Sunday 24 August 2008

Hiring the people that will outsmart us

The second person I ever hired was an alcoholic
In my first job as a manager at the age of 25 I hired about 20 people in one year. At the time it was all about filling headcounts with nice people that could sell themselves to me. As long as they had great social skills I was less worried about qualifications, background checks and actual ability to do the job. I ended up hiring alcoholics, mentally ill and people that simply lacked any ability to do the job. After this experience I took a break from management and worked as a consultant for 3 years. During this time I learned the value of working with truly great people. A great programmer could produce 10 times as much in the same time as the average person and one single great sales person could mean the difference between success and total failure for a smaller company.

Who are the best people?
My ambition since then has always been to find the truly best people I can get for any particular job. Best to me doesn't mean the most renown university education, highest paid, most work experience or that everyone has previously worked at McKinsey. Best simply means that the person has one or more skills where they exceed everyone else in the company and most people in their own area of expertise. I want people that are brighter, faster, more quality conscious, better leaders, more socially skilled, better negotiators, have bigger networks, smarter engineers or more innovative than myself, our existing team and our competitors. It's all about building a team that will together contribute to making the companies the best and most innovative at what they do.

Managing people that are smarter than you
But how can you manage people that are better and smarter than yourselves? This is certainly a challenge in many ways. The first couple of times employees criticised my decisions for being stupid, the company strategy for being wrong or the work I produced for lacking quality or edge I got really upset and tried to defend myself even if I knew that the criticism was spot on. I figured that the only way I could remain the leader and role model was if the perception was that everything I did was great and always the best for the company.

Soon I realised however that getting constructive criticism and feedback from the team was the best thing I could wish for. It should be encouraged and being a role model is not about always being right but rather about taking advice from other people that are smarter than you.

The next challenge is to get the smartest people to work together as a team but that's a story for another day...

Sunday 17 August 2008

What to name a company

People often ask me how we came up with the name Golden Gekko? Recently someone even asked if we were on crack when we came up with the name.

I wish that I could say that we spent months elaborating the best name long lists of pros and cons like Amazon picked a name that began with the letter A to come up first in directories and that could later encapsulate any kind of business.

The truth is that we were sitting in cafe in Phnom Penh April 2005 watching a couple of geckos running up and down the walls. At the time we were thinking about setting up a clothes brand as well as mobile games development company. The gecko was a nice symbol which would work great as a logo just like the alligator on Lacoste clothes. Golden was a symbol for the wealth we would create. Golden Gekko was also a parody on the character Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film Wall street. We did a quick trade mark and domain name check which didn't result in any conflicts and the next day the company was born with the name GoldenGekko.

So no, we were not on crack when me and Daniel Karlström came up with the name but I cannot really say that we spent a lot of time considering alternatives. So far we don't regret it.

Friday 1 August 2008

Setting up the company near a beach

When I decided to leave my job at Vodafone to work full time as CEO of Golden Gekko one of the first questions was where the company should be based? I started with a list of questions and decision parameters:
Where will our customers be?
Where can I recruit the best people at the lowest cost?
Where is it most cost efficient to start and operate a company in terms of taxes and administration?
Flight connections?
And most importantly where do I want to live?

The candidates on the list were Stockholm, London and Barcelona with the obvious choice being Barcelona.

  • Great weather all year around
  • Great standard of living with the longest city beach in Europe and more bars and restaurants than you can ever dream of
  • Low cost flight connections throughout Europe
  • Attractive city to recruit people at a relatively low cost (50% of London salaries) as everyone wants to come and visit and eventually live in Barcelona
  • Possible to keep the team together in one place thanks to low transportation costs
  • Taxes are relatively low
  • International city growing rapidly and dynamically

  • Few big brands/companies located here
  • Most of our customers won't be based here
  • Difficult to recruit local staff due to lack of English skills and poor software development training
  • Potentially dangerous city as you can have too much fun
  • Increasing living costs with property prices, food and other expenses rising

Was it eventually the right decision? YES!

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Building a business empire

Some people are happy with a day job that pays a descent salary, others want to make a career within the corporate world, a few want to set up their own business and maybe grow it into a big company one day. I want to build a business empire and I know that I can do it.

I have been working with Digital Marketing for Telecoms and Consumer Brands for the past 10 years. My early work included groundbreaking digital marketing initiatives for major brands such as Volvo, Ikea, AstraZeneca, Nike, Bredbandsbolaget and BT. During those days I also helped set up a couple of companies including Driftbolaget Hårdvarubolaget (now Bokks). I then spent 5 years marketing new products and services for Orange Group in Scandinavia and later Vodafone Group including award winning and industry leading Vodafone live! across Europe and Asia. My last assignment for Vodafone was to develop the group strategy for mobile marketing on behalf of the product marketing team.

Throughout this time I knew that I wanted to do my own thing. In 20025 I set up the mobile application developer Golden Gekko together with Daniel Karlström with the ambition of taking over the world. Since then we have managed successful mobile marketing campaigns for several of the world’s largest global consumer brands including Absolut Vodka, Cadbury's, Coca Cola, Perfetti, Novartis and Unilever. In addition to this we have also set up Geo-Me, a leapfrogging business concept within location based services as well as Wireless Solution a company that creates mobile web inventory that will generate massive amounts of traffic and advertising revenue off-portal.

But this is only the beginning. Over the next couple of years I will update you on the challenges, opportunities and great fun of building a business empire and in a very near future I will tell you how we succeeded.

Shoot for the stars and you might end up on the 10th floor of a 100 floor building. Happy reading!