Meet Per, Co-founder at Everyday.

Conversations on Culture is our interview series on discovering the art and science of great company culture. This week we meet Per Jonsson, Co-founder at Everyday.
While spending a decade as a founder of various startups, Per experienced the challenges of embodying company values, developing leadership, and scaling culture as business grows. Before starting Everyday, he was the co-founder of Young Entrepreneurs of Sweden, Omnicloud, and Jumpstarter, as well as an advisor on product and strategy for a number of fast-growing startups.

In this interview, Per speaks about his journey and the vision behind Everyday.
— You're a serial entrepreneur and started your first business when you were very young. Why?
Everything started with me being very curious. From a young age, I was building my own computers, designing things, programming, learning to understand how things work together and how technology enables communication between people. Observing our world, through this digital lens, became my mission which I followed for many years.

Like most kids, I used to love reading and drawing on paper. After I found computers I stopped reading books to surf the Internet and the canvas I drew on became pixel instead of pencil.What started as curiosity grew into a passion, and I spent more and more time using computers to build things that expressed my creativity, whether it was logos, designs, websites or apps. Some of them were real business ideas based on a solid customer need, others were just scrapbooking to see what was possible.
What was your latest tech company about?
The company was Jumpstarter and our vision was to help anyone to plug their digital creations into the internet with just the click of a button. On the backend we we're the fastest way to startup a server based on a technology stack of your choice, and we would handle automated running and scaling of campaigns, websites and apps.
And you enjoyed working in a startup environment?
For a few years I was living my dream. I got to work on exactly what I wanted together with brilliant people that I admired for their skills. The freedom and creativity of working in a startup context was unparallelled.

Over time, I started seeing the real implications of working in a fast-paced startup context with ambitious growth targets and KPIs. As if my own expectations of performance and productivity was not enough, I now also had my investors, my co-founders and my team to expect things from me. At the same time, I was lacking tools to handle the increased levels of stress, which left me emotionally drained by the end of the working day. I remember leaving work feeling as if there was no energy left to meet friends, exercise or even go for a walk. My dream had become my nightmare and while everything seemed shiny and glossy on the outside, on the inside I felt empty and incomplete.
What did you do about it?
I started connecting with people who were much less connected to the startup bubble than I was. They belonged to communities like yoga and mindfulness with a different set of values and beliefs than the startup people that I normally surrounded myself with.

Their definition of success was radically different from mine. They saw me as successful when I was able to spend time with them, listen deeply and express my emotions. They messed up my radar, since the startup strategies of success that I had trained so effectively has zero implications on them. They were not impressed by my version of success, rather the opposite.

This sobered my perspectives and helped me realized what was truly important in life. Work is just work, and regardless how much I invest into my career, it's never going to give me everything that I want from life. Investing in relationships with people around me is what truly gives meaning to my life. And in caring for them and at the same time putting myself on the line, I can truly become successful.

I'm not sure if it was luck, or just that same curiosity that got me started in the first place. But those people were my lanterns in the dark. When work took me on a path to always do more, strive higher and never have enough — they gave me permission to settle for less and take the burden of responsibility off my shoulders.

In some auspicious way, the path I was on eventually forced me to leave my role as the CEO of Jumpstarter and take time off to reflect on my ambitions over the past decade, where they had brought me today and what I wished for the coming decade of my life.
What did you learn from that experience?
One of my greatest discoveries was how I had been feeding my ego during all these years, when in fact it was never just about me. I became aware of my utter insignificance and that as a single human being, I'm fully replaceable and really not that important.

It might sound strange, but for me this was a great relief. As someone who has always put pressure on myself to do more and have all the answers myself, I became aware of the powerful practice of asking others for help. Depending on others and admitting my own uncertainty still frightens me, but I am learning to love the vulnerability of inviting others to be in that space together with me.

This discovery was so significant that I realized my next venture would have to embody it somehow. Teaching people to ask for help and to help each other is a beautiful way to build relationships that last. If I can contribute to facilitating human connection and support people to relate on a deeper level, that would be real success.
— How did Everyday begin?
It all started in a small café in Södermalm, Stockholm.

Once a week we would gather entrepreneurs and young urban professionals to talk about matters related to work and life. We were inspired by initiatives such as the School of Life in London, the Burning Man festival in the US and the Perestroika in Brazil.

Our founding question was "How can we make people thrive and not just survive?". We wanted to create something truly shared, where we were all equals. Where every participant would be part of contributing with their knowledge and wisdom to the benefit of everyone else.

Our founding document was a manifesto with five principles that supported our vision and helped people feel safe to say the truth of what was really on their mind.

