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10.02.2023 | 6 min

ExtraORDERnary Filip - Empathy is necessary

This one is for you if you are interested in how OG was founded, where it is right now, and what skills are necessary to run a successful IT company. Ladies and gentlemen, Filip, our CEO, takes the floor!

ExtraORDERnary Filip -  Empathy is necessary - 2024 13
Table of Contents
  • How did your IT career start?
  • How did you go from programming to running a business?
  • What were the beginnings of Order Group like?
  • What has changed at OG 10 years after the company was founded?
  • Why did you become the CEO?
  • What do you like most about being a CEO?
  • What skills should a company CEO have?
  • OG shots!
  • This or that?

How did your IT career start?

In junior high school, we learned the basics of programming in computer science classes, and our teacher mentioned that it was possible to earn money from coding. I was curious because I was looking for a way to make some money at the time. And indeed, I started looking and found my first programming job for a simple script.

Over time, I got more jobs of this kind, and naturally, they became more complex, to the point that I started creating websites. In high school, I became a part-time webmaster. Later, in college, I automated processes for a student organization I was a part of. In my student time, I co-created many university projects in which we used programming to do something better and quicker.

The programming itself really clicked from the beginning because I like to see the effects of my work quickly, and creating scripts, digital tools, and websites gave me precisely that. I guess that's why I got into IT so easily and am still into it today.

How did you go from programming to running a business?

During my studies, I met Karol, with whom I carried out various student projects. I was responsible for management and sales, and Karol was responsible for the visual part and marketing. In 2011, during the 3rd year of studies, we organized Juwenalia, a large student early carnival at the Warsaw University of Technology. This was a breakthrough moment in our professional careers.

We have successfully negotiated great rates with artists and increased the number of stages during the festival. We've run a viral marketing campaign in the Warsaw subway and on a trendy Polish meme platform. After the event, we got many job offers, and that's how KOFS was born – a digital agency whose name comes from my and Karol's initials.

For a year, under the banner of KOFS, we made graphic designs, websites, and social media campaigns for various Polish companies. After that time, however, we decided we wanted to go bigger but needed more software development force.

We contacted Paweł, whom we met during the organization of the Juwenalia above. At that time, he worked at IBM as a programmer, and he considered starting something of his own with his two buddies, Maciek and Michał.

It was 2013 when we joined forces. We set up a company, rented our first office, and started working together under the name of Order Group.

Interestingly, before we started OG, I never met Michał and Maciek in person; we only talked once over a video call. After ten years, we still work in this line-up, so I guess it was a good decision. :)

What were the beginnings of Order Group like?

Because we had three developers at OG, we could take on larger, more ambitious, and profitable jobs than KOFS. We quickly started getting more job offers than we could handle as a five, so we hired a few and then a dozen or so people. It took less than 2 years to grow the company from 5 to 20 employees.

Then came a period of less dynamic growth, at least regarding headcount. Our composition changed minimally for 4-5 years, although the projects changed, and we evolved as an organization.

We focused on our existing clients and grew organically—slowly but surely. We stopped accepting projects beyond our current capability. We were defining our business and organizational identity at a natural pace.

What has changed at OG 10 years after the company was founded?

The period of organic growth was a time of maturation and learning. We acted in our own way, which made us independent and established on the market, but at the same time exposed to many mistakes.

After 10 years, we have matured to stop relying on private experience and intuition in business and to use proven management methods more often. We started to act more consciously.

At the turn of 2022 and 2023, we defined our identity and role in the IT industry. We learned that we're not a software company but a company that solves business problems using programming tools, and that's a great leap in perceiving OG by our clients and ourselves.

We also decided to scale the company and created a growth strategy based on OKRs. Anticipating an increase in employment, we introduced a vertical structure in the company. We grouped the staff into smaller, several-person project teams managed by leaders.

At the same time, we implement the philosophy of servant leadership and management 3.0. They assume that management is a shared responsibility and that team leaders look after teams, help them and support them in solving problems rather than directing them authoritarian style. I'm personally responsible for implementing these two management methodologies, and I must admit that I am very excited about this project.

Why did you become the CEO?

During my studies, working for a student organization or co-creating KOFS, I coordinated projects, created offers, and negotiated rates with clients. Of the five of us, I had the most experience managing an organization. The rest of the crew worked from the back line and focused more on their specialization, such as programming or design. So the division of roles in OG was organic and resulted from our previous experiences and natural predispositions.

What do you like most about being a CEO?

I like to use my natural desire to be at the forefront of events and take responsibility. I like to give direction and influence things, but at the same time, I don't want to be doing it alone. I generally like being with people – learning from them, having discussions, and agreeing or disagreeing with them. This role naturally exposes me to human interactions, which is awesome.

What's also cool about being a CEO is that it's about creating a work environment that fosters healthy interactions. I'm happy to create a place where people can develop as employees and humans. I love giving and receiving positive feedback; it, without a doubt, keeps me going.

What skills should a company CEO have?

Since the work of the CEO is mainly about working with people, empathy is necessary: both in theory (knowing what empathy actually is) and in practice, meaning behaving emphatically towards employees.

Indeed, self-reflection, willingness to learn, and an open mind are also key. The CEO must understand that they're only sometimes right and don't know everything. This is important in the context of delegating responsibility to other people in the company, which is a must-have in building a sustainable organization.

As another CEO virtue, I would mention readiness for change and failure, the two inseparable elements of running a business. You need to be ready to lose and change something, even if that change is unpleasant. Failures and changes can be painful, but they are necessary to move forward, and every CEO needs to be ready for them.

Finally, I would like to add openness to giving and receiving feedback while maintaining full respect for other people – their history, experiences, and emotions. To grow as humans and as an organization, we must be willing to praise others for their excellent work and constructively criticize poor actions, but only in a way that considers each individual's uniqueness and vulnerability.

OG shots!

Favorite movie → I don't have one favorite, but I love all detective movies like Sherlock Holmes. I also like old educational films like C'mon C'mon, but I have to be in the mood for those.

Favorite series → Without a doubt: The Mentalist.

Favorite music artist → Polish: Dawid Podsiadło, foreign: Linkin Park.

Favorite game → League of Legends, Counter Strike.

Favorite Book → Forever and always: Karl May Stories of Winnetou. Besides, I like the Harry Potter universe (although it kills me that it's so poorly exploited). I also love the Agent Pendergast crime series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Currently, however, I am mostly reading books about Buddhism and management because they're the most up-to-date with my professional challenges.

This or that?

PC or smartphone or console → PC

Android or iOS → Android

Windows, Mac, or Linux → Mac

Netflix, HBO, Disney, or Amazon Prime → Prime

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