The C-Life Podcast - Ville Houttu

Ville Houttu
May 9th 2019
Tyler Mounce: This is Tyler Mounce.
Todd Vande Hei: And Todd Vande Hei.
Tyler Mounce: And we are here with Ville Houttu who is the CEO of Vincit California. Vincit, for anyone who isn't aware, is a digital agency. The company originally started in Finland but is now operating in California, for which Ville is the CEO.
Tyler Mounce: Ville thanks for joining us today.
Ville Houttu: Thank you, my pleasure.
Tyler Mounce: So for anyone who isn't aware, or maybe isn't from Finland, like most of us, you're relatively new to California right? In the marketplace, like only in the last ... post IPO-
Ville Houttu: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler Mounce: In 2006, so IPO in 2016, is that right?
Ville Houttu: Yes that's correct.
Tyler Mounce: And then officially started in 16, 17 here in the US?
Ville Houttu: Yeah.
Tyler Mounce: So tell us a little bit about your company, what it is you guys do, why someone would work with you.
Ville Houttu: Yeah, so like you said, we started the company in Finland almost 12 years ago, and we are a software UIUX strategy agency, and we work with clients, over here we have pretty well-known brands such as Logitech, Yamaha, KCRW, and Irvine Company. So usually well-known brands and we help them to build their digital products.
Tyler Mounce: Okay, so doing all the UI/UX stuff if they have apps, and then do you actually do physical products as well?
Ville Houttu: Yes, so G Healthcare is a good example of the physical products we help them to build, so the patient monitors that they sell over here in the US, they have our code in it.
Tyler Mounce: Okay, and I'm excited today because having been in leadership roles and management roles with the company for a long time, you guys have a very very unique structure and company culture which I'm excited to dive into, but maybe just kind of go back to the beginning of your professional career.
Tyler Mounce: Because my understanding is by trade you're an engineer, that's what you had studied.
Ville Houttu: Yes. Yeah I'm very much an engineer. So I did my masters in embedded systems, so coding and hardware combined, and I still geek about maths and physics, but since the beginning of my career I started working more in manager roles and in sales.
Ville Houttu: I think I like to move around and meet people, and get along. So that's been my career almost for the last 20 years now. But yes, I think what was life-changing for me was when I worked for a company called Rogue Design, which is a design agency based San Francisco.
Ville Houttu: And I got to travel to California quite a bit, and after moving to Vincit I took quite a lot from them when it comes to the design processes, and design thinking, and service design in general, and it helped us to transfer where we are now.
Tyler Mounce: So fairly early on in your career you had that experience of working with this San Francisco based agency, and then that impacted a lot of how you conducted things when you went to Vincit, which was pretty early on right? When the company when was very small?
Ville Houttu: Yeah. Yeah I think around 50 employees, and today we are almost 500 employees, so it's been growing nicely but I think where we are best known of is the work culture which we are-
Tyler Mounce: Yeah so explain a little bit what Vincit was like when you first got there, and what you were doing, and then kind of ... because you obviously sort of rose through the ranks with the company structure as it was, and then that put you in a position to help with the restructure of the organization. So maybe kind of go to the early days of Vincit and what that was like.
Todd Vande Hei: And this was 2006 is that right? It's 12 years old?
Ville Houttu: Yeah, or 2007, but it's long time ago. Yeah I think everything is easy until you're 100 employees agency, which is not easy, but after you reach that point you really have to start thinking about things, and at the time we were operating in pretty typical organization structure, where we had management, then we had middle managers between the teams and the employees.
Ville Houttu: And everything was running well so we were growing, we were profitable, we had a good thing going on, at least that's what we thought until we starting conducting employee satisfaction surveys, and we found out the managers weren't happy at all.
Todd Vande Hei: The middle managers?
Ville Houttu: The middle managers, you because they were programmers, designers, and that's what they wanted to do.
