Peter Mühlmann, Trustpilot

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What clears leaders’ heads? Where do they go to solve problems? And how do they reboot their creativity? Every month Director will pick business brains, starting with the chief executive of customer reviews website Trustpilot

My first great idea came from growing up in Denmark near the German border. Products were cheaper in Germany. Cables connecting Sony Ericsson phones to computers cost €1.50 (£1.10), so my friend and I bought them there and sold them in Denmark for €15-20. We sold a lot, until we launched an e-commerce website. Then we sold nothing.

This failure inspired Trustpilot. Nobody bought from us online, probably because they imagined, correctly, we were just two kids in a bedroom. But analogue industries were going online. Despite Yelp and TripAdvisor, there wasn’t a good reviews system for e-commerce, just trillions of them on newspaper websites and  forums, so it was impossible to get an overview. We saw the big opportunity.

The Danish concept of hygge [a cosy, friendly atmosphere] is crucial to our success. At Trustpilot, you can take a beer with me or sit with the CTO. When you’re in a social context, job hierarchy is gone.

When companies scale, ideas flow. Since launching in 2007, we’ve gone from a small group of nerds to an international business of 300. Back then, the challenge was developing new ideas. Now, it’s channelling them – our employees generate 10 years’ worth every month.

We recently had a brainstorming session on a small Danish island. We rented canoes, built a hot-air balloon and took karate lessons. The real benefit was employees speaking to people they don’t normally engage with. Problems they could spend six months arguing over on email were solved over drinks at 9pm.

We have a gong in our Copenhagen offices. When something eventful happens, people smack it – it’s heard throughout the entire building.

I don’t use an alarm clock. I sleep until I wake up, around 7am. I have so much anxiety, I believe in doing anything that lets off this stress. Problems become smaller afterwards.

I solve problems by working harder. Fake reviews are one of Trustpilot’s biggest problems, but the brain is good at seeing data patterns. In the early days, I’d sit with pen and paper and look for signals. It was mentally stimulating
– something I miss as we get bigger.

A jet-set lifestyle affects your diet. For years, I only really ate raw vegetables and meat. Now, I travel so much, my most frequent breakfast is the hotel omelette.

Sometimes work leaves me ‘damaged’. Once a year, I lose bubbliness. That’s when I take a holiday, usually in south-east Asia. I also enjoy going cycling in Denmark.

Steve Jobs is an inspiration. I try to copy the genius, not the a**hole.

Space travel excites me. For me, [leading] Trustpilot is another five years – then it’ll be so big somebody else would be better. I’m interested in space travel for [developing] the human race. It’d be fun to build rockets, right? Let’s see!

Watch a testimonial video about Trustpilot at  youtube.com/user/trustpilot
@Peter_Muhlmann
trustpilot.co.uk

 

About author

Christian Koch

Christian Koch

Alongside his work for Director, Christian has written features for the Evening Standard, The Guardian, Sunday Times Style, The Independent, Q, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, ShortList and Glamour in an eclectic career which has seen him interview everybody from Mariah Carey to Michael Douglas through to Richard Branson with newspaper assignments including reporting on the Japanese tsunami and living with an Italian cult.

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