How I Succeeded is a regular series on Lifehacker where we ask business leaders for the secrets and tactics behind their success. Today: Ratmir Timashev, Co-founder of Veeam.
Current gig: Co-Founder, Veeam Software
Location: New York, USA
Current mobile device: Apple iPhone 7
Current computer: Lenovo x260
One word that best describes how you work: Happiness – enjoyment and the concept of work hard / play hard is key.
1. What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
LinkedIn, Skype, Slack, CNN, Fitbit and some other fitness apps.
2. What were the most important lessons you learned while growing your business?
The most important lesson I’ve learned while growing my business is that to be successful, you must be at the right place at the right time with a brilliant product. In the mid-90s when I launched my first start-up – an online e-commerce store was well-timed and we were offering a compelling service, but we were in Columbus, Ohio, and had no access to local venture capital. It was a great product, but we were in the wrong place.
Knowing the right time and place for a business is difficult to determine. The goal is to enter a market at an early or relatively early stage, before it starts to explode, to capitalise on accelerated growth.
But you don’t want to be too early or, wait too long and be too late. You must evaluate several factors, for example the market dynamics and deeply understand the customer base. In the technology industry, it’s too early if the technology is not ready or people are simply not ready to embrace it. You’ve seen several big brands try and take customers on a journey they aren’t ready for and it flops. Similarly, it’s too late when companies with a critical mass are already present in the market – especially for cloud native companies.
3. What has been the most surprising part of your business journey?
That’s a difficult question to answer, but I would say one thing that surprised me along the way was how similar business, sports, art, science and even music are – they are all driven by ego, and the desire of someone to achieve or be recognised in some way, and similar criteria.
I think there are learnings each of these disciplines can take from one another. For me if you look at sport and business, you can see that you must get the basics right for a foundation for success. You can have stars in your team, but it must be a team. And, by providing leadership that encourages growth, good communication, creating strategic adaptations to changing threats and challenges, and by matching the ideal person for the ideal job, you are primed and ready to score in your business.
4. What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
As a co-founder of a B2B software company, it is very easy to let work consume our lives. This works against you in so many ways – not to mention it may ultimately lower the quality of your work and productivity. This is why I value prioritisation – it is the simplest way to ensure that your time is well spent and you can tick off your to-do list.
What I prioritize and am good at is, at the beginning of each work day, I make a list of the three most important things I need to accomplish before the day is done. Just three, not 10 or 100. By focusing on my top three priorities, I make my day more manageable and can accomplish something.
In my view, it’s always better to finish a small number of projects than to finish 20% of two dozen projects. Sometimes I am able to complete my list by lunch time, which frees me up to address any urgent items or emergencies that bubble up over the course of a given day. And, on the days where there is nothing urgent to look at, I have the time to do higher-order tasks and think strategically about long-term goals, not just jump from item to item and email to email.
5. What’s your sleep routine like?
I used to stay up very late, sometimes beyond midnight doing emails, but I’ve tried to get a better routine and now I typically go to bed at 11 p.m. and wake up at 7:30 a.m. It makes me sharp and alert for what the day ahead may bring.
6. What advice would you offer to other businesses on how to succeed?
For me, anyone can be successful, much like anyone can come up with a good idea. But, what makes the biggest difference is being in the right place at the right time as I mentioned earlier. You also need to define what success looks like, for me it is having fun and enjoying the things I do.
I would say to be successful today, you need to be in the right place at the right time first, those are the two critical elements. Then you need to create a brilliant product. That might sound strange, but if you consider there were many chat services before Skype was invented for example, but it is the one that has succeeded. It is all about the first two points that determine if a product or service will succeed. You could call it luck I suppose, but I think there’s more to it than that. Then, you need to create an incredible sales and marketing team, and I emphasise the team. You need to get the sales in and the message out.
7. What sorts of businesses do you look for in your acquisitions?
When you acquire a business, it’s easy to focus only on how the company has performed, and where the upsides are. What’s probably more important is whether the founders and team are aligned with your vision of the future. For example, I specifically look at businesses in cloud and data management, because that is the area I understand most. But, even a good performing business in that space would not be suitable for acquisition if it doesn’t align with our vision and innovation culture – if it doesn’t have our DNA.
We also need to see the market value and the ability for it to benefit our product strategy. We listen to what our customers and channels such as our resellers and cloud providers want to deliver to their customers, and it must fit, or else we aren’t adding value. You must all see a path.