Todd Vande Hei: So they were unhappy because they couldn't do the actual job of programming or designing?
Ville Houttu: Yeah they were put into a position where they didn't have the tools to be successful, because they were by education and by passion, they were not managers.
Todd Vande Hei: Sure.
Ville Houttu: They were not leaders, they were software professionals, and we also found out the teams under these bad managers weren't happy either, so we kind of had to do something and-
Todd Vande Hei: That's pretty much everybody was unhappy except for upper management.
Ville Houttu: Yeah.
Tyler Mounce: Good recipe.
Ville Houttu: Yeah quite typical, right?
Todd Vande Hei: Yes.
Ville Houttu: No, yeah, so we had to do something, and we removed the middle management layer, and we removed the teams as well.
Tyler Mounce: So real quick before we go into what you guys restructure. So my understanding is that like to that point, this is what 2013?
Ville Houttu: Yeah, 2013.
Tyler Mounce: So 2013 was the first year that the company had actually gone backwards from a revenue standpoint, is that right?
Ville Houttu: Well that's how it seems. We had a nine month calendar year that year, but it started to get a little bit steadier, yeah.
Tyler Mounce: And why was the nine month calender? Because you shut down and did this restructure?
Ville Houttu: Not only because of that, we changed the fiscal year [crosstalk 00:06:42].
Tyler Mounce: Okay, so it was a shorter calender year, but either way revenue wasn't growing the way it had in the early days, and so then you start to realize that this ... what made you do employee satisfaction surveys?
Ville Houttu: You know, that's a very good question, because the revenue hasn't been a goal or a driver for us, so we don't have our KPIs and the typical-
Todd Vande Hei: What was the driver?
Ville Houttu: So we have two KPIs that we focus on, one is employee satisfaction, and the other one is client satisfaction, and we believe that-
Tyler Mounce: Company-wide KPIs that you all operate by?
Ville Houttu: Yes.
Todd Vande Hei: And were those in place prior to 100 employees?
Ville Houttu: No.
Todd Vande Hei: No, okay.
Ville Houttu: Yeah that's when you know, the whole puzzle started to come together, so yeah that's when we made the change, not focusing on the growth and profitability, but actually the growth enablers, the catalysts, so if you're successful in having a good employee satisfaction and client satisfaction you'll actually be profitable and growing.
Tyler Mounce: So what did this process look like? You know because rolling out employee satisfaction surveys was ... I mean were your employees just chomping at the bit like, "Finally I get to let these guys know what I think"? I mean how did that process go?
Ville Houttu: Yeah, I think it wasn't such a big surprise that you'd think, that you know, they weren't happy, but we thought they would be happier than they actually were at that time.
Tyler Mounce: So you suspected something was wrong, and then when you started to take a look under the hood you realized that problem was a lot further along than you'd realized?
Ville Houttu: Yeah exactly, because usually when you conduct these surveys you find a couple of items, or a couple of points you should focus on and fix, but this was more sort of across the board problem, and yeah.
Todd Vande Hei: Well it must have been a bad day huh?
Ville Houttu: Not really, I think that was the best day in the history of our company.
Tyler Mounce: Oh yeah.
Todd Vande Hei: That's a good way to put it.
Tyler Mounce: So how did you get from employees are unhappy, to let's wipe out middle management?
Ville Houttu: Yeah, I mean we had to do something, and there were a couple of different options that we explored, but I think when you have to do something radical you might as well go all the way through.
Ville Houttu: And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, instead of having these different structures in place, you will set up the structures based on the need. So if you have a project you will set up a team and a team lead for that project.
Ville Houttu: Or if you have a taskforce you will set up a team for that taskforce and have leaders for that specifically. So you don't have these imaginary boundaries limiting you to pick people and form dream teams.
Tyler Mounce: And so how lot did it take to implement?
Ville Houttu: A day. Yeah.
Tyler Mounce: So you just called all the managers in there and said what?
