Founder of Flightright
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I’m Marek Janetzke, CEO of Flightright. Flightright helps passengers with delayed or canceled flights to obtain their rightful compensation from the airline. In case of a successful claim we receive 20%-30% success fee, otherwise it’s completely free of charge. To date we have grown to more than 150 people and have enforced more than 200 million Euros in compensation for our customers.
THERE ARE MANY PIECES OF ADVICE ON HOW TO HANDLE A FAILURE, BUT WHAT WOULD YOU
ADVISE TO SOMEONE WHO HAD JUST BECOME SUCCESSFUL?
I do not feel in a position to give advice, but there is one thing that has really helped me to manage a growing business. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of open tasks alone. There are always 200 things you could and should do, and that would in some way help the company - but you can’t do them all. After I realized this, I switched from a huge system of To-Do lists and project management tools to a simple blank sheet of paper. Every morning I sit down and write down all the things I want to accomplish during the day. This really helps not to be distracted by minor operational issues and to really do the things that drive the business forward. And in the evening, you can clearly see what you have achieved during the day.
And there’s also a book which I highly recommend. It’s called Leading at the Speed of Growth and is based on a few hundred interviews with entrepreneurs of fast-growing companies. In the beginning, when you do everything on your own, the typical workday looks so different from a company with a few hundred people. The book describes four distinct stages of a growing business and gives a lot of experience-based advice on how the role - from founder to CEO - changes over time and which steps an entrepreneur needs to pursue to get to the next level.
TOP 3 MOBILE APPS, WEBSITES THAT MAKE YOUR WORK AND LIFE MORE EFFECTIVE?
DeepL for extremely good automatic translations, Trello for organizing things and Figure (by Propellerhead) for getting creative.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BEST THING ABOUT EYES?
I think it’s the strong foundation of trust and friendship that truly differentiates EYES from other entrepreneurial clubs or associations.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START FLIGHTRIGHT?
I have founded a few companies before and have always been passionate about solving problems and putting ideas into action. In 2011, I got to know my business partner Phillip, who had just discovered passenger rights as a lawyer - a subject that hardly anyone knew at the time. After having the experience of a delayed flight, I learned that there is very little you can do as a lonesome consumer. I liked the idea of bringing consumers at eye level with large companies and empowering them to get their rights.
WHAT IS YOUR PRODUCTIVITY SECRET?
For me there is not the one single secret, but rather a combination of healthy habits and the willingness to constantly question how to optimize things. Even though input is often the biggest driver of output, productivity doesn’t necessarily mean doing a lot of hours. I rather think it’s about prioritization and focus.
Sometimes I have the most productive time when I just get out of the office for 3 hours to really immerse myself in a topic, read something or talk to people from other professions. These new perspectives often lead to inspiring ideas that can be of great value for the growth of a company.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO MAINTAIN THE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Scaling a company requires a lot of physical and mental strength. It is a constant effort to maintain balance. Reserving time for sports, family and friends helps me recharge the batteries. Reading and meditation keep my mind open for new angles. I try to start every day with some training or meditation. You have to push yourself a bit, but it pays off when you do.
WHAT WAS THE SCARIEST MOMENT OF YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?
I'm not sure there’s a single most terrifying moment. It's more like a continuous roller coaster throughout the course of the day. Normally there would be some exciting events, some things to be proud of. Maybe you’ve convinced an important partner to make a deal, or maybe you’ve gotten great feedback from a customer. But then there are events that are not as expected. Something in the IT system breaks down that needs to be fixed quickly, or a project runs into the wrong direction. Over the course of time, I got used to these ups and downs and am more relaxed about it - but the bigger the company gets, the higher the financial impact of the problems and decisions.
If I have to decide for one thing, it was definitely a frightening moment when we were just starting to grow and collecting tens of thousands of customer claims, but no airline company paid the outstanding amounts. We therefore had to go to court and sue for every single case, even though it was clear from a legal point of view that the airline had to pay. As we work with a performance-based model, we had to pre-finance not only marketing and operating costs, but also the legal expenses. After all, we have brought several thousand cases to court in parallel throughout Europe. We saw the risk of running out of cash before the first lawsuits were won. And this was exactly the strategy that several airlines tried to pursue: see how long we can survive. At some point, we only had three months of cash left in the bank. But then, fortunately, we won several landmark lawsuits and the airlines began to pay us one by one. Now we have built up a strong reputation for ourselves, which leads to airlines paying us much faster. This was an important turning point. Since then, we have been operating profitably and have financed our strong growth entirely from our own resources and without large venture rounds.