An interview with CEO and co-founder Arnout Sabbe
geoFluxus is a three-year-old Rotterdam-based startup on a mission to help businesses process waste more cheaply and sustainably.
Co-founders Arnout Sabbe (CEO) and Rusne Sileryte (CTO) are first-time entrepreneurs that have previous experience both in academia and high-pressure, performance-driven workplace cultures in the architectural world.
We spoke to Arnout about their journey with Quan so far, how it is helping them to build a data-driven and scalable culture (including reducing stress and anxiety levels by 40%!) and what advice he would give to other entrepreneurs.
Welcome Arnout! Can you tell us a little about geoFluxus and how and why you began your journey with Quan?
Sure. We are a team of nine trying to find the most sustainable solutions for companies' waste through data and tech. As first-time founders, everything to do with setting up and organizing a business was new to us, and quantitative data-driven insights into building the best possible company culture was very important. We chose Quan because there is both a scientific aspect to it and a quantitative aspect to it. These are very important to us especially given our background in academia.
When you chose to partner with Quan, was well-being the key thing you wanted to measure?
The main trigger was to get data on how our team was doing, but well-being was important indirectly due to our backgrounds as architects. This is an industry that often requires incredibly long hours for relatively little pay, a deadline-driven environment with excessive stress. Due to the unhealthy professional environments we have experienced first-hand, it was very important for us to create a better culture than the ones we have come from, and a focus on well-being is a powerful way to do this.
Can you talk us through the rollout of Quan — for example, was it smooth? Were there any concerns and if so, how did you mitigate them?
Before the first assessment there were a couple of internal questions that we needed to resolve. The key one was personal data. We are a data company ourselves, so we know the importance of privacy and protecting data, but we were asking our team to trust Quan with all these answers to questions, some of which are quite personal. But once we learned how Quan managed data privacy that worry was solved. That was the biggest internal resistance.
The second issue which was more of a question than resistance per se, was whether we truly needed a solution such as Quan in order to have these internal conversations. For example, couldn’t we just sit in a circle and air out our concerns without needing to go through the assessment?
But it is very valuable to have hard data to look at. And beyond that, working with Quan provides structure and accountability around these conversations — if you don’t act on something, the data will show it in the next cycle. Seeing the trends is also helpful. Also, there is a tradition or ritual aspect to diving into the data and discussing the findings, which is nice as well.
What kinds of things did you see in the data — surprising or unsurprising?
That is the beauty of numbers — they confront you with reality.
We scored very well on what I thought we were strong at, such as personal well-being, sense of purpose at work, and so on. Perhaps more interestingly, in one of our first cycles with Quan we noticed that our risks were a direct reflection of the personal flaws of us as founders, specifically planning, stress at work, focusing on one task rather than taking a more deliberate or considered approach, and so on. This was a major learning for us as founders as well as a company.
I believe this is due to the fact there is such a strong relationship between who you are as a co-founder and the organization you build, and it was a very big personal lesson as well as an important data point we could look at as a team.
Very interesting. What measures did you take to resolve it?
We took some very practical and much-needed steps, including implementing a project management software with tickets and priorities, and starting to work in sprints and so on. And the beauty of Quan is that we were able to see quantifiable results. In the subsequent cycle we saw stress levels and anxiety at work drop by around 40%.
We saw stress levels and anxiety at work drop by around 40%.
That’s a huge change both in the score, but also in the action you took based on the data. When you see a risk in Quan data do you always try to solve it with a concrete change to the way you work? Or do you occasionally take a more incremental approach?
We try to make a significant change every time. For example, in one assessment cycle, everyone scored quite low on physical well-being. Following that we introduced personal training at work — twice a week, half an hour training at work, after which physical well-being improved dramatically. Second was stress and anxiety, and we introduced the project management tool. Third was cravings, so we introduced having healthy lunches together, and that issue was resolved. And our current focus is communication. We are introducing more of a matrix structure to help the flow of communication.
So our changes based on Quan data are super concrete and impactful, and each time so far there has been a direct corresponding improvement in the following cycle.
Our changes based on Quan data are super concrete and impactful, and each time so far there has been a direct corresponding improvement in the following cycle.
Eventually many teams reach a kind of plateau in terms of scores. How have your overall scores progressed over time?
Indeed, in terms of scores, we are coming to a kind of plateau. However, every cycle still reveals a clear issue is coming to the surface that we try to solve. You could say there are no fires any more, but still issues that we want to resolve proactively as they arrive instead of putting them out retroactively.
Do you have any advice for founders like yourselves as they build their teams and companies?
Yes. You need some kind of solid foundation in terms of how you work in order to grow an effective team. If you look at your original core team, and use a solution like Quan to figure out how to collaborate and communicate and work effectively in a structured environment, growing your team while ensuring a healthy and productive culture becomes much easier.