Rune Sovndahl is a Danish-born entrepreneur and a co-founder of Fantastic Services. His passion for work-life balance and franchise entrepreneurship has guided him to build the UK’s most revolutionary franchise business.
His experience with technology has allowed him to implement cutting-edge technology to revolutionize the service-delivery industry. Employing the “technology where it can, people where it matters” philosophy Rune and his partners have grown Fantastic Services into a business spanning Europe, Australia, and the United States in 12 years.
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Table of Contents
We’re grateful for your time today, thank you for joining us! Share your story with us.
Rune Sovndahl: Thank you for having me! My name is Rune, and I am the co-founder and CEO of FantasticServices.com – an online platform that allows people to book professional domestic services, such as gardening, plumbing, cleaning, mobile beauty, removals…. You name a house chore and we most likely would be able to give you a hand with completing it. In recent years, we have managed to make our way on the Australian and US market as well, offering over 100 household services. It’s just unbelievable what hard work can do!
When I am not in meetings, and trying my best to run a successful business, I spend as much time possible with my little boy.
Some say leadership is innate, others would argue against it. Would you say you were born a leader or did you have to become a leader? Explain your experience and viewpoint.
Rune Sovndahl: Well, I strongly believe you need to have certain personal traits in order to be able to keep a huge company on your shoulders. I often say that I always dreamt of owning and running my own business. I do have some early memories, way back from the early 80s,- my parents got me my first desk when I was about 7 or 8. I remember my parents giving me blank papers to sign and helping me organise my “office”. It all just brought me so much joy! Little did I know, later on in life I will spend all my time siting at a desk. But this is what I do, and honestly – I wouldn’t change a thing!
This being said, I still believe there are certain life experiences that shape you to become the best possible leader. Hence why I always advise young entrepreneur to simply risk and explore different opportunities whilst they still have the right to do so. That is the only way people can get out of their comfort zone and achieve the unbelievable! If you don’t put yourself into uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations, how do you know what’s out there?
Tell us about your company/Organization. What are some of the most exciting projects that you’re working on and how does your organization distinguish itself from the rest?
Rune Sovndahl: The “Fantastic” story as we call it started all the way back in 2009 at a house party and a few drinks. That’s when I met my business partner, Anton Skarlatov, who at that point was the owner of a struggling cleaning firm that has an uncertain future. We had a deep chat about business and quickly realised that we both had similar views. We wanted to completely change the way clients book and how professional maintenance services and being delivered. We invested all we had at that very moment to create the foundations of Fantastic Services the way we know it today. It didn’t take long until we started gaining interested from Londoners, and later expanded to other big cities across the UK. Nowadays, we also offer our services in the US and Australia.
Fantastic Services’ main goal at the moment for next year is to combine modern technology and intelligent service design to take care of homes and places of business in a more nature-conscious way. As a company that focuses on being eco-friendly, our aim is to execute all services with nature in mind. To reduce our footprint, we use eco-friendly detergents, electric-based machines, and are always trying our best to shorten the travel distances between the employees and customers. We plan on taking the next step forward with our way of transportation, and we plan on using only electric vehicles in the future to reduce pollution.
Throughout your career, have you been a team player or a lone wolf? How did that benefit or handicap you throughout the years?
Rune Sovndahl: Teamwork is what keeps a company together. I mean, Fantastic Services was created as a result of amazing collaborative work, and this is why I have always wanted to implement teamwork to be one of the company’s key values and part of our culture. I believe that good communication and teamwork can do wonders and can make a business stronger than ever.
The secret is to create a space that employees would be exited to go to and confidently be their true self. Over the years, I have noticed that teamwork leads to great new ideas, builds morale, and builds teams ready to face and solve any problem.
What leadership qualities do you possess that, in your opinion, inspire your employees to work harder and be more productive?
Rune Sovndahl: I do believe I am quite committed, persistent, driven, passionate and most importantly – empathetic. Many great leaders have great qualities, however, they often forget to listen to their people, and act on what’s being said. And they typically have a lot to say! People want to be appreciated and involved. They want to be valued and challenged.
Times change, and so does the way businesses function internally. Whilst 10-20 years ago everything was about numbers and profit, nowadays, leaders need to focus more on the growth of their teams and further develop what they already have as a skill set. I always try my best to ensure that employees are satisfied and enjoy what they do. I let all teams engage with the business, and that way there is involvement and position of influence.
A national survey from the University of Phoenix has found that 95 percent of employees who have functioned as part of a team think that teams are an important workplace function but less than 25 percent prefer working in teams. Individual and teamwork both have their advantages and disadvantages. What work model have you adopted and how has it benefited your organization?
Rune Sovndahl: I am a huge fan of team working practices in the workplace, however just like anything else, it has some disadvantages. I’ve often encountered situations where there are people with stronger personalities that dominate in a certain team. This often times leads to one person taking control in communication and therefore – actions. The rest of the team then feels like their contribution to a team is unneeded or even worse – unwanted. It could also stimulate unhealthy levels of competitiveness within the teams.
This being said, it all depends on people’s personal approach to working. I believe that group teamwork is essential for success, however, a specific approach needs to be taken depending on personalities and working styles of each employee. At Fantastic Services, we always try to create teams with similar working styles and personalities to prevent communication and performance issues.
