The Power of Putting People First
It was only last month that Kinguin Founder, Viktor Romaniuk Wanli announced the company’s plan to promote three talented Kinguin employees to the role of acting CEO on a 6-month rotational basis. Triggered by his desire to continue to evolve and improve the business for its customers, employees and partners, it signalled a fresh start.
Brandon Doerfler, the first of the three employees to take up the acting CEO position has already made a huge impact, despite only being in the role for two months. We found time to chat with Brandon where he told us about his people first philosophy and why this is front and centre to his plans. The ambitious, analytic and funny (his own words) professional also shared some of the challenges and learnings of his first two months in the role, as well as his aspirations for Kinguin’s future.
Kinguin approached me earlier this year and asked if I was interested in joining as their CFO. I recognised, having spent the last 15 years working in financial services, that this was a now or never opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. So I decided to return to my Polish roots and enter what I consider to be an exciting and dynamic industry and joined Kinguin in May. Shortly afterwards, following some internal changes, I was then asked if I would like to take on the role of acting rotational CEO alongside two other colleagues. It was an easy yes! Taking this position at Kinguin offers the opportunity to put my existing financial prowess to good use while also allowing me to develop and deepen my knowledge in new areas, which is important to me.
In recent months, Kinguin has gone from strength to strength hitting multiple key milestones including reaching 10 million customers and almost tripling GMV on a year on year basis. But it is also facing challenges. The company suffers from its relatively young age and operates with an entrepreneurial approach, often lacking structure. It is therefore my ambition to strip everything back to its foundations and work on cementing a strong infrastructure into the DNA of the company – this is how we will ensure relevance and encourage growth.
My starting point in this journey is people because they are our greatest assets and advocates. It is people who will make or break a company. You simply can’t be successful without a healthy culture and that means hiring and retaining talent, encouraging diversity and celebrating different perspectives.
And it’s easy to sit here and say these things because words are cheap. What’s important is putting it into action. So the first thing I’ve tackled since coming into this role are performance reviews. Often underrated these help us recognise and reward talent but equally, highlight underperformance. It is only when we understand where there are issues that we can provide the required tools to tackle it.
And, it’s not just about implementing the right processes either, it’s about ensuring they’re adopted and retained. I always liken it to when Gordon Ramsay visits failing restaurants during his show ‘Kitchen Nightmares’. He helps restaurateurs get to the root of their problems and creates a clear path which, if followed, will put them back on track. It is only if they avoid the pitfall of returning to their bad habits that they will succeed. It’s the same with what we’re trying to do at Kinguin.
One of the biggest challenges we’re facing is that this isn’t the first time that Kinguin has undergone significant changes and, as a result, there are fears and doubts. A lot of people’s actions are guided by the past but that shouldn’t define our future. Learning to steer our team through this with a new view of optimism and showing them that the changes we’re implementing are positive is the first step in fostering trust and building confidence. And that’s key.
In terms of future aspirations, I want Kinguin to continue looking at operational efficiency. I’m a big believer in driving a metrics and business intelligence approach. Otherwise how do you keep people accountable? But it’s important to blend qualitative and quantitative goals. Ultimately, I’d like to hand over this role feeling like I’d set some solid ground work in this area.
It may only have been two months since I took on this role but it feels a lot longer when I consider what we’ve achieved. In the following months there will be many more challenges to overcome, as well as a host of learnings, but what I’m really proud of is that we’re coming together to resolve them, as a team. To me, that speaks volumes about the type of people who work at this company and the culture we’re already building.