Episode 7 of The Executives Unpacked Podcast saw us sit down with Cees Honig, the CEO at Xite. Cees started his studies in economics at the University of Amsterdam, before moving into an MSc in business studies. In 2008, he joined Xite, where he worked his way up to becoming CEO. His happy place is having breakfast with his family, and Ricky Gervais is one of his idols. Read on to hear his biggest lessons and best advice from the boardroom.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned during your career?
When you are leading a company or team, and you want to overcome adversity, you have to create different scenarios for solving the issue. A lot of people just run after one target. If you have multiple scenarios that you’re working on, you only need one to work. In the early days when we were starting up, trying to grow, get the music licencing in place and get deals done, especially in the States, we needed to be creative. We worked on different scenarios, changed our ideas, changed our business model and kept on changing it until it actually worked. That’s become an essential mindset for success.
What do you wish you had been told earlier on in your career?
Ricky Gervais said something around the lines of ‘No one knows what the fuck they’re doing, so don’t worry’. I started in this company right out of college, and I was sitting across from a lot of people that felt like they really knew everything that was going on in the market, especially those big corporate cable operators and IPTV operators. Everything that’s going on was very interesting, but their products didn’t show a lot of innovation. That’s when I realised, these people know what’s going on, and know what they’re doing, but they’re not doing the stuff that they actually want to do. If I had known beforehand that nobody really knows how the hell to do what they are doing, that would have given me a lot more peace in the early days.
What is the best bit of advice that you’ve ever been given?
The best advice comes from scenarios when you face adversity, I think that’s a good one. But the advice I have been given by someone else is to relax, because no one knows what they’re doing. I think that’s a very grounding way of taking life and also your job, even though there’s a lot hanging on that. The key to life is not taking yourself and life too seriously, because if you do you’ll get overworked, burn out or you become an a**hole, basically. Just don’t get too caught up in it.
Is there anything that has constantly kept you awake at night?
I seldom have bad nights from business. But when I do it’s a problem I can solve, like a business model problem or a curveball that some operator or major label throws at me. Sometimes I literally wake up in the middle of the night and think of a solution for it, write it down and then go back to sleep. The first moment I can I’ll speak to my colleagues and we start calculating and debunking it or stress testing the idea. That’s so much fun. I have that mechanism in myself that keeps me up when I need to solve difficult problems.
What one bit of advice do you always give other people?
Be open to learning and changing your opinion. Keep on asking questions, because questions are more important than the answers because by asking questions you’re telling people that you’re interested and they can infer your intelligence. That gets you the furthest in life. It’s also about putting aside your ego and admitting when you’re wrong. A lot of people really hang on to their opinion, but if you can put your ego aside and learn and ask a lot of questions, that’s the best advice that I can give you.
To hear more of Cees’ advice and experience, tune into The Executives Unpacked Podcast here.