give feedback - and we read it.
We host AMAs at least quarterly.
There are people working in the field every day, dealing with processes and customers. If you don’t listen to these people you’re missing an opportunity. And they know they have a person they can go to and it will definitely reach the management.
Ask Me Anythings (AMAs) are with the whole core (leadership) team where anyone can ask questions. And these questions are really difficult sometimes, but they’re fair. People can upvote or downvote, and we can’t choose which questions we get to answer.
Recently, we’ve seen that people aren’t so excited to come into the office anymore. Which is a pity, because we built beautiful offices. But it’s still important to connect.
So we came up with the “workation hub” idea. We rented two houses - one in the forest and another in a different part of Poland by the lakes.
I went last week with my son - we had two nannies looking after our kids. I got to meet some people I’d never met before, and some who I already know. It’s great to get to cook with them, eat with them, have coffees, and have our kids play together.
This initiative lets my son get close to nature with other kids - it’s a dream come true. There are things we still need to work on though. I know we can make it more exciting and more comfortable for parents and anyone else who comes to work in these hubs.
When there are processes like this in your company, it’s so important that you try them yourself. Go and experience to see whether it works.
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