June 15, 2022

Personalized Approach to Employee Benefits with MELP

Personalized Approach to Employee Benefits with MELP

Vidmantas Šiugždinis is a talented serial entrepreneur, investor, and lecturer. In a previous role as CEO of Lemon Fitness club, he grew a health company from 8 clubs in Lithuania to more than 30 clubs in 3 Baltic countries. Now he is creating MELP - a personalized employee benefits platform that provides a wide variety of choices for employees.

In this chat, we learn about his obsession with the number 7, the weird thing he does for his morning routine (99.5% of us wouldn’t even consider doing this), and why he believes the best segment of customers is one. 


Show highlights:


-   0:35 – the books Vidmantas read in the past 3 months

-   2:00 – Vidmantas’ favorite athlete

-   3:45 - $50,000 in cash or dinner with Michael Jordan

-   4:35 – something weird Vidmantas obsesses over

-   7:00 – what he enjoyed working at BBDO

-   11:30 – the push to become a lecturer

-   13:40 – running one of the biggest entertainment groups in the Baltics

-   17:30 – challenges growing a new fitness brand from ground zero

-   20:40 – MELP – giving employees the opportunity to choose their own benefits

-   23:50 – the morning routine that 99.5% of us would never do


Hey, ICL fans question for you. Is there something weird you obsess over? If people knew about it, they may think maybe you're a little crazy where my guest today is who is a very talented serial entrepreneur investor in lecture. And he shared something he obsesses over. That is very strange, but funny.

What is it? The numbers. But it's not just the number. It's how the little things like the temperature or the volume setting should be on a number that ins with seven or divisive dividable by seven funny. Huh? Anyway, that is just, what are the things that you'll learn about? Who previously grew a health company from eight clubs in Lithuania to more than 30 clubs and three Baltic countries, and happens to be creating milk in ELP, which is a platform that provides a wide variety of choices and benefits for employees.

Let's jump into the conversation. Hey, you're listening to innovators can laugh. The fun startup podcast. I'm your host, Eric Nosha on ICO. We interview an innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene. Every week. My goal is to have my guests share their wisdom or having a little fun in the process.

Now let's dive in. Mid-month as pleasure to have you in the show. I like to get started with, by asking you some some fun questions that kind of reveal your personality. First question for you. How many books have you read in the last three months? Well, I believe it could be up to five, five or six, so it was pretty intensive.

I was reading and mixing a little bit of science fiction with a, with a business books. So I, I think it was quite good month. Okay. Have you always been a slight five, man? Yeah. Yeah. Since, since I was little, since I was a kid, I was reading lots of science fiction. So, you know, I grew and grew up with some big, big names.

Like I can see which, which I liked a lot more or brothers to grad skills. So now the last book I finished by. Two days ago was also science fiction, larger of July center, the law of the light. Right. Interesting, interesting. But you know, what, what turned me on to reading was reading a Saifai book called inner skating when I was very young.

Did you ever read that book or see the movie? I said I've seen the movie. Didn't read the book. I didn't even know that it was a book. What I've done. I put it in the, with. Fascinating, you know, the book's always much better, but yeah, they get a chance. It's a great book. When I read that book, I just, I just fell in love with reading.

Okay. Next question for you, who is one of your favorite celebrities or actors or athletes? Athletes? I believe the, the athlete, the first comes to mind with market it's Michael Jordan with a booze, of course, you know, Lithuania, it's a basketball country. So. Yeah, all the kids grew up watching basketball.

So Michael Jordan under with even the first bulls litter, Aaron, and then after, after the return. He was really inspiring athlete. And afterwards, when I watched the Netflix show with him about the last game, so let's dance. So it was also once more, you know, reliving these moments. Like I believe he was probably the most inspirational athlete.

Yeah. I loved how he could invent something in his mind and it was just enough to trigger. Okay. I, you know, I'm going to demolish that person in the game. It was just a nuts and pretty vague down that little trigger. That's all, if you need it, it's sometimes he would make it up just, just to like, you know, motivate him and inspire him.

I that's fascinates me about him. So the question there about, sorry, also very persistent and the raising the bar and keeping it, you know, not only for himself, but also for the others. So I think that's. Absolutely because they said that, yeah, he was a bit of an asshole at times. You know, he wasn't a pleasant person to be around with, but as a teammate, he was amazing.

He just went into, when did he brought everybody else up to that level? So the question I have for you about Michael Jordan, which you'd rather have dinner with Michael Jordan, or take $50,000 in cash. If you had the choice between the two, which one would you pick? Well, both at that's, right? Yeah. You know, money comes and goes.

It's the only what you can do with it. Maybe that dinner would be more impressive, right? And probably some of the inspiration I could get. I hope it could earn me more than 50,000. Good answer. Good. Okay. Next question for you. Tell me something weird that you obsess over something weird that you obsessed over.

Yeah. I have strange thing with. So and have a life member seven. So when I am ready, you know, seeing some numbers, for example, I'm going to putting the volume up in the car and it shows the. So I tried it to end up with a volume number, which either is divided by seven without the remainder. Or if I add two, it adds up to seven.

For example, I really liked listening to the radio on the volume, put the. Which is divided by 7 35, but also 34 is okay. Because three plus four is also seven. So

I really like playing with the numbers in my. Has anybody ever cut onto this or no? I don't think so. I don't fill that often because you know, I have few options because I had a filter. For example, when my wife told me, make it not so loud, you know, I make it 14. So nobody asks why it's 14. Why it's not 12, like.

