Hubert Pokrowiecki, CEO at Funktional Strategic Branding & Digital Agency tells us about working with ambitious companies who believe in the lasting effects of an exceptional brand experience.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hubert Pokrowiecki: I think we’re quite good, thank you for asking. COVID definitely brought a completely new reality, but the biggest shift in my family life came just months before the pandemic broke out, when my baby twin girls came to this world. To be honest, personally, I see a lot of good that came out of the lockdowns and work from home as I was able to spend much more time with the girls. The more time I spent with them, the more I loved them, and I was able to build a really strong bond. We sometimes joke with my wife that 2020 was a great year to have twins, as at least you don’t miss much. We all caught COVID this January, and we all felt what a fierce sickness this is. Paradoxically, a month at home brought us closer again and gave us time to stop for a moment, think and build up motivation for what’s to come.
I guess we always try to reshape hardships into something positive.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Funktional.
Hubert Pokrowiecki: I’ve always been a curious person; even as a child, I felt the urge to know how everything worked, always looking to learn more and do better. Over the years, I’ve touched a lot of different fields. At 16, I taught myself how to code in HTML, then PHP, and started to attend a Cisco network administration course. I’ve studied computer engineering, photography, international business, and marketing. By the age of 20, I opened a club & restaurant with my father, where I ran marketing and strategy (back then, I didn’t even know that it actually was strategy), and at some point by the time I was 24 years old I came to a conclusion that it would be a great idea to start an agency. I’ve talked to a friend who was a designer, and we moved on with the idea. We invested ca. 40$ into business cards, and by the end of the 2nd year, we generated around $180K in revenue.
Initially, we were focused on graphic design and branding. Then we added web design to our services, but for years we didn’t understand where the real value of our services was. Only after a lot of hardships was I able to better understand the business, our clients’ needs and completely remodeled the way we work.
After many years, I can honestly say that Funktional is a company that is extremely aware of its capabilities, but more importantly – we understand the industry in which we operate, its specificity, and how to create value for customers and memorable brand experiences. We work with the largest international companies.
We focus on conscious brands that fight for a better world – that’s why we provide services and implement projects for, among others, the largest global child aid organization. The fact that we are appreciated at international contests and that our projects receive awards is a nice addition.
How does Funktional innovate?
Hubert Pokrowiecki: As I mentioned above – my driving force has always been curiosity, willingness to learn new things. It’s my personal success that I managed to transfer this value to the culture of the Funktional organization. We do not accept the status quo; we see the continuity of the company as a constant, sustainable change. We test new tools and improve processes. We are focused on learning and development – both as an organization and each of us individually. Already during recruitment, I pay attention to the way candidates approach reality, their ambitions, and aspirations for their own development. My goal is to let everyone grow and become a better person because we create this company together.
From a business point of view, we always aim high, which turns out to be worth it. We look at international markets – we think globally, but keep a very open mindset. We are critical; we do not follow temporary trends. We believe that development and innovation is long-term process. We are inspired by the best and introduce proven practices into our processes.
We know that our agency’s work is a mission. We are aware of changes in the world, the climate crisis, changes, and social conflicts. It is up to all of us to do our best to improve living conditions for future generations. We work with future-oriented brands that want to change the world for the better and for whom it is not just an empty slogan. We are also aware that our industry has a considerable impact on shaping awareness and social trends. We want to shape the mindset and attitude towards inevitable change.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Hubert Pokrowiecki: I will not hide that I went through a rough patch long before the pandemic. At one point, we had to cut the team in half due to financial instability. This made me look differently at the business, processes, lead generation, etc. The whole team put an enormous amount of effort and faith in order to get the company into the clear. So when the pandemic broke, we saw a decline in new leads, but it didn’t impact us a lot. Overall, 2020 was a great success for Funktional. We grew just over 100% y/y. As an organization, we have adapted to the global changes and the rhythm of the heartbeat of every industry with which we have the opportunity to work. We have learned flexibility over the years, so we were able to remodel our workflow so that not only did it not let us slow down but also increased our turnover.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Hubert Pokrowiecki: Few companies can say this, but the crisis did not catch us personally. We did not have to cut staff, inhibit raises and promotions, or undertake other activities that many agencies were forced to do. It was just the opposite – due to many large projects, we had to significantly enlarge our team. We managed to hire a lot of talented people, and it was not easy – everything moved to digital, people were reluctant to change jobs in such uncertain times. Due to the fact that we hired a lot, we had the opportunity to join the local Polish campaign #niezwalniamy, which promoted such an approach to the HR issue.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Hubert Pokrowiecki: The natural course of things was to evolve our management practices. Despite the lockdown and the need to work remotely, we were even closer to our clients than before. Relations with them have not suffered because we have learned to communicate skillfully through each channel. Mid-year we switched to agile project management and trained the whole team in order to make the work more efficient and pleasurable. We also use advanced digital tools that allow us to manage projects, collect feedback and confront ideas and cooperate with our Clients. We regularly test our Client’s satisfaction levels using the NPS (Net Promoter Score), and our result is 8.9, which is a great result. This year, we also entered the largest agency client satisfaction ranking in Poland for the first time. I’m both curious and confident about the results.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Hubert Pokrowiecki: We did not use any form of assistance. We managed to survive and achieve it all on our own, for which I am extremely grateful to our entire team.
Your final thoughts?
Hubert Pokrowiecki: I personally believe that adapting to constant change is the only way to live and grow. We were lucky enough to go through COVID smoothly, and as management, we did everything we could to support and keep the team calm, looking at the bright side of things. As an agency, we work every day on the edge of the newest technology, trends, and news that shape tomorrow. It is easier for us to see those bright sides. At the same time, I’m aware that we live in a bubble, and most people do not have this perspective.
All I can say is that even when the hardest times come, there is one place you can turn to, and that’s within yourself. If you focus on gratitude, on personal growth, on gaining knowledge and learning new skills, you will always end up winning. Regardless of external factors, don’t dwell on the negative. Focus on the positive and make things happen, even against all odds.
My wife once told me: If it’s not great, it’s not the end. This really stuck with me.
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