Q1 What is the most valuable career advice you can give to people just starting out?
Choose a career in an area you are passionate about, and think about how you can use your passion to change the world. It might be an enormous dream. It may be many dreams that do not come into focus for a few years, but if you do something you are passionate about you won’t go wrong. Even if you reach a dead-end your passion will drive and motivate you to explore other options. Connecting your passion with your dream can create unbelievable results. Personally I love to code, and my primary drive and dream is simple, to help people.
Q2 What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
The biggest challenge facing leaders today is remembering why they started out in their area of expertise, with some losing the drive and motivation they initially started out with. Many leaders start to deviate from their vision as they fall victim to seeing their goals as dollar signs rather than about more meaningful fulfillment and ensuring the maintenance of their company’s core values.
Despite hardships when I was younger, money has never been a priority or motivation for creating the PLAAK ecosystem. I see money as a means to better the platform and improve it for users, not as something to personally benefit from financially. With international headlines dominated by ICO scandals and scams, it’s easy to confuse potential with unrealistic dreams. During the fall of iron ore prices, local laborers in Western Australia were let go of in droves, which acted as the catalyst for the idea of PLAAK. I kept questioning why recruitment agencies got a 15-35% cut on the labor rate when it should be going to the employee. I was frustrated by the system, and how wrong it all was because these skilled laborers had no other way to market themselves or make money. PLAAK was thought up as the solution.
The freelance app was originally a concept to solely help service providers establish themselves successfully without having to rely on recruitment agencies. Smart contracts seemed the logical solution. That way transactions are secure, but fees would be significantly reduced for both the user and service provider. Once I saw what a difference I could make in the service industry I made the active decision to use the opportunity of creating the app to address other industry issues and connect them together with the cryptocurrency industry, a potentially trillion dollar market largely untapped by a majority of the population. I turned to the finance, business and health sectors, drawing up the draft for the very ecosystem that PLAAK is currently building.
Q3 How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
I lead by example and ensure that I am surrounded by people with the same fiery passion and even bigger dreams. In this way the team motivates each other and pushes the boundaries by thinking of possibilities differently, pushing dreams to be bigger and better. Every employee at PLAAK is aware of my story and the vision behind PLAAK. I wanted to design a market where we decentralize industries that for so long have taken advantage of people. Governments and big companies around the world make decisions for people in a very claustrophobic way. People have a right to choices, and to be in control of their decisions. Every employee has in some way experienced or seen similar inequalities across industries, and share a passion to help change these systems to better people’s lives. We better each other, and this is important as we are both family and a cohesive business team.
Q4 Where do the great ideas come from in your organization? Do you encourage junior members to be creative and share business ideas with senior management?
As CEO I maintain personal contact with every staff member to get constant feedback and encourage creative ideas. Not just limited to meetings, the team feel comfortable to talk amongst each other and come to me and other senior staff with different great and genius ideas. Those that we can, we implement and those that may not fit entirely with what is currently being worked on is not discarded but considered later when it may be more appropriate to implement. I believe in each team member and their passion is always infectious which is fantastic and healthy. It is also easy to work cohesively when there is that mutual respect and understanding that they have joined me on this journey with a positive mindset and with values that align with that of the organization. Most of the best ideas come from my team I will be the first to admit that.
Q5 Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
My mother is the most inspirational woman in my life. She has taught me to be the man I am today, to be a fighter and to never give up on my dreams. There is only one direction you can go when you have started with nothing and that direction is up, but the most important thing is to never forget who you are. Be true and honest to yourself and those around you. The second most inspirational woman in my life would be my wife. She is the driving force behind this journey and gives me the motivational strength to do what I do.
Q6 Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. How did you solve the problem?
Being so passionate about the projects I’m working on can make pulling myself away from the computer hard, particularly when I am coding which is my favourite thing to do. My family however are so incredibly important to me, and seeing the dedication of my mother to myself and my sister when we were young has really instilled the importance of not finding time, but making time for family. It’s funny because no matter how many business meetings or coding work that needs to get done, if I make time to spend with my family it will happen. They say give a busy person more work and they will make the time to do it, and it sounds impossible, but you do it. I coach my son’s football team, attend school events, do school drop offs and pickups and spend quality time with my family. Work-life balance is not a problem if you work hard, have fun doing it and remember your roots and the things that matter in life.
Q7 Have you made unpopular decisions like firing employees and reducing compensation levels? What do you do to keep employee motivation enact after such actions?
Touch wood, I’ve yet to make an “unpopular decision”, most decisions that impact the team are discussed beforehand so that different points of views can be heard and understood. When decisions that are harder are made you fall back on the passion and mutual drive towards the same vision. Rewards and individual appreciation also keeps the team going. It’s important to remind each team member how important they are in their role and how much they are appreciated. We also keep them encouraged by giving them other benefits like ESOP’s, conducting motivational workshops, skill enhancement workshops and so on.
Q8 As leaders do you create work environments that are more competitive or collaborative in nature?
The work environment at PLAAK is always collaborative by nature. Genius ideas and results come with collaborative working. We believe it is important to compete with other organizations not within.
Q9 How do you get buy in from senior management and board on your business ideas?
As mentioned earlier, the best ideas come from my team. Their vision aligns with the vision of the business and they are all motivated to help people. We brainstorm and have a very collaborative senior management who will work on any business idea that can work with and enhance on current projects. Whether they succeed or fail they are always encouraged to keep trying.
Q10 How to increase employee productivity? Do you invest in their wellbeing?
The employees motivate each other with their passion and collaboration. We further that productivity by cultivating their passion and having group meetings where ideas or suggestions are discussed openly. We make sure each member is in a position in the area that they love, and by becoming more of a family than a company we form a comfortable environment where problems can be discussed openly and individuals don’t feel like they have to suppress personal or business issues. We also have benefits which we give to the team including job security, skill enhancement workshops and signs of appreciation. The learning environment is also rewarding in itself, especially in the booming cryptocurrency industry.