Philipp Weiser of AnyDesk On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business
An Interview With Ken Babcock
… KEEP YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING YOU DO. Don’t only put your business at the center of your growth. Make your customers your focus and put them at the center of all your business decisions. If your customers are driving your business decisions then you should ensure that your business is maintaining its relevance for them, staying on top of its game and providing top-tier customer services.
Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Phillipp Weiser, CEO and founder of AnyDesk.
Philipp Weiser is the co-founder and CEO of AnyDesk, one of the world’s leading providers of remote desktop solutions. With its unique software, the company, founded in 2014, created the optimal basis for collaboration in the modern working world — across physical distances. With an endless passion for innovation and new technologies, Philipp is the main driver of the AnyDesk vision and has led the organization from a small start-up to a world-renowned company.
AnyDesk is one of the world’s leading global providers of remote desktop software. The innovative apps of the global operator have already been downloaded more than 500 million times to date — in 2021 alone, the number of downloads have doubled. This makes AnyDesk one of the 50 fastest growing tech-companies in Europe. In more than 190 countries, far over 100,000 customers have put their trust in AnyDesk, including internationally renowned companies such as Bosch, McDonald’s, and Google.
Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
My story begins at university where I implemented open-source systems for audio-visual transmission over the internet as a student. Here, my interest in visual transmission and remote desktop softwares was solidified, bringing me to the software business. I have always been interested in business strategy also, so when, in my previous company, I saw that the strategy to solve problems was to build features into the platform that was not built optimally or scallably itself, I decided to try and implement changes. Me and my two Co-founders of AnyDesk, who all worked at the same company previously, wanted to execute our many ideas for the remote desktop software, but we found ourselves unable to do so. As a result, we did the only logical thing: set up our own company.
After two years in development we released our first version of AnyDesk. The initial success meant we were able to develop our product further, offering a better product over just a few months and years. The initial vision we had for AnyDesk was to build a super lightweight, ultra-low-latency remote desktop platform before focusing on company growth, and then use it as a platform to grow and develop additional features.
You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?
It goes without saying that taking the leap to quit university and go into a full time job was a key decision that has led me directly to where I am today at AnyDesk. In Germany this is an incredibly unusual move, but I had ambition and I took the risk because I was confident in myself. I am determined to carry this rebelliousness with me in life. This later gave me the courage to break free from the comfort of a steady job to found my own company with my partners. Through founding AnyDesk we have been able to gain freedom, creating a service that is innovative and puts the customer at the center of what we do. We have also been able to build a working culture at AnyDesk that invites creative teamwork, enabling our employees to implement the innovative solutions and ideas that they have.
What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?
It goes back to the heart of it all: implementing AnyDesk version one. It took more than two years of work and included setting up our underlying IT infrastructure in addition to acquiring our first customers. We began with no customers and built our dream from the ground up, and now have more than 500 million downloads and over 100,000 customers. We were determined to create a platform that was not reliant on third party systems, and this proved to be vital when we had to scale our operations 10 times in a matter of just three days when the COVID-19 lockdowns hit. It was a challenging task, as you can imagine. However, we managed to achieve our goal without any major downtime or disruption to our service. I am particularly proud to have been able to provide a solution that helped businesses overcome the challenges of the past 2 years. I am looking forward to continuing to ride this wave of innovation, taking remote desktop solutions to places it’s never been before.
Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?
The most important mistakes that we all make — in business and in life in general — are about people. People management is perhaps the most difficult thing to get right and mistakes can’t be completely avoided in this area. To get it right means to learn from your mistakes. The most significant lesson I’ve learned is that it is crucial to align the career goals of an employee with the goals of the company. A company consists of lots of different people and their personal desires and goals. If these align with your company’s goals then success is far more likely.
How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?
A school physics teacher had a very large impact on my life. He taught me critical thinking, how to interact with people, and the importance of being well mannered. I give the same kind of mentorship to people that I work with, sharing stories with them and lessons that I have learned along the way. Self-critical thinking can improve the outcome of work and increase efficiency, and this is what I try to practice myself and inspire others that I mentor.
Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?
I don’t have an individual whom I model after; I think it’s important to have several mentors to guide one’s leadership style. I try to find my own way, creating solutions from my own experiences, working hard, and relying on the shared knowledge and experience of my teams. I build teams which are rich in different personalities and backgrounds often means the group produces original ideas and innovative solutions. Elon Musk said, and I agree, that: “A company is a group organized to create a product or service and it is only as good as its people and how excited they are about creating.”
Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.
LISTEN TO THE DEMANDS OF CUSTOMERS AND THE INDUSTRY.
Customers and users will tell you what they want and what they need. It can come in many forms: from reviews, to changes in the industry, to changes in sales. Tracking these and responding appropriately makes sure that your business continues to remain necessary and needed by customers.
Over the past 2 years, AnyDesk has seen downloads in the hundreds of millions and that rapid growth is continuing. We can see that remote and hybrid offerings that tend to save time and money are making workers happier at the same time.
Continue listening to new ideas and implementing the very best of them. Don’t get stuck in one place, going in a rigid direction. This can have consequences, from losing valued employees to becoming irrelevant to customers.
At AnyDesk we experienced hyper growth in a matter of days. We had to scale our operations ten-fold and that meant coordination and increased flexibility between teams in a way that we had never done before.
HAVE CLEAR GOALS.
Anticipate what will be needed for your company as it grows, and know exactly in which areas you want to grow first. Don’t rush it, but don’t drag your feet either. Jump into action when required. Remember to remain ambitious as well as practical.
The demand for remote and hybrid work means companies adopting these working models must ensure that they are compliant with local data regulations, and can provide secure connections to work information even when employees are out of office. AnyDesk has made it a goal to ensure the highest possible safety and compliance levels.
MARKET YOUR BUSINESS WISELY.
Invest in good marketing and PR. In the early days of growth you want to build a buzz and make sure people are excited about your business. Strong marketing and PR requires time and effort, so the sooner you start building a presence in the industry, the better your results will be later on.
KEEP YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING YOU DO.
Don’t only put your business at the center of your growth. Make your customers your focus and put them at the center of all your business decisions. If your customers are driving your business decisions then you should ensure that your business is maintaining its relevance for them, staying on top of its game and providing top-tier customer services.
Listening to our customers, and understanding what they do, allows us to add features and update our platform to make it optimal for them. For instance, we have ensured that our users can undertake memory-heavy tasks such as video editing with greater ease from home, with all the computing power that they would have as if they were working in the office. The addition of features like this will ensure that we maintain the momentum that we have been experiencing.
Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?
Many businesses, when scaling, forget to put trust in valued employees. This is essential to successful growth and in maintaining company culture. Putting faith in employees already in your business and giving them more responsibility and a greater stake in the growth of your company will ensure employee satisfaction and make them feel like a valued part of your team.
Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?
Scaling in its nature means change. However, staying strong in company values, and making sure that these filter through to every department and level of the company as it grows, will maintain culture and ethos. Having people in place who believe in the same things as you do, who want to support and grow the company with you, helps businesses ensure they maintain their working values. We always encourage team members to raise questions and keep as open a mind as possible in order to maintain the innovative culture we started with when we first founded the company.
In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?
I acknowledge that there comes a moment when processes and procedures gain an importance in an organization. However, this takes on a different form in a scaling business. For instance, creating complex procedures is counter productive for a growing company which is constantly changing, while creating flexible and changeable modes of working is essential.
Additionally, organic knowledge transfer is an important technique in scaling. You should have teams of people with varied experiences, who have practical knowledge and experience in the field with the know-how of how to drive teams and implement solutions to problems that might arise during business expansion. Learning by example is something so obvious that we often forget its usefulness and importance, so we always try to create varied teams to combine team knowledge and experience. This kind of knowledge transfer is key, as is ensuring new employees get a thorough onboarding to ensure a smooth transition.
What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?
AnyDesk of course! Our features help make onboarding simple and straightforward, and encourage employee collaboration from the offset. The best onboarding tools should be hassle-free and build business culture from the first moment.
Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.
Reading. It’s unbelievably beneficial to read a wide variety of books, and if I could influence a movement to inspire people to read as many different books as possible that would be amazing. I believe that reading all kinds of books, not only work-related, but also fiction and history books, helps to inspire critical thinking and can motivate people in real life, teaching us about interpersonal relationships or teaching us how to judge problems and solutions.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow our work online through our blog: https://blog.anydesk.com and check out our news at https://anydesk.com/en/press. Or follow us on social media, here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/anydesk-software-gmbh/ and here: https://twitter.com/anydesk
This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!
About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.