Coffee break with Agu Aarna
Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Agu Aarna, the co-founder and CEO of Intium Tech. Agu brings a wealth of experience in IT, management, and IT consulting, showcasing his expertise and numerous achievements. With his profound insights on both business and life, Agu never fails to provide valuable perspectives.
Thank you, Agu, for your time. Can you share the story behind the founding of the company? What inspired you to start this venture?
Agu: There were 2 reasons that inspired me to start Intium Tech. First, private equity (PE) funds often operate with the money of pension funds - money that is invested by regular people! When you first think of private equity investments, you might think Intium's value creation oriented work is helping rich people become richer, but it’s not all that black and white. I believe that if we do our work well and provide real guidance on how an investment in a company can best value, the ones benefiting will be the regular people out there. This became a clear conviction and a driver for me on why we have to do our job as best as possible. If we do not give our clients the best advice to maximize their results, everyday people like me and you, become less successful. It’s really a way for Intium to have a significant impact on the world!
Second, I have huge respect for our consultants. They are all very talented, experienced, and have deep technical knowledge. However, tech is a very broad and complicated area. To understand this field, you need to understand technology, processes, people, strategy, the industry, the future outlook etc. It’s a real mixed bag of strategic and tactical facts that only if put into a meaningful context and explained well provide guidance for a great investment. Navigating this problem is notoriously difficult - you need to zoom in and out constantly. Often, failing to perform this task makes the diligence report and the general work product uneven and sometimes even controversial leaving our esteemed consultants in a bad light. Here I saw a great opportunity to automate a lot of the processes that allow consultants to focus on what they are really good at, i.e., maximizing value for the client. The rest can be taken care of by our tool - Sonar.
Whatever I do in business, I always try to find a higher purpose in it, to make the work more meaningful for me. If I don't have a bigger meaning behind my work, I set myself up for failure as without the right motivation the work is simply too difficult.
How do you maintain a positive company culture? What values are important to you, and how are they upheld?
Agu: I think that a positive company culture is a true priority for me but if I'm being frank, I think my approach to a positive company culture is controversial. When I started working in management, about 10 years ago, my team had a saying about me that whenever I am in the room, the whining stops and everyone starts thinking about solutions. You see, my main focus is on solving problems, not finding fault or venting. To me we are united in solving problems and overcoming obstacles, making us and the world better. I firmly believe that there is positivity in finding a way forward, and that, in the feeling of being able to overcome anything, the team can truly experience mutual respect and trust in their fellow team members. I know this is a bit result-oriented and “all-business”, but that’s what I believe in.
Can you discuss any mentors or role models who have influenced your entrepreneurial journey? How have they impacted your leadership style?
Agu: One individual who significantly influenced my entrepreneurial journey and played a pivotal role in shaping my leadership style was a mentor from my early days as a leader. He was the epitome of pragmatism and that is a characteristic that deeply resonated with me. He was very candid and direct so if you hadn't thought a task through, he let you know straight away. For some people, this can be intimidating. Don’t get me wrong, though - it was all very respectful. Hence, in actuality, he did me a big favor and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Through his mentorship, I developed resilience, discipline, and a heightened focus on achieving goals. I learned a lot thanks to him and I am very thankful for this experience. (Guess that’s where my convictions on positive company culture come in.)
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or individuals looking to start their businesses?
Agu: I would offer the following advice: Take the time to reflect on the underlying reasons and motivations driving you. By delving into the "why" behind your actions, you gain a deeper understanding about yourself and establish a solid foundation for your career. It is perfectly acceptable if the precise answer to this question isn't immediately clear or known. However, it is crucial to actively seek this answer, as it holds the key to discovering a greater purpose in your professional life and attaining more satisfaction overall. Therefore, my advice is to seek out your mission in everything you do, as it will guide and inspire you throughout your entrepreneurial journey.
How do you manage work-life balance? Are there any strategies or routines that have helped you maintain a healthy equilibrium?
Agu: In my case, work is not merely a separate entity but an integral part of my life, and I find balance through the support of my beloved spouse. My wife plays a fundamental role in maintaining stability and harmony in our lives. While she also pursues her professional career, given that we have three young children at home, she’s taken on a more family-oriented focus. The responsibilities she shoulders in our private life are enormous, and I am deeply grateful for her support, which has enabled me to achieve significant milestones in my career.
I have developed adeptness in multitasking and seamlessly transitioning between various roles and responsibilities. It is not uncommon for me to help clean up after our kids one moment and engage in a technical discussion with a client the next. Work and personal life are entangled, making it challenging to draw clear boundaries between the two. And as far as I am concerned, no boundaries are needed.
Can you share any hobbies or interests outside of work that you find fulfilling or rejuvenating?
Agu: I have a passion for snowboarding, especially when I can enjoy it in the company of friends. However, given Estonia's geographical landscape, opportunities for snowboarding trips happen abroad, typically occurring once or twice a year.
I am also one of those lucky people who love the work that they do, so I guess you can consider technology my hobby as well. I spend the little free time that I have figuring out or learning more about software development, management, and psychology. I read as much as I can, and I listen to podcasts to keep current.
Prioritizing physical health is also integral to my overall lifestyle. I do some calisthenics and try to maintain a healthy diet as essential aspects of my routine. Physical exercise not only keeps me fit but also contributes to my happiness, reduces stress levels, and fosters a positive body image. I firmly believe that maintaining a healthy body and mind is indispensable for sustaining the demanding nature of my work.
Thank you, Agu, for the delightful conversation. It was a great opportunity to get to know you better. If you have any inquiries for Agu or would like to explore more about Intium Tech, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com.