This week features an interview with the CEO of craftworks, Simon Grabher, who was one of the initiators founding the company around 3 years ago in 2014. So, let’s begin with a bit of craftworks history:
What inspired you to start craftworks?
I want to do things right. I want to be part of a company where people are being treated with respect and everyone can use their strengths and hence achieve their maximum potential. Everyone has weaknesses, but I always focus more on the strengths of a person as opposed to his/her weaker areas.
What made you first think that starting a company is right for you?
To be honest, I didn’t put a lot of thought in it. I read many books about leadership, management, what people in successful companies do, just because I found that interesting. After processing the information I spoke to Jakob and Matthias over one or two beers (I’ve known them for years and knew they are amazing at what they do) and told them what my vision for the company was, and yeah, the next day they wanted to skype and talk about the idea. We agreed that we would found the company only under the premise that we have a paying customer. Basically, that’s how we started.
What does your typical day at craftworks look like?
I usually read something on my commute in. When I’m at the office I make a round, say hi to everyone, and afterwards – coffee. After that I usually talk to Jakob and Michael about current topics and then either have meetings or work on the things that I want to get done.
Simon, if someone paid you $1 billion right now, with the condition that you’d never work a day in your life again and never start a company, would you do it?
Sounds nice, but I think there are too many strings attached. First of all, I don’t want to let another person decide over the rest of my life. Marc Janko once said: “Es ist mein Leben, ich bin der Regisseur, es geht nach meiner Nase” (This is my life, I’m the director, and it will go my way) – and I really like that quote. Secondly, in my upbringing my parents always emphasized that you have to put in the work to earn your money. And thirdly, I don’t buy loads of stuff, so there’s really no need for a billion. But ask me again in five years 😉
How have you changed since you started?
That’s a difficult one. I think got used to the ups & downs more and more, but maybe you should ask the people around me.
What has been the biggest surprise for you personally? Which kind of assumptions, perhaps even unconsciously made, worried you most before starting up a business?
The biggest surprise – very naïve – was that you’ve got to find those people you can actually take by their word. If we say we’ll do X, Y and Z then we’ll do it, even if turns out as a disadvantage for us – that’s just how it is. Not everyone behaves like this, but that’s ok.
Was there anyone/anything that inspired you in managing the company the way you do and in defining the company’s culture?
My parents and how they raised me played a big part, as well as the books I read, the company I was employed before, my colleagues and of course my Mentor, Wolfgang Niessner.
Which book would you recommend reading and why?
For reaching goals: “The Score Takes Care of Itself” by Bob Walsh. It’s about not constantly thinking about your goals whilst implementing systems which will help you achieve exactly those goals.
What is the one most important skill that every startup founder should have?
I don’t know if that’s a skill, but I think a good work ethic is key. Based on that you can learn every skill you need.
What has been the biggest challenge of your entrepreneurial career so far and how did you overcome it?
Maybe the constant ups and downs after promises that had been given to me. I overcame those by simply experiencing them. I don’t overthink the hurdles too much – they just have to be overcome along the way. And to be fair, other people are facing far bigger challenges than me.
Where do you look when you’re scouting good people for your company? Which factors and character traits are important to you (E.G. Education, particular schools, experience, dedication, etc)?
A personal network is nice to have. But there are lots of good people everywhere. When looking for new people it’s crucial to us that they’re nice, on the same wavelength as our company’s culture, fast learning and interested- if we can tell from their CV that they’ve done various projects on the side just to broaden their horizons, that’s always a plus. In terms of skills we look for broadly skilled people who are particularly good in an area not yet covered by us. I don’t really care if you went to university, just know your stuff and be able and motivated to learn like a maniac 😉
What‘s the one crucial advice you would give to other entrepreneurs?
In my opinion it’s important to be able to make decisions even if not every piece of information is available at that point. You have limited time and money, so get comfortable with the risk of making mistakes – take the responsibility, learn from it, and then move on.
What have you learned?
That’s a long list. Accounting, financial planning, legal stuff, managing people, managing finances, how to speak to clients, how to get things done, how not to overwork yourself. Basically, with more and more experience you‘ll know how to value things and prioritize accordingly.
Which lack of a key skill or experience caused you the most problems when you started out?
Initially I lacked a lot of experience and skills, but we‘ve been very fortunate to not have major problems anyhow. Reading lots of books and listening carefully to advice from people you trust can help you prevent bigger problems.
Apart from work, what do you do with your time off?
I spend time with my girlfriend, my friends, and my family. Other than that I like to educate myself on topics like machine learning, big data, business, management, venture capital, investment banking, cooking – you know, the nerdy stuff. Furthermore I love watching sports and am fortunate enough that my girlfriend comes from a sports crazy family and hence shares this interest with me.
3 short questions: Mac or PC?
I use Linux, so PC.
Office or remote?
Definitively office, I like my colleagues 😉
Which music is playing on your player right now?
Loco in Acapulco – The Four Tops
Thanks for your time, Simon!
Next time we‘ll continue getting to know more about the founders of craftworks whilst chatting to our CTO Jakob. See you in 2 weeks!
PS: Due to the large amount of new projects we have, we’re currently hiring more team-members. Sounds interesting? Check our career page.