Market Timing and Trends Matter: Understanding and adapting to market trends is crucial for survival and growth.

As a part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO” we had the pleasure to interview Mateusz Masiak.

Mateusz Masiak is the CEO and Co-Founder of Envirly. Mateusz graduated from the London School of Economics and was recognized as a laureate of the Forbes 25 Under 25 list. His startup Envirly helps organizations get things done in sustainability. Through an all-in-one sustainability platform, they provide a comprehensive solution ranging from reporting CO2 and ESG to decarbonization.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Indeed, it’s a pleasure to share my journey with you! My familial backdrop considerably shaped my life’s course. My parents were esteemed psychiatry professors at a local university, with my father expanding his passion by establishing his medical clinic. Growing up in this environment where academic rigor and direct patient care coexisted, I found myself in a unique, influential, and nurturing environment, which promoted a deep sense of empathy and an inherent appreciation for scientific processes.

This constant exposure to the impact of their work and the profound difference they made in people’s lives instilled a lot in me. I grasped an irrefutable understanding of the value of making a difference and the significance of scientific rigor in guiding our actions and decisions.

Parallel to this, my love for problem-solving began to take shape. The challenge of unraveling complex mathematical structures and finding solutions was something I found both captivating and rewarding. Consequently, I pursued an academic career in Mathematics, earning a Master’s degree from London School of Economics.

Following my graduation, I discovered a compelling avenue where I could amalgamate my passion for problem-solving with my drive to create meaningful change at scale. That path was entrepreneurship. The thrilling opportunity to drive innovation and evolution, navigate complex business scenarios, and influence substantial societal impact, perfectly fit my aspirations. This combination ignited a deep sense of purpose, and I haven’t looked back since then. It has become the core of my professional journey, aligning seamlessly with my inherent tendencies and educational background.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Opportunities often lurk in the most unexpected corners, waiting to be discovered. Two particular instances come to my mind.

The first occurred during a seemingly ordinary lunch break. We were engrossed in a lively discussion about potential new features for our platform when a stranger approached our table. He overheard our conversation and asked if we were seeking funding. To our surprise, he was a Venture Capitalist intrigued by our ideas and keen to invest. What started as a casual brainstorming session over lunch turned into an excellent chance for our company, highlighting how omnipresent the potential for opportunity is.

The other story unfolded on a train ride to a business conference. Amidst grabbing a cup of coffee in a restaurant car, we discussed the significance of connecting with the CEO of a corporation that was our biggest business partner. The CEO immediately walked into the restaurant car as if summoned by our conversation. We seized the chance to initiate a conversation, and that unexpected encounter laid the foundation for a much more meaningful partnership moving forward.

Those experiences reinforce my conviction that we are, in fact, architects of our opportunities. They emphasize the importance of maintaining a proactive mindset, being ready to seize the potential in every situation, and positioning ourselves in spaces where such opportunities can arise. It’s about being open to serendipity and prepared for the unexpected. After all, the following life-changing conversation could happen anywhere, from a restaurant car on a train to a lunch table in a downtown food spot.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I fondly remember an amusing blunder from our early days, which was quite a game-changer for us. Initially, we envisioned our product as a neobank for environmentally conscious customers. A part of the plan included a small module that would help companies score their environmental friendliness.

While it seemed like a minor addition at the time, it was when we began validating concepts and exploring the market that we were hit with a rather funny realization. This seemingly minor feature was the real gem in our proposition. We discovered an overwhelming need among organizations for a tool to manage and improve their sustainability efforts.

Looking back, it feels somewhat comical how we had that potential game-changer right under our noses, yet we almost overlooked it, focusing on a different product instead. Our ‘aha’ moment taught us a crucial lesson about the importance of thorough market research and product validation.

That seemingly innocuous misstep turned out to be a pivotal learning experience, and it reshaped our entire product strategy. We learned that success isn’t just about having a great idea; it’s also about deeply understanding the market, actively engaging with potential customers, and being flexible enough to pivot regardless of what such engagements reveal.

That experience continues to be a reminder that sometimes, the most transformative ideas may be hidden within smaller details, waiting to be discovered. This valuable lesson from our early days impacts every decision we make now and has played a significant role in our current success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Undoubtedly, the journey to success is often a shared venture, and I am incredibly fortunate to have been accompanied by some remarkable individuals. A standout figure who has had a profound impact on my journey is my co-founder, Weronika.

