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“Remember there will be things you can’t control.” With Liviu Tanase

Remember there will be things you can’t control. Focus on what you can. You just have to accept that there will always be things that come up that there’s nothing you can do about. In those situations, you have to pay attention to what you can change or remedy and then do it. There will be […]

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Remember there will be things you can’t control. Focus on what you can. You just have to accept that there will always be things that come up that there’s nothing you can do about. In those situations, you have to pay attention to what you can change or remedy and then do it. There will be times when you have to be patient and wait for a situation to change.

As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liviu Tanase.

Liviu is a serial entrepreneur and telecommunications executive with more than 16 years of experience. He is the founder and CEO of email validation and deliverability platform ZeroBounce. In this conversation, we covered his beginnings in business and the steps he and his team took to ensure the success of the company — even in difficult times.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Iremember as a very young boy the first time I saw a computer, and it was love and fascination at first sight! At that time, just owning a computer was an accomplishment in and of itself. As I grew, one thing led to another with my passion for computers and, by the age of 18, I knew I wanted to share my love of computers with others and so I started selling computers.

Not long after, I founded a telecom company selling business-to-business internet connections and services and in doing so, I started to become interested in email. Email seemed to be an untapped world with unlimited opportunities. However, it still had shortcomings. It should be safer, more effective. My partners and I realized the issues of safety and efficacy were both real… AND also something we could help solve!

In 2014, I moved from Europe to the United States and started developing ZeroBounce to solve these issues. It launched as an email validation and list enhancement service and has quickly evolved into an email validation, scoring and deliverability platform. As we’ve grown, we now spend a great deal of time working with our customers to make sure ZeroBounce is the best and most relevant platform for them.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take-aways’ you learned from that?

There are many to pick from! I think many entrepreneurs have similar stories because when you start, you find very quickly you move from a self-described expert to often feeling that “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

I remember when I first started selling computers, I found a deal I thought almost too good to be true to purchase a large number of computers at a very attractive price. I knew the price to be very good and without much further thought, I bought them. Well, turns out the deal was as good, and as LARGE, as promised. Let’s just say I am glad I no longer have pallets of computers at my house.

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 am sure, like many others, my success is as much a testament to the kindness and generosity of others who befriended me along my journey as opposed to my own efforts. However, if I had to choose only one, I would say it’s my wife. Without her I would be lost. She gets me and also gives me balance and pushes me to be better.

While not a specific story, a recurring theme to our relationship has been at the end of the day, she can just be there with me, speak with me, laugh with me and help me stay grounded, focused and positive.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I couldn’t agree more.

We have a singular purpose that guides and filters all we do, day in and day out. We exist to help companies communicate more effectively and securely through their emails. Simple, right? Well, that’s what our customers want and we enjoy the challenge of delivering!

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I can’t recall a year like 2020 where the entire world has faced uncertainty. Like many companies, we had to stay alert and be ready to make changes quickly.

For everyone’s safety, in March we decided to work remotely. Before the pandemic, we were working from home one day a week, so making this switch overnight was relatively easy. We made sure everyone had everything they needed to work remotely and continue to provide our customers with the same level of service, 24/7.

At the same time, it was vital to communicate with our team members and reassure them of our support. If there’s anything that can calm someone’s fears and stress, it’s clear and regular communication.

I believe in what we do and who I do it with — our team and fantastic customers. Because of the increasing need to communicate effectively and securely via email during this difficult time and our team’s passion to deliver on our purpose, we’re very lucky to say we’ve weathered the storm well so far.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

One of my mottos is “Never give up.” It’s just that simple: keep going and push through the obstacles you encounter.

My motivation stems from the feedback we get all the time. Our customers’ positive responses continue to exceed my expectations.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

During challenging times, the role of a leader is to steer the ship, keep the morale and spirits up and by no means accept defeat.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Transparent, frequent and committed communication is crucial. There should always be a clear plan in place. And if that plan is no longer valid, our team knows we are committed to finding other routes and we’ll get there together.

Also, there’s power in giving credit where credit is due. If a congratulation is in order, even for a small thing, have a celebration. I celebrate every victory along the way.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Bad news sucks. But it’s still news and no matter how you frame it, it still sucks. I’ve found direct and honest communication accompanied by a level of empathy is best. I believe we are all in search of the truth and appreciate being treated with authenticity and empathy.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

One thing is certain: uncertainty. Could anybody have predicted the events of 2020?

