I recommend making it a habit to learn something that is (seemingly) not related to your usual field every week.
Ronald Czachara is co-founder of Derdack GmbH, a German software company specialized in corporate alerting solutions. He studied physics and computer science at the Humboldt University of Berlin. As a child growing up in Eastern Germany before the wall came down, he never thought to be able to travel the world or to become an entrepreneur. Both became reality. He traveled to over 50 countries, realized many IT and telecommunication projects and learned about people, business and different cultures on the way. Within Derdack Ronald filled various positions starting from programming and product management at the very beginning, to sales, leading the technical consulting team, as well as business development. His passion for science, technology and personal development as well as his love of learning in various fields help Ronald to stay on top in a fast-moving tech business. His calm, open, kind and humorous manner helps to handle also difficult business conversations in a solution-oriented and trustworthy way. Currently he is responsible for business development and for expanding the ecosystem for Derdack’s lightweight, app-based alerting service SIGNL4. Ronald enjoys spending time with his family, being in nature, traveling and trying out new ideas. Sports and meditation offer recreational balance. As a member of Toastmasters Ronald constantly polishes his public-speaking skills, he always seeks to grow and helps other people to grow as well.
Where did the idea for Derdack GmbH come from?
In 1995, founder and CEO of our company, Matthes Derdack, took part in an innovation contest and won the second prize. We were students back then. A bit later I joined him, and we did some programming together. In 1999 we founded a limited company together with Doreen Jacobi. We initially offered mobile messaging software for service providers and mobile carriers. Later, in 2007, in a second wave, we realized a wide range of customers are using SMS text messaging for alerting purposes and we established Enterprise Alert as a dedicated on-premise alerting software for corporations. A third wave started in 2017 with our SaaS (software as a service) alerting product SIGNL4.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts too early at around 06:30. I know there is this idea about the effective morning hours where people stand up, go for a run, meditate, shower, write for an hour and then have breakfast at 08:00. This is not me (yet). In the morning I take my daughter to school. We usually go by bicycle and I really enjoy this. Then I drive to the office while listening to audiobooks or podcasts. My favorite podcasts right now are TED Talks Daily and Akimbo by Seth Godin. This gets me into the right mood to start the business day. In the office, of course, I answer my emails, make phone calls and attend meetings. The day before I try to plan one bigger task as well as several minor tasks and I then work on these. I usually have lunch with my business partners. This is a good opportunity to talk about business outside the usual routine and to have some nice Italian pasta as well. In the evening I have dinner with my family and sometimes at night I do the more creative and sophisticated tasks. For me, this often is the most productive time of the day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At Derdack we use a lot of Design Thinking, which is a powerful technique for creating and evolving new product ideas and strategies. However, the most important thing is to listen to customers and to ask them the right questions. Software is amazing. You can almost do magic with software. And if you sell it or give it away you still have it. The hard part is to identify what a customer (and many customers) really wants, which is not necessarily what they think they want or what they say they want. It comes down to customer needs, feasibility and return on investment.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Definitely AI (artificial intelligence). AI has become part of our lives already when you think of navigation or image recognition. I was excited when in 2015 the computer program AlphaGo won against a professional Go player. This is just the beginning and I am optimistic on how AI can further help to improve our lives. I also believe in the so-called singularity where AI will exceed human intelligence at some time in the foreseeable future. At the same time, I see the growing demand of us humans to live purposeful and fulfilled lives and I think that technology, used wisely, can do much more good than harm.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Do not underestimate the power of taking breaks. If I am stuck it often helps to stop, to do something completely different and then come back to my original task again. Sometimes also sleeping on it for a night does the magic.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If there is a problem, think about if this will still matter one year from now? If not, don’t bother too much.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
On your deathbed you won’t regret not having gotten that promotion or that pay rise you are waiting for so eagerly right now.
Well, of course everybody agrees but only very few people live their lives according to this truth.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am a curious person. I am an explorer. I love learning and I am excited about a wide range of topics. Listening to TED Talks or talking to people I disagree with in an open way helps me a lot to broaden my horizon. So, I recommend making it a habit to learn something that is (seemingly) not related to your usual field every week.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Have a great team of founders and go bootstrapped for as long as you can. At Derdack we are three shareholders with completely different personalities, and this is very beneficial for the company.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There was a time when I took business too seriously. I was exhausted and felt a lack of motivation as a result. I find the term work-life-balance a bit misleading. This sounds like you are dead when you are working. Ideally your work is meaningful and thus a purposeful part of your life. I realized there were various solutions for my problem and that I am much more in control than I thought. Focusing on new responsibilities within the company brought back my energy and motivation. It helps a lot to have a team you can trust and rely on and the best way to achieve this is to trust your team.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are so many opportunities out there and it is easier than ever to start a business. I see huge potential in many areas from solving work conflicts, to education to making elderly homes more fun. If I can only share one business idea I would go for a “museum of ordinary interconnectivity”. This can be a physical place, an interactive online portal or even a board game. Usually, a museum focuses on specific topics. However, in our world everything is interconnected, much more interconnected as we think. For example, if I drink an Espresso, this is related to a coffee farmer in Latin America (among many other people). Or, if we charge a smartphone, where does the power actually come from? What was involved to get the smartphone assembled? And where does it go when it is not used anymore? Maybe you can also add some cleverly designed experiments for kids and adults. I would love to visit such a museum.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent was on my Toastmasters membership. I guess $100 is good for nine months of membership or so. When I first visited a Toastmasters club I was blown away by the inspiring and supportive atmosphere. It is a place to practice public speaking and leadership, but it is much more than that. There are always interesting people. You can find Toastmasters clubs in many bigger cities world-wide and you can always go there as a guest for free, something I definitely recommend.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
It is Google Tasks. I use it every day to capture ideas. You define different task lists for different purposes and thus you can create a system that works for you.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a thought-provoking book about big and unlikely events and about how bad we are at predicting the future. The book helps to think out of the box and gives a better understanding of probability and risk. You can apply the wisdom maybe to influence your environment to support your goals.
What is your favorite quote?
I cannot think of only one favorite quote. However, recently I heard this one from a friend:
“I heard so many people answering questions that were never asked.”
This is powerful and I find myself thinking about it from time to time. So many problems just arise because of misunderstandings or perceiving communication differently at the sender and receiver end. The quote suggests that listening is an important and often underestimated part of our conversations.
- Have a great team of founders
- Go bootstrapped for as long as you can
- Stay curious and keep learning also beyond your field
- Trust trumps knowledge