We talked to Adrien Barthel of Sleek on how to enjoy a smooth and paperless management in the back office and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Adrien Barthel: Fortunately, everyone is doing well. Compared to other parts of the world that were more adversely hit, I consider myself relatively fortunate in Singapore and Hong Kong, where I am currently residing. Perhaps it was quite unusual not to travel at first given that I move around quite often for work, but as with all challenges, we adapt to the situation – and a more grounded life is not too bad either!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Sleek.
Adrien Barthel: I started Sleek together with my co-founder Julien Labruyere in Singapore, 2017. We were part of an entrepreneur network. Both shared a similar frustration with traditional corporate secretary firms that we felt were non-transparent, non-customer-centric, and lacking in modern technology.
We channeled our frustrations into building our solutions that aimed at tackling these problems. Three years later, we have expanded to new markets such as Hong Kong and now manage over 3000+ businesses from over 120 countries.
How does Sleek innovate?
Adrien Barthel: We are customer-obsessed with an innovation-first mindset at Sleek! Began as a digital player in a rather traditional industry, we have consistently proven ourselves and provided high-quality service to our customers through inventing new digital solutions and platforms.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our customers faced one problem: getting multiple stakeholders to physically sign essential documents – many of whom were global citizens. Hearing their concerns, we developed SleekSign – the first free, unlimited, and legally binding electronic signature in Asia. With SleekSign, our customers could get their essential documents signed on-the-go, greatly benefiting their business operations.
Recently, we’ve also secured US$4M in funding in our Pre-Series A round, which we will use to launch more significant innovative functions and new business verticals soon.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Adrien Barthel: Perhaps it may not be the most pleasing of terms, but we consider ourselves as a cockroach business – in times of recession, prosperity, or pandemic, you will always need to do your books, file your taxes and manage your governance. Hence, we were lucky to not face much turbulence compared to other industries.
That said, coronavirus has been a double-edged sword for many businesses, including ours. On the one hand, we did not see any slowdown this year since we have always been a digital-first company and acquired new clients eager to switch to more flexible and online solutions. On the other hand, we have seen many smaller businesses, including a few of our clients, ceasing operations, and negatively affected by the downward trends. There are always two sides to the coin, and it’s how you make the situation that matters.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Adrien Barthel: Fortunately, we did not have to make any difficult choices so far. However, when I look around us and hear stories from friends in other verticals that were severely affected, I’m incredibly grateful for our team, who remains responsible, engaged, and incredibly focused.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Adrien Barthel: I run a lot! It helps remove all the stress of the week and clears your mind. I usually run at dawn or in the evening, depending on my schedule for the day.
Moreover, I think planning and organizing my day helps to deal with stress. I usually start my morning reading the news, listening to podcasts, and understanding the current market trends. Once I get to the office, I will dedicate my morning to meetings with my team and meet external partners. In the afternoons, I usually try to block out my schedule to focus on more strategic work and long-term planning. I find this balance to be the most efficient for me!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Adrien Barthel: Although I mentioned many of the traditional players in the corporate services industry, we have seen more and more digital competitors in recent years. I think it’s exciting because it means that the industry is undergoing changes, and people pay more attention to it. In terms of staying competitive, innovation and customer-centricity are two of our biggest priorities as a company. I believe Sleek can stay successful and ahead as long as we stay focused on these two elements.
Your final thoughts?
Adrien Barthel: For Sleek, our long term goal is to continue improving the business to delight our customers by finding new ways to bring more value. We also have a few more exciting projects that we are working on to launch very soon in Singapore and Hong Kong. There are also plans to expand to new marketing and regions – so stay tuned!