Interview with Bjorn Hardarson

I am an entrepreneur with long experience in starting up new and successful business. Have 12 years of experience as a clinical psychologist in private practice, therapy, coaching, training and workshop. One of the first successful startup was a successful psychological self help portal on the internet and a successful therapy center. I started Responsible Surfing, a parental control software that focuses on building the software around (the) psychology of children’s well being.. I also co-own an IT company in India providing virtual professional staff. I have 4 degrees in psychology and one in business and entrepreneurship. Today I love taking a part in new great ventures, learning and teaching about psychology of a successful mindset of entrepreneurship.



When did you decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?

I have asked myself this question myself many times and I believe the answer I have in mind is that it is a process that happen through time, rather than on a specific time. In 1998 I was involved in small internet companies selling products online before people actually where actively buying things online. In the year 2000 I started an online psychological self help portal, www.persona.is, where people could diagnose their symptoms, read articles by professionals and send in questions to psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists. The same year I started a private practice as a clinical psychologist. My online presence and contracts with newspapers on writing articles made the practice soon very successful, which led to the opening of a therapist center and a contract on behalf of the persona.is with other professionals to make their presence. Still there I did not consider myself an Entrepreneur. In October 2003 my youngest son was diagnosed with infant leukemia and has since then undergone two bone marrow transplants and have spent over 500 days in hospitals - in Iceland, Sweden, and USA. At that time I had 3 children under 5 years of age and both me and my wife (also a clinical psychologist) had limited chances working outside our home and at our practice. At that time I decided to start doing more things that I could work on on odd hours, at home, in hospital isolation, through the computer. I had done at that time many workshops and lectures on the danger of the internet and internet addiction. I was looking for the right product to recommend to parents and did not find what I was looking for. I started my company officially in 2005 making a responsible parental control product with staff in India working through Skype and other tools on daily basis. At that time and since then the process of being an Entrepreneur started.


What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

My favorite part is creating something new, the passion of working with other passionate people and great minds on changing the world. I think Seth Godin describes it well in his book Linchpin. “A Linchpin is a person that invents, leads, connects (to) others, makes things happens, and creates orders out of chaos regardless of title or position” and I think everyone should try to be a Linchpin. The other part which is great is having the chance of working with and meeting people all over the world which I would not have the chance of doing if I would not be an entrepreneur. I have traveled to India on many occasions and have offices there. India has as a society a great entrepreneur’s spirit as well as great overall human spirit.


What was the most difficult part in getting started?

It is the part that it never happens as you expected in the beginning and it always takes more time and money to do it. Entrepreneurs often are so passionate about creating and making the idea which is great, but lack the power of sales. I also think the hard part is there is a lack of early stage funding, Venture Capitalists are most often focused on companies that have grown and you only have the three F’s: (friends, families and fools) to back you up. So I think there are many talented entrepreneurs that give up because they do not know where grants and early seed money is hiding.


What is the top skill (or skills) needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Knowing your weaknesses. There are a lot of talks about weaknesses of entrepreneurs and they are right, entrepreneurs as other people have their skills and weaknesses. The skill never gets you there if you do not have the knowledge of your weakness. I believe the great success of Google was not just the Google guys (Sergei Brin and Larry Page), it was finding Eric Schmidt and all the other strong people that made the company strong.


What do you think is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

There are many things, one is the creative uniqueness or the Linchpin Seth Godin talks about, and other is risk. Even though I believe you don’t need to take big risks you should use calculated risk. So Entrepreneurs are taking risk and often not getting the financial rewards in the beginning and therefore limiting their salaries. But I think there is also a big difference between a business owner and an Entrepreneur, it is not the same thing. If you are good at something and decide to do it yourself instead of doing it for someone else you are not necessary an entrepreneur., To be an Entrepreneur I believe you need to have the spirit of creating a product with specific competitive advantage. As an Entrepreneur your are using different methods of creating, your are building something unique and overall thinking differently.


What has been one of your failures, and what have you learned from it?

My failure has been doing (acting) without planning, not knowing enough about the entrepreneur environment, for a while I thought business plans where just something people did not need to write or know much about, and I was too much protecting my ownership of my idea. When I started to get into hurdle,I decided on taking a degree on Entrepreneurship at university level. Now I know the strengths of business planning, the important of sharing and building a great team. My projects in the future will be my passion but it is better to share the responsibility, ownership, and management with great people than keeping the whole baby to yourself.


Jack Welsh once said that "An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage." What are your thoughts on that quote?

I believe the problem often with organization and people is the problem of being ready to admit your failure and bad decisions. Therefore people hide their problems instead of building on them and learn from them. I believe in a word another wise man said once and called the “Prolapse” which describes situations where you make mistakes (a lapse or failure) and instead of criticizing or hiding it, you map the problem and understand it well. This eventually can get you to jump ahead and strengthen yourself.

I also believe that if there were more managers with Jack’s mindset we would probably have avoided the recession.


Greg Norman once said that “Our success is a direct result of knowing how to market a brand and having the right people representing the brand.” What are your thoughts on what quote?

Even though I do not know the quote itself, I know that it is never enough to have a good product or product development - you need to be able to sell it and we often spend more time on the idea and product than the planning and working on selling it. I also believe in the idea that a great team is really important and an A team with a B product is better than a B team with an A product. An artist once said to me that he had a friend who was a better artist than him but still his friend would not be as successful as him as he knew how to brand himself, network and let people know who he was. Now I know and believe that he has proved he was right and seen many others proved that since.


Albert Einstein once said “I think that only daring speculation can us further and not accumulation of facts.” What are your thoughts on what quote?

It is the core of Entrepreneurship you need to think outside of the box. Henry Ford thought outside the box when he made the cars for the people and said “if he had asked the people they would have asked for faster horses”. AltaVista did not know the strength of the Google product when they had the chance of buying it and IBM did not see the revolution of the Personal computer as Bill Gates did. People who make success speculate in the future and there has never been as many opportunities as now in this changing world of the internet, so let yourself see the future as it has not yet become!


Excluding yours, what business or company do you admire?

Google I like their whole story, their business model of success from the “FREE” model, their 20% rule of getting people to invent and be motivated. At last their mantra “don’t be evil” is great.


What was the most crucial thing you have done to grow your business?

It is building trust, you need to give and build trust with your staff and your co owners, you need to trust and give trust to your customers as well. I also know, building and knowing the trust with years of clinical experience working with people. I know how people (function??), their strengths and weaknesses and have the ability to motivate them at the right way at the right time.


What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out?

Talk about your idea, build a team, get advice, learn from people who have done it and never be afraid that people will steal it (your idea).



Company Description:

Responsible Surfing is a software company that focuses on computer safety and parental control to ensure a safe computer environment for children, families and individuals and keep users safe from harm. The program was developed under the supervision of a group of clinical psychologists who have extensive experience working with various psycholocical problem related to computer use. The company recently received funding for building the next generation of an internet safety system that builds on balance between education and entairtainment in the technical family.



Website:

www.responsiblesurfing.com
www.corpusconnection.com
http://is.linkedin.com/in/bjornhardarson

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