Lino Velev

Breandan hEaghra
31 May 2021

We were delighted to speak to Lino Velev – CEO of Farstar…. Kick back and read his answers!

Q1.  Did you always want to become a consultant or did you fall into the role?
To be honest I don’t think of myself as a consultant or at least not as of yet. More like a person from industry that got pulled into consulting relationships. It’s not something that I aspired to or at least not until a much later stage in my career. I used to think of consultants as people who’re very experienced, but don’t necessarily have the energy to build for themselves anymore. Or maybe feel that their experience can be more impactful working on a portfolio of initiatives rather than on one focused one. I’ve expanded my view over the years.

Q2.  What makes a good consultant?
It’s a mixture of two things I consider equally important. 

  1. your thesis of why you can be the best in the world in some sufficiently specific thing and how you execute on that thesis to keep yourself relevant in that sense
  2. how you structure the way you fit into relationships with your clients, so that there is a very meaningful devision of responsibilities and incentives for value to be created and transferred   

you can almost think of it as product and distribution
Additionally from the consultants point of view it’s also important to figure out the growth model. Or how does your work would naturally generate opportunities for new work that are in line with the thesis. 

Q3.  Do you feel you manage yourself well or is it a case of ‘the cobbler’s shoes’?
I’d say reasonably well as of late, however it wasn’t always the case. There were things in the way we managed ourselves that I’d be ashamed to admit today. Funnily enough the pandemic created the space for us to pick up on some of those and things look much better at the moment.

Q4.  Are there enough hours in your day?
We all have the same amount for hours. I’ve always thought that it’s less a matter of time and how you manage it and more a matter of energy. Be it creative energy, execution energy, relationship development energy, etc. I’ve never had a hope or aspired to be the most efficient person around, however I feel than in certain situations I can be effective. It’s ofter more about making sure you work on the right problem than being incredibly efficient across the board. 

Q5.  If you could magically stop your clients from making one mistake – what would that be?
Allowing themselves to succumb to pressures and think too short term. Very often we get sucked into ‘what are we doing with this current budget we have’, or ‘what shall we do to raise the next round’, or ‘how would this look on some quarterly report’, etc. We of course need to worry about these things to keep the ship afloat, however what is it all for if we lose sight of where true north is.

Q6.  What do you find is the best way to market yourself?
I’ve never marketed myself as a consultant, so not sure my advice would be relevant. Still what has worked for me is doing impactful work from a place of authenticity and strong values. When I’ve felt I’m doing that, opportunities have been finding their way to me kind of organically.  

Q7.  What do you do to unwind?
A broad range of things. I surf, ski, like interesting cars and bikes, travel a lot ideally to un-obvious places, geek out on obscure engineering topics, go to a lot of parties especially around the techno scene and try to get engaged with helping interesting projects here and there. But what I found is important to me and really gets me to unwind is not so much the activity itself as much as the relationships with others and sense of community I get while doing it.

Q8.  What advice would you give a starting consultant?
Don’t do it!   

No but seriously and joke aside, from my journey the biggest lesson learned has been that when you’re in a consultant role, you can’t let it feel like whatever you’re doing is your thing too much. Often you might feel like you can do it better, greater, cheaper, more awesome. However even if the client is being irrational, it’s ultimately their thing and they’re on the line for whatever happens, so you must respect that. At the same time if you’re completely dispassionate about the work, this won’t work well either. So finding the balance and managing the boundaries and structure of the relationship is extremely important. My advice would be to be self aware of that and find someone more experience who can help you figure it out. 

Q9.  What’s your guilty pleasure?
Not a huge fan of feeling guilty, however I guess there is one. I really enjoy being where I feel the action is and have been know to get on an airplane a bit too often. Probably more than is necessary. I try to buy carbon offsetting services to mitigate my footprint. 

Q10.  What’s your goal for next year?
There are a few very interesting directions for further growth and bigger impact that have taken more clear shape as of late that are quite different. I’m not under huge pressure to make those choices, but feel it makes sense to be focused and strategic about it and that involved proactively dropping things that I’m attached to and work, but probably would no longer serve an important purpose. So the immediate future for me is about collecting insights to make those choices and then making what would likely be a 5+ year commitment of direction.