As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Leif Kristjansen, the founder of FiveYearFIREescape.com. I know that Leif works in management at a large internatinoal tech company but he can’t talk about exactly what his company will do. So luckily for us he also blogs under this nom-de-plume and can talk openly how companies “like his” will be rebuilding post COVID. Leif and his family practically retired in his 30s and to do so he had to be very focused. Due to this Leif’s blog is very to the point and very much oriented about saving your time so you can spend it on what you love. He only recommends strategies that work really well. As an example, tactics that just “sort of” work don’t even make the cut. It has to be efficient, and very consistently effective. So I know what he recommends below will be to the point and useful.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I had a very roundabout way of getting to where I am now. I’ve always obsessively followed my passions. And my passions led me into a career in the STEM field where I worked hard and made my way into management.
I actually only work my management job part time because I like it. Actually, my coworkers assume that it’s for the need of income, and I just keep up that illusion. I call it Stealth Wealth. I can’t talk about out exact plans there but I’ll get the message across.
Nowadays I’m just continuing to follow my passions and I spend a lot more time blogging about real estate, investing, and getting motivated to save. I’m actually working on a book too.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
It’s not “laugh out loud” funny, but I’m pretty amused by how things are coming out for me with COVID. I feel like my years of planning and preparing are being tested, and I’m kind of excited to find out where I’ll end up financially after this whole experience. Here’s why:
- I still work part-time so I don’t need investment money coming in.
- But I have plenty of investment income so I don’t need my job. Therefore I’m not stressed about losing it.
- I have most of my money in rental properties, so I don’t even care if the stock market crashes.
It’s amusing in a weird way that just because I’m in a good financial position my outlook on this entire event is wildly different than everyone else’s. I’ve never knowingly experienced this before.
The financial pundits are pulling out their hair about how crazy the economy is going, and I’m just trying to figure out how to better my position, and helping my readers do the same. I will say that health-wise I’m with the rest of the world in being nervous for our families, but I can’t do anything about that except wash my hands.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
The Tim Ferris show is always my go to thing to listen to. For one reason. He questions things a lot. I don’t subscribe to most of his zany ideas but if you are constantly questioning what’s in front of you you will be much better off.
He talks a lot about avoiding analysis paralysis and at our work place we used to have a very intensive purchasing process with many reviews. After listening to one of his shows I realized we were often spending more money in hours than we were spending on our parts, so we decided to not over analyze our choices but make one and stick with it.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started at your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I think most companies are in it to help people. As long as you never lose sight of that you can get through most tough times.
You have a target customer with an issue and you are there to help with that. Sure Covid might affect sales numbers or staffing but those problems aren’t going anywhere. Keep solving them.
My blog is focused on trying to get people to a place where they have money to free themselves up. Covid has changed everything but the goal posts don’t move for me. Everything is timely and lucrative.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Do what adds value.
I think COVID is a great example of adding value. If your customers really do value your ability to help them they are sticking with you through this. There are definitely going to be some non-core aspects of your business. Maybe some additional widgets that you well for a small markup alongside your core product.
When I write I write about how to do finances quickly. Quickly assessing when to refinance a mortgage or quickly refinancing your student debt is what I kept writing about during the downturn because people were likely more interested in that than my thoughts on some random stock. When times are good people will browse. Now companies need their core elements to be strong.
Your tertiary products will likely fall off right now while people are cutting costs, but if you keep your core audience you can build up the volume in the other parts of your price list later.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
By far my biggest issue has been accomplishing anything from home with kids. I have two toddlers and I have very busy 12 hour days and no energy afterwards.
However, while I haven’t figured out how to make it less onerous I have discovered how to make it more educational. I have been teaching my small children about finance by setting up a small bank in house don’t tell the regulators.
After the kiddies eat and clean up, they get a daily stipend. If they save it, it compounds aggressively. They have currently figured out how to save aggressively enough that my economic system is falling apart. I’m so proud!
All of my real work I just do at night once my wife and kids are asleep. It’s very productive although my sleep schedule is getting a little odd.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Work has been quite fluid. Our company runs on computer simulations anyways so that can be done remotely quite easily.
However the biggest issue is what I mentioned above about kids at home on a grand scale. Most of our employees have kids and scheduling anything is difficult.
Currently we have more rarefied scheduled meetings to allow home scheduling ease. In reality it has made everyone much more productive to the point that once this blows over I expect to see a few heads get reallocated or disappear across the company.
It’s not good to say but you need to work with the facts in front of you.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
The number one piece of advice I can give is to stop watching the news. It only does negative things for your mental state. It absorbs too much of your time and as we all know, your mental state can affect your physical well being. So by watching the news you are setting yourself up to be worse affected by covid.
The aspect of Covid that makes this horrible is that it’s constant. Some stressors come and go very quickly. Covid will be here for a very long time and the news isn’t going to get re-assuring for a long time.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I suspect any companies that transition well to online customer interfaces will have a leg up. Most traditional firms have set practices and they are slow to move. Move faster and you can win some business.
If you can interact with your customers well without the need for in-person contact people will appreciate it. I don’t mean zoom meetings. Everyone does that.
Online portals where customers can access and reference documents will ease business. Internally effective communication channels are key. Email is not good for large amounts of information or quick responses. Think Slack instead of outlook. On my small personal scale, I have rental houses and everyone is either managed by me through rental software or through a manager elsewhere.
I adapted, it helped me and my tenants appreciate less contact.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think most people will go about their lives normally for the next decade though many responsible companies and people will try to have a sound balance sheet. Covid came on quickly and it should jar some people.
Markets are largely rebounded and hopefully people will aim to be ready for the next bout of volatility. For responsible people I recommend some ways over others but if you are trying to be ready for whatever comes.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy? Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Our biggest business wide opportunity moving forward is to embrace remote work. We have already figured out how to do everything from home, but now that people aren’t in the office it becomes more feasible to have cells around the world, city or country.
Some companies will look for cost reductions surely but I am more interested in attracting talent from far away places. Immigration is hard on families and for HR.
On my personal level I am educating myself. Being in the top 1% of educated workers will both ensure job security and possibly enable me to find new opportunities.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way” ― Martin Luther King Jr
There is always a way to improve. Every day I try to be a little bit better. During the lock down I have become a stellar cook. You can always find something to make yourself better.
How can our readers further follow your work?
My work is posted publicly at FiveyearFIREescape.com but you can also find me on social media at: