Be patient and to listen to others.”
Cristian Rennella, computer engineer, entrepreneur, and angel investor is co-founder of Elmejortrato.com, a service comparison site. It is one of the largest in its sector within Latin America, with a presence in four different countries. His team is made up of over 40 people, all working remotely.
Prior to founding his company, he worked for several years as a programmer for one of the largest firms in the IT sector. Being frustrated with not being able to use all of his skills in the best way possible, he began to brainstorm ideas for a company he could call his own.
Platforms using artificial intelligence and entrepreneurialism in Latin America are two of his passions. Thus, he has helped launch many projects serving as an angel investor to help them get off the ground.
He is married and lives in Argentina’s second-most populated city, Córdoba.
Where did the idea for Elmejortrato.com come from?
About 10 years ago I was working for a major company in the technology sector. Although I did gain some important lessons and skills there, I was unsatisfied. I felt I had so much more to offer and was tired of non-engineers deciding on how things were to get done (which more often than not was in an inefficient manner). A colleague of mine, and eventual co-founder of our company, had the same feelings and we began to “dream up” business ideas. Mainly we wanted to do something that we could be proud of, put all of our energies into, and since we did not have much capital, we needed an idea that did not require a large overhead. Eventually we came to the idea of an online services comparison site, and the rest is history.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get up not too early or too late, enough to enjoy a simple breakfast and maybe to read a couple news articles before going to work. I work from home, from 9 am to 1 pm, then I take a 1-hour lunch break, and finally work again from 2 pm to 6 pm. During the evenings I do similar things that many people do … spend time with family, watch a series on Netflix, go out to eat, get in some exercise, etc. I have many tricks and strategies in place for being as productive as possible. First, I eliminate all distractions … no Facebook, no chats open on my cell phone, etc. When I am at work, I work. I don’t mix personal time with work time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Well, being a programmer and engineer, I am very meticulous and strategy-oriented. I first write out a roadmap to get to where I want to be. I try to anticipate any obstacles that may get in my way. But mostly, once a plan has been made, it’s just about hard work and dedication, trial and error. Staying focused on the task at hand and not wasting time doing things that in the end are not that important.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am excited to see the “boom” in entrepreneurialism that has taken place in the recent years here in Latin America. I have always felt there is a wealth of talent in numerous people with special skills and ideas in this region, and more and more I see people stepping out and making their ideas come to life in start-ups and other projects. I am excited to see an increasing number of companies functioning remotely, or at least partly so. More and more, companies are hiring employees to work remotely, or allowing some of their already existing team members to work from home several days a week.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
As I stated earlier, I try to get rid of as many distractions that I can while I work. When someone gets distracted from their work, you have to figure in the time lost in the activity as well as the time it takes to gather your thoughts, refocus and regain the level of productivity before. Distractions can be personal or external. The personal ones are things we do that take us off our work such as online chats, Facebook, watching YouTube videos, etc. The external ones at a business are typically emails and meetings. Studies have shown that these 2 factors cost a company greatly. Thus, we decided to get rid of emails and meetings altogether. Not having to go to a meeting, to respond to an email, or waste time surfing the internet makes me very productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There’s many things, some that come to mind are: to be patient, to listen to others, that minor setbacks often lead to big gains.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Working less hours is just as effective, if not more effective than working too much. It is easy for young professionals and entrepreneurs to get wrapped up in their work, and this is understandable. In our company we cut our work week back to 4 days a week and found that our productivity actually increased. Quality time at work beats quantity any day of the week.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Run A/B testing. I am constantly trying out and comparing various marketing campaigns, website structures, customer service follow-up, etc. This has helped us not only improve over the long run, but also it allows us to better understand the behavior of our future clients.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We got rid of bosses. All of our employees have a partial ownership in the company and they also do not have a boss micromanaging their every move. I am really convinced that mature, skilled, professionals do not need managers. In our company, we all can see what everyone is working on, so it is obvious when a worker is not performing as they should. To sum up, workers thrive when they take ownership of the company they work for and are allowed to use their skills in the best way they feel the job needs to be done.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Well, a couple of years into our project, when finally had enough revenue and employees to have an office. It was trendy then, and perhaps even still today, for businesses to have posh office spaces geared towards employee satisfaction. I figured this model would be good for us, so I went all out. We had leisure spaces with games, a full kitchen and bar (and for a time our own chef!), fitness areas, etc. I have nothing against companies who decide to have offices like these, but after a while, it was clear that this was not for us. It did not fully fit in with our culture, and we saw productivity decline. Some employees were wasting a lot of time commuting to and from work. We closed the office and went back to working remotely and have been doing so since.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think one idea that has a lot of potential is if an entrepreneur could figure out how to provide healthy foods which are just as cheap, fast, and tasty as typical fast food chains such as McDonald’s.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spent it towards a Premium account with Mixergy.com. I have found all of their resources to be very helpful.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I use pipedrive.com to help me with customer relationship management. It helps me with the follow-up process and also on a large scale it provides me with a step by step map to follow in order to reach the goal.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Start With Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. by Simon Sinek. It will help you clarify the reason for why you should start a business venture, giving you that day-to-day motivation over years to come as to why you are doing what you do and why you are doing everything you can for the sake of your company.
What is your favorite quote?
“Engineers shouldn’t have to be supervised by managers with limited tech knowledge.” Larry Page
- Don’t waste a large proportion of your time on secondary issues, keep on track of the task at hand.
- Get rid of as many distractions as you can at work to achieve the highest level of productivity.
- Cutting back hours on the job will not only improve your work/life balance, it may help increase your business in the long run. The quality of your work hours is more important than the quantity.
- Consider getting rid of emails, bosses and/or meetings.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.