The most privilege of working for NFQ Asia, besides the opportunity to work with badass startups, is the fact that we got introduced to amazing successful entrepreneurs from all over the world on a regular basis.
And for this March, thanks to our beloved founder, Lars Jankowfsky, we were so honored to welcome Rolf Schrömgens, the co-founder of Trivago, a typical from-zero-to-hero startup unicorn that finally went IPO successfully, to come to our Saigon Office for an exclusive talk & lunch with our mates.
There were so many astounding insights and ideas from the sharing that I simply don’t think I can summarize them all in just one or two articles. Hence, these below are the ideas that excite me most, personally and professionally, especially now that we are on the way to grow NFQ Asia from 100 to quadruple and further in coming years.
We hear a lot about work/life balance. For Rolf, this is ironically the best way to go wrong, because the concept of work-life balance suggests that the work-you is on one side of the equation, and the life-you is on the other, where actually they are simply coming as one, The-Only-You.
There are also people trying to compensate for their pitiful work life by resorting to consumerism. They buy things to make them happy, and they did. But only for a while. New things are very exciting at first, but after a while, we get used to them, and voila, the excitement quickly fades!
That’s why a better strategy to reach your fulfillment in life is not having enough holidays to get away from the work, or trying to buy a fancier house, but rather, to stay truly happy when you are exactly at work.
And the very true key to happiness at work is to find a job that you are passionate about. Working on something excited, meaningful, with buddies that share your same visions and core values, and from that you see yourself growing on a daily basis, is how you find your happiness every day.
From the business perspective, it means Trivago does not retain the best talents with a huge sum of money. Instead, Trivago makes sure the people can choose to work on projects that really inspire them, and from which they believe will benefit the user experience and the company in the end.
It also means that in Trivago, no project is resource-guaranteed, unless the project leaders can persuade enough engineers, and relevant teammates to believe in his vision, strongly enough to join him on his project.
Or in Rolf’s words, “I don’t believe in Top-down strategy. I believe in Top-down inspiration.”
Your ego is not always a bad thing. As Rolf points out, a sufficient amount of ego gives an entrepreneur well-justified faith in his/her own abilities to start a business, to confront any obstacles and roadblocks with a fearless attitude, and keep a strong belief that “I can do it all!”.
However, once the business starts gaining some initial momentum, and the entrepreneur gains more and more confidence, his/ her ego can become bigger, too big that he/she starts to believe “I know the best already! I myself is the one that got this company to where it is today. I don’t need anyone else. And that’s why you don’t tell me to learn from anyone else. Because there’s none that can know better than me.After all, I am that one that got us here, didn’t I?”
Here is the truth — what got you here, won’t necessarily get you there! That’s the reason why there are so many entrepreneurs successfully get their projects going but cannot grow it to the greatest extent.
And that’s why, as an entrepreneur, and as a human in general, in order to be successful, it is very important to stay humble, to always open your heart and mind for new knowledge, suggestions, and changes.
On one hand, you have to open to a new idea, be able to execute, test and measure its outcome as quickly as possible. But on the other hand, you have to refrain yourself from saying “yes” all the times; and learn to turn things down when they don’t fit or if they won’t bring in a significant return comparing to the effort and energy that you have to spend.
After all, you’d better off becoming the best of one thing rather than an average of everything.