Albert Rybacki, the owner of 3DBinPacking.com, reveals his secret formula for being successful in business. Are intelligence and ambition enough to be successful? Is money the most important? Do you need to set long-term goals and determine strategies to achieve them? Or maybe you’d better focus on what you love doing and are best at?
You are a member of the Mensa Poland association. What is the spread between your score and 130 IQ points?
Albert Rybacki: I have passed the qualification test for the Mensa Society with a positive result which is at the upper end of the scale. To check precisely, I would have had to take additional tests which I’ve never bothered to do.
Does intelligence help in life? I guess it does in programming, doesn’t it?
In programming, definitely yes. A good programmer must efficiently deal with a high level of abstraction, and have a vivid imagination at the same time. Such a combination of features allows you to create advanced algorithms and implement them usefully to improve specific tasks. You would assume that it is like in real life, but actually it sometimes goes different ways. There are moments when I would like to have a simple ON/OFF button at hand so I could, if necessary, turn off logic functions and everything would be much easier. And for sure more pleasant … (laughs)
You graduated as the best student of your academic year. Have you always been an “intelligent child”, a top student?
Definitely not. Anyway, the stories of many Mensa members certify that high intelligence doesn’t always play out so well at school. School can sometimes be boring, sometimes oppressive, which may result in student’s withdrawal, and which consequently doesn’t have a positive impact on your grades. So seriously, “I activated” only during my studies when my ambition was triggered so I felt it might be really nice to achieve something in my life, to put my mark on something.
You started as one of many programmers beginning with…
The first thing I developed by myself was a simple CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for customer management of my then-active computer network. It was a minor network for a housing estate, which offered radio internet just when this service was entering the market.
You are not a beginner in the business world: before you started 3DBinPacking.com, you have had a few years shot with running your own company. Why did you decide to work for someone else?
I started my own business as a teenager. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not so much so. I ran various types of business – I began with the production of hamster homes which were sold in pet stores. For a short while I was dealing with the production of gadgets for car tuning and construction work.
The first activity involving my software education was, as I mentioned before, related to managing a small network. I made the decision to work as a programmer in an online store as I wanted to improve my programming skills and at the same time I had to earn my living somewhere. That’s how I became somebody’s employee. At that time I didn’t have any better plan for myself.
I got sucked completely into programming. I worked a lot and learned a lot. After a while I felt so “powerful” that when the opportunity to cooperate with a British IT company appeared, I didn’t hesitate. I knew that it would be another possibility to learn something new. And a chance to get the funds I needed to develop my own project – I had already developed the first version of the “packer”.
What triggered your decision to give your own business another shot?
It was a coincidence. The online store in which I worked for began employment optimisation – you know how that can end up. So, thinking about my future, I started to create my own product which was a “packer”. I had high hopes for it. And I decided to start another business.
Why did you start working actually on packing? A stroke of genius? Or maybe “only” the effect of market research and of a search for undeveloped niches?
It was a matter of ambition. The store had a problem with packaging optimisation which I decided to solve. This is how the first, yet very primitive version of the packaging algorithm appeared. After I had left the online store, I decided to develop my packaging algorithm. I thought that as we needed it in the store which I had worked for earlier, that we were not the only ones. Especially, as we were looking for such a solution, but to no avail. So, I launched my first platform that used an early version of my algorithm. This service was completely free of charge and provided only in Polish. It attracted a lot of interest. Users sent comments and suggested new solutions which I used in progressive modifications and improvements of the system.
There is a meme that’s gone viral with the words of Albert Einstein: “If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.” How would you explain the substance of 3DBinPacking.com in the most possible way? “Sir, what is it all about actually? And what exactly do you do? … “
Very good question (laughs). We have recently spent a lot of time developing simple names and legible, comprehensible descriptions of our products. We have learned many times that technical jargon is, in the best case, a good way to put a potential customer to sleep. So, what do we do? We develop programs that allow you to optimise the packaging process. It means providing such an arrangement of the goods in a package, on a pallet, on a storage rack, in a truck that as little space as possible is occupied. Our algorithms are there to relieve users of a strenuous and error-prone calculations. They provide results incomparably quicker than human can and also create instructions with pictures for packers. So, using our algorithms results in significant savings while storing, packing and transporting goods.
You started out on your own. Now you have your own team to help. What do you value most in them?
The most important thing for me is that we are a really cool team. I make sure that all team members know what they are doing, have clearly defined tasks and feel responsible for the best possible performance. We work in a relaxed atmosphere. I do my best to make everybody feel noticed, appreciated and treated with respect. I don’t have the “Founding Father” complex, so I don’t think that I do or could do everything perfectly or the best. Our strength lies in cooperation, not competition or in attempts to dominate others.
When I am looking for new people for our team, it is very important to me what kind of person a candidate is and how such a person will fit into our environment. I am of the opinion that having a necessary minimum of intelligence and showing a willingness to work allow you to learn everything. However, it is very difficult to change the personality. And certainly you cannot adjust your personality to external expectations.
Do you know what is the result of a Google search for “Albert Rybacki”?
I have to admit that I have not checked … (laughs)
The first entry is a note about Albert Rybacki, a professional boxer from Katowice. Would you like to change it?
I don’t mind, but it is not important to me. I don’t feel the need to head for the winner’s circle, or to be at the top of any ranking. Sport and competition never attracted me much. I prefer to create something new than to fight for a place on the podium.
What then was the main motivation for starting 3DBinPacking.com?
First of all, I wanted to have a livelihood, as well as to enjoy independence and freedom of decision, like everyone else. Secondly, I wanted to focus on developing the system – on a job that gives me a sense of achievement. I feel so good just knowing that we contribute our time, creativity and enthusiasm into something that is useful to other people. Having realised that I managed to create a very effective packaging algorithm it is a strong motivation for further development.
How would you finish the sentence: In 10 years time …
What will happen in 10 years’ time? I don’t know. And probably I’m not alone … (laughs) I assume that I will keep continuing the development of 3DBinPacking.com, and I will launch several new projects, and I will enlarge the team. I don’t create business strategies. Neither do I plan how my bank balance will look in 10 years’ time. The most important thing is that I can do something that I love in good company, which is my passion.