Ville Houttu: Yeah you know we have to remember it's what they wanted to do and what they already did, so they were coding while being managers, and so-
Todd Vande Hei: And they were still doing that as managers?
Ville Houttu: They were still doing it, so they had this additional burden of you know, organizing team events and listening the needs of the team and so on, now they didn't have to do that anymore, it was offloaded. So I think it was a good thing for-
Todd Vande Hei: Who took up that work that they were doing that was offloaded?
Ville Houttu: Yeah so we created something called Leadership as a Service, it's a online tool, you can think about it like an e-commerce of services that the company provides to the employees.
Todd Vande Hei: Okay.
Ville Houttu: And with services I mean performance analysis or discussions, salary discussions, career coaching, and all types of coaching, but also not work-related services. So we have a group of providers, say healthcare, medical, daycare and such, in the system where people can log in and order these services.
Ville Houttu: We think them to the service providers, we of course manage the costs and everything so they don't have to worry about that, but by taking care of the needs of the employees we actually help them to work better and perform better, and we don't have to have that middle manager in between listening to the needs and reporting the needs to the management who will then take care of the needs. Having sort of the middle link in between.
Tyler Mounce: so there's kind of two pieces to that, you have this ... you basically sort our outsource the middle management role that ... the function of the middle manager that you still wanted, you outsource to this leadership company, and they function almost as sort of like a concierge management in a way?
Tyler Mounce: Like kind of-
Ville Houttu: Yeah that's very American way to think about it.
Tyler Mounce: Guilty. Guilty.
Ville Houttu: No no no, it's a good thing, outsource to a management company, no that's not what we did, the people manage themselves, and that's why it's called Leadership as a Service, so we serve our employees and providing all the service they need, but they have to come up with their needs.
Ville Houttu: Because employees are individuals so they have different needs, so if you think about the younger guys, they like to work out and look good, if you think about older people, they're planning for their exit from the company, and parents with kids, they'd like to sleep more or they may have sleeping problems, you know all these needs are individual and you can't create a leadership model one-size-fits-all, but you have to listen to the needs and provide the service.
Ville Houttu: But they do all the management themselves, we just provide what they need.
Todd Vande Hei: How about project management? Like you're doing something for GE, how is the team actually of individual employees assembled to help complete that project?
Ville Houttu: Yeah so the team gets assembled based on the wishes and dreams of the developers, and also the client. So of course they have a requirement and we need to match the experience and competence with that, but we listen to what the developers want to do, and what's best for their ... what's the next step in their career.
Ville Houttu: So whether these are the products or clients they want to work with, technologies they want to work with, and so on. So we take into account a lot of the pieces of the puzzle and put them together and make the match.
Tyler Mounce: So ultimately upper management has final say on what the project team will look like?
Ville Houttu: [Bis Dev 00:15:06].
Tyler Mounce: Bis Dev, okay.
Ville Houttu: Yeah, yeah.
Tyler Mounce: So Bis Dev ... So you get a project with a customer, and you assess the needs, and you've decided that there needs to be 12 people on this team. Do they have the opportunity to ... the people within the company say, "Oh that's a good fit for me, I want to be on that team," and then you kind of say, "Yeah you should be on this team." It happens as a discussion?
Ville Houttu: Yeah in a way. We use Slack for it, so we have a pre-sales channel in Slack, where Bis Dev comes with a project, and if you say it's a 12 people team, and this is what the client does, this is what in the project we will be doing, and these are some of the technologies will be used, and then people can comment.
Ville Houttu: They can raise their hand, "I'd like to be in that one," and so on. But it happens in Slack.
Tyler Mounce: And how often is there a discrepancy between what Bis Dev thinks the team ought to look like, and then the actual team members?
Ville Houttu: Not too often, you'd think that would be the situation, where ... I've seen it happening a lot, sales sell what they think the client needs, but we can't really deliver, and that's why we always have a technical person going together with the Bis Dev making sure we don't sell projects that we don't want to do, and we don't sell projects that we can't do.
