Lift Your Legacy: Balancing your desire to work like a beast while still maintaining your sanity and relationships with Alon Rajic and Rabbi Jacob Rupp

What I try to do in order to lead my company is make sure that everyone, whether full-time employee, freelancer or contractor, feels a strong sense of unity towards the company’s identity and goals. The way I do so is by, first and foremost, treating everyone in a fair and respectful manner, being very transparent […]

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What I try to do in order to lead my company is make sure that everyone, whether full-time employee, freelancer or contractor, feels a strong sense of unity towards the company’s identity and goals. The way I do so is by, first and foremost, treating everyone in a fair and respectful manner, being very transparent about what’s going on at any given moment, and tying all employees’ compensation to the company’s success.

Alon Rajic is the founder of Finofin LTD, a company that creates data-oriented comparison sites, mainly in the personal and corporate finance spaces.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Shortly after my army service, which is compulsory in Israel, I began working as a freelance translator. I always had a way with words, and my English level was fair enough at the time to work for some local amatuer-level website translations. I wanted to improve my skills, and I thought the best way of doing that would be through applying for a full-time role somewhere.

I was accepted for a young company named Webpals with a staff of less than five people at the time, and thought I will be slowly pursuing my goal — becoming a fully proficient translator and wordsmith. What happened in practice is that several weeks after I started working there, they had a sudden vacancy for the role of an SEO person which the company’s owners urged me to take. So I did.

As soon as I started doing it, I immediately fell in love. It was a diversified and challenging role that allowed me to master a myriad of skills in different areas. I also experienced a sizable success through some of my projects, which helped the company grow at a staggering pace. Soon enough, I had a team, and within several years I was managing several teams. Later on, I was appointed as the Head of SEO. The company had a staff of 150 employees at the time, 50 of which were in the SEO department.

As Webpals continued thriving and even floated on the Alternative Investment Market in London as XLMedia PLC at a valuation of about £200m, I felt like I need a new professional challenge. In early 2015, I left Webpals/XLMedia and started Finofin LTD.

Finofin LTD creates data-oriented comparison sites, mainly in the personal and corporate finance spaces. We run multiple websites in multiple verticals that ultimately help readers have a better understanding of certain financial products. Our flagship site, helps people find international money transfer providers fitting their own requirements — in fact, it has helped individuals and businesses move more than £300m since its inception.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When I started Finofin LTD, I had no intention of focusing on one particular industry. What I had in mind is that the company will be creating several dozens of smaller-scale websites in various niches in personal finance. In each of these niches, I wanted to secure a small piece of the market and move on to the next project., the company’s first website, planned to be one of many more to follow. International money transfers seemed like an extremely narrow niche, and I believed based on my research, that it had much potential.

Unexpectedly, we have experienced relative success right from the get-go. The popular comparison sites back then did not pertain to the customers’ real needs and requirements — they were too fixated on comparing the current FX rates, and they neglected an even more important aspect — information! Prospective clients wanted to be fully informed of the current foreign currency providers available on the market, hear their backstories, and learn more about their clientele. Money Transfer Comparison provided that, and more, and readers seemed to have appreciated that. Within less than a year the company became profitable and within 1.5 to 2 years, became one of the industry leaders.

As a result of the sudden success, the company shifted its focus towards in whole, and the original plan of creating multiple websites across multiple industries was halted for 2.5 years. Through that experience, I learned how extremely dynamic can small businesses be and how important it is to have a flexible mindset.

What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?

The greatest professional challenge that I have encountered was the first year of Finofin. I had limited resources available to me, as the company was self-funded, and I had professional gaps in multiple areas. I was left with no choice but to delve into areas in which I had very little knowledge or experience, but were necessary in order to keep the business functioning.

What I did to overcome these hurdles and improve my knowledge to a satisfactory level was simply trial and error. Early on in the business, I have decided that I would rather learn via experience and constantly move forward. I accepted and even embraced the fact mistakes will be made.

I hired professional help whenever I needed, but I also made sure to be highly involved with everything we were doing. I made sure contractors and employees carefully explain their reasonings and considerations whenever they performed a task relating to these areas-to-improve.

What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?

Leadership is the ability to inspire others to follow your footsteps. I think a real leader is someone whose actions speak loudly and firmly so that others feel privileged to be following him.

