Great businesses don’t start with an idea or even a problem. Great businesses start with great founders and founding teams.

 

Entrepreneurship is part of Roman’s DNA. He never switches off his creative ideas and his relentless hunger to see them realised. Fluent in three languages, over 17 years of entrepreneurship Roman has cofounded 7 companies and successfully exited two, attracted global leaders to his companies as investors, board members, and advisers (including Tej Lalvani of Vitabiotics and Dragons Den, Konstantin Kalabin of TripAdvisor, and many more), and raised over $2m for his latest business alone.

Where did the idea for Splento come from?

I had already founded a number of businesses (and successfully exited two of them), and one of my constant frustrations was with visual content. It was a challenge to work with photographers last minute, and they found it challenging to manage all the periphery elements of running a business, pulling them away from the creativity of their craft.

I quickly saw that there was an opportunity to fix both problems. When Splento was initially born, we targeted the travel industry – and quickly realised we needed to pivot if we wanted to make the business a success.

We shifted our focus to business photography, and have pivoted again and again, refining our offering until we knew we’d hit exactly what would work: high class expert photography and videography on demand, with Splento taking care of all the stress, and our clients and photographers enjoying the creating process.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There is no typical day! I enjoy running so often run into the office through the streets of London, enjoying an audiobook. It’s a fantastic way for me to still enjoy reading, without it eating into my day. I even wrote a list of books I had ‘read’ through listening in 2019.

To reduce distractions, I have moved away from email and encourage my team to use Telegram instead. It forces us all to be more concise and precise, exactly what I need. We have a quick fire 5 minute standing meeting most mornings to discuss opportunities, blockers, and any help needed.

My day can be varied: looking to hire senior leaders into the team, talking with my board, scouting out large enterprise clients, meeting with happy ones. My team knows that I’m only ever a phone call away, wherever I am.

How do you bring ideas to life?

1. First – get an MVT (minimum viable team) together. Find the right people to bring them alive with you. No company can run purely on one person’s ideas and passions, and so I have made it a priority to build a team that I not only trust, but am inspired by.

When we’re looking to create something new, improve on a feature that already delivers, or challenge ourselves in a completely new direction, I work hard to create a culture of openness and sharing. A ‘bad’ idea can lead to a good one. A strange idea can lead to a great one. Once people start censuring, we’ve already lost the potential to do something extraordinary.

2. Second, find a top 3 problem for a large enough audience that needs a better solution.

3. Third, build an MVP (minimum viable product/offering).

4. Scale!

What’s one trend that excites you?

The transition from offline to online. Even ten years ago, so much of our normal modern day life’s today would be inconceivable. I cannot wait to see how virtual reality, true digital transformation, and access to this technology for all is going to change the way we think, build, and create.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Learning when to step away from social media. It’s a fantastic business tool, but it is a means to an end for me. I don’t use it personally.

I want to ensure that despite leading a company that operates in 400+ cities globally, I can still be present for my family and friends.

My productivity as an entrepreneur would certainly take a hit if I stopped that balance!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Focus, focus, focus.

Entrepreneurship is in my DNA, and I can never switch it off. Dozens of ideas every day pop into my head, so the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is to learn to say no.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Great businesses don’t start with an idea or even a problem. Great businesses start with great founders and founding teams.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I’d recommend accepting early on that in most rooms, you are not the smartest person. Embrace it! Learn from others, let your curiosity completely overwhelm you. Challenge yourself to listen actively rather than passively. The people who often get ignored in a room often have the most intriguing ideas, and they are the ones you should be listening to.

It’s easy, as a leader of a business, to give in to the temptation to be always right, but I think that’s when real entrepreneurship kicks in: the ability to step away from your ego, and realise that whoever is talking right now may have the answer to your problem.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

At Splento, the customer is always right – and more than that, the customer guides our own development. Some of our most popular features and functionality right now exist this early in our roadmap because they were requested early by one of our customers.

In the creative industries, that’s a real point of difference. We’re not here to dictate to our customers how many photographs they receive, or what ‘good’ looks like. It’s down to them, and it’s our role to facilitate that and deliver what they want.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not every good idea is destined to become reality. In my entrepreneurship journey, not every single one of my businesses has succeeded. Some were destined to fail – like selling Oxygen (don’t ask!). Others were profitable, but unscalable – like the mobile apps development studio RevelMob, which I closed a few years ago.

Every single development has taught me something. It’s only because of that journey that I have learned how to make Splento a real success.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A simple smart-watch/smartphone app that listens to you all day and at the end of the day tells you the listening/speaking ratio in your conversations. Having two ears and one mouth, I try to listen more than speak, but often I find myself getting carried away talking about Splento for hours on end. This would be a great reminder to stop and listen – and every single sales person could dramatically improve their sales performance by listening more.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best investment for $100 is always a book (or several in my case). I’m a huge fan of audible and I got hooked on The Great Courses series. I go through circa 50 books a year, so I can recommend lots of great ones, but $100 gets you precisely 6 courses. The ones I loved the most are:

– Law School for Everyone
– The Addictive Brain
– Understanding Complexity
– Critical Business Skills for Success
– The Entrepreneur’s Toolkit
– Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behaviour

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Beyond Telegram which I mentioned earlier, we use AirTable for our internal project planning. This empowers us to be creative and structured in how we want to proceed with the business, and requires true accountability of actions and delivery, essential in a small agile team.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

It’s hard to just pick one! If I had to pick, it would be Games People Play, by Eric Berne. His ideas around transactional analysis completely changed the way that I saw people and how I interacted with them.

What is your favorite quote?

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Warren Buffet.

Key Learnings:

  • Great businesses don’t start with an idea or even a problem. Great businesses start with great founders and founding teams.
  • We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
  • Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.
  • The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is to learn to say no.