Develop yourself and learn from others.
Toni Claren, a serial entrepreneur, who has founded or co-founded more than ten companies. He is currently the CEO of Zoner Oy, which he founded in 2005. Zoner offers domains, managed WordPress hosting, shared hosting, and email services. Zoner has over 15,000 customers in Finland and majority of those are Finnish small business or entrepreneurs.
Toni never liked school, but he started his first company at the age of 16 and after that there was no return to school. Entrepreneurship has been the right choice for Toni’s career because he wants to influence his own path. His first company was a cleaning company, it was set up only to secure a livelihood. The real passion was a later established Internet company that made websites. A few years ahead, Toni met Jani Willberg, who had his own servers. Friends decided to set up a joint company that offered homepages and home page space, so Zoner was born. Along the way has been established e.g. advertising agency, accounting office and software house.
Toni lives in a quiet area in Tuusula, Finland. In spare time, Toni can be found at football fields or grandstands. His favorite football teams are Manchester United and Barcelona. His new passion is traveling. Italy has become a favorite country to travel, and especially the Northern Italy because of its scenery, people, climate and food.
Where did the idea for Zoner Oy come from?
The idea of Zoner was born when I met another founder Jani Willberg through online games. We became friends and found out that we both had internet issues. At that time, I built websites and it was difficult to find server space. Jani, on the other hand, wanted to commercialize his server know-how, but he didn’t (and still doesn’t) have the skills to run his own pages or marketing materials. It was agreed that he takes care of server-side and I’ll take care of marketing and sales. Web hosting company Zoner was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day consists of sparring moments and/or meetings with the staff. I try to help them to take strategic projects forward. Of course, it also involves moving my own projects forward. Every Sunday I try to organize the days of the next week, so that I can take those things forward. I’m trying to stick to this schedule, but unfortunately, I can’t do it every week.
How do you bring ideas to life?
By planning well. The order goes roughly like this: I outline the idea on paper. I seek more information and experiences online. I calculate the necessary calculations according to my best. I go through the plan with the executive team and together, the idea is shaped into something real.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Artificial Intelligence, AI. Very interesting to see where it will develop over the next 10 years.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
What advice would you give your younger self?
Listen to more experienced/successful entrepreneurs.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m always on time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Develop yourself and learn from others.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Efforts in customer service. In Finland we have big telecom operators whose customer service is terrible. I decided early, that we were doing things differently and investing in both speed and quality in our customer service. At the moment, most of our new customers come through recommendations – this is a great example of how well implemented a strategy can produce results for the company!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I trusted too much to other people and loose agreements. I have lost large sums of money due to bad contracts. Nowadays, all contracts go through good lawyers, it costs but becomes cheaper in the long run.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Automate the accounting industry. The whole industry is clumsy, stiff and slow. It’s just numbers, so they should be able to be crushed automatically.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Google Ads, I made $600 from it.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Google Analytics, it’s amazing how much data it has. Learn to read its data first, then learn how to do take action based on its data. Win!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I don’t read that much, but I like biographies, so I recommend Tesla’s biography. I really like his energy.
What is your favorite quote?
- Create a week schedule every Sunday and try to follow it according to your best. It will help you to get things forward.
- Plan well – sketch, find information, make calculations, and then share your plans with others.
- Invest in customer service, because good testimonials bring new customers.