What I try to do in order to lead my company is make sure that everyone, whether full-time employee, freelancer or contractor, feels a strong sense of unity towards the company’s identity and goals. The way I do so is by, first and foremost, treating everyone in a fair and respectful manner, being very transparent about what’s going on at any given moment, and tying all employees’ compensation to the company’s success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father, Reuven Rajic, was a brilliant manager and my source of inspiration — both personally and professionally. He was the Chief Accountant Officer of a medium-large firm in Israel, and his role was very challenging — both professionally, and in terms of dealing with employees as a manager.

After I finished high-school, I got a summer job at that company that employed my father. It was a temporary role to sort out inventories, nothing to exciting or profitable, but definitely served its purpose of biding my time until I was due for an army draft. I was teamed up with several more 18 year olds, and one 50-something year old guy.

When I became friendly with this 50-something years old guy, he shared his unfortunate situation with me. He was working at that company for 25 years as an electrician. As a part of a re organization process, his old role was cancelled, and he was shifting around various temporary roles. He told me that he fears this may be his last temporary role because the company has run out of them. He also disclosed his personal situation with me — he was a fresh divorcee, and that comes with significant financial burdens.

I explained his situation with my father, and hoped he could help him out one way or the other. What my father graciously decided to do was to take him over to the accounting department and teach him how to fulfill his role, in spite of having no prior knowledge in this field. The extra effort on his behalf, training and managing someone who was less than qualified for the role, was only secondary to his main concern towards that person’s well-being.

Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?

It was, generally speaking, not too difficult for me to fit my life into my business. I am used to working long hours, working on weekends, and carrying my laptop with me on vacations. I am also used to disorderly sleep, so I don’t mind working in several different time zones in parallel.

The only thing I was struggling with was the out-of-office meetings, locally and abroad. It not only gets you sidetracked, but it is also extremely time consuming and often unhelpful. I overcame that obstacle but simply being more critical about the meetings I attend. As a rule of thumb I do not attend any conference whatsoever and spend less than 20% of my time on out of office meetings.

Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?

I once thought that the more successful my business became, the less time I would have to spare on other things. I have witnessed way too many entrepreneurs slowly get out of shape, or watch their social connections crumble, as their businesses grew.

I don’t think that way anymore, though. It’s true that at times you need to spend more hours working than before, but you can maintain the same work/life balance as before if you are really committed to it. It’s all a question of priorities. Also, If you can’t get 2 or 3 free hours a day after work, you’re working too much and, likely, burning yourself out.

Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?

  1. Keep track of how much time is being spent on work. Many entrepreneurs don’t bother doing that. They leave their offices just to have a business phone call on the car, followed by more work at home. Remember that working more than 14 or 15 hours a day for a prolonged period of time can and will be counterproductive, and will obviously make a dent in your personal life.
  2. Do small, methodological breaks from work. After completing a task or finishing a meeting, go and do something you like for 5–10 minutes to clear up your head. Physical activity would be perfect in that scenario, but anything that makes you happy will suffice.
  3. Ask yourself what sincerely brings you most joy at the end of the day. For some people, the answer to that would be spending time with their families, for others it may be a certain hobby, while some would opt for travelling. Once you have a better understanding of yourself, it can help you plan better to achieve a balanced work/life plan in which the highest priority item is your own happiness.
  4. If you are a real workaholic, like many or most entrepreneurs, you have to keep in mind that most people aren’t like that. Your family, friends, and employees have their own pace and balance to life which is, in all odds, is more leaning towards personal development and enjoyment rather than professional success in comparison to you. To maintain healthy relationships with these people and grant their satisfaction, you can’t force your views and style of living upon them. Once you accept and cherish that fact, and take your environment into consideration, your work/life balance will shift closer to theirs — which is, by all means, a healthier way of life.
  5. Set yourself goals and milestones for your personal life, similarly to what you do at work. If you would have concrete goals to be achieved in predetermined timeframes, it will force you to spend more times into your personal development (which is at least as important as your business goals).
  6. What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.

I get a sense of accomplishment when I get a positive feedback from our websites’ readers, describing how much one of products helped them. People rarely find the time to say “thank you” but when they do, they sure do make a difference by doing so.I feel particularly proud if someone compares us directly to some of our well-off super-established competitors, and concludes we provide better value than them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am a firm believer in equality and think there should be a movement out there fighting for the rights of the underprivileged employees across the globe, making sure that mega corporations aren’t turning cheap labour into modern slavery. It’s true that there’s a lot more awareness to this issue than before, but there’s more to it than the Foxconn suicides; even the USA is slowly turning into a no-vacation nation because employers make employees fear of utilizing their vacation days. Not only working unreasonably long hours and taking no off-time is counterproductive, it has serious implications on society that go beyond the financial scope.

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