It’s Monday again and it’s time to get s*** done! ⏱
Monday #Productive is a weekly interview format, featuring peak-performers from my network, who share 5 quick ideas on how to boost your productivity and stay at the top of your game.
Today’s guest is Cristobal Alonso, Global CEO & El Patron at Startup Wise Guys. He is a serial entrepreneur and a world citizen, having lived and worked in more than 20 countries. He is today on a mission to become the early investor and virtual co-founder of more than 200 startups in the Baltics, CEE and neighbouring regions (Ukraine, Turkey and more).
1. You are the CEO of a fast-growing global brand. On top of that last year you’ve had 170 flights. How do you manage to be on top of things with such a schedule?
🔻Well, first and foremost I love what I do, so at the end of the day it is fun and I love it. But basically I am an obsessive planner. I plan the whole year. 85% of my time for the next 3 months is already planned. I am very clear what my own priorities and the company’s priorities are, on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis. I make sure, I maximize silent time in planes and taxies to make conference calls. I put time aside to read books and I make sure that I also plan my personal time. It is a key to have a balanced life. And I find ways to burn negative energy. Basketball, cooking, spending time with family work for me among others. I try to have my team planning the same way. I coach them and I try to let them make as many decisions as possible and make sure everyone understands, it is ok to make mistakes, that’s the only way we can grow and move fast.
2. Startup Wise Guys is the leading B2B accelerator in Europe with over 120 startups in the portfolio. How important is “team” when taking a decision to invest?
🔻Team is everything in early stage startups. A great team with bad products will survive, pivot, test, do it again and again and eventually win. A great product with not a great team is just a waste of money and energy for us. At our program we spend 3,5 months with every team, basically living with them, virtually becoming their co-founder. So unless we feel we want to be their co-founder, it’s a No-Go. The 2 most important questions I ask, when selecting the teams are:
✅ Why are you doing this startup? Do you have a strong enough reason to keep you together, align and fight to succeed for the next (potentially) more than 7 years?
✅ How will you make this a EUR 100 million company? We want teams that are passionate and think big, but also that they have a solid business strategy to back it up.
3. Does culture correlate with high-performance? How can one build and sustain a healthy and productive culture?
🔻There is some research about it (actually I find amazing how little research is there about culture and startup success). But let me say that almost everyone believes and accepts that, if you have a strong brand, then you have a much bigger chance for success. But they rarely talk about culture. Culture is the internal brand and there is no way you can have a good and trustworthy brand message that is not aligned with a strong internal culture, with strong values and related behaviours. As Brian Chesky puts it, companies think about the product they want to build and then they think about the type of company that will build that product. And it should be the other way around. Sustaining a strong culture should be founders and management’s number one priority, creating a place everyone loves to work in. Furthermore – companies with great cultures are way more likely to attract and retain world-class talent.
How to build such a culture? – One bit at a time! It’s a never ending process. It requires constant attention. It’s about everyone getting clear what the company stands for? What is the purpose; the values? What are the unwritten rules? It’s actually very practical. Values should serve as a strategic decision making tool. And you need to use them everywhere:
- As a framework to make product decisions.
- To determine who makes decisions and when.
- To articulate why you’re tackling the problem and why the solution matters through the lens of your values.
- To ensure you’re measuring success through the lens of your values.
- To find ways to encourage risk-taking.
At some point culture will scale. As your culture scales you’ll start to notice the formation of rituals independent of the founders. Encourage this: it means your culture is scaling. Empower your team to celebrate your company’s values in their own ways.
4. Aristotle said once: “Excellence is not an act, but a habit”. From your experience, what are the habits of the most successful entrepreneurs?
🔻Planning, empathy, drive, ambition, teamwork, value driven, which all have to be combined with no fear of failure.
5. One of the jobs of a CEO is to be able to make tough decisions, sometimes on a daily basis. What helps you to be a better decision maker?
🔻Understanding that there is no worse decision than no decision at all. And also knowing that there is no such a thing as a perfect decision. I have always lived under the mantra, that it is better to make 10 quick decisions, knowing that 3 may be wrong, but to learn quickly about them and move forward fast. Last but not least, for important decisions, I always make sure they are aligned with our company values and my personal values too.
[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?
First things First by Steven Covey
First 90 days by Michael D Watkins
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Never Eat Lunch Alone by Keith Ferrazi
If you have any questions to Cristobal Alonso, please leave your comment below!
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