Granton is celebrating 10th Birthday this year!
We are taking this opportunity to offer you a behind the scenes insight
You probably already know (or at least you might have an idea) how our company works, but do you know how it all started actually? What have been our biggest successes, hurdles and challenges?
In order to answer those questions, we’ve prepared interviews with the key figures that formed Granton. You can look forward to ten articles – each one of them for a year of the company’s existence.
And where else to start than with the founder of Granton – our CEO Honza Kuba?
10 years, what kind of feeling is that?
“It is great, every day when I wake up, I feel such a satisfaction and gratefulness that the idea has worked.”
What was your motivation, what was the breaking point?
“I was always annoyed to work for someone else. While at large corporates I always observed the people above me, those in grey suits and felt my work was unnecessary, because I didn’t identify with those I worked for. And wise versa when I had good bosses, it was powerful, I learnt a lot from them until their true character unfortunately came out one day and I was deeply disappointed. Finally, I realised the ultimate solution is to start my own company and do the things my way.”
You must have the self-belief, have you?
Yeah! (laughing) When I see somebody now, who is starting his business at the age 25 straight after school, I really have my fingers crossed for him. Maybe a person like that might be more capable than me, but back then without my experience I wouldn’t do that. The breaking point was when I was 40 and I knew that was the right moment. I told myself: “You’ve done some mileage, you were slapped on the wrist few times but you also experienced successes, you know how the business works. At the same time, you are still young enough to have the drive and energy to accomplish it all.”
Honzo, you have a family – wife and two nice children, that wasn’t an easy decision to make, to leave stable and well-paid job and invest family savings to start your own business, was it?
“That’s true. That idea though played on my mind for some time, however you are right, it is difficult to leave the gilded cage where you have a secure job, senior management’s pay, company’s car and you are basically waiting for some outer impulse. And it did come and I knew I had two options – deal with what happened at work or possibly find the same job for another company or make happen what I have been longing for some time…And I think even at home they felt that I needed to make my passion come true.”
Was your wife supportive?
Yep, absolutely! I am very lucky because I never felt any scepticism or lack of trust... I must say, that when I was starting Granton, there wasn’t any doubt it wouldn’t work. Until today I actually don’t understand where I found the courage, because at the same time my wife was in a hospital with quite serious conditions for three weeks. And then my daughter woke up and couldn’t even stand on her feet and I was with her in the Thomayer Hospital, I was jobless and I was standing in the hospital corridor calling people (potential clients, Ed.Com.). I really really believed in it. And that was why it worked at that moment, because when you wholeheartedly believe in something, people can sense it.”
Apart all the enthusiasm, were you nervous about it at all?
“Not really, I started to realize it all when I used up majority of the funds that I had available, the reality hit me then. I was thinking like if we have any family silver (laugh) or if friends or family could lend me some money. I made the decision that if it hadn’t work until the end of the year, I would start looking for a job again. Luckily that never happened. In August, when I had to borrow three hundred thousand from my friend to keep the operations running, I knew already that September would be the payout month for the services we have been delivering since June, so I didn’t succumb to scepticism.”
Why Granton, is there a story behind the name?
“Yes, there is (smile). I was watching the Downton Abbey series back then and there was The Earl of Grantham and it just resonated with me… I enjoyed the English high society environment… I was talking to my ex-colleague from Accenture about it and he recommended his acquaintance, a British copywriter that run her own little business coming up with business names. I met with her, filled her in with my basic concept, I could see she didn’t have much time for me. Roughly week later she came up with a few ideas, I remember one of the names – Specula. She obviously couldn’t see that in Czech environment it could sound like Speculator and has negative connotation so that was out of the question. Later my mother-in-law who is a doctor also informed me that it’s a name for gynaecological mirror. So, I told myself that I was not going to rely on such experts anymore. When the time came and I needed the name as I had a deadline next day I was staring at the list and created the final name by combing Grantham and Downton hence Granton.”
What were the biggest challenges that you have experienced?
“I do business the way that I never risk everything. Maybe that’s why I am rarely in the situation I have to really solve some major challenges. Mostly there are issues on the way that need attention more like on the human level, interpersonal level. But that’s nothing crazy. (smile)”
Our business is very competitive. You went separate way from Accenture which is quite a large player in the market. Was it difficult not to burn bridges with the people you were dealing with?
“That’s a good question. I think it’s always balancing on the edge. When you are too far away from the edge, in the comfort zone it is hard to do any business. When you approach the edge, you are putting some relationships at risk or you might even make somebody angry and that’s the cutting edge where you actually seize the opportunity and do business. There are two possible ways you’ll be looked at – people will either support you and will see you as a person who is following the dream or they will see you as the one who steals the best opportunities and people. The one’s perception of himself is obviously the first one and the years of entrepreneurship are paved by finding the way so other people see the best in you as well.”
Do you feel that the balancing on the edge is working for you or have you ever overstepped the line?
“Yeah, I feel like I’m doing well at it. (smile). Of course, there were some oversteps but I’m not going to comment on that. (laugh) It is something you think about every day. The hardest are the moments when you are dealing with people, they come to you and expect you to give them half of the company because they helped you once some time ago and you have to tell them you are super grateful but you can’t just give them part of something you have been building for a while. The person will either understand it or won’t. There are cases like that.”
What do you consider the first success in history of Granton?
“First success was the first and second agreed job which was 18th and 24th May 2012. Based on the fact I remember the dates you can see how significant that was for me. The second success was when I’ve realized that those one-of opportunities can be cloned and hence I’ve created a functional model, I even managed to gain Accenture from which I left, as my client.”
I have one more question for you. What do you consider the biggest success of the company so far and yours of course?
„The biggest success for me is the feeling that I have, I am able to say today that the values I see in the world can be passed on other people and it reflects in the whole company’s culture. I wouldn’t be satisfied with an organization that is just money-making factory full of frustrated unhappy people. The greatest satisfaction for me is when somebody approaches me wearing a Granton t-shirt and asks me if he or she could order more because they wear it proudly on everyday basis.”