American Market Is Pushing Us Forward, Says the CEO of eWay-CRMInterviews
eWay-CRM helps other companies maintain order in customer relations. "A pencil and paper can easily serve you," says Jan Lalinsky, eWay-CRM CEO, in an interview for the Penize.cz server. But from a certain size of the company, it is smarter to have a more capable helper. What else did Penize.cz learn from our CEO?
You know it. Someone is calling, the name is familiar, so is the company. But what do they want to talk to you about? Or in another way: a colleague at work has negotiated something and you have to finish it. It would be useful to have not only the documents, but also the communication with the client, who has talked to someone about what. If you've ever worked in a larger company, you probably know that a system that helps you communicate and manage communication with clients and partners is called CRM, i.e. customer relationship management.
Jan Lalinsky is the CEO of eWay System which develops and offers customer relationship management software integrated into the Outlook e-mail client. Although most emails run under Gmail today, Outlook often remains a clear leader, especially for businesses. "There are still more than enough companies we can reach," says Lalinsky. Add America, where the eWay System has opened a branch, and it's certainly true.
From what size company is CRM interesting? Or from how many clients?
In fact, most companies use CRM, even if they don't know it. CRM is not a software, but a style of work. From the first client, you start to record communication, whether it is e-mails, telephones, whether they are notes you write at the meeting - you can easily use a pencil and paper. The essence of CRM is that you start to record communication and that you start to think pro-client. That you are trying to understand client needs and fulfill them.
The software is then a tool to help you with that. Of course, when you have more clients, the tools need to be more sophisticated. Then, when you have more people in your company who take care of clients, the tools have to be even a little more sophisticated.
Your eWay-CRM tool is an extension of the e-mail client from Microsoft, Outlook. Why Outlook?
The vast majority of companies use Microsoft Outlook as their primary communication tool. They have e-mails in it, some even keep a calendar in it, they manage their contacts. And we believe that it is completely natural and pleasant to extend the tool that you already use and that you know by an agenda that it cannot do. We offer the possibility to share your Outlook with colleagues and the opportunity to see in it a complete database of clients, inquiries or even orders.
You are definitely not the only CRM for Outlook. What makes you better?
We have three competitors. One is Microsoft with its Microsoft CRM, then there are two other companies, one a little bigger and one smaller than us, both in America. So when it comes to CRM in Outlook, the market is really available. Then, of course, the CRM market in general - and if the condition is not necessary for the client that it must be in Outlook and the train does not run through it, then there are thousands of competitors.
Our main advantage is that we are a truly full-fledged CRM that can adapt to different types of companies with different needs. Some tools focus only on a certain area, such as sales, and do not care at all what happens when a business is closed and the order is to be realized. These are their weak points. Or they specialize in selected fields, and if you want to set something different in them, it is no longer possible. Our software is flexible. Plus, it's easy to implement.
Especially since the launch of Gmail, an e-mail client from Google, Outlook is no longer as strong as it once was. Aren't you thinking of expanding beyond Outlook?
No. We have known Outlook for 12 years, we feel good in it and there are still more than enough companies that we can address and that we can satisfy. However, we are considering an extension to Office 365. This is a relatively new set of tools that Microsoft has introduced. Google has revolutionized communication with Gmail and Google Talk over time, but I think Microsoft is getting into it a lot again, and it wants to show and show ‘We're good here‘, come back to us again. And it will be natural for us to gradually extend from Outlook to other Office 365 tools.
However, you also do the online version of CRM, which is not completely dependent on Outlook.
The online version is our response for clients who use Macs. Outlook for Mac also exists, but it's built completely differently and we just won't get our tool into it.
And when I talk about Office 365, they also allow companies to make plugins for them. And it has to be designed for web. So, for us, the online version is also a step one to better integrate with Office 365.
I have noticed that you have a mobile version too.
Yes, eWay-CRM Mobile is a separate application that you download from the App Store or from the Google Play Store and work with as you need.
In addition to being integrated into Outlook, you also continue to connect your CRM with other systems, such as QuickBooks.
