From tech geek to business economist to leader
The journey from being a 17-year-old technology blog owner to leading a successful business came with its hurdles for Edin Mehinovic. When the company was undergoing its biggest growth spurt, the leadership role brought with it completely new challenges. The Executive Leadership Program, a leadership program at SSE Executive Education, became the stepping stone for effective leadership that Mehinovic needed at the time.
At 34 years old, Edin Mehinovic already has 17 years of experience as a business leader on his resumé. When he was just 17 he started his first technology blog, SweClockers, and today he runs Geeks Publishing – a successful and growing digital agency comprised of several brands, such as SweClockers, FZ and 99mac.
“I’m a total tech geek and I started my site (or blog, actually) for myself and like-minded people. At the outset I had a thousand visitors a week, but the site grew all the time. I invested so much time in the site that I probably missed half of my time in secondary school,” says Mehinovic.
But as various circumstances unfolded, at the age of 19 Mehinovic suddenly realized that SweClockers was turning into something more serious than just a hobby. SweClockers transformed itself from personal pet project to livelihood. In those days, the first advertisers were making their appearance on the digital scene. Because the internet was immature, digital advertising was in its infancy and SweClockers was at the forefront. Ad revenue began to soar.
And so Mehinovic began to make money. He founded the company in 2004 and began hiring. The number of visitors to the site doubled every year and more advertisers flocked to it. SweClockers had gone from being a modestly popular site for the most dedicated “geeks” to the largest site for computers and hardware in Sweden. However, suddenly managing a strong growth company instead of a hobby site brought with it new demands. Demands that Mehinovic, with barely a secondary education to his credit, had to take on. Fortunately, his self-proclaimed geekiness do not stop at technical and digital gadgets. No matter the situation, he usually gives it his all.
“I learned everything – and I mean everything – about accounting, bookkeeping and financial statements because I had to. I got everything I needed from the internet. Wanting to understand and master something is an incredibly powerful driving force for me and when I surrender to it I totally go all out. Even my wife, who is actually a professional economist, still asks me certain things about finance and accounting,” smiles Mehinovic.
The identity shift that followed – from computer geek to businessman – did not always come easy, but he rolled with the punches. By 2012 SweClockers had roughly 6-8 employees. For Mehinovic, entrepreneurship had transformed from a hobby to a source of self-fulfillment. But what would happen next?
“I had succeeded, but for me it’s not about the money – I want to make a real difference. I come from a background where we struggled to make ends meet and now I had an apartment in town, a car and a a successful business. So it was no longer about my own fulfillment but what I wanted my business to be and become. What was the reason for its existence?”
Because the company had grown so much, both organically and through acquisitions of other sites, a new and more complex dynamic took shape. Was Mehinovic the right person to lead the organization that Geeks Publishing had become?
Mehinovic needed structure, goals and meaning. Additional acquisitions created an even bigger company and suddenly placed much tougher demands on leadership and organization.
“I got a tip from a former participant in the Executive Leadership Program who thought it would be totally perfect for me knowing the challenges and thoughts I had. I myself was skeptical. The Stockholm School of Economics? A lot of theories – was that what I needed? But after I went to an information meeting I signed up, and now that I’ve completed the program I can say it’s something I will never regret,” says Mehinovic.
For Mehinovic, applying to the program was his first contact with academia since secondary school, and that in itself posed a big challenge. However, right from day one his expectations were upended.
“The environment the directors create is so incredibly secure. All the participants, many of whom were executives from big well-known companies, could open up and dare to be themselves with a depth that I think surprised most people. I had expected teachers, lessons, long theoretical sessions – and then the entire first week was all about our feelings! To be given the opportunity to understand on an emotional level what you do and what your role is, and to end up in an environment where you could be completely open with the other participants – that was incredibly valuable.”
So, now that the program is over and Mehinovic is back to reality at the company he left for one week each month over the last six months, what were the greatest experiences he gained?
“A stronger sense of self as a leader and a more enlightened view of my leadership style, which is very emotional. But, above all, clarity and confirmation that I’m doing things right, that it’s possible to be a manager based on your own merits, and that you can pursue leadership by being yourself.”
The tools and the strong contact network Mehinovic takes with him from the Executive Leadership Program can now be leveraged in a comprehensive branding and identity initiative at Geeks Publishing.
“We’re going through a change process right now that everyone at the company worked on together, with support from one of the other participants I became close with during the program. I’ve been inspired and influenced a lot by several of the lecturers during the Executive Leadership Program.”
“Geek’s vision is now about building tribes of people with strong interests, and we are driven by the idea of taking these crazy passionate people seriously. We ourselves are obsessed by our interests and giving meaning, context and happiness to the people who are also sharing their own commitment. If I hadn’t enrolled in the program, we wouldn’t be so genuinely passionate and focused,” concludes Mehinovic.