Saija Mahon is the founder of Mahon Digital Marketing Ltd, an international, award-winning digital media agency that helps growing global businesses achieve their sales targets by utilizing advanced technologies and strategic tactics in the ever expanding online environment. Saija has also founded Lonely Robot Web Design agency, that solely specializes in web design and build within the UK market. Last but not least, Saija founded a Scandinavian business networking concept called The Caviar Club, which after 3 years of running, operates in Finland across 4 major cities. Saija is also a very passionate speaker, keynote, blogger and business mentor.
What is your idea of success?
Success to me is being able to design my life the way I want it to look like. Success is being able to execute my dreams, reach my own goals in life and truly be in charge of my life. That means being in control of the path that I choose to take, both personally and professionally. Success is not all about money for me; it’s about being happy and having the freedom to experience and do what I desire.
What is your morning routine? How do you set yourself up for the day?
I wake up at 5AM each morning (yes, true!) to read the news for the day so that I’m on the pulse of global events. I get my family up approximately an hour or so later and have breakfast with them. I share a family moment before heading to my office to tackle the day’s business challenges and opportunities. They give me the boost I need to keep going!
I walk to work each morning. That’s the only moment I truly get my own space and thinking time. It’s also when I don’t have any devices interrupting me. The best ideas come to me either in the morning when I’m walking or in the evening when I spend a moment with my thoughts before going to bed.
How do you stay organized throughout the day?
My calendar is my best friend! I plan like no tomorrow. Each day/week is thoroughly organized to maximum effectiveness; although, of course, no day can be perfectly planned and changes do happen. I try to plan my days as much as I can in advance, with some room for navigation in the case of unexpected events.
What has been your greatest achievement thus far?
Building 3 businesses within 6 years and going from a one-woman-band to a 14 strong team across the UK and Scandinavia. At the same time, I brought up a wonderful daughter, who was born pretty much the same time as I started as an entrepreneur from my living room sofa, with a laptop and no capital. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!
What has been your biggest failure (and how did you overcome it)?
I see failures as opportunities to learn and progress so that success can happen – therefore I don’t regard them as failures. Of course, I’ve made loads of mistakes and if I don’t learn from them, then yes, I’ve failed. One thing that perhaps I’ve improved upon the most is paying extra careful attention to the finances of the companies. If you don’t keep up with the current state of finances and long-term financial planning, surprises can happen very quickly. Always keep your eyes on the books!
What do you feel is the biggest mistake people make when starting a business?
Either, there is not a sufficient long-term plan in place, or a strong foundation for a sustainable business model is not thought out thoroughly. Start-ups get so excited about conquering the world that details, such as FIMO (finances, marketing and operations), are over looked. Start-ups are energy bombs; however, they need to consider channelling that energy in the right places in order to develop into established, healthy businesses.
How do you define a great leader?
A great leader is someone who recognizes the talent of their team, but they also see the strengths of the individuals within that team. They show the team the way and then move out of the way! Great leaders do not chain teams and individuals down. A great leader is strong, open, honest and encouraging.
What qualities do you believe make someone a great team member?
A great team member is someone who shares the vision and passion of the company they work for. They want the best outcome at all times and stand by their team when needed. Great team members also ensure that the wellbeing of the entire group is looked after and raise concerns if necessary.
What is the trait you most admire in others?
If you have ambition, I will look up to you! I admire people who go after their dreams and goals no matter what conditions and no matter how far the goal may seem to be. That’s true passion and it’s very admirable.
What is your biggest professional pet peeve?
I don’t have any patience. I have to do things now, preferably yesterday. It can be very annoying to others; however, I’m working on it!
What is your best negotiating tactic?
I would say the best negotiation tactic is to actually having the room to negotiate! For example, not rating myself or my companies’ services at a too low rate. If you rate yourself too low, there’s nowhere to go from there, certainly no room for negotiation. Ask for what you are worth, and stick to it.
What’s your best networking secret?
Don’t sell. Be your authentic self and remember that the people you network with might be your potential prospects, however, they are still human (like you). Create chemistry with the people you meet; don’t be boring and sell. It just won’t work and people won’t want to continue talking to you.
What advice would you go back and give your younger self?
I would tell myself not to be afraid of being myself. I would tell myself not to hide behind other people and voice my opinion when I felt I had something good to say. I would tell myself not to be scared of audiences and speaking in front of people. Fear is truly a liar, so don’t listen to it!
What is the best way to go for the goal?
Have a clear vision of your goal(s), plan your strategy to reach the goal (that is realistic) and also set up a timeline/deadline to accomplish what you have in mind. If you don’t set timelines, you will never get there. It will always be ‘tomorrow.’
What are you most proud of in your life?
My daughter and my family; then my businesses.
What is the fastest way to turn you off in an interview? How does someone impress you on an interview?
In order for someone to completely turn me off at an interview, they will not to fully understand who we are, or what my company/companies do. This already alerts me that they have no commitment, nor are they willing to put forth any effort. I absolutely love when a person is passionate about what we are trying to achieve, even if they wouldn’t possess the perfect skills to help us to the next level at that time. Skills can be taught, attitudes cannot.
Where do you get most of your information?
From several sources such as the Internet (Google, social media), various titles, books and from other business people.
What apps could you not live without?
I believe I could live without apps in general; however, I do like Uber at the moment as I need to move from place to place for business quite quickly, easily and cost effectively. Not to mention safely.
What is the best lesson you learned from your worst boss?
I’ve learned people management skills and how to invest in people. I will never repeat my worst bosses mistakes.
What do think are the three most essential lessons you have learned in business thus far?
1 | How to manage people and see them as individuals.
2 | How to manage operations and finances to benefit the business.
3 | Creating processes and policies to ensure a smooth day to day running of the business.
What is your professional motto?
“If it doesn’t work, drop it.”
This means that you shouldn’t keep on repeating the same tactic or strategy over and over again and expect different results.
Who is your business crush?
My business crushes are Richard Branson and Sheryl Sandberg. I admire their strength to develop their businesses and push their careers forward no matter what obstacles they may face. I also admire their willingness to lift up and inspire others, like myself.
How do you define happiness?
Being able to design my own life and be truly free (in my case, via entrepreneurship).
Multitasking or single-tasking? Why?
I believe I’m fairly good at multitasking, however sometimes when you try to do several things at once, none of them gets done properly. So, I try and focus on a single task, do it right and move on to the next one. It actually feels pretty good that way!
What does innovative mean to you?
Innovation is very important in business and in life in general. Innovative, to me, means creating something new, something fresh and something that will enable us all to live a more functional and fulfilling life.
Who is the most badass woman you know and why?
My idol: Sheryl Sandberg! I love her book Lean In. She’s constantly motivating and inspiring me to do better and to help other women get higher in business (and life). She’s badass for sure!
What makes you badass?
I’m Finnish, so I can conquer anyone in rally driving and driving on ice. I’m also a ballroom and latin dancer, so I can out dance anyone on a night out! Business wise – I’m quite tough, savvy (however strictly kind) and can truly get another business to the next level! I never give up.