Ville Houttu: So those are the two key parameters.
Tyler Mounce: And then the people, the potential team members, they just generally, because of the culture you've built, do a good job of self-selecting who will best fit the project?
Ville Houttu: Yeah. Yeah of course we'll have the dialogue with the people who are interested and making sure that the best skills get used, but this also links, like many things links to many things, this links to the Bis Dev function, we always try to have a funnel of work, more than we can deliver.
Ville Houttu: And that's why we have the opportunity for our employees to actually choose and get to have a say on what they want to do and where do they want to work.
Tyler Mounce: Do you think this organizational structure is the right way for businesses in general, or is there something unique about your company that makes the application of it more straightforward?
Ville Houttu: I think it's applicable to any business, but having said that I think what you first have to do is you have to create a culture of trust and transparency between the employees and management. So the employees have to trust the management, and the management will have to trust the employees to make very big decisions.
Tyler Mounce: So how did you create that ... that obviously wasn't the culture at Vincit pre-2013, correct?
Ville Houttu: Well in a way running a smaller company people take responsibility, so if you don't have coffee you will walk into the store and buy coffee and get in reimbursed, you know? But if you have a 500 employee company, you expect the coffee to appear, and that's the typical situation.
Ville Houttu: But yeah, that's when we started focusing on not creating policies or restrictions, but enabling people to do things like they would do themselves. Sort of if ... And good example is just providing company credit cards not to the management or sales, but to the whole company employees.
Tyler Mounce: You guys gave every employee a company credit card.
Ville Houttu: Yes. Well we don't force it, but I mean all the people who want to get a credit card, they will, and that's a simple show of trust and that actually helps the company to operate, coming back to the coffee example or pen and pencils.
Todd Vande Hei: Because they just get what they need immediately.
Ville Houttu: Yeah.
Todd Vande Hei: Instead of having to go through some process, through somebody, a purchasing department or something like that right?
Ville Houttu: Yeah, because we don't have a purchasing department.
Todd Vande Hei: Right.
Ville Houttu: So they know what they need to be able to produce and perform their work as best as possible and-
Todd Vande Hei: What would you say is the outcome associated with this change?
Ville Houttu: I think the-
Todd Vande Hei: What happened between then and now?
Ville Houttu: Well what happened was ... so we were kind of forced to create this culture of optimizing the trust and transparency, and also agility, so we believe in continuous improvement, so we have to earn the trust of our employees and our clients, not year by year, or month by month, but every day.
Ville Houttu: And that's why we worked towards ... to the goal, and this all got us to winning the best place to work in Finland for 3 years running.
Todd Vande Hei: Wow.
Ville Houttu: So 2014, 15, 16, and als in 2016 we were named the best place to work in whole Europe.
Todd Vande Hei: Wow.
Tyler Mounce: wow.
Todd Vande Hei: Geez.
Ville Houttu: Yeah that what we're known for in Europe, but over here we still have a little bit way to go.
Tyler Mounce: And speaking of KPIs, so you shift to focusing purely on employee happiness and customer happiness, and then what happens to the other number that you would generally track like revenue, profitability, things like that?
Ville Houttu: Well yeah, that's what the CFO will look at and worry about-
Tyler Mounce: But I mean what happened with Vincit, like what happened following this change in 2013?
Ville Houttu: Oh yeah, you mean ... yeah so we almost doubled year on year on the revenue since the change 2013.
Todd Vande Hei: Doubled every year?
Ville Houttu: Almost.
Todd Vande Hei: The previous ... Almost.
Ville Houttu: Almost doubled so it's-
Todd Vande Hei: Every year since then.
Ville Houttu: Yeah.
Todd Vande Hei: Wow.
