Work Smarter: Softline’s Ivan Epstein Offers His Advice

Work Smarter: Softline’s Ivan Epstein Offers His Advice


Claim to fame:

  • Ivan Epstein
  • Founded: Softline (Est 1988), acquired by Sage Group in 2003
  • Current position: CEO Sage AAMEA (Africa, Australia, Middle East, Asia)

On being a ‘big picture’ guy

One of my gifts is the ability to see the commercial viability of ideas. I can micro-manage down to the coffee we have in the cupboard, but big picture thinking and chasing big deals is my passion. Although I’m detail orientated, I avoid long meetings. I like think tanks that actively engage everyone in the room and have clear outcomes.

On hours spent thinking about ‘work’

How do you qualify thinking about work? I’m always working; I’m even fully engaged in planning for my business when I’m relaxing. It’s my passion, so I guess I’m always ‘working’ in some form or another. I love Sundays, because I’m looking forward to Monday.

On emails

Email can be a great productivity tool, but it can also be an incredible time waster. I can’t stand emails that request meetings to discuss yet more meetings. I’d rather you just called me, spent 30 seconds on the phone, and set up an appointment.

On productivity

Even though I can admit that I work six days a week, it’s still about the quality of your time, not how long you work. Never procrastinate — it’s a complete waste of time. I get in early every morning because I get a lot done before the buzz of the day begins.

I only look at my emails at night, when I can concentrate on them and they aren’t distracting me from my day. And when I get quiet time, like on a plane, I read a book and disengage.

On getting things done

The key to success is being able to take an idea and execute it. Strategy is only 10% of it. The other 90% of success lies in your ability to execute your great ideas. I’ve made a point of always surrounding myself with highly intelligent people who get the job done.

We don’t waste time — the art is in the execution. As a company we have always moved quickly. My MDs report directly to me, but they also have ownership of their autonomous business units, which gives them a sense of urgency.

On encouraging staff

We have a focused, fast-paced, demanding work environment, so the balance is that we try to be as uncorporate as possible. This is a fun place to work. Management engages with employees; we’re open and honest. We don’t hide behind corporate speak and we make it as enjoyable to work here as possible. We know that if our employees are happy and engaged, the results will follow.