Six years and counting! Looking back – and into the future

We are celebrating our 6th birthday. What started as an idea and a blog is today 11 people strong agency with clients in over 100 countries worldwide.

It was October 9th, 2009 when we got the finalized paperwork from the Trade court here in Zagreb – a moment which officially marked the birth of UX Passion. UX Passion existed for quite some time – first as an idea and even as my private blog. When I left Microsoft to start UX Passion with Darko and Antun, I didn’t know much about the business, management or leadership. I knew some things about UX design, and I knew that as a team, we have passion and determination to start and build something. Was that enough? Looking back, it seems so.

Looking back…

Often we are asked what is the secret sauce for success, how come that we made it… We don’t know about the secret sauce or a recipe (or even what the “success” means) but I think that some of the key ingredients are having a good team, be willing to adopt and learn along the way and be comfortable with making many mistakes. And I made my share of mistakes – something I still continue to do. But what I learned in these past 6 years is that mistake is a mistake only to the degree you let it be a mistake. Better approach is to take them as learning experiences. Granted, you’ll repeat some of those mistakes, but along the way you’ll learn how to avoid making some. It’s called growing up and accepting things as they are and then changing them in a meaningful way.

Last year was the most exciting year UX Passion ever had. It was the year where we made some key changes to the team, leadership, values and the vision of the firm. It also marked the key restructuring within the company. It was time to say goodbye to some people but also this opened a wonderful opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves and reignite the passion. In the last couple of months we grew to the team of 11. For the first time ever we established our internship programme and we currently have three interns taking up on their tasks every day. Their passion and dedication continues to inspire me on a daily basis. Also, some of our employees have become parents. We are learning how to make UX Passion a great workplace for all of us and our specific needs and desires. It is incredibly exciting to be able to build the company culture, shape it together and learn along the way.

And then there is this incredible and humbling feeling that stays with me every day – from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. There are people – smart, ambitious, great people – who decided to trust UX Passion and create things with us. They could choose to work for any company on the Earth and yet our paths crossed here at UX Passion. Those people build our every idea, big or small. Those people turn ideas and visions into reality. You can’t feel other than humbled and proud working with those people. I am also happy that we were able to attract some new people with huge amounts of experience from our industry – their knowledge and fresh ideas will help us grow even more!

UX Passion's Birthday Cake
UX Passion’s Birthday Cake

Three areas of focus…

From the leadership and management point of view, personally, as a CEO I had focused on the three key things in the past year.

First one was the team and our people. Making sure we have the chance to work with the best and brightest and aligning our team structure with the needs of the UX Passion as a whole – was a key goal. I learned some things the hard way; I was honestly surprised by the outcomes of some of them. But today I am confident, more than ever before, that we made the right choices. It took guts, dedication and passion.

Today, one year later, I can proudly say that we have the best team we ever had as a company. But the process is never finished and we are constantly looking for great people to help us deliver wonderful and meaningful experiences, services and products all over the world.

Second goal was keeping an even closer eye to our financials, optimizing costs and stabilizing revenues. While 2015 is still not over, it is shaping to be one of our best years ever, if not the best one. We are based in Croatia – and just recently country finally liberated itself from the 6 year long recession. UX Passion started when the financial crisis was hitting the hardest – until recently we didn’t even know how it is to run the business during the time of (humble) economic growth. Our “new normal” was doing business under the pressure of financial and economical crisis. Taxes increased, many smart people left the country after we joined the EU – and yet, from our first full year (2010) until now we posted profits every single year and we never fired anyone due to financial reasons. When needed we scaled back on other expenses, but people and their salaries were not affected. Of that I’m most proud of. In fact, we increased them!

While finances can’t be used as a single and only measure of success, they can be indicative. We kept investing in our people and in research and development activities. That is huge majority of our costs and that will never change. We thrive because of our people, their talents, ideas and personalities. We have no established hierarchy, no dress code or any real formality. We work in project-oriented teams and my main role as a CEO of the company is to serve and make sure my team has all it needs to do their job. To an outsider, it might be easy confuse our lack of formality for the lack of professionalism – we work for some of the world’s largest firms and organisations and we are doing our best to deliver greatest possible experiences to them. But we know how to have a lot of fun while doing so! Our unofficial motto is “work hard, play harder” – it helps us stay young and fresh.

Another ideal we live by is our “financial motto” – we only spend what we earn, we don’t take loans or overdrafts, we are not seeking for an investment at this moment. It’s harder this way, but it is also something that keeps us alert at all times and makes us more agile. Just in last 6 months we politely declined 2 offers for investment in the UX Passion or our products. While honestly flattered, we think that at this moment in time that would not be in our best interest or in the interest of our potential investors. Maybe that moment will come later on, but now, it’s just not the right time.

And lastly, third goal was to grow as professionals, advance the UX as a discipline and even more improve development of web and mobile solutions. This is probably the area where the work is never really done since you are supposed to keep up with the changes and seek out new challenges. We deliberately focused on larger, more challenging tasks and projects. We are looking forward to every project where we believe we can make a meaningful contribution. Sure, this is a job, and it has to be done – but it also can be something that will make us feel good about ourselves and with the idea that something what we created and crafted does impact hundreds of millions of other people. After all, our products and services are used in over 100 countries worldwide on all inhabited continents. We are building this sense of purpose and meaningfulness in everything we do and create!

UX Passion going forward…

So at the end of the day, we stay here looking towards the future ready for new challenges. We rediscovered ourselves, reignited our true passions and built the great team to lead us there. Expect many changes and new things to come from UX Passion this fall and winter – but hey, let’s keep that news for some future blog posts… Thank you for being with us, supporting us, critiquing us and challenging us!

Stay passionate! Keep creating!

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