Q1 What is the most valuable career advice you can give to people just starting out?
Build a network! No matter how good your idea or project is, without a good business network you get nowhere. In addition I would like to say: “never give up”! Everyone who is starting a business will face a lot of disappointments on their way to success. But the key thing is to see them as learning curves: they are part of the game, and make you stronger in the long run.
Q2 What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
If I have to mention only one thing it would definitely be “adapting”. The world is changing rapidly and its key to adapt to things like new technologies. In reality this isn’t always easy. When leading a company there are already so many things that need to be done, that you need to take care of, that you really need to make time to keep updated (and adapt to) all new things this rapidly changing (digital) world has to offer.
Q3 How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
Well, before ideas become reality we simply arrange a voting round. Every vote has the same value no matter if your are CEO or when it’s your first day. The idea behind this is that everybody looks at things from a different perspective. And even though I am the boss, that doesn’t mean that all my ideas are perfect. Every opinion counts. And yes, in very rare situations I need to make some final decisions, but generally speaking we make group decisions only.
But I have to mention that we are not a multinational with thousands of employees spread across different offices. It’s one of the benefits of having a small team where everybody sees each other face-to-face on a daily base.
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?
We focus on a informal atmosphere where everyone is treated the same: it doesn’t matter if you are high or low in the chain, everybody puts in his own value and expertise. We don’t like to offer personalized incentives when it comes to ideas and things like that. We take a different approach, meaning if an idea leads to success, everybody gets rewarded. We do this is because an idea alone is not enough… to turn an idea into success we need the input and expertise of the entire team. It is never a one-man’s job.
Q5 Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe some one who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
No really to be honest. There are hundreds of people from my network which had an impact. I believe my strength is to be open to everyone’s ideas and opinions. Sure I admire some specific people, but in general I admire a lot of people. I try to listen to them and try to save everything interesting I hear into my overloaded brain 🙂
Q6 Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. How did you solve the problem?
Well, I am struggling with it as we speak. Have been for years. I always try to combine business with pleasure but when you are a workaholic my experience is that it always has a negative impact on your personal/social life.
Generally speaking when people have a regular job they are “finished” when they leave the office. However when the business is yours you can’t just turn off the switch. It’s in your mind 24/7, even when you are socializing, when you are on a party or during other social activities.
In a certain way you often become very egoistic. For instance i often caught myself thinking that meetups with friends, family or whatever are a waste of my time… well, not really a waste as I do enjoy them, but in my mind time means money, so when you spend time with them I sometimes think: “damn, every minute I am here I am loosing money”.
But the last years I have learned one of the most important things in my life: success doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t share it with the people you love. So in short, work isn’t everything! Life is short so even if you are trying to build an imperium, make sure you take the time to enjoy all other things life has to offer as well!
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?
Not really. I am a loyal guy who takes care for the people that have put their trust in me. Luckily I haven’t been in the situation yet that I had to fire people that I love. However I did have to fire some people over the years, but as I only fire people that have disappointed me a lot of times, it’s not something I feel bad for. It’s part of business.
Collaborative for sure! Financial incentives and things like that are always based on teamwork. Sure sometimes if people deserve it you can put them in the spotlight and spoil them with some little presents, but overall speaking I don’t like it when people try to distinguish themselves at all costs with as sole goal to be better than the rest.
Q9 How do you get buy in from senior management and board on your business ideas?
We do not work with a management board. We have a pretty small, informal business structure. If people want to move up the ladder, they simply ask and we decide (with the whole team) what path to choose.
Q10 How to increase employee productivity? Do you invest in their wellbeing?
It might sound strange but we do this by offering them as much freedom as possible. So they can decide when they work, how long they work, when they want to take a day off or holiday. We simply discuss what we expect from them upfront and as long as they deliver in the end they are 100% free to decide where and when they complete the job.
Why should you force people into a nine to five job while they are more productive if you let them decide for their own. For instance when you allow people to start later – so they are able to bring their kids to school – they feel heard, they are happy and in the end that gives a positive boos to their productivity.
sure, some jobs require somebody fulltime at the office. In that case we simply
leave the solution to them: the employees create the working schedule
themselves by cooperating with each other. It creates a feeling of freedom,
responsibility and best of all: it saves the management a lot of time 🙂