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Outspoken entrepreneur Janek Mäggi

According to owner and manager of Powerhouse, patience is the most important factor in establishing one’s own company.

Interview: Urve Vilk

The sign of good management is that no-one even notices being led, is the management philosophy of owner and manager of communications bureau Janek Mäggi.

What was your first job?

After army service I went to work as specialist for the information department of the General Headquarters of the Defense Forces. In the military, I started to issue the company paper, which became so popular that even the headquarters of the Defense Forces were fascinated by it. I was invited to work there. I lasted a half a year; I wanted to become a journalist.

I failed to get into the faculty of journalism, but there was an advertisement on the faculty notice board, saying that if you don’t get in, come work at Äripäev. I went and was employed.

How did they manage to lure you into Union Bank?

It was a funny time, where a job offer came every two months. And if you are offered a job every two months, then finally you’re going to give in.

Don’t you regret giving up working as a journalist?

I still write a lot: twice a month for Õhtuleht, occasionally for Maaleht and others, then there is the poems for Postimees. In addition to that, I do a TV program.

How important, in your opinion is education when it comes to success?

It forces one to work on oneself and go forward. Even if you have specialized education, it will not be enough. You need working experience. And naturally both in PR and in journalism, you need to have a feel for it.

How did Powerhouse come to be?

There were difficult times at the bank; those were also times of economic crises. I lost my job. Various offers were made to me, but they lacked the inspiration I needed. I thought I would like to be an entrepreneur. I braced myself, started a company and employed some people.

What was most difficult at the beginning?

We fought for survival. There was not enough work, the expenses were great, and we were bearing losses. That went on for several years, also creating tensions among employees. We pulled ourselves together; we tried and tried and tried really hard.

Keys to success
- dedication
- you must do what you like
- when facing difficulties, don’t lose heart

We are still trying hard. This is a lifestyle company. Of course we also want to make a profit. However, we’re not having a company just for the sake of profit, we like what we are doing and we enjoy the environment we have created. Every piece of work is like an exam, everything has to be done the best possible way.

What do you recommend to a novice entrepreneur?

My most pessimistic forecasts were fulfilled to double measure. Whatever I thought could get worse, got twice as worse. You may have worked at a bank and know people, but that’s not enough. You need a history, you need experience. So it takes patience, that’s most important.

Most enterprises never live to see their 5th birthday. If you have managed to survive for five years, then it is less and less probable that something goes totally wrong.

What is your favorite activity or area for you in your work?

I enjoy writing most of all, I wander if I can really do anything else. I also deal with leadership a little. My management philosophy is: the sign of good management is that no-one even notices being led. The less you interfere in people’s daily work, the better.

But it’s also fun to talk to people and make plans. In our work, the hardest thing is to decide what to do. To decide how to do it is less complicated. It is not very difficult to carry out decisions. It is very difficult to make the right decisions, that takes knowledge, cognition and experience. If you make several wrong decisions, then soon you will not be on the market any more.

What kind of a leader are you, what are your guiding principles?

The most important thing is that the collective be united, meaning that we have to create an environment where it is good to work. Throughout these eight years I have always come to work in a good mood, even when we have been in a great loss or lost competitions. I want all the people working in our company to enjoy the working process.

Secondly, the less tensions inside the organization, the better. You have to try and resolve tensions, in a way that the organization isn’t harmed.

What are your strengths?

In our work, you have to get along well with people, you need to listen and understand what they expect.

You need to know how to tell people things that they may not like, provide negative feedback. Some public relations people a worried how you tell someone that a jacket isn’t fit for appearing on the TV news. Maybe the customer will be offended. But if I dare not say it, fearing to lose my job, then 250,000 people will notice that a tie with flowers doesn’t fit with the subject discussed – which is worse.

Of course, you must be open yourself and able to take criticism. If you can bear criticism and help others do the same, it will help a lot. People will be happy, if they can avoid making a fool of themselves in public.

Is there a character trait that you would rather get rid of?

In some situations, my outspokenness and openness have been a disadvantage; all people cannot take criticism and me talking too much. However, often this has been an advantage.

How much time do you have for draughts?

I try to play every day. True – in the Internet. I seldom take part in tournaments. I like draughts, it keeps my mind alert and helps in analysis. I try to do physical sports as well. Many only choose the physical and avoid mind sports, but you have to think as well.

Margus Venelaine
AS Tallegg, executive manager

Thanks to close cooperation, Powerhouse has become a part of our company, sort of. Like a department that we have.

Janek is an intelligent person, as well as a professional of his field. By his charm, he is able to solve PR stuff in a way that all are satisfied. Janek is sincere, good at communicating and with a fine sense of humor, wherefore the meetings are always a lot of fun. However, there is always a point in what he says."

Who’s who?

Janek Mäggi
Born: September 5th 1973
1991 Tondiraba Secondary School
1995-1999 Law Institute, Law
1994 specialist, Information Department of General Headquarters of Defense Forces
1994-1997 banking and insurance reporter, Äripäev
1997-2000 Vice President, PR and Marketing Director, Union Bank Estonia
2000- owner, manager, consultant, OÜ Powerhouse
2001-2002 Internet portal manager, ETV, Eurovision 2002
2008- presenter of TV programme “Million Cents”, ETV
draughts, numismatics, swimming, bicycling
Participation in public life:
1999- President, Estonian Draughts Association
2003- Chairman of Council, Tallinn Children’s Hospital Foundation
2007- President, European Draughts Confederation
Public awards:
Marketing All Stars
Copywriter 2002