'I used to get stressed trying to keep my inbox to zero. These days, I let the emails build up'

Flender CEO Kristjan Koik talks about deal-breakers – and his love of fast cars.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

AS THE HEAD of growing peer-to-peer lending startup Flender, Kristjan Koik knows that distractions are the enemy of productivity.

The company he co-founded employs 20 people and recently into new offices at Grand Canal Dock. Last year, it facilitated more than €6 million in loans – a 500% increase on 2017.

For the latest installment of our question-and-answer series, we spoke to Koik about gaining focus by ditching his obsession with ‘inbox zero’, struggling to switch off and his love of fast cars.

Here’s what he had to say:

What’s the worst job/task you’ve ever had to do?

The way our office is set up, our canteen is very close to the board room – so people inevitably go past the canteen to get to the board room. I find myself washing up dishes after our staff despite sending them emails about it.

One of these days I hope to catch whoever it is that doesn’t clean up after themselves.

How often do you take a day off?

I think as an entrepreneur, it’s very hard to switch off. But I do take holidays and spend time with my family over the weekend.

At the same time, it’s hard not to think about the business and check your emails all the time. That’s a challenge.

What detail about yourself would surprise your staff?

These days there’s so much stuff on the internet. You can go on LinkedIn and see everything about your past.

I try to spend a lot of time with my staff and talk with them as much as I can. There are probably no surprises left at this stage.

What’s the one work skill you wish you had?

Flender is a fintech company. Obviously, there’s development needed from a finance background and also from a technology background within the team.

There’s more and more technology involved in all of our lives, so I wish I could do some coding. Perhaps I’ll try to learn it someday so that I’m able to develop and code software for myself.

newoffice01 Flender offices
Source: Flender

What’s your biggest financial indulgence?

It’s probably going to be a car. We could all cycle to work these days probably, but I like fast cars – and unfortunately they tend to be expensive.

When you’re considering partnering with another person or business, what factors are deal-breakers for you?

I think this goes for partners and hiring people: there has to be trust. Also, the interests have to be aligned from both sides for the partnership to work for the long-term.

Our company values are trust, transparency and openness, so if these are not the values of the potential partner, then that’d be a deal-breaker.

What bad work (or business) habit have you had to kick?

When I built the business in the early days, I used to get stressed trying to keep my email inbox to zero. These days I go through emails first thing in the morning, then let them build up and not be annoyed about a few emails unanswered.

When I find some time in the day, I go and work through them as a batch rather than keep getting distracted by them.

If you could invest in any Irish company (other than your own), which one would it be and why?

It would have to be Stripe. I have a lot of respect for the Collison brothers and what they’ve done at such an early age. They’re fantastic entrepreneurs. It’s a great thing, a great product and a massive opportunity.

What’s one thing that would put you off hiring someone?

The main thing that the person has to have is to come across as being a positive person. And also, an a-player.

Also, I think I would put personality before skills. Skills can be taught, but personality is something they just have to have – and a positive person is a must.

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