Weronika is a beacon of energy and motivation, and her unwavering commitment to sustainability is a constant source of inspiration. She possesses an infectious determination to make a significant difference in the world, and this has inspired me time and again to persevere and push forward, even in the face of the most daunting challenges.

But what truly sets Weronika apart is her openness and her meritocratic approach. She maintains an open mind to fresh ideas, welcomes innovation and novelty, never allowing preconceptions to cloud her judgment. In every decision we make, she is committed to meritocracy, ensuring that the best ideas rise to the top, regardless of their origin.

I recall one pivotal moment when we grappled with a complex problem that seemed insurmountable. As we discussed potential solutions, a junior team member hesitantly suggested an unconventional approach. Instead of dismissing that idea due to the member’s relative inexperience, Weronika embraced it, recognizing its merit. She championed the idea, which ultimately proved to be our needed breakthrough. This incident, amongst many others, illustrates her openness, meritocratic nature, and traits, which have not only contributed to our success but have also shaped our company culture.

So yes, as I reflect on my journey, Weronika undeniably stands out as an iconic figure to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Her influence has been instrumental in guiding me to where I am today.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?

Indeed, leadership often necessitates making tough choices, and one such instance that remains vivid in my mind was the decision between bootstrapping and accepting venture capital (VC) funding.

Both routes had their unique advantages and challenges. On the one hand, bootstrapping provided us the liberty to maintain full control over our company and make decisions at our own pace, without the pressures associated with investors’ expectations. On the other hand, accepting VC funding offered us the resources to support rapid expansion and the potential to seize a larger market share more quickly.

The challenge lay not in choosing between two distinct paths but in deciding which approach has aligned most effectively with our immediate goals, long-term vision, and market conditions. It required a deep understanding of our business, careful evaluation of the market dynamics, and a solid assessment of our financial strategy.

After extensive discussions with the team, we concluded that the current market situation was uniquely favorable for us. The increasing regulatory pressures had necessitated companies to seek out solutions like ours, creating a ripe opportunity that we promptly needed to capitalize on. Consequently, we chose to accept VC funding, a decision aimed at catapulting our growth to quickly scale and capture this emerging market demand.

That experience reinforced the notion that as a leader, one’s choices must be rooted in a thorough understanding of your business landscape and a forward-looking perspective. It isn’t about simply choosing the easy path, but the right one that will drive your company’s mission forward, even if it comes with its own set of challenges.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

While the role of a CEO or an executive might seem clear-cut on the surface, it’s layered with complexities and far-reaching responsibilities that set it apart from other leadership roles.

A CEO is a guiding force, steering the ship toward growth, profitability, and maximum value to customers. They set the strategic direction, define the vision, and ensure that the organization remains adaptable and responsive to ever-changing market dynamics. Yet, it simply goes beyond charting the path and entails aligning the interests of all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, and customers.

A critical facet of a CEO’s role, often underestimated, is fostering a nurturing work environment. They are responsible for shaping a culture that empowers employees, stimulates growth, and encourages innovation. This not only boosts employees’ satisfaction but also translates into superior service for our customers.

What differentiates a CEO from other leaders within an organization is the comprehensive ownership of a company’s ultimate outcomes. While other leaders might be responsible for their respective departments or functions, a CEO shoulders the responsibility for the organization as a whole. Whether it’s a successful product launch, a critical decision, or a strategic shift, a CEO is accountable for the end result.

In a nutshell, a CEO’s role encapsulates a blend of strategy, vision, people management, and accountability that spans the entire organization far beyond the confines of a single function or department. It’s a role of immense responsibility and profound influence on a company’s trajectory.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

A prevailing myth is that the role of a CEO or executive is a hands-off job, perhaps filled with meetings and detached from operational realities or day-to-day customer interactions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The role of a CEO is multifaceted and often involves juggling a myriad of responsibilities, from high-level strategic decision-making to understanding customers’ needs and often even dealing with ground-level issues.

Leading a company is no easy task. It requires being at the helm, guiding a company through calm and rough waters alike, and making critical decisions that affect not just an immediate operational scenario but also the long-term future of a company.