Good and bad things have always happened and always will. You still have to plan, but a good leader knows that plans cannot be set in stone. Everybody — the leaders and the team — have to stay on their toes.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

One of our principles is about checking egos at the door. Usually, egos and attitudes get in the way more than anything.

In turbulent times, you are more likely to find solutions and strategies to weather the storm if you don’t take things personally. Everyone must row the boat for it to move forward.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Lack of flexibility: continuing to do the same thing again and again, and hoping for better results. I’ve seen so many businesses who won’t even consider a potentially grand slam idea because they are rigid and too nervous about the outcome.

Stopping PR and marketing: some think that, during a crisis, you should cut costs and stop PR and marketing. This is about as logical as stopping a healthy diet once you’ve lost weight. While you may think you’re cutting costs, you’ll lose revenue if you cease all marketing.

Scaling too soon: this is a tough one as there is also a risk of scaling too late. However, this can lead to the early demise of an otherwise good business. Specifically, I’ve seen companies that scale before their service is where it should be or before they have their variable costs in line. What should have been a good product or service ends up burning out early because it’s either not adopted or they collapse under their cost structure.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We’re very lucky to be in an industry that not only has not suffered during the crisis, but it has thrived. Companies relied on email to communicate with customers more in 2020 than ever. First of all, email is always social-distancing friendly, but secondly, as physical locations opened and closed, email was the primary way companies got the word out. The need for our service only grew.

With that said, I think the strategy should always be to focus on the customer, but it’s especially true during hard times. Find out what they need and offer them more of that. They had needs before the turbulent times, and chances are you can help them with their needs even more when the going gets tough.

As always, make your own observations and if you need to make changes, make them fast! Keep on moving. It’s not your customers who need to adapt to your needs, but rather you are the one that needs to adapt to what they need.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

Here are the five principles I follow in order to lead effectively.

Never give up. If you don’t want your team to give up, how can you?

We’ve worked so hard to obtain 98% accuracy for our service. It took countless missteps and trial and error to get there. I wanted to hit that standard from day one. For us to be able to make that statement when we launched, it took many late nights and early mornings and a lot of “Almost. Try again.” Never giving up allowed us to hit that goal and have very high standards that we didn’t compromise.

Work hard. You have to lead by example. You can’t expect your team to work hard if you don’t.

Although our team has grown to thirty people, we started with less than 10. I was doing my best to be one of the workers. What I never wanted to be was the inaccessible CEO who hides in his office before taking a three-hour lunch. The fact is, even if I could, that’s never what I wanted to do.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. There are a lot of things that seem very stressful when you’re in the moment. Usually, in hindsight, you realize that it was manageable. You have to keep this in mind when you’re feeling bogged down.

In the first year, there was a lot of stress and non-stop work to get things off the ground. Now and then, something unfortunate and unpredictable would come up. The important thing is to not let it overwhelm you. Take a little break. Breathe in and out slowly, and get back to it. It’s never as bad as it seems.

Serve your people. Not everyone is going to admit when they need something. They may even feel that during tough times, it’s selfish to think of their own needs. So they don’t speak up. You have to keep the lines of communication open and this also means asking specific questions to determine where someone is.

I always like to ask if there is anything the team needs. Do they have the tools they need to get the job done? Furthermore, if they are not in a good place, how can they be expected to be productive? We always try to ask and hope our team feels they can let us know.

Remember there will be things you can’t control. Focus on what you can. You just have to accept that there will always be things that come up that there’s nothing you can do about. In those situations, you have to pay attention to what you can change or remedy and then do it. There will be times when you have to be patient and wait for a situation to change.

Sometimes we work on a project for months and we’re ready to proceed to the next step. Then, a third party makes an update that requires us to make changes on our end, and that can delay us even more.

Of course, my team and I are going to do whatever we can to help facilitate progress. However, you simply have to practice patience. It will help you overcome the inherent stress of running a business.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We can let circumstances rule us, or we can take charge and rule our lives from within.”

Earl Nightingale said this on a radio show years ago, but I heard it on a CD someone had copied for me. I’m very thankful that they felt I could use the information because I have.

Everybody has moments where circumstances change for the worse. The important thing is to not give up or become complacent in those moments. Those words cross my mind whenever things get frustrating.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Our website is zerobounce.net and we also have a blog where we write about email marketing and update about our latest innovations.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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