At Clustered we have the pleasure of meeting and working with wonderful professionals coming from different walks of life. Balach has transformed his career and work in the past few years and is an inspiration when it comes to running his own business and building up a product from scratch.
We had the opportunity to interview him and get some of his insights regarding work, prioritization, leadership, and mindfulness.
You recently had a remote session on Clustered regarding self-leadership and the role mindfulness had in your own journey. If you had to choose the top self-leadership skills that got you to start your own business what would that be?
Leaders have to process a lot of information from various sources, and have the crucial task of making sense of that info. So, a lot of people will tell you that great analytical skills are key to leadership, and they are right. Without good analytical skills you will feel lost with all that info. But the second and perhaps even more crucial part of this equation is being able to transform this info into actionable missions so to say. That’s where great communication skills come into play. In my experience, neither of these work without a huge dose of mindfulness and emotional intelligence. At the end of the day everything you do has to do with people, so “people skills” would be my top of the list!
I’m sure you’re putting these to work when working on your own project epek.app.
Speaking of epek.app, this isn’t the first project you’ve worked on since starting your entrepreneurial path. Would you share with us what lessons you’ve learned from past projects that got you on a stronger start with epek?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is to not let anything stagnate. What I mean by that is that as a leader, you have to be prepared to work hard on your own and work through the challenges that come your way, whether it’s hiring fast, cutting our product features or prioritizing others, or dealing with difficult situations in the market or within the team. This attitude of “bring it on” has helped me incredibly in my journey with epek. The other big lesson is that you have to facilitate other people’s best work. Constantly paying attention and being flexible to make the best of every situation is not easy, but without it we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today.
“Bring it on” I love that, such a self-motivating sentence! This past month I had the pleasure of participating in your remote session where I learned you are a very athletic person. You told some personal experiences from competitions and I got the strong impression you are a highly competitive person. As I’m sure this has been a great advantage for you throughout your career, do you feel it has ever slowed you down, or been a type of obstacle?
The best thing about being competitive in sports is that it’s always a win-win situation. The harder your competitors work, the more it pushes you and in the end the overall standard of the game goes up, benefiting everyone. In business though, competitiveness can sometimes be an obstacle as you might start obsessing over factors that are simply not in your control. I think the big difference is that in sports you can do a lot of prep and bring that to the competition, but in business you are always competing and prepping at the same time, so you have to adjust your attitude a bit.
I couldn’t agree more, attitude adjustments are needed throughout our path as entrepreneurs, that must have also been the case when you transitioned between professions.
As an entrepreneur coming from a product management background, do you feel that has come as an advantage for you?
Absolutely! Product management exposes you to almost everything you face as an entrepreneur. For me, the only thing that has changed since starting my own company is the increased financial risk (as well as the reward) and the broader skills needed for capital management. Aside from that, the work and the pleasure I get out of it have only been amplified, and I love it!
There are many skills that are associated with product managers that are in common for self leaders as entrepreneurs; project management, time management, prioritization skills to say a few. What kind of skills do you feel you had to learn in order to up your game as a business owner?
I have definitely had to learn a lot more about marketing, pitching, customer service, and financial management. As a product manager, who led teams and built new products I did a lot of these things already, but I always had a fair amount of support from extended teams and bosses. Being a business owner myself meant that I had to do a lot more with a lot less support, so I had to up my work ethic and get learning!
One of the things we’ve seen many entrepreneurs struggle with is focus. Seems that the disconnect from a team harms the ability to set goals, work on them in a time frame set in advance, and provide results that match expectations. Does that sound like something you struggle with as well? And if you do, what do you do to overcome it?
As an entrepreneur, especially if you are a solopreneur, all the emphasis gets put on you. You have to be your own judge, your own motivator, and set your own priorities. And without enough focus, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the details. Like everyone else, I have times where there’s too much to do, and everything seems important. I try to prevent these situations by setting monthly, weekly, and daily goals. My morning coffee is the time when I take a look at the things to do for the day, and try to prioritize them. I also take a break in the afternoon to see if I’m making progress and sometimes deprioritize things.
Some of the ways we’ve found to overcome lack of focus, standing by deadlines and keeping motivation high is working with others that aren’t part of the project. More of a “chosen family” sort of team that a freelancer or entrepreneur can join. On Clustered we have some of these around the topics of mindfulness, accountability groups and leadership programs. Do you have that type of “chosen family” group to support you in your journey?
That’s a really important question! Support systems can really help you stay focussed and accountable. I do have a couple of mentors and sparring partners when it comes to product development and team management. One of my close friends who is an amazing agile coach helps me put things into perspective when it comes to team management and mindful leadership. Another couple of friends challenge me on my product beliefs and help me refocus our efforts. We also do mini-retrospectives within the team every week so that we have an internal process of staying sharp and not losing our way.
Well you know you have many support systems available on Clustered and it will be a pleasure for us to have you join them!
Balach, we’ve had such a great conversation, I think there’s much inspirational and motivational advice you gave here. Any last words on this topic?
We touched on a lot of important topics but if I were to highlight a couple of things, it would be mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and support systems. Find people within or outside your team who will help you refocus and put things into perspective. One parting advice for all entrepreneurs reading this: “doing it” beats “doing it right”: don’t get caught up in details, just do it!
As a well known franchise already coined the term “Just do it!”. Thank you again Balach for this great interview. Looking forward to seeing your progress on epek.app.
Balach is the founder of epek.app, cofounder of inspiredinberlin.com, a writer, mentor, a product manager, and an engineer. Before founding epek and inspiredinberlin he grew and led product teams at Lab1886 and HERE Tech in Berlin.