Somehow, I just became so much more creative while I was traveling, and that together with less time on my hands do sit around and “think I was busy,” led me to increase my own output and do the changes needed to get to the next level.
Johannes Larsson is an investor, blogger and digital entrepreneur in the Fintech sphere. CEO and founder of Financer.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thanks for letting me be part of this. I’m always eager to share what I’ve learnt along my 11 year journey. That’s really what made me successful, listening to other people further ahead sharing their stories, so I’m happy to do the same.
I’ve been building my empire one piece at a time since the age of 15. I never had a thing for school, so I knew where to put my focus early on in life. I was happy I did.
Today I run a successful business with as we speak a team of 37 brilliant people, and the last 12 months, we have almost 10xed our revenue.
Our main project is a financial comparison website that helps people to make better financial decisions and find the best products within finance. We’re operating in 26 markets and very soon will be one of the biggest worldwide.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
This is more of an ironic story, but I still look back on this often to remind myself of how to really grow and get to next level whenever I get confused about hard vs smart work.
I used to have an office back in Malta, worked 12 hour days, and looked over my employees shoulders to make sure they were on max output. I got bored and didn’t feel very free. I wanted to travel but I couldn’t. I thought my business would take a turn for the worst if I didn’t gave it my full attention. Oh, how wrong I was.
I realized the whole reason why I wanted to have my own business in the first place was to have freedom. And now I was back behind bars. I decided that I’ll go on a 6 month trip around the world. I ended the contract on the office, let go of the employees, and got rid of stuff that weighed me down. It felt like I was taking a step back, and that it that would be the worst business decision ever. But it turned out to be one of the best. Now that I was so busy and didn’t have much time on my hands, I was forced to find other, more effective ways to run my business.
This is where I started to think in terms of scalability, systematization and automation. I also realized I’ll never grow my business being a one man operation. Somehow, I just became so much more creative while I was traveling, and that together with less time on my hands do sit around and “think I was busy”, led me to increase my own output and do the changes needed to get to the next level.
I oiled the machinery, built a system to reduce 90% of the administrative work, and hired assistants and many new remote based people in my company throughout those 6 months of traveling, many of which are still with me today.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
It haven’t been a big issue, but I’ve always been more of an introverted kind of person. That has it’s upside too, but being a businessman, you need to be good at networking and influencing people. My struggles have been to become more balanced, and get more of the extroverted personality out of me. I believe being 50/50 is a powerful combination, and that’s what I’ve been striving for.
The best way to balance yourself is to hang out with the opposite of what you are, so in my case, more extroverted people. Even though it wasn’t always comfortable at the time, it’s certainly a necessity if you want to make more permanent change in personality — you are your peer group.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
To be honest, I’ve never considered myself a people-person naturally. It’s something I’ve learnt over time as my team has been growing. I’m a very pragmatic person by nature, and that usually means I just tell like it is, and sometimes think in a very linear way.
This has great benefit but also does not work with all people, and it has forced me to become more diplomatic and sensitive to different personality types. I can’t think of anything else that has contributed so much to my personal development than being a leader.
I believe that many people have a strong urge to lead. Not necessarily leading a whole company, but lead someone or something, in some way. I’ve encouraged that in my business, and we have a very high level of absolute responsibility. People are essentially their own leaders from the get go, and once they’re comfortable with that, they start leading others.
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?
I’ve had many mentors that helped to bring about all the success I’ve received. I don’t really have someone particular, but I always made sure to surround myself with people who were a level above me, in terms of what I wanted to accomplish with my business. I make it a priority to constantly meetup with entrepreneurs and discuss ideas and visions.
In this time and age, we can surround ourselves with mentors everywhere we go. Making it a daily habit to read books, listen to podcasts and watch interviews, I believe has been the factor that has contributed the most to my success.
I think many people who’re starting out underestimate the power of mentors. I surely did. There’s many people out there who have been spent their whole life trying to solve one of the life puzzles. The same puzzles that we’re trying to solve. So of course we should absorb what they have to say.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
I was lucky enough to start my business very young, and I really had no life at that point. So it was easy to integrate business and make it the number one priority right from the start. It was easy because I was living in my parents apartment, had no bills to pay, and no real responsibility, except school — which I never really saw as a responsibility.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
I find the opposite. When I didn’t have success, I was more hungry for it, and spent little to no time on my personal life. As my success became bigger, I started to care more about the other areas of life, such as health and social life. After all, being successful doesn’t mean being wealthy, and it’s useless without being healthy.
I also learned that success is highly affected by your well being and how you take care of yourself. There’s days when I wake up and just feel — I don’t wanna stare into a screen right now. Then, at that point, going for a few hours of surf in the sea may very well be the most productive thing I could do.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
1. Don’t separate personal and work life too much. In the end, it’s just different things that has to be done. What’s more important is the efficiency in which you get things done. This is what we have to improve and work on. If you can get more stuff done, and more importantly, become good at prioritizing what really is important, then life becomes easier.
2. I try not to struggle too much with “balance”, because it’s very difficult to be completely balanced all the time. I’ve been in a place where I would focus more on my business, but then feeling bad at the same time for not focusing on my health. And then another period I’ve been less involved with business, and would feel bad about that as well.
Sometimes you’ll have to put more focus on your business, that’s just how it is, but then you need to have periods when you put more focus on your family, health and other aspects of life.
3. In contrary to what many leaders suggest, I don’t believe in the idea of having set work hours. Anything that makes you less flexible will contribute to a more rigid, boring life. Become a master at prioritization. What needs your attention at this moment, and focus 100% on that.
4. Create time. Instead of saying “I wish there were more hours in a day”, optimize your schedule. Never be in waiting mode. If you’re waiting, you’re wasting. Use that time to go forward. Always be ready to solve problems, listen to a book, meditate, send a nice message to a loved one. There’s so much time that can be created if you take absolute responsibility over where your time is spent.
5. Avoid stress at all costs. Learn the difference between hurry and haste. If you’re in a hurry, you’re not going to be effective. Haste on the other hand, is simply finding the easiest, most effective way to accomplish something. Stress wears you down and decrease your brain performance. If ever in a state of stress, then drop whatever you’re doing, and wind down until you’re feeling relaxed. The most effective way to get things done is to always feel good — that’s where you can get into flow (which is really the most productive state).
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
There’s no better feeling in the world when you just did what you thought was impossible for a long time. When you took a leap of faith and proved yourself wrong. That feeling when you just think “oh damn, everything is possible”.
If you can combine that with doing good for others, then that’ll probably be the best sense of accomplishment.
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 would like to inspire a moment that promotes performance based work opportunities. Work is a big part of life, and doesn’t have to be “just a duty” that people solely do to make a living. Making people feel needed and rewarding them for their talents can give such great sense of accomplishment and may improve many lives, and increase the overall creation of value globally.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
Send a private message to me on Instagram @mrjola.
Also LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/larssonjohannes/