How to build an antifragile business, what to do when the Internet is gone, is it better when it's worse or is it worse when it's better, why work from the WC, and in what sort of cabbage are antifragile people found?
Barefoot in the woods
Hello everybody! My name is Dmitri Voloshin. I am an entrepreneur, public figure and sportsman from Moldova. My company owns the largest Internet portals in Moldova. We conduct very large sporting events and other sorts of events. We make awesome cartoons, we have a cool animation studio, many social projects and some global ones, such as Lobster and Sonr. And today I want to tell you how to build a crisis-resistant business, what to do so that … No. I think I’ll start another way.
Friends, welcome to the new world! A new business world with no more laminate flooring, no plain walls, no beautiful mahogany furniture, and no fire cabinets with instructions on what to do and how to do it. Planning and budgeting no longer work here. Marketing plans go to hell. Starting today, we will live in a motherchucking forest, without roads, with hungry bears waiting for you in the gulley. And even today, when we came here to make this video, it started raining and that’s great! It’s an unpredictable world. Today I will tell you how we got to love this place, how we got to love this forest world and how to survive in it. Follow me.
How to stop being afraid of the crisis and even get to love it?
Literally last year, as I was jogging barefoot at the beginning of the season, I thought: damn it, how painful it is to run barefoot among the stones and pebbles, when the skin is not yet adapted. But I knew that in a couple of weeks, my soles would become rough and would stop hurting. That day I was listening in my headphones to a new book that my friends had recommended. And at some point, I suddenly heard saying that which does not kill us, makes us stronger. And antifragility is the ability to improve things under stress. That is, the worse the better. At that moment I realized that this was my life principle. I always did this and did not understand why. It was “Antifragile” by Nassim Taleb. Then I had no idea what that word meant. It took me a whole day to listen to the book from cover to cover. And then I realized that’s exactly what I needed. For 20 years I have been creating this concept learning from mistakes, but I was unable to structure it the way this dude did.
I always felt confused when I was asked how my business works, why we have so many people and projects that “didn’t live up to expectations”, why we never plan anything and why our company is in such chaos. How do we survive? (And you, Dmitri, why do you jog?) And in the end it turned out that I was always busy trying to become antifragile and make my business antifragile as well.
I trained, I got injured, I got tired and then recovered, and I was able to run a marathon. I traveled to the North Pole, climbed mountains, and eventually managed to do something no one had done before me – I ran an ultramarathon at Oymyakon, at -60 degrees Celsius. And now I don’t care about any trouble. I have become antifragile.
I always do the same with my business, only before I did it intuitively. I made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t regret any of them. I made my business crisis-proof. Because I believe that the crisis develops civilization. Wars and epidemics have made humanity grow and develop. The same thing happens with business. And I want to talk about how my company is organized, because I believe that it is quite crisis-resistant. I would even say, a company developing as a result of crises.
Antifragile business = Antifragile team
Antifragile companies are created by antifragile people. Therefore, it is of great importance for us that our team consists of people who are not afraid of the crisis, who are ready for it. The so-called “survivors”. We create conditions for people to become antifragile. For example,
1. We create conditions for people to take on more responsibility. And take the initiative. Once a girl came to us and told us that she wanted to do a project – FOSFOR. At that time, she was doing other things, but she wanted to do an electronic music festival. I said, “Okay, try it”. And we did it. FOSFOR has become the largest festival in Moldova. Well, maybe we didn’t make much profit out of it, but it was a success.
2. We set unrealistic tasks and make people do them. They are too complicated for them, but that is what makes them stronger. This was the case with Sonr. I came to the engineers and told them we were going to make Sonr – the smallest underwater transmitter in the world. Then the guys told me that it was unrealistic. And I told them they could and would do it. And so they did. Then they wondered how it happened. That’s why we always set unrealistic tasks.
3. Versatility. This is a very important quality for a person. Our teams are distributed in such a way that one person can work in several teams simultaneously. Therefore, if someone gets bored or feels that he or she is no longer efficient in some project, they can switch to another project.
4. Incompatibility. We try to connect different people. Who are incompatible not only in character, but also in functionality, experience and approach. Thus we can obtain maximum efficiency.
5. Workload. It is important to load those who are already busy. When a person says that he/she can do no more, and you keep setting tasks, they manage to do them. Thus, they become stronger. They become antifragile. We do not focus on education. It matters to us how you deal with stress, how you deal with a crisis, so we don’t pay much attention to diplomas.
6. Sports. We actively develop sports and strive to involve our employees in sporting activities. That’s because sport makes you stronger, it helps you adapt more easily.
7. After all, I think that being stressed is sometimes absolutely normal. This is how nature works – stress leads to development. That’s why I recommend my colleagues to get into stressful situations as often as possible to learn something and become stronger. For example, this year I’ve been to the accelerator in New York. But I was very scared to promote my campaign. And to overcome the fear, I went down to the New York City Subway and pitched there among ordinary people. It was so fun!
Resources and crisis
8. Resources. It is very important to have financial resources set aside. Make some fat supplies as well. We made an internal rule of the company – to have some money saved just enough for six months of non-profitable activity. And we will invest the rest of the money, because when the crisis comes, the one who made supplies will win. Let your competitor’s business get weaker, then you can buy it for nothing.
9. Ideas stock. A very important thing. There are many ideas that you are not ready to do here and now. But when the crisis comes, you will remember about them, and it is one of them that can completely change your business.
10. And most importantly, projects stock. Projects that are not very successful at the moment, do not bring profit, but later they can be successful. It is good to keep such projects, and then, when the time comes, use them, as if throwing sandbags to make the hot air balloon fly higher.
Save resources for any eventuality.
And of course, I will give some examples. First example – Studii, the electronic agenda system. A project that developed rather slowly for us, but we invested in it. And right now, during quarantine, it turned out that electronic diaries and distance learning are exactly what the market needs. That is why a large number of schools are now joining us. The project has boosted.
The same thing happened with the Price project – online stores. A project that also developed modestly. But at the time of the crisis, it increased several times, because it turned out to be exactly what the market needs.
Let’s talk about strategies.
11. An important strategy is probing, that is, carefully examining things that are happening in a rapidly changing world. Especially in times of crisis, there are many opportunities. Therefore, one of our main strategies is to observe what is happening around.
12. Diversification. We create different projects in different fields. In a crisis, one of the fields usually gets blocked, as happened with the offline. That’s why we try to do completely different projects. Now we are thinking of a project that will allow the company to survive when the Internet disappears. Definitively. Therefore, we try to refrain from planning, budgeting and setting certain figures for a year, a half year, 3 months, for the sake of flexibility.
And, of course, we observe what is happening in the market. Back in 2008, the advertisers left us because of the crisis. And we had to find another monetization model for the 999.md panel. This is how the idea of paid posting came about. And this scheme now brings us 10 times more income than advertising. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Satisfied = weak
13. Processes. Project launch processes are very important. They need to be fast, they need to be based on MVP (minimum viable product) and hypothesis testing. Nowadays, there is no point in doing a project for a year or two, trying to make it perfect, and then launching it. Make a minimum viable product, launch it not in the market, but in a small group. If it works, just do it. If it doesn’t – close it and move on to the next one.
14. The work processes of the project team are also very important. Decentralization, team autonomy, independence from the office, from meetings and rallies. You can work in another country, at night, from home, even from the toilet.
15. A very important point is not to be fed up. You must constantly look for competitors and rivals, an opportunity to fight and win. The main thing is not to stop at what has been achieved. And as an example, I would like to mention a case from the life of my company, so that you do not think that Dmitri Sergeevich is a wonderful and unique CEO who never makes mistakes. Last year there was a problem – I took my foot off the pedal. To be honest, while I was doing sports, it seemed to me that everything was fine in the company. It turned out not to be the case. We were really fed up, and we nearly had no competitors. In addition, we allowed ourselves to hire too many people and do unnecessary projects, which were only a waste of money. It took me six months to understand this and put things right. And, possibly, only thanks to this we got out of the crisis without much loss. Don’t get fed up. Always be hungry and angry.
Pain = Growth
16. Pain and constant adaptation make you stronger. This is why I run barefoot. So, come on, take off your comfortable, warm, soft sneakers and go to the woods. The more thorns and stones you find on your way, the stronger you and your business will grow. Of course, unless you are eaten by bears – there are so many of them here.
Take good care. I mean, take no care at all. 🙂