People often procrastinate when they are unsure of how to do certain tasks. Is there an element of your business process that employees shy away from? How do you counter this problem?
Rune Sovndahl: I believe that it is completely normal for people to sometimes feel incompetent to perform certain tasks. At the end of the day, we are all human, not robots. A great way to prevent this from happening is promoting communication between employees and their Team Leaders. This is extremely important, because if issues and confusions are being addressed, they can respectively be worked on, and adequate help can be provided to team members.
We are also very proud of our training programme- each employee is expected to complete a training programme dedicated to their specific position. All sources, required for the completion of the programme, are available to our employees on our own platform – the Fantastic Academy. Training the right people for the right positions is simply the key to success.
Many businesses today are being overwhelmed with all kinds of data which impacts productivity. How do you ensure that you and your employees are focusing on the right metrics?
Rune Sovndahl: Many other companies nowadays believe that success and anything else important is always measured in numbers. Meaning, everyone gets their head stuck into chasing numbers that present performance and effectiveness. Those numbers measuring results in sales, scores, and leads.
But not everything can be measured. We often forget that big numbers can be motivating, but also dangerous. This is why, lately, we are focusing on building trust and prioritise more flexible work methods within the company.
According to PwC, nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis. Which employee feedback system does your business use to boost productivity?
Rune Sovndahl: As mentioned earlier, listening to our employees is extremely important to us. This helps us determine how we are doing as employers and the areas we need to focus and work on. Thus, we send out regular feedback forms every year, and in order to make it more personal, each Team Leader organises individual evaluation meetings, where discussion is focused on employee progress, opportunities, skill development and feedback towards the company.
The evaluation is used in order to encourage employees to think about and plan their future with Fantastic Services. They are able to target their next opportunity, possible promotions, different jobs within the company that they like to try, and cross-training they may like to obtain.
What financial or non-financial incentives do you offer employees for motivation? What role has that played in increasing productivity?
Rune Sovndahl: Fantastic Services offers flexible working hours and an opportunity to work from home. We are sure that we couldn’t expect business to go back as usual post-covid. So many people have gone used to working remotely, so I understand that we need to shape our strategies based on a more hybrid and flexible working environment. To do so, we will find a way to offer multiple flexible work models that differ based on roles, responsibilities, and location.
We are also always looking for different ways to redesign our offices to optimise communication and stimulate teamwork. We also consider different ways to suppor
If you had an unlimited budget and resources to spend on increasing productivity, what is the first thing that you would change?
Rune Sovndahl: We are already working on those, however, I would further invest in self-care, employee training, and improve the workplace environment. I have always recognised the need for attention on what’s important and beneficial for employees. Hence, a big part of our budget is often aimed at upgrading the workplace conditions, optimising the workflow, introducing flexible work methods, and stimulating self-care. And I will tell you what – this has had an amazing impact on performance!
According to Gusto, 54% of employees say a strong sense of community (great coworkers, celebrating milestones, a common mission) kept them at a company longer than was in their best interest. How do you improve the way teams work together? How do you build a sense of community?
Rune Sovndahl: We are blessed for having some of our employees alongside us since the very start of the Fantastic journey. I think, to a huge extent, this is a result of our employees knowing that they are surrounded by like-minded people that share the same views and work for the same cause. At Fantastic Services, each new employee is welcomed to be part not just of a workplace community, but a FAMILY! We also always try our best to recognise each personal and career accomplishment, and try our best to stimulate our employees to participate in extracurricular activities.
This has been very insightful and I’m sure other entrepreneurs can learn from the knowledge you have provided. As for your company’s future, what big changes are coming down the pipe in the next 6 months that might increase productivity?
Rune Sovndahl: It isn’t a secret that many businesses struggled when COVID-19 first hit. Fantastic Services was extremely affected by what was happening at the time, as a huge per cent of the services we provide require accessing people’s properties, which of course was against the restrictions. I can say that we’ve hardly had any work done in 2020. Last year, however, things drastically changed in a way that even we’ve never imagined. We recorded an impressive increase in demand for our services. This being said, we count on productivity more than ever.
Fantastic Services will be constantly employing in all departments within the company, meaning we will be continuously advertising both franchise opportunities and office positions in order to be able to manage the workflow. We are also opening offices in a few new locations across the globe.
Productivity is important but as is an employee’s wellbeing. What are you currently doing to prevent employees from burning out?
Rune Sovndahl: One thing that we are focusing on at the moment is encouraging our employees to use their paid leaves. We run a report to ensure that our employees are taking their well-deserved time off. We also offer mental health seminars and services, and encourage our managers and team leaders to attend presentations and join discussions that adress work-life balance.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Rune Sovndahl: I won’t be too specific here, as it would take ages to read. COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives, and many businesses will take ages to recover.
It had quite the impact on Fantastic Services as well. We faced a financial hit and I decided to put everything I have into the business in order to retain the 400 people that have been by my side during turbulent times. And honestly, I thought I would my business in no time. This, however, was not the case.
My responsibility towards those people motivated me to keep going and find new ways to sell and process booked services. Then the buzz came, and after some time thinking I also came up with new services to introduce, one being antiviral cleaning services that were carried out with professional equipment. And that during a pandemic! Smart, right?
Needless to say, now we are growing quicker than ever.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Rune Sovndahl for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Rune Sovndahl or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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