Ville Houttu: If you look at the picture it's the typical hockey stick that should happen, and it happened for us, and it was because we were successful on creating a good work culture and usually the happier employees they produce better job results, and making the clients happier.
Tyler Mounce: so what else went into creating this transparency and trust culture? What were some of the other things that you did that you implement? So you mentioned giving every employee a credit card, what were other changes you made?
Ville Houttu: Yeah that's a simple one, anyone can do it, but one of the things we did was we opened the salaries to the employees, so all the people in the company they know what their colleague is making, and yeah that was a difficult one, we were expecting a lot of people showing up and saying sort of ... yeah, a lot more turmoil after-
Todd Vande Hei: Was there any turmoil?
Ville Houttu: Well ... And we did clean up our calendars for two days to having these one-on-one discussions with all the people who weren't happy about their salary you know? Because suddenly you get to know okay this guy next to me makes this and this much than I do, but I think there were one or two people who came to talk about their salary.
Tyler Mounce: Out of all the employees only one or two were upset and wanted to meet?
Ville Houttu: Yeah. Yeah so it was kind of surprising that the people in the company, they knew what's the level of their expertise and competence, and the salary differences and the salary steps were justified, and that was a positive thing.
Ville Houttu: Another positive thing that came out from this experiment or change was that now when we have salary discussions it's very easy for the management to make the decision because the only thing the employee has to do is to tell where and how sort of how he is better ... he or she is better than the colleague he is comparing himself to.
Ville Houttu: So that made it a lot easier and-
Tyler Mounce: So in terms of the expectations of the employee, they can see well so-and-so makes X amount and I want to make that amount, and then they know the person and they can see the responsibilities and quality of work that that person does, and so they know what they have to accomplish to make that amount of money.
Ville Houttu: Exactly.
Tyler Mounce: So there's a transparency in terms of expectations.
Ville Houttu: Exactly, yeah. Yeah.
Todd Vande Hei: Are there any differences culturally speaking between Finland and the US that you think may cause problems associated with how you're structured and how your business is run, and the culture of your company?
Ville Houttu: You would think so, but we haven't ... when I moved here, and we are now 30 employees so we've been operational-
Todd Vande Hei: In the US.
Ville Houttu: In the US, so we've been operational here for 2 years, and we are now 30 employees and I haven't changed anything from Finland, and I think a lot of the people in the team, which is great by the way, they can operate with a lot of gratitude as a positive thing.
Ville Houttu: Of course you can't hire people who need a lot of supervision, need need higher key strength management rules, you can't hire ... but when you hire the right people, I don't really think you have to change much.
Tyler Mounce: And so this culture that you've created, is that something that is drawing more people to want to come to work for Vincit? Like outside people recognize what you're doing?
Ville Houttu: I sure hope so, but I think ... yeah.
Tyler Mounce: I mean how has that ... because obviously the first two years going from starting to 30 employees here, how has the ... like it worked with attracting talent and recruiting and things like that?
Ville Houttu: Yeah I have to say we were extremely lucky on getting very good employees in the beginning, and we didn't have to ... we have to remember we didn't have a name over here, so we did it by meeting a lot ... we did a lot of outreach in the university, UCI, different colleges-
Todd Vande Hei: You're based right here in Orange County in the US?
Ville Houttu: Yes. Yes, we have two locations, so Palo Alto and Irvine are the people over here, but yeah it's been helping a lot you know. So this year we've won four different awards for our workplace and work culture, we've won five different awards for our work, for different clients and I've been named as the entrepreneur of the year in Irvine.
Todd Vande Hei: Wow.
Ville Houttu: So all this, you can say, awareness or promotion, it's been helping a lot. So we interview new people daily.
Tyler Mounce: Wow, so there is a lot of people that want to come work for you at this point.
Ville Houttu: Absolutely, yeah we hire one or two people each month, and we interview two or three candidates every week.
