To become more resilient you have to push yourself on things — maybe physical or challenge yourself constantly and then you will see what seems hard at first isn’t so hard. Like learning a language — you have to fully immerse yourself and give it everything and suddenly you can speak and understand.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rune Sovndahl.
Rune is a Danish-born entrepreneur and a co-founder of FantasticServices.com. His passion about work-life balance and franchise entrepreneurship has guided him to build the UKs 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 FantasticServices.com into a business spanning Europe, Australia, and the United States in 12 years.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I’m Rune Sovndahl. I started FantasticServices.com as a way to make a difference in the property maintenance industry by creating a franchise that boosts the benefits of small businesses and keeps their customers happy. And now, we’re one of the best home maintenance franchises because of it.
I was born in a Danish, working-class family and from a very early age, I’ve been a fan of the technologically driven revolutions. And in 1999, at the age of 24, I moved to London to study BA (Hons) Business Information Systems Design at South Bank University. Following the completion of my degree, I was accepted onto a graduate programme with British Telecom. A couple of years later, I established the European Young Professionals committee in London and was involved in its website’s creation as well as in the recruitment of more than 200 new members. A decade had passed since my move to the UK, throughout that time I had acquired various skills and experiences, and then my entrepreneurial journey began with a red wine spill.
In 2009, I was in urgent need of a professional carpet cleaning that could get rid of the stain on one of the cream carpets in the property I was moving out from. One night, at a dinner party, I shared my struggle with my soon-to-be business partner, Anton Skarlatov, who at the time was running a cleaning company and I was the Head of SEO in Lastminute.com. We started chatting about the industry and quickly realized we shared a common vision of how to revolutionize the way people book domestic services. Both of us have different backgrounds as well as know-how. However, our experience and skill-sets complement each other, which is fundamental for any business partnership.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
A few years back we tried to develop a pet sitting service (it didn’t work out, but that’s a whole other story). While it lasted, we did receive a request to babysit a pet snail for a little girl on the autism spectrum. The whole story was so sweet, that it was impossible to refuse. The young lady believed that the snail contained the soul of her recently passed pet rabbit, so she cared very well for the creature and refused to leave its side. This wasn’t a problem until the family had a trip planned, and the pet was not allowed on the plane. Being a responsible pet owner, the girl refused to leave the snail, unless she was certain it’s getting the best care possible. So, this is how we ended up babysitting a snail in our office for a week.
We also had one case from a couple of years ago, where one of our cleaners accidentally interrupted a coven meeting or something. We had a cleaning job scheduled for that address, the cleaner knocked on the door a few times, but there was no response. He decided to check if there’s someone at the back of the house before giving up. He went there, stood in front of the back door and accidentally witnessed the coven meeting in question. Apparently there were people sitting in a circle in the middle of the room, and some strange objects were placed in the middle. The cleaner got really scared and ran away. We then had to call the client and reschedule, they were very cool and understanding.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Back when we began building the company, starting a business in the cleaning industry was dirty competition (pun intended). We faced challenges of all sorts, the tyres of our branded vehicles slashed… The demand grew quicker than expected and we didn’t have enough manpower so we had to hire a lot of staff and train them fast. So we had to be creative to stay in business, we looked for ways to improve the service industry. Anton and I quickly came to the conclusion that we need to develop a service that’s going to be our company’s big breakthrough. We considered 3 main factors when brainstorming our ideas. First, it must make a positive impact on people’s lives. Second, it must be affordable and at the same time retain excellent quality. Lastly, it must stand out. Like most things, it was easier said than done, but in order to bring the Fantastic factor to the market, we had to revolutionize. This is how we came up with our seamless online booking process, where you can easily book any service you need in a manner of seconds, and without additional help. Twelve years ago, little did we know that FantasticServices.com would turn into one of the UK’s top franchise companies and allow us to provide services on three continents (North America, Europe, and Australia). And it was something our competition couldn’t take away or hinder in any way.
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?
Achieving success takes a village, not an individual. To achieve any goal, you need support from colleagues, mentors, family members, and the general public. Based on my experiences working with companies across many industries, I can safely say that the most successful people are those who are able to rally others around them, make connections with other successful people who are willing to help them along the way.
