Enjoy the ride — I really think the challenges are the fun part, the stress, the issues, these are the fun part of the game, they are meant to be solved. Nothing is given, enjoy the progress, the learning. What is success — your bank balance or that you inspired people and helped people. The second one is the most important in my opinion as it really gives you motivation and energy.
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rune Sovndahl.
Rune Sovndahl, is the co-founder of Fantastic Services — an international brand with 10+ years of experience that combines technological innovations with bespoke customer care to deliver services for the home, office and garden. Rune Sovndahl, who is Danish, moved to London 20 years ago to study for a BA (Hons) in Business Information Systems Design at South Bank University. Following completion of his degree, he was accepted onto a graduate programme with British Telecom. In 2003 he also established the European Young Professionals committee in London and was involved in its website’s creation as well as in the recruitment of more than 200 new members. Most recently he worked for last minute.com as Head of SEO.
Fantastic Services currently operates on 3 continents — Europe (United Kingdom), Australia and North America (USA). Over 530 franchisees and nearly 2,000 experts deliver services to 50,000+ Fantastic clients globally each month. Over 300 branded vehicles cross the streets of London alone. The company employs around 500 specialists responsible for web design, mobile applications, online and marketing optimization, IT solutions, sales and more. Within 2019 the business reported over £40 million worth of services. Fantastic Services are easily the largest home services provider in London, yet it has been self-financed since the outset.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Denmark. The really interesting thing is that I wasn’t really allowed to work or do any entrepreneurial thing as a kid. So, no lemon-stand franchises for me. I found the beauty of business in my 20s. The thing that really got me interested is how you give other people a chance to shine.
And it was also the process. You can’t stop moving when you’re in business. You have to constantly learn, work, adapt, create. Then you share all this that you did with the people in your organization and that’s how you grow. That’s also how we’re building our franchise model at Fantastic Services. We aim to create a thousand million-pound businesses in the next 5 years.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
Honestly, it all came naturally. There are two types of people in this world, the ones who want to build something and can’t do it working a nine-to-five, and then there are people who like structure and working within organizations. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, just different people.
I like to build things, and I have the energy and drive to do those things. And I want to make a change in the world, so I went the entrepreneurial way.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
There are a lot of people who made me who I am today. My father, Anton Skarlatov who co-founded Fantastic Services with me, and the Fantastic Services team.
As for a story, I won’t ever forget when we had a customer approach us on the street. We were just starting out, so we didn’t have the 50,000 regular monthly customers we have now. And the reason we got a new customer was because we had an immaculately clean van.
We learned from early on that whatever you’re doing you have to go in detail about it.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
The biggest business lesson I learned was with a business that I started when I was younger. It was somewhat similar to Fantastic Services, but it was about finding a music teacher near you. Needless to say it failed miserably. The website was good, but there was no planning to back up the good looks.
The lesson was to always do your research and work out a solid business plan. Know what you’re getting into and limit the amount of time you invest in things that don’t work out. Know your business and the industry you work in. And understand that there’s no such thing as failure. Everything is a lesson.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Success really is about persistence. What people often see is the results of many many years of failures. The only advice people need is to keep their perspective. Understand that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. It takes years of trying and failing and trying and failing until you become successful. Never underestimate the power of longevity and persistence.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One of the books that resonated with me most is “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins. He has this idea that there’s no such thing as good or bad luck. Research also shows that big companies aren’t more lucky than small ones. It’s all about making more of your “luck” than others. It’s all about return on your actions. Even if you fail, it can be a valuable lesson for you in a future project. The book had a huge impact on me not quitting.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
As my grandmother used to say quite often, only boring people get bored. The whole idea of this life is that you are the one to make the most of it and make things happen.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Most interesting thing I work on at the moment is launching ServiceOS and launching that system to more companies which allows them to take advantage of automation and scaling their businesses using IT.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
- I keep an eye on the target, then I realize that any situation that’s thrown at me is just a bump along the way. I never see anything as the end, I only see an opportunity.
- Remember where you came from — when we go into high stress, remember how far you’ve come. You can always go back a few steps. It’s not the end of the world.
- Enjoy the ride — I really think the challenges are the fun part, the stress, the issues, these are the fun part of the game, they are meant to be solved. Nothing is given, enjoy the progress, the learning. What is success — your bank balance or that you inspired people and helped people. The second one is the most important in my opinion as it really gives you motivation and energy.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
I’m a guy who likes adventure and shark diving. One of the things I always do when something looks scary — I look at other situations I’ve been in and came out of, and I just compare them. You should train your mind to deal with fear. It’s like an imaginary muscle that will help a lot.
Fear is false expectations appearing real. It’s all based on a future outcome of something you don’t know yet.
Fear is your friend. It’s the ability that gives you the extra power to think faster, to come up with solutions faster, to solve big questions/issues faster, as it takes you out of the norm, out of your comfort zone.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
I don’t actually and I’ll tell you why. I know there are tones of them out there but I don’t. I go for a walk. When things get too much I go for a walk. Some people might achieve this with breathing, meditation but I do it with walking.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
Yes, I do. What I do is I make myself accountable for the target that I’m supposed to reach. When you are accountable it automatically creates focus. The real true focus is keeping an eye on the target and being accountable.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
There’s the classic “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. This is a must read in my opinion. The only thing I would add is passion. This is what our generation wants more out of life than just a bank balance, something to be passionate about.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
The best way to stop bad habits in my opinion is holding yourself accountable. We come up with lame excuses, we are the ones who continue bad habits knowingly. If you hold yourself accountable for your actions and the outcome, you will definitely break more of your bad habits automatically and we’ll be led into the right path. Greatness is not achieved by doing the same wrong thing over and over again.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
If we get into the flow we often break it. People don’t appreciate the power of flow and you have to be able to be flexible with your schedule in order to achieve that. Flow is when you’re thinking freely, so you have to understand when you are in the flow. It’s more about maintaining it rather than achieving it.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Accountability. Accountability for everything we do. Our work, the planet, our actions, etc. Every action you take should do the right things, for the people, for the environment. When you pass by a plastic bottle outside, while walking in a park for example, you have to pick it up. Understand that as people, we are all accountable, we are responsible and there is no one to do it for us. And don’t blame others, society, the government, etc., be accountable for your own actions.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
The person who invented the idea charging per minute for phone calls. The most fictitious inventions ever made. To be able to understand the mind that came up with this idea, that generated the industry, that would be great.
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