Outsource the skills you lack. Don’t try to do everything in-house – whenever you can, delegate to professionals, so that you focus your attention on more important tasks, like growing your business.
Artis Rozentals is the CEO of DeskTime, a time tracking app that helps users analyze their productivity. The company was launched in 2011 and today DeskTime is used by nearly 170k users and 7.6k companies from all over the world.
Where did the idea for DeskTime come from?
The idea for DeskTime came from Lauris Liberts and Agris Tamanis, founders of the Draugiem Group – a tech startup hub based in Riga, Latvia. They had created a company culture that included flexible working hours – employees were free to arrive until 11AM. Employees loved the flexibility, but it posed a challenge to management: since people came and left at different times, it was difficult to make sure they work 8 hours a day.
To solve this issue, a simple and automatic time tracking tool was created. It not only logged in employee arrival and leaving times, but also tracked programs and apps used during working hours and categorized them into ”Productive”, ”Unproductive”, and ”Neutral”.
After a few weeks of use, Lauris and Agris were pleasantly surprised. The time tracking tool had significantly improved employee productivity and work ethic. It had changed everyone’s work habits for the better, so they decided to offer their solution to other companies.
Company in-house designer Gustavs Cirulis – now Design Lead at Intercom – created a simple and user-friendly interface, and the product was ready to be sold internationally. That was in 2011, and I joined the company in 2012 and became the CEO.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m a typical morning person, so my day starts at 6AM. Unless it rains heavily, I go for a run or a bike ride – I’ve discovered that physical activities and fresh air help me stay energized and focused throughout the day.
I arrive at the office around 8AM and have a cup of black coffee. No breakfast – I follow the 16/8 intermittent fasting method, which involves eating during an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. This method gives me energy in the mornings, as well as saves time.
After my morning coffee, I get to work. First, I tackle all incoming emails, and then I go through the to-do list on GitLab and discuss the tasks with the team, see if they have any questions or need help. Around midday, I order lunch for the team – that’s been one of the company’s perks since day one, and I really see how providing the team with lunch helps them be more productive at work.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Big ideas always start with an Excel file and numbers. I like to put my ideas into numbers, then do the analysis and calculate the necessary budget. I always come up with two to three scenarios on how to bring an idea to life, then go with the most efficient one.
When it comes to small things – something that doesn’t require much time and big budgets – I just get them done without much analyzing. You can’t overthink things, or you’ll never move forward.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Digital nomads, remote work, and officeless companies. Even though I don’t see I could ever be a digital nomad or work 100% remotely, the fact that technologies give people such freedom is fascinating.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Getting up and doing physical activities early in the morning, as that sets the mood for the rest of the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Learn from the big-name companies how they’ve built and manage their businesses. Read industry blogs and books, and write out lessons to be implemented in your work.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m a healthy lifestyle ambassador and recently finished my first triathlon. People don’t understand when I tell them that swimming, cycling, and running for 4 hours straight is the best way to relax.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Outsourcing. For several years, we tried to do everything in-house, and now I’m asking myself – why?
There are lots of qualified freelance professionals out there who can do the job better and more efficient. Let the HR pros find employees, marketing specialists take care of your marketing, and UX experts design your website. In the beginning, hiring freelancers may seem costly, but in the long-term, it pays off big time. We, for example, were able to boost our revenue by 94%!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
As I mentioned, it was outsourcing. The moment we started to outsource, our business began to grow exponentially. Today, we outsource 13 different skills, whilst maintaining a constant team size of seven people.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Back in 2014, we were working on a DeskTime update, which ended up taking much more time than expected. We put all our human and financial resources into finishing the new and improved version, which meant completely cutting off on marketing and advertising. Because of the inefficient resource management and some bad decisions, the business stopped growing and we struggled for the next two years. In 2017, we finally experienced growth again – over the last two years, our revenue and user base has doubled.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m interested in e-commerce and have been following trends in the industry for some time. Today, it’s very popular to sell on platforms like Amazon, Etsy, etc. The problem is – to successfully grow your business there, you must get your first purchases and good reviews. That’s a great challenge for new sellers. So, it would be great to have a tool that would help these sellers generate first orders and reviews – without faking them.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
$20 for a screen protector for my Garmin sport watch. I experienced a fall during my triathlon race and if I hadn’t had the protector, my watch would be shattered.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Obviously, it’s DeskTime. I regularly go through my productivity stats and analyze my time-spending habits, and I nearly always find something to improve.
Another tool I use often is TurboScan for document scanning.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
”Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup’‘ by John Carreyrou.
It’s an eye-opening book that shows how easy it is to sell lies. I think, in the era of fake news, this book is a must-read.
What is your favorite quote?
“There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.”
– Jason Fried, 37signals founder
We have a poster with this quote on our office wall as a daily reminder.
- Outsource the skills you lack. Don’t try to do everything in-house – whenever you can, delegate to professionals, so that you focus your attention on more important tasks, like growing your business.
- There’s always room for improvement, but don’t stop selling your existing product while implementing updates.
- A small team doesn’t mean small business. You can build a million-dollar company with a team of five.
- Stay active – physical activities will help you stay healthy and are great for boosting productivity.