Martinus is a successful Slovak scale-up that has its roots in 1990 with a brick and mortar bookstore, and then by incremental steps by first opening an online store that allowed them to open more physical stores. In 2016 they have over 400 employees and 25 million EUR revenue.
Martinus is considered a “lovebrand” for many bookworms in Slovakia. “The Martinus brand has matured with its customers. To be called a brand that people love is an honor for us. Love means building a long-term relationship between employees and our readers. We hope that this relationship can create something good,” says Michal Meško, the co-founder and CEO.
Looking back the company has been shaped by mistakes and missteps. Great challenges of management came when the company started to grow rapidly. Company culture is one of the strongest things they have. Even if it wasn’t written or codified it was in Martinus’ everyday practice of treating employees, and the communication and service to customers.
The selection process of new employees is mostly based on them sharing the right values. Martinus wants to be as smooth as a symphony, everyone playing their individual notes to make an overall harmony. The compatibility in values is crucial.
Interview with Michal Meško, CEO of Martinus (SVK only)
”We now understand that we are not a company for everyone. It is worth to wait for the right person for a few months and play defensively for the time being. We cannot teach someone our values, they have to have them in them. We can teach them skills and everything else.” Martinus didn’t want an investor. They decided to grow step by step, using their own resources.
Martinus experienced new bureaucracy every time they grew to a next level. When they hired more people they needed to adjust processes and also comply with more regulation. “During the scaling period, it is hard to comply with various types of regulation because the company needs to set up new processes and concentrate on developing the business and values for its customers. I would suggest easing the legislation for growth.”