In the end it’s not about the hours, it’s about the intensity and quality of your work and a constant reflection of how you achieve the most with what you put in.
Karsten Madsen is the founder and CEO of Morningscore. Karsten founded his first company in 2010 in high school, a digital agency called Morning Train that has 25 employees today and is growing fast. He has always dreamt of building a global software product and in 2017, he and his team started working on Morningscore, an online tool that makes SEO measurable and easy to understand (the discipline of getting organic traffic from Google). The companies he founded have always hired talent before everyone else could see it. Karsten knew that a company was just a bunch of people, so finding the best employees when you cannot call yourself Google or Microsoft was his mission since day one. With an average staff age below 25 this is probably one of Denmark’s youngest staff if comparing with other companies above 20 people on the earnings list. In his free time Karsten likes to organize events and parties for his friends. He is an open person who travels a lot and loves to meet new people who can inspire him. He really thrives in a setting full of unknown people and scenarios. This is also one of his biggest business skills.
Where did the idea for Morningscore come from?
Unfortunately no nice fairy tale here. Angry and confused clients was the inspiration to be honest. I have been in the digital agency business for 7 years, and when it came to buying online marketing services there was a lot of frustration for the clients. Especially with SEO (the act of getting more organic traffic from Google). Mainly because they didn’t understand what was going on.
The pain was constantly there. Older folks usually but not only, who tried to understand what we do, but had to give up and either have faith in us or stop paying for our services and trust the next guy in line in a very crowded and non-transparent market.
I wanted to find a way to make SEO simple and understandable by giving clients a powerful online tool. All the tools out there right now are complex and made for the geeks not the clients.
The key ingredient became one metric that could calculate the value of a websites SEO in dollars so we could speak a language of “money” and “ROI” that clients understand.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I arrive at the office around 7 in the morning. For me mornings are the most productive, and I would gladly start a few hours earlier, but then I am burned out before 2 o’clock and wouldn’t be able to help my team throughout the afternoon. So there is a bit of compromise there. I have studied work efficiency and to me it seems the facts (and here I’m thinking about the empirical studies conducted) are straight: You should not work more than 45 hours per week. I try to keep my office hours below that, and try to switch fully off when I am not at the office.
How do you bring ideas to life?
A mentor of mine taught me how to do idea prototyping and I use that all the time. If someone on the team gets an idea, we will ping pong it with constructive criticism until it’s either dead or planned.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The rise of honest and authentic companies that want to do good in this world. I am quite hopeful the millennial generation will boost this trend, and to me it seems like we are already harvesting the early fruit of it. Just look at The Ocean Cleanup with young founder Boyan Slat who is rescuing our oceans from plastic. Another example: Taylor Wilson who as a teenager built a micro nuclear power plant and now has bold plans to get us clean and safe energy. And look at the whole Bitcoin (blockchain) space where bold ideas will make society more fair and less centrally controlled.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
People are often surprised when they find out that I rarely reply to emails after 4 o’clock and my phone is often on silence mode. On vacations, I am 100% offline. I also switch off everything social media by then, because it reminds me of work.
By keeping work/life balance I feel a lot more productive. In the end it’s not about the hours, it’s about the intensity and quality of your work and a constant reflection of how you achieve the most with what you put in.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It takes 7 years to build a success. And those 7 years will be a crazy ride, so I wish I understood that happiness resonates well with overcoming problems.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The simple answer is always the right one. When you are sitting in a room full of smart people, and they start “over engineering” a problem and you propose something simple they look at you as if you don’t belong there. In the beginning, I actually felt like I didn’t belong. Many people might agree with the statement above but when it comes down to reality the arrogance of complexity and theory triumphs over the nakedness of simplicity.
In my experience, complexity is one of the biggest prohibitors of growth and progress.
Also, internal teams care too much about things that are totally irrelevant to the success of the business and sometimes forget the things that are. Example: Customers don’t care that your office is not the most fancy in the neighbourhood, they care about your hospitality and the vibe at your office.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I question the bottom line impact of activities all the time. Daily tasks and routines. Which things we should say yes or no to. How we spend our money. And so on.
I try to always get numbers into these evaluations. I am a big fan of numbers in almost every aspect.
Example: Why are we spending 4 hours a week maintaining our vending machines when we can have a professional come in on schedule and do it instead?
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
It’s actually a combination of my two answers above. Simplicity and calculation. Here is an example: In Morningscore we have calculated that we need to get 5000 people to sign up for the BETA to achieve around 100 paying customers when we go live. Next step is then to ask “how do we get 5000 relevant people to sign up?” We could develop content marketing automation based on email newsletters with cross channel social media integration (a legit sentence). That is what I often hear from theoretic marketing people. But then you have to ask all the simple questions. How many signups will we get from that? How fast? How expensive? How much manpower does it cost to do? And in the case above it’s close to 0 since we don’t have a follower base on social media or email yet. In conclusion, it’s a very bad idea. On the other hand we could find business emails of our target group and ask them to join the beta. Direct outreach has generated more than 2000 signups so far and lots of great conversations. I consider that a successful model and will continue to use that. Among other great models we have used to spread the word.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Having the wrong business partners on several occasions. The only way I ever overcame that problem was to take the bull by the horns and get rid of them as peacefully as possible.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Here is a very specific tip. Systems to manage ISO-standards are mostly super outdated. Create a SAAS tool that takes care of ISO compliance with modern beautiful design and a fairer pricing model (current systems cost 1000-5000 USD per month) and you should have yourself a strong business model. I am not sure it’s good fun to deal with all this ISO stuff though.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a Smiirl (split the bill, so yeah it was a $100) which is a physical counter that displays whatever number you want. In our case, it counts the number of signups for Morningscore, and it helps to boost our motivation and focus tremendously. Best money I have spent in a long time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I really enjoyed reading “Utopia for realists” by Rutger Bregman, who was only 27 (my age!) when he published the book. It is a fantastic and fast-based view on how we can transform society to the next level.
What is your favorite quote?
“Walk the talk”. Short and simple. It describes the core of what I value and how I aspire to be myself.
• You should not work more than 45 hours per week
• It takes 7 years to build a success
• The simple answer is always the right one. Don’t let yourself get carried away by “over engineering” and complex problem solving.
• If you know you have the wrong business partner you have to get rid of the person.
• Walk the talk – a great motto to live by.