Stoyan Yankov is an internationally recognized productivity coach, book author, podcaster, and global keynote speaker. Born in Bulgaria and initially working in the film production industry in Denmark, Stoyan has built expertise in mastering productivity to help others to improve their performance. He has worked with various startups, accelerators & incubators, and other companies in over 30 countries.
Today, we bring you an exclusive interview about Stoyan’s journey, practices, and tips on overcoming our daily challenges.
AISI: What was the main reason that made you start your productivity coach journey?
Stoyan: As anything in life, I guess it was a combination of circumstances. I used to work in the film production sector in Denmark, and very often in this industry you have less resources, people and budget than you need in order to deliver the "final cut". So I learned the importance not only of effective time management, but also of leading and motivating your team to deliver results under pressure.
On top of that, for many years I've been fascinated by personal development and what becomes possible when you decide to commit to such an inner journey.
Since my early 20s I've been devoted to continuous learning and self-development, and so I have attended all types of seminars, coaching training and transformational workshops, read countless books… you name it.
In the end, it was a natural progression to get on the other side, and since 2014, I've been consistently building my practice, helping individuals and teams to boost their performance and I feel more excited about what I do with each new opportunity.
AISI: How do you personally fight procrastination or demotivation?
Stoyan: The first question I ask myself is: "Why am I procrastinating? Why am I demotivated?"
And the answer usually falls in one of these reasons:
- I'm unclear or misaligned with the bigger picture; in other words, I'm not connected with the purpose of the project, or I don't know why I do what I do.
- In that case, I evaluate how taking action on that task or project will support the bigger goal. For example, I might catch myself procrastinating doing my bookkeeping. Yes, but let's think about it: bookkeeping is very important to the business, it's connected to the finance and overall success of the organization and I cannot delegate it. Fair enough: It's important!
- I failed to prioritize or have too much on my plate, so I'm feeling overwhelmed, and I don't know where to start.
- In that case, I make a list of every single task, project, meeting, and then prioritize to decide what's the first thing I should start with. And I fully commit to it. Nothing else matters.
- I am exhausted, and my mind literally resists taking on this difficult or boring task.
- In that case, I might take a break or decide whether switching to a different type of task or activity can be more productive at that moment.
Often with procrastination, the trick is to simply start doing it, as difficult or boring it may seem. If you want to achieve something meaningful, you frequently have to do things that you don't necessarily find pleasant or fun, and that's okay.
AISI: What do you view as your main advantage/differentiation?
Stoyan: A lot of the work I do these days is supporting teams to get better and to improve their productivity and team culture. But the formats and methods can vary: from workshops, group coaching, 1-1 sessions to mastermind sessions, and designing team off-sites.
Whatever I commit to do, I try and make it:
- Interactive and engaged by shared learning
- Filled with hands-on tools and practical learnings
- Inspiring and fun
So far, it's been working well and I keep getting invited. But you can never stop learning, developing and getting better.
AISI: How do you work with and help startup teams to overcome their challenges?
Stoyan: I love working with startups, and I do a lot of work with acceleration and incubation programs.
Every founder struggles with different challenges: from cash flow problems and inability to find product-market fit, all the way to mental health issues, prioritization challenges and team misalignment.
Usually, it starts with a 2-3 days intense PERFORM bootcamp (as we like to call it), including 1-1 sessions with each team.
My job is to provide a framework, and empower productive discussions. The PERFORM methodology (which I co-developed with my co-author Cristobal Alonso, CEO at Startup Wise Guys) is the base of my work these days.
Cristobal and I wanted to make it simple and easy for founders to prioritize their people and their culture. PERFORM includes 7 areas which often get neglected, but if one pays attention to them consistently, they can improve every company's chances to succeed in the long run. Have a look: is there an area you haven't mastered yet? What can you do to start making improvements?
AISI: What is the first advice you give to startup teams to boost their productivity?
Stoyan: I ask them to take a step back, make an assessment and identify the gaps. Once we know what the challenges are and where they come from, we can work out a specific strategy and action plan to address them.
To give you 3 quick tips:
- Create a strong culture alignment.
- Where are you going? What's the purpose of your startup? What values do you align with? Is everyone from the team on the same page?
- Invest in effective goal-setting and time management practices.
- Find your own method or system and stick to it. Lead by example. Have your own process, and make sure you take time every day for reflection and planning. Set clear, measurable goals and communicate them consistently. Make sure everyone from your team develops a strong sense of ownership and time management habits.
- Make well-being a priority.
- Take extra care of yourself and your team mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Building a company is a long-term journey. And it's easy to neglect all the daily things that fill you up with ENERGY. What can you do to inspire your team to build the right, positive habits?
There is no magic pill. Everything comes down to consistency, hard work and commitment.
AISI: How did you come to the idea of writing your book PERFORM? What gaps did you see in the current methods?
Stoyan: My co-author, Cristobal Alonso, and I had worked together for a number of years. One day, we met up for coffee in Copenhagen. It turned out both of us wanted to write a book! The ideas and topics were very similar, so we decided to join forces and give it a go together.
We felt there wasn't a book that looks at team culture and performance in a methodical and practical manner. In addition, there were many books about startups, but most of them were focused on the US market and using examples mainly from Silicon Valley.
We wanted to give the reader practical tools, ideas and relatable examples from our own region (CEE). The PERFORM framework gave us a perfect structure to explore the most important areas a founder needs to pay attention to in order to build a great team.
So we embarked on our own "startup journey" of writing the book.
We tested the content for nearly 2 years by delivering keynotes, workshops and boot camps, and collecting the best stories and tools. In the book, we have included examples of over 50 successful founders and thought-leaders from the region. The book was published in 2021, and the feedback we have received so far has been phenomenal.
AISI: What is your favorite takeaway from your book PERFORM that you would advise to all entrepreneurs?
Stoyan: One of the first quotes in the book is from Sergiu Negut (Co-founder, FintechOS). It starts like this: "The everyday life of an entrepreneur is digging a muddy trench. There's little, very little glamor…".
I couldn't agree anymore. The survival rate of startups is less than 10%. And it's very, very hard to build a company that ends up becoming successful. Mental health issues and burnout rates are hitting record highs, not to mention the increased suicidal cases among entrepreneurs.
Yet, we keep talking only about the bright side of the few success stories. I really hope we start painting a more realistic picture. In our own work, we shed more light on the actual startup journey as it is, with the good, the bad and ugly.
I would advise every entrepreneur to gear up and get ready for the ride. Focus on building the fundamentals. Build a strong team with a strong culture. Work on it every day. Consistency beats any method. And if you are patient and committed enough, you might actually have a shot.
AISI: Where can people get in touch with you and find more resources to grow?
Stoyan: Everyone is welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn (please include a note why you want to connect).
You are also welcome to visit my webpage and enjoy the FREE resources: read the blog, subscribe to the newsletter and listen to my podcast Productivity Mastery. And of course check out our book: PERFORM: The Unsexy Truth about (Startup) Success.
Wishing you all a productive and joyful day, and #KeepPERFORMing!