If I have to nominate only one person who has helped me along the way, I guess that would be my father. I’m lucky to have a good mentor, who also happens to be my dad. As a kid, I always remember him encouraging me to be kind and to think freely. I guess that’s where the entrepreneurial spark came from. Most people push their children towards the safe way — studying, getting a job, and even letting their dreams go in favour of living a calm life. I didn’t have that growing up, and I’m thankful for it, because it has made me much more flexible and open-minded.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is a combination of traits that allow us to survive and thrive even in the harshest conditions. It’s not always about being the bravest or most stubborn one, it’s about knowing your own possibilities, constant adjustments and staying ahead despite of what life throws at you. I think that the main characteristics of resilient people are self-awareness and self-control, being calm under stress, empathy and motivation. Self control is very important, because impulsive decisions are what usually fails us.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage and resilience can be related, because it requires courage to stay resilient no matter what life throws at you. So, people often consider these things to be similar or the same, but they are not. Having courage is amazing, but it’s also sometimes related to making rash and bold decisions, which are not always that good when you’re trying to build a business you want to survive through the years. While being resilient means to plan twice (or even more) and execute with precision once you have a view over the entire picture. Yes, the time limits are sometimes the same and you have to make the decision quickly, but you’re doing it with a plan to stay ahead in the long term, and you’re not just trying to be brave no matter what happens. Resilience sometimes requires action, sometimes — to just wait out the storm, but it’s always with the thought of the next decade in mind.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Elon Musk always comes to mind. His history is extremely captivating, and it’s a great example of how you should never give up, always look for ways to innovate and improve, and always stay on top of any changes and trends. He is a typical example of a resilient entrepreneur, who is always ahead of the competition. Even his first business — Zip2, was a genius endeavor because he found a giant gap and room for improvement in the way online newspapers display maps and business directories, and found a way to solve it for them. The business later sold for over $300 million! Paypal follows the same narrative, it was the first online money transfer app, and it was more than necessary at the time. And I’m sure there were people who were telling him he was crazy for his ideas. It takes a truly resilient person to not listen to these voices and keep exploring new depths without worrying about potential failure and what people say.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I have been told something I want is impossible most of my life. The hardest thing I guess was when I was told it was impossible to have real-time availability on a booking app for domestic services. We are not talking on demand job pools like Uber or Deliveroo. Took me 6 years of development and testing and I solved it, and we are still one of the only companies who have solved this.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
The most difficult decision was about the Covid lockdowns — government were unclear clients didn’t know if things were allowed or not, this meant potential redundancies shutdowns and mostly a look at what was next — luckily we are agile and managed to pivot the company and we also learned about clarity of messages and the strength of teamwork.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I have heard that entrepreneurs often have a hard childhood. I can say the same about myself, my mother died when I was 8, it was a huge trauma. They say entrepreneurs are people who just want to make the world a better place. It’s why they have so much resilience and why they can keep on when others often stop. So, I would say yes, I have learnt at an early age, that when the obstacles on your way get tough, you need to keep going, never stop. And that’s the tiny thing that makes a difference.
Resilience is a skill, and something that I work a lot on, both for staff and for our franchisees.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Always look at what’s the worst that could happen, and then play it back to how this won’t happen, and you will find a solution.
2. Resilience is about understanding you are not alone, and to have interdependence. There have been many occasions where it was proven to me that being a co-founder is better and more important than being a solo founder. There was a time I had to take time of work for personal reasons, and having someone to step in is important.
3. Resilience is about (and it’s a word I don’t use often) faith, it’s about having faith in your decisions. We took some big chances by investing more in our IT solution than we had to, and through this we had the best system. But it was a big risk, good thing we had faith that making things automated would make a huge difference.
4. Resilience is about knowing yourself, you are accountable for yourself, even when pandemics like Covid hit — you have to know where you are mentally and physically in the process.
5. To become more resilient you have to push yourself on things — maybe physical or challenge yourself constantly and then you will see what seems hard at first isn’t so hard. Like learning a language — you have to fully immerse yourself and give it everything and suddenly you can speak and understand.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I love the idea from the Pay It Forward movie, it’s such a classic. If you do 3 good things for someone, and they do the same for 3 more, we could make the world a so much better place for so many people.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them 🙂
Alright, what an exciting opportunity! I have a ton of inspirational people I’d love to meet, it’s hard to choose. One of my top people at the moment would be Peter Knight, the founder of Property Academy in the UK. He is an amazing speaker and coach, and his company organises many events for property industry leaders, and their work is truly inspirational, there’s a lot to learn. I’d love to chat to him or even invite him on my podcast. This is him — https://www.linkedin.com/in/peterknight-uk/ .
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!