Ivan Petrovic is the founder and CEO of Insightful, a leading employee productivity monitoring software company. A cybersecurity nerd turned business maven, Ivan leads a global team of 70 employees. Insightful has been recognized with 7 prestigious awards in G2’s Winter 2023 Report, solidifying its reputation as an industry trailblazer. Learn more about Ivan and Insightful at insightful.io.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
With a young daughter, my day begins early by spending time with her. Then work begins. Our team works across four continents, so my workday straddles multiple time zones, making asynchronous communication crucial.
I start by checking email, messages, and catching up on the previous day’s work, then prioritize tasks based on these inputs. I’m conscious not to let these inputs dictate my day or focus too much as this can easily lead to getting distracted from what’s most important.
I split my time between our office in Belgrade and working from home, which provides flexibility and is consistent with our company-wide approach of flexibility. I’m a big believer that productivity isn’t just about what you do during work hours, but also how you use your time outside work time. After work, I’ll spend more time with the family, which helps reenergize me into the evening. To unwind, I also enjoy late-night walks with my dog – though, I am sometimes guilty of squeezing in extra Zoom meetings while wandering the parks of Belgrade with my dog.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I give my team the freedom to explore new ideas, and they can bring them to me or our leaders. Instead of ruling ideas in or out based on their initial appeal, we set up small tests, assess the data, and then refine or kill the idea.
We allocate resources for new ideas and nurture a culture of exploration and creativity. A big part of this is cultivating the mindset that failure isn’t something to be feared or avoided. If we do that, we’ll end up playing it too safe and not growing. So, instead, it’s about positioning failure as a natural part of pushing new ideas. And if something fails, it’s simply more data we have to make future decisions.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Hybrid work excites me because it has long been our working model, and our tool is built for it. I believe it’s the most effective working model – and this is reflected in the data we see from companies who use our tool. Why am I such a big believer in hybrid work? Because at its foundation is flexibility. And this flexibility aids productivity, ownership and wellbeing of employees.
Additionally, the digital transformation of business processes is an existing trend that we are betting hard on. Digital transformation has for years been a slow-burning, inherent evolution of how companies operate. But what we’re seeing now – especially at the top end in enterprise companies – is organizations dedicated to not just navigating the digital transformation, but propelling it. And with the rise of AI, continued adoption of SaaS tools and increasing power of data analysis, I’m excited about what the workplaces of tomorrow will look like – and we plan to play a major part in them.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
It’s less of a habit and more an innate trait, but my ability to be a good listener makes me super productive. With all the books and advice dolled out about productivity, it might sound funny that I say listening is my superpower here. It’s certainly not the top of any “productivity tips lists”. But it’s hugely impactful and seriously overlooked when it comes to productivity.
For instance, by intently listening to my team, I’m able to do things like make better decisions, identify where my time is best spent and best support my 70 employees.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d advise my younger self to be patient, plan better, and trust in myself. I’m not sure if my younger self would listen, though…
I think patience is something we develop as we get older. It’s a bit of a paradox. We have more time when we’re young, yet we’re more impatient. Similarly, trusting in yourself comes as you grow more confident in life and business. Except those rare people who are overflowing with unshakeable self belief, this trust depends on experience and putting in the hours.
The idea of planning was lost on me when I was younger. I’d just set off in every which direction without thinking things through. It’d be hard to convince my younger self to plan, but if I did, it would have been a straighter line to success.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.
The application of blockchain technology can still be revolutionary. But the greed of “early adopters” has hindered its adoption.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
I’d recommend doing the same things I would say to my younger self: be patient, plan better, and trust in yourself. If you do these three things consistently, over time you will find the success you are pursuing.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
I take a walk and give my mind space. Typically I do this every evening with my dog, through the streets and parks near where I live in Belgrade.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
Being remote from day one has helped us grow. At a time when few companies were focused on remote, it gave us more agility, flexibility that supported productivity and allowed us to access a greater pool of talent outside our immediate proximity.
I’ll sneak in a second strategy here too: when hiring we’ve always taken an approach that it’s not just about experience, but also the commitment. It’s easy to get wowed by someone who has years or decades of experience, or who has worked at so-and-so big company. Of course experience is important. But are they going to be as committed to the role? This is a big factor in who we hire – and retain.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
I’ve had many projects that didn’t succeed. This is just part of the reality of being an entrepreneur. My previous company, Workchain, is an example of this. It was a blockchain-based software that allowed people to get paid in real-time for their work, instead of having to wait for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly pay checks.
We had a great product and team, but getting traction was difficult, so I decided we should shut it down. Funnily enough, there are now multiple companies who successfully offer this real-time payment solution. I think our problem was that we offered payment in cryptocurrency and employers and employees weren’t ready to adopt this. We were simply too early in the adoption cycle.
What failure really hammers home to you is the importance of choosing your market. You need to choose your market wisely. If you make the mistake of choosing the wrong market, there’s no going back, going back and fixing it, no matter how great your product is. Instead, you’ve either got to pivot or abandon the project.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A great business idea is connecting and aligning sales and marketing data. We’re doing this internally using backend systems we’ve built ourselves, due to a lack of robust tools to do this. There’s a huge opportunity here for someone to build this tool to help many startups out there that either do it internally (custom) or don’t do it at all (probably the majority).
The problem that’s being solved here is that marketing spend is often difficult to directly attribute to sales when you’re working across multiple channels and have a sales team. The more accurately you can attribute marketing activities to sales outcomes, the more efficient you can be, which increases ROI.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Some tools that help me be productive are Insightful.io (naturally), Jira, Slack, Google Workspace, and ChatGPT.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
Today, it’s hard to spend just $100 and get something of real value. But I would say the best recent purchase was an OpenAI subscription.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
For B2B SaaS, I would definitely recommend Survival to Thrival. It’s a great framework to help you scale go-to-market strategies if you are at the Seed/Series A stage.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
Succession. I love the way it delves into the good and bad of being successful in business, especially the impact that relationships have in getting to the top.
- Productivity isn’t just about what you do during work hours, but also how you use your time outside work time.
- Position failure as a natural part of pushing new ideas. That way, if something fails, it’s simply more data we have to make future decisions.
- Being remote from day one has helped us grow. It gave us more agility, flexibility that supported productivity and allowed us to access a greater pool of talent outside our immediate proximity.
- Some tools that help me be productive are Insightful.io (naturally), Jira, Slack, Google Workspace, and ChatGPT.
- Be patient, plan better, and trust in yourself. If you do these three things consistently, over time you will find the success you are pursuing.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.