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Thank you to the 1,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions!

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Arjun Pillai
7 Questions with Arjun Pillai

Name: Arjun Pillai

Current title: Founder & CEO

Current organisation: Insent Inc

Founder & CEO at Insent.ai | B2B MarTech Expert | fmr Data Strategy @FullContact | fmr Founder/CEO at @Profoundis (acq. by FullContact)

7 Questions with Arjun Pillai

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?

Building out a world class team is probably the biggest challenge. If you can find the right people with you, they will handle/solve other problems for you

2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Since I was 19-20 years old, I have always been passionate with doing 'my own thing'. I didn't know what that meant until I founded my first company at 23. At that time, I didn't know what a startup was etc. But, that ended up being an incredibly exhilarating, teaching and humbling experience. After scaling, and being profitable, I successfully sold that company. Once you fall in love with the journey, you want to get on the quest again :) So, after a brief break, I started Insent.ai.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I sleep a good 7 to 7.5 hours every day, mostly at pretty much the same time 11 to 6.30 am. After waking up, after taking a few mins, I check Slack/email to make sure nothing is on fire, maybe respond quickly to a few things people are waiting for me (I have an India based team)

Then, I exercise for 30-40 mins, shower and be at my desk between 8 to 8.30 am. I do intermittent fasting (17-7). So I don't take breakfast, it is just a green tea.

I tend to work until 6 pm with a 30 mins break for lunch and 10 mins for coffee. I do listen to music (like when I'm doing this interview).

Then, I take 2-3 hours break. Spend another 1-1.5 hours mopping up things or reading something and then sleep at 11.00am.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

There are many
- Team is the most important part
- Your job as the leader is to give a clear field for others to act, make mistakes and grow
- Fundamental values are non-negotiable. Hold on to them like life
I can write more; but maybe these 3 are good :)

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

I'm not so much of a book reader. I have read the famous business books of course. I tend to learn more from people. Most people whom I know will have at least 1 thing for me to learn

I have a mentor whom I consider very highly and he has given me several snippets of wisdom. One of the more profound ones was - 'don't try to control outcomes'. I have also written a post about this - https://medium.com/@rarjunpillai/don-t-try-to-control-outcomes-edb79f3ace18

6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?

- Hold your value system close and talk about it
- You will attract people who believe in what you believe in
- Give them the responsibility, and authority to execute and make mistakes.
- Genuinely care about their growth.
If you do these 4 things enough times, you'd have a good team

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?

When I sold my first company, Profoundis, it was the first ever product exit in the history of my state in India (Kerala is the state name). It was a huge honor as you can imagine. The news made a big splash and I was covered in some 23 media outlets or more.

I was on cloud 9 and messaged the above-said mentor and he responded - 'Stay humble, Stay focused'. He followed up with 'let the divine execute its plan'. (my blog post about the same - https://medium.com/@rarjunpillai/stay-humble-stay-focused-a791cfa30dc2).

It pulled me back to my senses. There was nothing to be overwhelmingly happy about. Things happen, if we are lucky, we will be around when they happen