A: Starting your career as a teenager, how did you manage to not lose focus and motivation? What was your motivation then and what is your motivation now?
H: To be honest, I can’t say that I have never lost focus and motivation; my life has always been very cyclical. I started working for my father as a sales consultant in one of Swarovski boutiques when I was 16, and now I am the director of brand management of its parent company. A lot has happened in between, but I have always tried to do what makes me happy. When I was younger, I wanted to create something on my own to prove that I could do it. Now I realize that I had to go through many stages in life to become who I am right now. I could have stayed in the company that I have created myself, but I believe that I have made the right decision and now I am a lot stronger as a business person and a manager than I would have been if I stayed.
Meditation has been an effective tool for me when it comes to staying focused and present. At the time when we need to be getting things done in the company, for me it is all in an early morning meditation and then I come to work with a particular attitude. When it is time to pause and reconnect with the team, it is again the same process, but a different mediation; as a result, I come in to work with a completely different mindset. I admit that this takes certain level of self-control, but it’s a level of self-control that can be developed.
A: Managing a large number of employees and having a lot of responsibility, how to keep attention on details and be present in the moment, constantly developing new creative projects and ideas?
H: It’s always helpful to think of a company as a living organism with its own personality and stages of maturity.
Some people tend to want to get things done more quickly. For them, sitting in meetings for hours is a nightmare because they believe that they already know what needs to be done and if “people stopped talking and would do more” a company would be more productive. I call these types of people “doers”. Other people are the opposite, the “administrators” tend to plan more. They are usually the ones who called the meeting. For the “administrator” it is very important to know how the tasks will be completed in the most efficient way. The third type, my favorite, are the “dreamers”. They tend to concentrate on the long run. For them, the innovation is key. The fourth type are the “integrators”. These are the people who tend to ask for the opinions of their colleagues. No normal human being has only one of the abovementioned four characteristics, otherwise they would be called a schizophrenic. The company is the same, however, at its different stages, it is important to concentrate on 1 or 2 different characteristics.
In my point of view, a startup has to be a “dreamer”: look forward, trying to come up with creative solutions, innovate and try to do something that hasn’t been done before. This is also true for some large companies – we have been on the market for more than 20 years but we are constantly exploring new concepts and entering new markets, where we also need our creative persona.
Next, there comes time to pause on the creativity and to start getting things done, be a “doer”. There is no limit to perfection, but we cannot expect a startup to do everything right from the first time. For me it has always been more important to do at least something, rather than trying to do it perfectly and as a result, do nothing.
Of course, at some point the company will start outgrowing its creator, which will result in loss of control. An ideal business process usually demands huge human resources, but a startup often cannot afford it. As a result, both processes and human capital suffer. At this point it important to become the “administrator” and find effective ways to manage the giant you have created.
And lastly, what happens frequently when a company becomes too large is information asymmetry: information is concentrated on the operational level but the decisions are being made on the strategic level. Even though the founder is the one that has started the business and built it from the ground up, he is so far up from that he loses touch. It is very important at this stage to start integrating the team into the decision-making process, which is why I always try to be on the same page with my company.
I believe that each manager must have within themselves all of these characteristics to be effective: it takes discipline, but it is achievable.
A: During all those years of experience, has there not been a moment of tiredness, willingness to let it all go and relax?
H: Yes, of course. Practically always. To be honest, I am a lazy person, and it can sound odd but the point of everything I do and have been doing in the last 4-5 years is so that I can launch all the projects we do and then step back from the operational part of management.
There is a story I read that goes as follows:
“An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.
A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing?”
The eagle answered: “Sure, why not.”
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested.
All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.
Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up…”