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
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Rune Sovndahl: My name is Rune Sovndahl, I’m an entrepreneur and co-founder of Fantastic Services – an online platform where clients can book professional domestic services providers such as plumbers, gardeners, and cleaners. I’m also a dad to a perfect little boy and having him in my life has opened my eyes to a whole new perspective, where providing him with the best possible planet to live on has become my top priority. So, we learn how to live sustainably, grow our own food and be in tune with nature. But going back to business, about 12 years ago, my business partner, Anton Skarlatov, and I launched Fantastic Services as a solution to a problem we stumbled upon.
The story of our success actually started at a party. I needed a professional to remove a stain from my carpet. That’s when I met Anton, who was running a cleaning business at the time. We had a conversation about the lack of high-quality professional domestic services in the UK. We immediately realized that we were the people who could deliver a solution. In the beginning, it was just Anton and me with two laptops and a shared mobile phone. Despite launching a business during a global financial crisis, today, we are one of the market leaders in the services industry in the UK. As for the future, we all know that it’s uncertain (pandemic or not), but what we aim for is mainly to provide the best quality of home maintenance services using entirely sustainable detergents, water and electricity saving machines, and electric vehicles.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Rune Sovndahl: To be honest, I’ve always had the tech-savvy and entrepreneurial spark in me. Both my parents were programmers, and they always nurtured my creative side. And I was a bit of an explorer – I always wanted to know how things work, asked a lot of questions. I started writing small strings of code when I was about six, and even though I didn’t find my passion there, I understood it completely and I knew even then (the 1980s) that technology is the future of everything. And Fantastic Services is basically my sixth attempt to build a business, but it’s definitely my favourite and the biggest success.
I believe that entrepreneurship is one of the hardest things you can do. And trust me, an entrepreneur’s life isn’t for everyone. When my business partner, Anton Skarlatov and I launched Fantastic Services, we spend 80-90 hours working every week. Our menu included fast food and energy drinks. My sleeping patterns were all messed up. Worst of all, I didn’t have any time for friends, family, and relationships. But we both knew the success would be worth the sacrifices and everything worked out great in the end.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Rune Sovndahl: I have a podcast where I read bedtime stories for kids with no dads. Ever since I became a dad, I realise more than ever how important it is to be there for them and lead them in the right direction. It also makes me sad how many kids don’t get the support they so much need. Hence, I read bedtime stories with the hope that they will make kids out there feel safe and cared for. My son also likes to listen to the stories, we turn it into our special time. I also have a small tomato garden in my office, where I can grow my own tomatoes all year round.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Rune Sovndahl: Being an entrepreneur may take a lot of hard work and determination, but the best thing about it is the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that comes from creating something from scratch. Not to mention the incredible feeling you get when you realize you’ve built something that has the potential to make a positive impact on the world.
However, it’s easy to lose balance and end up in extreme situations, so you definitely need a strong mentality. The only thing worse than being addicted to a drug or alcohol is being addicted to your own business. It’s filled with sleepless nights, unhealthy eating habits, and no exercise. But there are benefits too. For instance, you get to chase your dream every day.
As an entrepreneur, you have to stay focused. You can’t get distracted or go off on tangents. Undertaking too many tasks at once will only be detrimental to your business’s success. The best thing you can do is keep your mind on one task at a time, making sure that you’re dedicated to the cause. Fixating on the goal will give you that extra push that you need to get things done in a timely manner.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Rune Sovndahl: A diverse and inclusive team will serve you better than a similar one. Every research into the matter suggests that companies with inclusive talent practices — hiring practices that take into account all factors without inhibitions — outperform their competition by up to 30%. This is because such companies can identify and develop the very best talent for each position. The real value of diversity initiatives comes not from increased representation in the workplace, but from the people who are represented. One of the crucial components of diversity is inclusion. When employees feel included, they are engaged, motivated, and ready to take on new tasks.
Your business will flourish when your employees feel engaged. With the right tools in place, your workforce will have the support necessary to get things done without being bogged down by bureaucracy or time wasted relaying requests back to management. Many people think that differences are a bad thing, but they are actually a blessing – by working with different individuals in a team, you can see all the different viewpoints and make your product and service ultimately better for more target groups.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Rune Sovndahl: Clearly, the pandemic was a pretty tough time for all businesses. It was uncertain how things would change, how big these would be and how significant. It was mandatory for every company or organization to show its business resilience skills. More or less to demonstrate sustainability. To have the ability to adapt and step beyond the disaster.
Business resilience has never been more critical than now. Without it, there is a lot that you risk: people’s lives, careers, and, of course, your own business. For instance, during the COVID pandemic, we have taken numerous measures to ensure the survival of the company, the satisfaction of the customers, and the well-being of our Franchisees.
We have introduced three new services focused entirely on dealing with the pandemic:
- Antiviral Disinfection
- Antiviral Sanitation
We have also introduced a variant of this service targeting public and private transport – buses and vans carrying people. Fantastic Services have used the pandemic to organize online courses for our Franchisees, allowing them to continue performing essential services for the clients who have been left in a very vulnerable position – clients moving in/out of their properties, who rely on cleaning services. Clients who are unable to maintain their properties due to either physical or mental disabilities and customers whose services are organised under NDIS, charities, and non-profit organisations aiming to help the ones in need.
In addition, the company has successfully managed to introduce the franchisees to the NDIS courses, and all of them managed to pass them well to be available for their specific client base. In addition, to help the Franchisees during the hard times, we have introduced new and reduced commission rates for them to be able to safely keep their jobs and rely on a sufficient income during the pandemic.
Furthermore, to support the Franchisees, the company has paused any pending payments, allowing them to handle the global situation better. We have also introduced the lower commission rates to anyone interested in starting their own business to support their development. During the slower periods, we have tasked our Quality Control Managers to improve the vast range of services that we provide.
As a result, an educational channel on youtube was created, which everyone can use to learn more about the cleaning services and how to maintain their property professionally.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Rune Sovndahl: That I work in a magical place with many clever and savvy people, who make people’s home issues go away, Like when you spill your milk on the carpet and you worry that your mom will be angry and sad that the carpet is ruined – well, it doesn’t need to stay ruined forever, because my company can make the milk stain disappear.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Rune Sovndahl: The most difficult decision was about the Covid lockdowns – the governments were unclear about the measures, clients didn’t know if things were allowed or not, which lead to a state of panic and it was hard to function at the beginning. All this meant potential redundancies, shutdowns and mostly a look at what was next – will we survive and thrive, or will we go down with the flow. Luckily, we are agile and managed to pivot the company, and we also learnt about clarity of messages and the strength of teamwork. When other people closed and decided to wait the storm out, we took a risk, extended our portfolio and made sure our services were deemed necessary, even if we had to adjust them to the new reality.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Rune Sovndahl: My most useless talent is that I can solve a Rubik’s cube in 1 minute.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Rune Sovndahl: I think the title would be “There is always a third option”
Mainly because I have seen so many obstacles, and when faced with them I always know that there are plenty of options and ways to make things happen.
Jed Morley, 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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