Tyler Mounce: Okay. Imagine there's someone listening who senses the same kind of thing going on in their company, what sort of words of advice would you have for implementation is someone was to go about trying to restructure or change the culture within their company? Of one that's the traditional hierarchical structure, versus one that has the trust and transparency, and is more self-governed like yours is.
Ville Houttu: I think you have to remember there's the goal, and having a lean and self-managing organization, but you have to get there step by step, and create a sort of path towards that goal.
I think one of the things could be you know, trying the credit card thing, that's an easy thing to implement, or even start listening more what the employees have to say.
Tyler Mounce: Do you have a format or a way that you like to do employee satisfaction surveys?
Ville Houttu: Yes we do.
Tyler Mounce: Can you tell us a little more about that?
Ville Houttu: Well first of all they are anonymous, unless they want to add their names, and it's simple, we all get so many surveys every day and the constant challenge is how do you get the people to answer these surveys, so keep it short, keep it brief, and tap onto the items that you want to know.
Ville Houttu: And keep variating, keep changing the questions and the points, and of course the most important thing is to take actionable calls and set a timeframe so-
Tyler Mounce: So how often would you do these surveys, and how many questions would they be? Like how long would it take the employees?
Ville Houttu: Yeah we do bi-weekly.
Tyler Mounce: Bi-weekly?
Ville Houttu: Yeah.
Todd Vande Hei: And is there an app that you use for this?
Ville Houttu: We actually use just Google Forms.
Todd Vande Hei: Google Forms okay.
Tyler Mounce: Google Forms okay.
Ville Houttu: and-
Tyler Mounce: There's a way to remain anonymous when completing a Google Form?
Ville Houttu: Yes.
Tyler Mounce: Okay.
Ville Houttu: And another tool that I can mentioned, in our lobby when you walk out ... exit from our office, there's a tool called Happy or Not.
Tyler Mounce: Is that the smiley face, sad face button? Or like you just touch the button?
Ville Houttu: Exactly, yeah. So you can keep changing different questions and you actually get an access to a [BI 00:31:10] tool and-
Tyler Mounce: That's cool.
Ville Houttu: And you'll get you know, simple things that could be there like, "Was the AC working today? Was the air good in the office today? Air temperature?" Things like that, or just, "Did you have a good work day?"
Ville Houttu: So you can-
Todd Vande Hei: Who's responsible for implementing these types of things? Like is there some dude in Finland that's defining all the questions bi-weekly and then you simply are able to utilize those tools here in the United States?
Ville Houttu: No, no, we come up with a lot of ideas. So we have a group of people who naturally generate more ideas, the key is to-
Todd Vande Hei: They're developers?
Ville Houttu: Developers, I have some ideas every now and then, and then we have People Operations, and then we have our business team, and usually like the marketing promotion related ideas come from these teams, and people operations related ideas come from the People Operations, and so on.
Ville Houttu: But the quick implementation is the key. So if you-
Tyler Mounce: Meaning in response to the survey?
Ville Houttu: In response to the survey or if you have an idea, say ... that's why we can't have anyone in Finland implementing what we use here, because they don't understand the culture and they don't know what we need to know, so if we need to ... if we've been having problems with the office temperature, for example, we have to keep changing the question daily, or even faster, so it has to be a quick implementation.
Ville Houttu: Or say if we decide that we need a new Bis Dev here, or tool, which we actually do now, so we're opening two positions for Bis Devs, when we make the decisions we will open the positions tomorrow, not a week from now or a month from now. So that's sort of the speed you have to be running in today's world overall.
Tyler Mounce: And that is to ... is that to show to your team that you're willing to act on ... that if they provide information with you, you're going to take action on it?
Ville Houttu: Absolutely.
Tyler Mounce: Okay so that's part of the trust thing, is they trust that if they voice something to you that it will actually be listened to, and then not just listened to, but implemented.
Todd Vande Hei: Their answers matter, like it's worth their time.