Everyday School became an unexpected success, very unlike the ones we had experienced previously. Every Wednesday for a year we would have a two hour class on a topic such as relationships, work, meaning, leadership and success.

Every week we would have people showing up from all over Stockholm, bringing their friends, partners, dates and coworkers to join what they called "an Everyday class" or an "unexpected experience". People would tell us things like "I have never been listened to that way before" or "I feel safe to share things that I wouldn't even share with my partner at home".

In a way, we became the campfire of the city, and a community of people who developed a shared identity and purpose around discovering all the different corners of the human experience.
— What inspired the shift to moving from individuals to organizations?
Honestly, the main reason was business logic. After the success of our initial classes we invested heavily into iterating towards a thriving business model for Everyday School. We were able to generate revenue here and there, but not to create the solid streams that we wanted.

Our data was telling us that people had a hard time to schedule time for personal development and growth. At the same time, we saw them spending most of their day in the office. And the training budgets of companies were like giant watermelons compared to the little pumpkin seeds that people were spending personally. There just wasn't a feasible case to be made for a school for personal development in Stockholm at that time.

As we looked deeper into the B2B market, we also discovered something else. Companies are struggling to stay ahead of the game and adapt to the principles of the digital world. Building company culture is hard, especially as you grow. Companies market themselves as the churches of today, with strong values and beliefs and a vision to drive change. But getting from that fancy poster on the wall into the nitty-gritty, greasy mechanics of everyday work is hard, and requires investing in leaders to quickly build tangible skills. There was a gap in the market for something different. If we could help people to thrive and companies to be more profitable at the same time, we would have a solid business case for growth.
— Leadership training have been around for years. What's so different about Everyday?
Leadership training is broken. Most companies still struggle to build their culture, especially as they grow. The traditional way to train your leaders is to send them off to a workshop, although research shows that 70% of what people learn in a workshop is forgotten already after 5 days. The cost of scheduling time for training, the training experience itself and the return on investment is far from where it should be.

When we started Everyday we set out to be different from the start. Our core belief is to give people access to skills in emotional intelligence to be able to grow both themselves and the companies they work for. The skills that we teach can be applied to contexts in business and personal life to drive both productivity and happiness.

We've designed Everyday to support fast-growing startups from the get-go. We've created a training that is less time-consuming and more effective than anything else you've experienced. To begin with, we help companies put their values into action by mapping company values against the leadership skills we train in the program. The training itself then consists of small, bite-sized tasks that can be done throughout the work day with the support of expert coaches that facilitate getting things done. Finally, we adapt training to each individual leader, meaning you get to learn what's relevant for you here and now as opposed to getting stuck in a "one-size-fits-all" solution.
— What does Everyday mean with that everyone is a leader?
Everyone is a leader is our way of saying that organizations need to rethink how they train their leaders and make investments into leadership training to continue to thrive in a digital age.

We live in a fast-paced world where the traditional model of leadership no longer works. Most leaders are trained to predict and control the outcomes of business contexts, treating information as certain and true. In reality though, most situations at work are ambiguous and we need to fine-tune our instrument to be able to truly make sense of what is going on and develop the most accurate response to a given situation.

Today, humans live in networks while companies live in hierarchies. For companies to fully adopt a network-based organization model, leadership must change dramatically. In a networked world, leaders need to understand when to lead, when to follow, and when to step aside. To be resilient and effectively handle change, leaders need to be able to self-reflect and manage their own emotions. To create more leaders and not just followers, leaders need skills to delegate and trust.

These behaviors are true for everyone in the organization, not just managers. As we invite more people to lead, we start to see the organization as an infinite well of wisdom. People become resources and not liabilities. Teams form organically based on needs, and solutions emerge naturally from within the organization.

In short, companies that are able to create and develop leaders have the capacity to thrive in a digital age.
— What has been the biggest learning while building Everyday?
The biggest learning was finding the balance between our vision and the impact we want to see — and finding a business model that generates sustainable revenue over time. Iterating towards a product that fulfils those both criteria has required great awareness and patience from our team.

In shaping the current version of our product, two key insights stand out.

Urgency drives change. People change behaviors because they want to themselves, not because someone tells them to. At Everyday, we personalize the learning experience to each individual leader based on their current needs and aspirations for growth. Our goal is to be able to provide the right tools at the right time to accelerate change.

Context is king. To successfully change a behavior, we need feedback and support from our environment and the people around us that matter to us. Everyday achieves that by supporting our leaders with expert coaching and by creating meaningful feedback loops to celebrate successfully trained behaviors.

At Everyday, we believe sharing is caring. There's a lot of great people out there who have hands-on experience in creating great leadership and company culture.
Do you know anyone we should talk to? Share it with us by sending an email to [email protected].
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