Furthermore, I firmly believe in the mantra of ‘leading by example.’ A CEO’s role isn’t just about strategy and decisions; it’s equally about inspiring a team, being involved, and demonstrating the work ethic and dedication required to achieve exceptional results. This implies that a CEO is not just an overseer but an integral part of a team, working tirelessly to deliver value to all stakeholders.

In essence, being a CEO is a role of profound responsibility and constant engagement. It is about creating a vision, crafting a strategy to realize it, and rolling up your sleeves to work alongside your team to bring this vision to life. It’s far from serving a detached role; instead, it requires a deep and enduring commitment to leading and nurturing a company toward success.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

When I first embarked on this journey as a CEO, my initial perception of the role was primarily focused on strategic decision-making, financial planning, and operational excellence. However, as I delved deeper into the role, I realized the human element was far more significant than I had initially envisioned.

Networking, fostering relationships, and genuinely supporting others have proven to be an integral part of this role. The importance of those human connections was something I had underestimated. I’ve found that success is also deeply intertwined with the strength of the relationships we build and the support we provide to others.

In retrospect, my actual job as a CEO has turned out to be as much about people as I expected. And this human element, the chance to connect with and learn from a diverse range of individuals, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my role.

Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. The role calls for a unique blend of attributes, skills, and temperament, which may not be inherent or appealing to everyone. Being an executive is as much about personal characteristics as it is about acquired skills.

From my experience, a successful executive needs to possess several key traits:

1. Industriousness and Resilience: The role of an executive demands an immense amount of dedication and effort. Success often comes from persistence and willingness to work necessary hours to get the job done right.

2. Inner Drive: This innate motivation is what pushes successful executives to constantly strive for better, to innovate, and overcome challenges. Fuel keeps fire burning even in the face of adversity.

3. Strong Communication Skills: Executives must often articulate their vision, mediate conflicts, negotiate deals, and inspire their teams. Good communication skills are paramount for these tasks.

4. Responsibility: As an executive, the buck stops here. Being able to shoulder responsibility and make tough decisions is vital.

5. Ability to Connect Dots: A successful executive should be able to discern patterns, anticipate market trends, understand customers’ needs, and make connections that others can’t. It’s about seeing a bigger picture and steering a company in the right direction.

People who may not be suited for an executive role could include those who prefer to follow rather than lead, those uncomfortable with making difficult decisions, or those who shy away from responsibility. Also, individuals who prefer working independently, have less inclination towards team collaboration and people management might find the role challenging.

To sum up, being an executive requires a combination of hard work, an intrinsic motivation to achieve goals, strong interpersonal skills, responsibility, and a visionary mindset. It’s not a role that suits everyone, but for those who have these traits, it can be an incredibly rewarding journey.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

The core tenet of work culture I advocate for is meritocracy. This implies that ideas and decisions are evaluated on their merit. This approach fosters a culture of innovation and problem-solving, where every voice is heard and valued, and it encourages employees to take ownership and contribute their best ideas.

Netflix serves as an excellent example of a company that has embraced a meritocratic culture. They’ve fostered an environment where employees feel empowered to take risks and make bold decisions without fearing punishment if they make mistakes. This freedom to experiment, innovate, and learn from failures has been instrumental in making them global leaders.

To cultivate this kind of culture, it’s essential to emphasise the importance of learning from mistakes and in this way strive for continuous improvement. Failures should be viewed not as setbacks, but as stepping stones towards improvement and innovation. As a leader, it’s important to communicate this perspective and demonstrate it in action.

One way to implement this in your organization is by openly discussing failures and the lessons learned during team meetings. This can help to normalize failures as a part of the learning process and inspire employees to take more calculated risks.

In conclusion, my advice to other business leaders would be to foster meritocratic work culture, where innovation is encouraged, mistakes are treated as learning opportunities, and each employee’s contribution is valued. Remember, the goal isn’t to create perfect work culture but rather to create an environment where your team feel valued, heard, and motivated to do their best.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I strongly believe that through Envirly, we are contributing to the world becoming a better place by supporting the environment and considering the broader impact of companies on society and are governance. At Envirly, we’ve taken this ethos to heart, and we’ve utilized our success to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world.

Envirly’s primary goal is to support companies in improving their Sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance. We believe businesses can and should play a crucial role in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as climate change, social impact, and fair governance. By helping companies navigate their sustainability journeys, we are making tangible contributions to these global issues.

Through our innovative solutions, we’ve empowered organizations to not only understand their ESG impact, but to actively improve it. We’ve seen companies reduce their environmental footprint, foster more inclusive workplaces, and enhance their governance structures, all resulting from our collaborative efforts.

In essence, our success at Envirly has not only propelled our growth as a business but has also allowed us to play an active role in shaping a more sustainable future. We truly believe that by assisting companies with improving their ESG performance, we’re contributing to a better tomorrow for our children and future generations.

Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO” and why?

Absolutely, there are several things I wish I knew before stepping into the role of a CEO. Here they are, along with relevant examples:

1. Establish a Healthy Lifestyle Routine: The role of a CEO can be physically and mentally demanding. Maintaining a high level of performance over a sustained period requires a healthy lifestyle routine, including good nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient rest. Before I became a CEO, I had underestimated the importance of these factors. Now, I ensure to incorporate them into my daily routine, significantly improving my energy levels and overall well-being.

2. Relationships Matter a Lot: This can’t be overstated. Everything is in business, connections, and relationships. As a CEO, you will interact with various stakeholders, from investors to business partners, customers to employees. I’ve found that meeting as many people as possible and nurturing these relationships has led to numerous opportunities and successes for our company.

3. Lead by Example: As a CEO, you set the tone for the rest of the company. I quickly realized that my actions and attitude directly influence the behavior of our team. By demonstrating the values, work ethic, and commitment we expect in our organization, we’ve created the culture that encourages excellence and accountability.

4. Market Timing and Trends Matter: Understanding and adapting to market trends is crucial for survival and growth.

5. Supportive Team of Executives and a Great Co-founder are Invaluable: Being a CEO can sometimes be a lonely journey. Having a supportive team of executives and a co-founder who shares your vision makes the journey much easier. I’m fortunate to have the co-founder and the team who are committed to our mission and have contributed immensely to our success.

In conclusion, being a CEO is a complex role that requires many skills and huge knowledge. The learning curve can be steep, but with each challenge comes an opportunity for growth. The lessons I’ve learned along the way have been invaluable in shaping me into the leader I am today.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

In addition to the sustainability impact path I’m currently on, which is vital, I’ve always believed in the transformative power of education. If I were to inspire a movement, it would be to democratize access to quality education, particularly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Education is one of the most powerful vehicles for change. By ensuring every child has access to quality STEM education, we cannot only improve individual lives but also drive societal advancement, spur innovation, and address some of the most pressing challenges facing our world today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is by the great T.S. Eliot: “Every moment is a fresh beginning.” This quote resonates with me deeply because it emphasizes constant opportunities for renewal and growth that life offers us. Each new moment brings with it a chance to start afresh, recalibrate our strategies, and move forward with renewed vigor and determination.

This philosophy has not just guided my professional life but also my personal one. I firmly believe in the power of resilience and the human capacity to rise above challenges and transform them into stepping stones for success. Every moment, indeed, is a fresh beginning, and every day brings with it new opportunities to create the change we wish to see in the world.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

One individual who epitomizes exceptional work ethic for me is Harry Stebbings, the founder of Stride.VC and host of ‘The Twenty Minute VC’ podcast. His journey from starting a podcast in his teenage years to becoming one of the youngest venture capitalists in Europe is a true testament to his dedication, resilience, and industriousness.

Harry’s story is an inspiring example of how determination and hard work can create significant opportunities, even in highly competitive fields like venture capital. I have immense respect for his journey, which has been shaped not by easy successes but by tireless effort, unwavering commitment, and a drive to consistently learn and grow.

It’s these values that we champion and seek to imbue within our own organization, and this is why I’d relish the chance to have a private meal with Harry. I’m sure his insights and experiences would provide valuable lessons and motivation for anyone seeking to carve their path through hard work and determination.

So, Harry Stebbings, if you happen to be reading this, I would be absolutely honored to share a meal and a conversation with you. It would be a valuable opportunity to learn from someone whose journey encapsulates the essence of hard work and perseverance.

Thank you for sharing your insights. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.