“Fitting life in business or business in life hasn’t been very difficult because of the support of my wife. It’s amazing and super-intuitive how my wife could always know when I am dealing with stressful times, when I was extremely busy and needed to be left alone. They say- Behind every successful man, there is a woman- and that couldn’t be more true than my case.”
Ketan Kapoor is the CEO and co-founder of Mettl, a HR technology company and leading talent measurement firm that enables businesses to make precise people decisions in Talent Recruitment, management, and training across industry verticals.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
The drive to do something of my own and to build my own business from the ground up, no matter how small the venture is, has always motivated me from within. That’s the reason why I have always been associated with a lot of startups throughout my professional journey.
To give wings to my dreams, I wanted to have a hands-on-experience and the real-world learning of what it takes to build a company from scratch and that’s why I joined a startup called Talisma as my first job and company. Today when I look at it retrospectively, I realize that Talisma helped me internalize a lot of attitudes, habits, skills, and behaviors like patience, perseverance, undying positivity and relentless discipline, and never-ending work ethics to be able to do full justice to the future brainchild that would be Mettl. All of my ambitions finally materialized when I met Tonmoy, my co-founder one fine day in 2009 and we connected on our passions, what fuels our energies, and the strong camaraderie over our business tête-a-tête.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I think it has to be around the first employee we hired. It was the time when we were struggling really hard to get people onboard and were mostly listening to ‘NOs’ from the people we were contacting. Somebody suggested to take the help of our juniors in the college and to hire them as interns. One of my friends’ younger brother had failed 6 of his semester-end examinations and was asked by the authorities to repeat the year and he was taking his time sleeping over the idea of repeating a whole year. That’s when we asked him to join us. His eagerness to join us enthralled us and we were really happy when he took the next train to be with us. He stuck with us for about 5 years and contributed in various positions and over time grew to be one of the finest sales guys we ever hired.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
When you are hiring for a startup, the biggest challenge happens to be building a team from the scratch. Everyone you approach comes with their set of doubts regarding timely paychecks and stability when joining a startup. You can‘t expect people to leave their cushioned jobs, take a salary cut, and exchange plush cubicles for garages that too way back in 2009 when startups were a thing meant for outliers and certainly not a lucrative option to go for.
I mapped out nearly everyone I knew from anywhere- phone contact, friends, acquaintances, relatives, seniors, managers, and colleagues and sent them messages soliciting their interest in working with us. The technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today and we had a difficult time networking and communicating with a lot of people with different experience levels and expertise which also included almost all 2nd- degree connections on LinkedIn to see if we could get anybody onboard.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Leadership, for me, is getting the maximum out of people. If you help people realize their own worth, bring not-on-the-surface abilities to the front and center, and give them the leeway to explore their strengths and weaknesses- you are a leader for them whether or not you have a leadership position.
While different people have different leadership styles, the collaborative style suits me the most, derives the optimum out of people, and has so far worked extremely well for me. I believe in motivating and inspiring people to a single organizational vision and tie back their own objectives and passions to that vision. Allowing people to take on ownership for projects and soliciting and implementing their advice make them see the work as their own venture. You will see the magic happen when you fortify your belief in their power by setting clear and specific expectations for them and be generous in appreciation and rewards. A major part of effective leadership comes with the understanding of the difference between when you need to be present for them as a support and when to give them the freedom to run independently finding their own set of challenges and solving them by working around their limitations and possibilities.
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?
Mettl wouldn’t have been here if not for my wife. It would be an understatement to say my wife was the real person who started the company while I enjoyed the spotlight. She has been a constant pillar of support, constructive criticism, lots of appreciation, and finance.
Her grit, perseverance, and patience made Mettl see the light of the day. She sacrificed a lot for the family, helped sustain the family by earning a livelihood, and kept the home fires burning. They say- Behind every successful man, there is a woman– and that couldn’t be more true than my case.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
Fitting life in business or business in life hasn’t been very difficult because of the support of my wife. It’s amazing and super-intuitive how my wife could always know when I am dealing with stressful times, when I was extremely busy and needed to be left alone, and when I could possibly take the time out before she asked for anything. An entrepreneurial journey is extremely difficult and demands a lot from an individual but if you have good number of people around you who support you then it’s a relatively easy ride.
My entrepreneurial journey has taught me a lot and I have known a lot of personal dimensions that I didn’t know exist. I have essentially matured as an individual but it’s always good to know that nothing in the world would prepare you for this journey and you got to have a certain degree of passion backed by the right reasons to pull it off successfully.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
The answer is in affirmative. There comes a stage in your business when you are handling almost everything and a lot of stakes are dependent on you. Employing more hands isn’t a possibility because of lack of resources and eventually, you tend to take more and more responsibilities upon yourself to avoid seams in the process. This holds especially true for the period when our business was taking a leap from $0.5 to 5M USD. This periods was the toughest in terms of the demands on my time and it was nearly impossible to give equal justice to to my personal life.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
- Be Honest and Fair: The reason this finds top spot here is when you are free from the burden of consequences, you can perform better. And there’s only one way you can be free from fear of consequences and time invested in it- that is to do your task in the most honest and fair way you can. Always be honest to people, your work, the systems, processes, and tools, and you will have more time to devote to your work leaving you enough time for the personal life as well.
- Create Able Leadership who you can Trust: Having people in your organization who you can trust to take up ownership and accountability of their work will reduce your burden to take care of everything. When you are sure that different organizational objectives are being taken care of by respective teams and leaders, you can be focused on what you have to do rather than expending time to check if normal routine has been taken care of.
- Take Difficult Decisions Quickly and Without Emotions: Your decisions have to be free from any emotions. The moment you start giving emotions the space to validate your decisions, you will end up being distraught and indecisive. If you have planned that by 6–7 in the evening you are going to leave office and spend time with family, emotions of doing ‘just a little more’ shouldn’t be a constraint. It works the other way around too. When you have decided to start a project, your emotions to spend a little more time with family shouldn’t affect you.
- Do a Few Things, but do it Excellently: Giving 50% to two different things at the same time will always hamper your successes compared to giving 100% to a single task. Always remember to choose a few things which are high on your priority and will help other things in the future and do them really well. Leave the rest of the work for the future when you have succeeded in the initial work you had chosen for yourself which will pave the way for greater motivation and satisfaction from your work and help you find a greater meaning in your work.
- Make Health your Priority: A small investment in exercising goes a long way in building your strengths, resilience, and endurance levels to take on increased ownership and responsibilities. Do what you like in exercising- meditation, pilates, or zumba- the choice is yours but never ever compromise health for your work.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride?
The greatest satisfaction comes from my ability to impact the world in my own way. When I am able to help people find meaning in their work and provide them extreme satisfaction in their work through various endeavors at Mettl, I feel a sense of great pride that motivates me further to make Mettl a great place to work at.
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 think we are consuming far more and at far more speed than is sustainable by the planet. It is more pronounced for countries like India with a vast population and a lot of carbon footprint per square of the area.
Every year, thick and harmful smog covers the area of the capital and NCR (National Capital Region) where our main corporate office is located. One conquest, if I had the chance to inspire, would be to reduce the pollution level in any way I can. It’s not as easy as the words ‘reduce pollution’ are but needs a lot of groundwork and research before any practical solution can be brought to the table.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
LinkedIn is the best way for people to reach me as I make it a point to check it almost every day.
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Medium magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live