Ville Houttu: Coming back to the point how difficult it is to get them to answer anything, any surveys, you have to react to whatever it is they are saying.
Tyler Mounce: Yeah. And one more question, because one of the things ... because it seems that you mentioned like building this culture takes incremental changes, kind of adding one or two steps to it at a time, but it sounds like in 2013 you guys kind of made like a wholesale shift into this. Are you saying that you would do it differently again, and do it more incrementally? Or ... Sorry, just explain that to me.
Ville Houttu: Yeah, that's a good point. At that point we were only a smaller company, I'm referring to more established businesses, who we have ... in general we have in Irvine or Orange County, bigger companies, and if you've been running in the same model for 15 years, you will have to make incremental changes.
Tyler Mounce: Okay.
Ville Houttu: To whatever it is, and you have to be prepared for the storm that might come out, because if you haven't been conducting these surveys, if you haven't been letting the employees to affect their work environment entirely, or even manage themselves, the change may come with some surprises, or most likely it will.
Tyler Mounce: Is there ... It seems to me there would an element of sort like, it would weed out certain types of people from the culture, because you think again, bringing my perspective of how a lot of American companies are run, there's a lot of employees that only operate under the pushing and encouragement of a manager.
Tyler Mounce: And you have to be a lot more of a self-starter because you have a lot more autonomy in a model like this, and there's people who maybe naturally won't be drawn to culture like that. Have you seen that at all, where people-
Ville Houttu: Yes, absolutely, yeah.
Tyler Mounce: Okay.
Ville Houttu: Yeah that's a good point, thanks for bringing it out, because a lot of the people who've joined us and have had a career in another company, have several years exposure to the typical culture. It's very difficult to take this responsibility for suddenly getting the full ownership of your work, and it's not easy, and that's why I think you have to educate and train your employees towards that.
Ville Houttu: But having said that, I don't believe that you would have to sort of split people in two categories, these people can do it, these can't. I think everybody can, but it just takes a little bit time to get there.
Tyler Mounce: Thinking more in terms of your career, the lessons you've learnt, and you think about obviously there's a lot of people in business that are doing very very different things, whether that's manufacturing, or services, what would be something that you've learnt over the course of your career that you've kind of distilled out as sort of an operating principle that you think translates across industries?
Ville Houttu: I think the more you can implement freedom rather than policies or restrictions, that applies to all, and the more you are there as a leader. So we've been talking about transparency, but like one step is you actually being there in person in the middle of the room, so you don't have your corner office which the VPs or COs usually have, and instead you have your whatever, standing desk, I have a standing desk, but desk in the-
Tyler Mounce: Must be a tall desk.
Ville Houttu: It's a pretty tall desk. Yeah it's in the middle of the open space. So anyone ... when people are walking by they can stop by and ask questions, and not you know, having to book a time just to speak to me.
Tyler Mounce: Switching to the muzzle-load round, these are some shorter format questions just in general for you personally. What have you accomplished in your business that you're most proud of?
Ville Houttu: I think one thing is that yeah ... what I'm proud of is we've been successful here, and being able to grow here without losing integrity, and that's my goal, because I believe that success without integrity is actually a failure, and that's how I want to run and build the company. So for one thing, that's what I'm proud of.
Tyler Mounce: If you could go back in time, what would you tell a younger version of yourself?
Ville Houttu: Oh, okay, you mean the engineer or the sales guy?
Tyler Mounce: Either, either. Yeah maybe both.
Ville Houttu: Okay I'll say to the sales guy the more you're trying not to sell, the more you're selling.
Tyler Mounce: That's interesting.
Ville Houttu: So yeah, because the more authentic, the more honest, the more interesting you are, I think the more you're selling. Not just by being salesy.
Tyler Mounce: And what would you tell the engineer?
Ville Houttu: Oh, stick to the engineering.
Todd Vande Hei: Oh that's good.