We really have a lot of different connections, whether it's QuickBooks or Money, which is another accounting system, we have TeamViewer for image sharing, we are preparing Power BI, it is a reporting platform, we also have the second big reporting platform Tableau, GPS Commander , which is a system for tracking GPS routes in cars, QuickBooks for the US market, WordPress…
And we are an open system, companies integrate what they need into eWay-CRM. Sometimes we only find out when the developer writes to us ‘Hey guys, I need to deal with this or that‘.
Very personal question
You do martial arts, you practice jujutsu. Does it help you in business?
What exactly is your business model like? You offer your products for free on the web.
We have two products. One of them is called eWay-CRM Free and the other eWay-CRM Premium. We offer eWay-CRM Free really for free. But only individuals, not companies, can access it under a single user account. And it's just the Outlook version.
Those who need more, grow and need to share data within the company, move to eWay-CRM Premium, which we offer in various plans. The Basic plan contains only the application in Outlook, then there is the more advanced Essential plan, which includes CRM in Outlook and the mobile application, and then we have the Enterprise plan, which contains CRM in Outlook, the mobile and web application.
You offer products in several countries and in several languages.
We have eWay-CRM localized into English, German, Czech, Slovak, Norwegian and Russian. Of course, we do not prevent anyone from buying anything from anywhere, and it is crucial for us to be able to communicate in English. We target two markets: the United States and the Czech Republic. If a German company speaks English - or maybe Czech, we don't mind - we can comply.
So, you only have the language localization, but you don't provide support in German, for example. Are you planning any further expansion?
The market in the United States is so large and we have such tremendous potential for growth that we do not at the moment.
What would be the percentage - the American market, the Czech market and the others?
The Czech Republic accounts for about 41 percent in terms of the number of clients, in the United States and Canada we have about 25 percent of clients, the rest of Europe is 16 percent of clients, and the remaining 18 percent are clients of our partners we have had historically.
CEO and co-owner of eWay System. Chairman of the Board of the CICERO Endowment Fund. He lectures at the University of Economics in Prague and the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. He graduated with honors from the University of Economics in Prague, majors in informatics.
Originally a self-taught developer. He learned to program from the sixth grade, won several competitions and at the age of 14 earned the first 10 USD when he programmed the software for order management for a parking house. He further developed the program into a full-fledged warehouse management and began selling it to entrepreneurs throughout the Czech Republic while still in high school.
Married, fresh father of a newborn baby girl and a two-year-old boy.
How did you think of expanding to the United States?
We are an ambitious team and we want to do great things. A few years ago, we found out that the Czech Republic is a great market, but it is not one of the largest on a global scale. And because we all speak English in the company, the United States was a logical choice. It's the largest market, and whether we like it or not, trends are emerging in the United States. At least in our field. There is a lot of tough competition, a terribly demanding customer and it forces us to keep working on each other.
But why Kansas City? I would expect you to either go to New York or Silicon Valley…
One client explained that it would help us if we set up an office and business directly in the United States, with an American phone line, hired Americans as native speakers, just to Americanize our business…
America first? That's what Americans need in American business.
They prefer it, I would say. It is not necessary, sooner or later we always tell them that we have our headquarters in Prague. This is more of a first impression, and we Czechs would rather prefer a Czech company than - now I don't want to touch anyone - a company from Uzbekistan, for example. And it's natural.
But back to your question - the client we became friends with in the meantime provided us with an office in Kansas City, where he lives, and became our American consultant, so if clients want, we use his services. In addition, he is a lawyer, so he can help with other issues as well.
Have you ever thought that it would be great to find an investor who would pour money into the company for further development?
You know it would be so nice to grow faster, but I realize that every coin has two faces and a potential investor wouldn't do it for free. Most investors either want some interest back or bring their people to the company and they start promoting their interests that way. We prefer to go slower, even if we make a fifty percent increase some year, but it's definitely not 500 or 5000 percent, the speed we see in those startup unicorns like Spotify and Uber. On the other hand, we maintain the culture of a small company - healthy company without debts, without obligations, without unnecessary pressures - and this gives us the freedom to do things the way we want.