(This interview was first published on the OpenUp website).
Last month, our CEO Raymond Kokken spoke with the guys from OpenUp, the new service we have partnered with to give extra support to our Creative Clickers during these different and sometimes tough times (to know more about this program, check our blog). Here is his interview.
Raymond, how are you?
“I’m actually doing very well given the circumstances! Of course you miss things in life such as going to a bar, going out for dinner, getting together … bit by bit these things were taken away from us and that certainly makes your world a lot smaller. That said, my family is healthy and the business is going well, I’m counting my blessings. You can get frustrated with the situation, but I prefer to dwell on the positive aspects and try to make something beautiful out of it despite the circumstances.
I am really looking forward to everything that will be possible again, to the summer when we will hopefully catch up on time and enjoy our freedom again. I have this optimistic nature, I have an innate aversion to complaining. How you experience life depends on how you look at it. I try to look at the things that (do) exist as much as possible and look to the future.”
Have you had any concerns during this time too?
“Of course there were concerns. A very large part of my life is my company, which I have built up with a lot of blood, sweat and tears together with my partners over the past 12 years. When a pandemic breaks out, you naturally worry. At that moment you cannot estimate the impact it will have. It not only affects your personal life, but also the company and thus all your colleagues. This crisis affects the well-being of all the people you work with.
To be able to oversee the situation and make it manageable, I started to draw up a kind of emergency scenario in which a number of scenarios were devised. What could happen? And if things go wrong, what can we do? By clearly identifying the possible steps you will take, you also know what to do to help your company and all employees through this crisis.
Once that script is in place, you can let it rest. After all, you know what to do in every situation and no longer need to waste unnecessary energy on it. Now at Creative Clicks we are lucky that we are in an online business that has not been hit (hard). Of course there are customers for whom the crisis has had a major impact, while other parties have grown rapidly. As a company, we have (still) seen growth and that provides a degree of peace of mind. It is also nice to be able to say to the team: “You do not have to worry about your job, we are going to get through this crisis together.
That gives me a feeling of comfort and that makes me feel blessed. Because if you ask me, the worst part of this situation is the companies, entrepreneurs, self-employed people, in short, everyone who works hard to survive, but is hit so hard or even forced to stop, outside their power to. That touches me deeply. ”
How do you keep peace for yourself
“I like to exercise a lot. This is something I have been doing structurally for a number of years, about five times a week. After a hard day at work, when it is very busy in my head, I start exercising before going into my evening. It helps me to put things in perspective better.
For me, sport is the way to deal with the pressure and responsibility of doing business. It has helped me become a more balanced person and also to have less stress in my life. Getting older also helps, and that in combination with sports ensures that I can handle life better and better.
I have always been a go-getter from the start of my career. I worked very hard, always wanted to get better at what I did and was constantly comparing myself with others. I went to bed with work and got up with it again, I was constantly under tension. It happened more and more often that I fell ill all at once, out of nowhere, as if my body could no longer handle it. A few years ago I started making changes in my lifestyle: eating healthier and especially exercising more and regularly. Since I have done that, I have less stress, I sleep better and I can put things into perspective a lot better. ”
Have you ever talked to a coach or psychologist yourself?
“When I started doing business, I got the necessary help from a coach. I was always praised in the companies I worked for about everything I had and got done. When I started for myself, I ran into a lot of things.
In larger companies, your performance has always been partly supported and caused by the people you work with. If you are starting your own business, it is suddenly 100% your own responsibility. In the beginning it was also true that a number of products that I had developed did not run smoothly at all, which made me unsure. Where I used to be the best, I was now unable to perform well. It caused a lot of stress and even migraines, I lost myself in all of it.
A friend who understood what I was going through advised me to talk to a coach. This has helped me a lot to get out of the negative spiral of thoughts. I hated the idea that my venture would fail. But most of the stories you tell yourself aren’t true. By talking about this I was able to put it in perspective, by thinking: what is the worst that can happen? And if this happens, what can I do?
It is also nice to talk to someone who understands the situation you are in. Building a business from scratch requires something completely different from you than when you work in a company that is basically a well-oiled machine. Starting your own company is great, but sometimes also difficult, it requires a different mindset. A coach can help you to see that the ballast that you put on your shoulders does not always have to be so heavy.”
What’s the most helpful advice you’ve ever had?
“One of the shareholders once said:” You can worry about everything in your life, but 90% of the time you have no influence on the situation.” And that is so true. There is no point in worrying about things that you cannot change. There is also no point in constantly being ] busy in your head with things that could happen. It’s just an energy drain. The advice is therefore: only focus on the things that you can influence.
In addition, something I have also learned over time, is the art of thinking solution-oriented and especially not to judge too quickly or to get carried away by people and opinions. Always try to see things from multiple sides. As the person with ultimate responsibility, you are constantly dealing with minor conflicts, for example things that are at play with your employees or the market that is not quite as you want. You can get annoyed by all the circumstances, but you have to find a way, especially as a CEO.
For example, look at how Rutte is holding up at the moment, I can only have respect for this. You can think of the policy as you want, but the way he shows leadership, keeps his cool and always remains constructive is admirable. It inspires me. It’s easy to shout from a distance, but imagine yourself in his shoes. It is genuinely great to remain solution-oriented when dealing with so much conflict and criticism. ”
What gives you fulfillment in your life?
“If you had asked me this a few years ago, it boiled down to the fact that I wanted to live as big and compelling as possible. I wanted to get the most out of my career, never miss a party, live life to the max and see where the ship would take me.
It sounds cliché, but nothing could be further from the truth: as you get older and have children, this changes. I am much happier with the little things in life. I feel more humble, it’s no longer about myself but about my family and taking care of others. I can thoroughly enjoy moments with my children when I see them enjoying themselves or philosophizing about how they experience life. Realizing that happiness doesn’t depend on grandeur and compellingness makes life a lot easier. ”