Tyler Mounce: What are you reading, listening to, or subscribed to currently for growth and development?
Ville Houttu: Yeah I have three different categories. I usually read the books my wife has read first, but yeah I have three categories, lately I've been reading ... I actually listen to my books, because yeah-
Tyler Mounce: On any particular platform? On just Audible?
Ville Houttu: Audible mostly.
Tyler Mounce: Okay.
Ville Houttu: Yeah, so ... because I'm a triathlete, so I train quite a lot and many hours, so during the training sessions you have a good opportunity to listen to the books. So three categories, I've been lately listening to American politics and history quite a bit, just to understand where he country comes from, and the total different system that we have in Europe.
Ville Houttu: Yeah the other category-
Tyler Mounce: Sorry with that, has that been helpful-
Ville Houttu: Absolutely yeah.
Tyler Mounce: As you navigate the cultural climate here, understanding more of the history, has that helped you with that?
Ville Houttu: Absolutely, yeah.
Tyler Mounce: Do you have any examples of that or no?
Ville Houttu: Well I think there are many, but understanding the current situation and the administration, I think it's ... I'm starting to understand it. I think a lot of Europeans don't, and it's not made easy to understand, but it's ... I think how many changes the individuals can make, how much power do they have, and why, I think that's been very interesting.
Ville Houttu: But of course I listen to a lot of business books as well, psychology mostly, so lately the two books that I've ... I've actually read the others, but I listened to Brene Brown [crosstalk 00:42:17]
Todd Vande Hei: Sorry what was that?
Tyler Mounce: Brene Brown.
Ville Houttu: Brene Brown.
Tyler Mounce: Which one? Daring Greatly?
Ville Houttu: No I listed to the Dare to Lead.
Tyler Mounce: Dare to Lead, okay.
Ville Houttu: Yeah which is the latter, and Mike Robins Bring Your Whole Self to Work.
Tyler Mounce: Okay.
Ville Houttu: That's what I read. But I also ... I'm very interested in pro athletes, you know, because they live the startup life without being in a startup, but they have the pressure of being successful. They train so hard, and they suffer the pain a founder, entrepreneur, startup owner has every day.
Ville Houttu: so good pro athlete books, the latest I listened was Petter Northug a Norwegian skier, and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so they both have very good books I can recommend.
Tyler Mounce: What habits or routines do you have to stay on top of your game?
Ville Houttu: Yeah sports. Sports obviously, so sports helped me to keep the balance, and nowadays when you have a laptop, you have your cell phone, you have your work all the time, things happening, when you jump on your bike and ride for 100 miles, you have a lot of time to think. Not only listen to the books, but think and that's how I get friends. Moving to a new country and location, I have a lot of friends who are not interested in my business, actually they couldn't care less, but they are interested in knowing me, and again when we ride together several hours that's how you get to know a lot of people.
Todd Vande Hei: You can actually have a long conversation with somebody while you're riding next to them?
Ville Houttu: Yeah.
Todd Vande Hei: It's not like too windy or?
Ville Houttu: Oh no, no. Yeah so we ride elbow to elbow so it's . That's cycling, but yeah I also have swim and run, so yeah that's one of the things. But of course I have to give my thanks to my wife who made all this possible, because otherwise I couldn't really work and be the startup runner all the time. So yeah, the kids are happy and the wife is happy, so I'm very grateful for that.
Tyler Mounce: Well thanks so much for sharing more about your background and your story, there was definitely some cool and pretty mind blowing stuff for a lot of people that are listening to this, so if there was anyone listening and you wanted to point them somewhere that they could follow up, where would you want them to go? Websites or social media handles?
Ville Houttu: Yeah it's www.vincit.com so V-I-N-C-I-T dot com, and you can find us from Facebook Vincit California, and also LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram so.
Tyler Mounce: Awesome, well thanks again Ville.
Todd Vande Hei: Thank you.
Ville Houttu: Thanks so much.
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