Well, I'm just thinking about all the negotiations you have done, whether or not you were investing in something, or you were getting some, some money for fundraising or something. Did you look out of the contracts and say, this number is not going to work, but I'll take this money doing inside that it's this divided by seven, it's more like a game, you know, it's more like, again, especially visual one and you know, it may be a strange thing.

But for example, when I am now, I'm thinking about. For example, after the moment with the current. Venture with the melt. We have raised 770,000 after the day. It's not that we strived to that. It's not like something we had been looking for. You know, if you like some numbers, sometimes they keep coming back to you and they repeat themselves.

Or maybe it just like, you see them around, will you kind of get reassurance, like, okay. But none of that was around the. Something about helping me in my life. This is a thing. Okay. I feel like I should release this podcast on the 7th of July with the nice coincidence. Okay. You started your career working at us in a calendar rector for the famous ad agency.

BVDO can you paint a picture of the kind of work that you did and what you enjoyed most about that job? I was today managing good clients. I was there like project manager or afterwards, or account manager and a lock. I like it to set in U S. So afterwards I became an account director. So I was managing clients in that full scale of work with the agency.

And I was driving a team which consisted of creative people, also production people or account managers, the, who were providing the solutions creative solutions and creating the campaigns for them. So I think two of the topics that were most interesting for me as a part of the agency, one thing is the creative surrounding and working with the.

Creative directors like art directors, like really creative people. I think it was inspiring myself. And, and I started to look at the problems from different science, like, eh, because you know, sometimes they surprise me knocked out of the shoes. How they can come up with that. Like, yeah, it's totally different way of thinking.

So one thing and another that quite often it is a big change because we work with different clients. I was working with glass frame, no cosmetics to. So it's totally different market, but you have dig into the product to the target audience and to understand them and you start to lag and you don't really work with telecommunications, BR insurance, but you, when you understand the broader, you extend, understand the.

And you kind of go through that. I think it's really interesting thing that it's never ending change and the, you can learn from that and also learn to adapt as a person, like get into new product or problem solve it. And then when you understand the target audience needs, then you kind of are really satisfied inside.

Like you came up with this idea that work, and then this campaign deliver. I think it is a great feeling for everyone during that time. Was it mentally exhausting for you to be able to switch from here's this account? Like you said, maybe it's a boil cartwheels, then you have your mind and burst into this campaign and try to come up with ideas and work with the team.

And then an hour later you have to shift because you have a meeting for our, you know, a person that calls me. At the end of the day, were you mentally exhausted or did you feel like you had so much energy that, that, that, that energize you? I wasn't there. I would not, I was never love for it. I was kind of driven by that because it's like an interesting, and also a bit gay fruit.

You're working with different teams inside that agency as an account manager, you handle. Three to four clients at the same time, with bigger words that are smaller, it can be more but three to four is a good amount, but creative directors are always different. You do not work with the same people. So you come with another creative team and they inspiring me with another creative energy with, with other ideas.

So you kind of switch to that different feeling to the different drives. I never really felt like Thailand. We were really working a lot and, you know, it's the, the deadlines clients always pushing like, okay, we need this campaign next week. Or next month we have to react to our competitors actions, but it was really interesting.

And I've enjoyed that part of Lackawanna. Okay. Later on, you decided to become a lecture at the onus university. When did you decide that you wanted to teach. Actually, it was the head of the agency who brought me to that, to the education because the owner of the agency was also was also Istio. She was participating in quite a lot of advertising, advertising association.

He was involved into the students' exams committees. So he was the one who invited me. So, which he said would you like to go and speak together? Exempt committee as a part of the jury, they always invite someone from the market, from the practice to the route. From the tactical point of view with the campaigns, work with these students were studying communication and advertising.

Would they succeed in the real life? So it was the Bush from from my, my, my, all of who was my boss and my group at the time, I learned a lot from him. So and I, afterwards, when I made it, you know, to the three, four years to the exam committees, then they invited me to teach. It was not so easy because you have to prepare a lot.

So, and you have, you always learn more when you start to teach. So I think that that's the advice I'm giving someone when someone wants to learn something. Whereas, okay. Go to teach it. So then you really get into the subject. So I was teaching college for, for a year, I believe because I was too busy and I said that.

I went for that, from that, but I still renamed as a matter, or in the exam, Julius, when the, that I feel it's like particle, they're getting back to the society. Yeah. Yeah. I know what she mean. I taught as an adjunct professor for one year in the first semester, I feel very bad. I feel like I would give myself a death because it's a huge learning curve when you're doing something like teaching, you know, at the university level.

But the second semester, I, I think I did much better. I had a lot better time. And so did this. Now, why don't you were lecturing to my, you were also running, what are the biggest entertainment groups in the, in and the Baltics? The name of the the company was called seven entertainment. Can you briefly describe that role and tell me about a time you made a mistake.

Or failed to anticipate something. Yes. Now I think that seven

was seven was not because of the number seven was made up. The name was made from services venues, and then the payment. So a mix of the services that we were providing. With that group? Well I think we had a lot of hiccups because when we were building the first multipurpose arena in the bulk, it's done, I've joined the company.

I was inspired by the idea to do something that was never done and not all region. It was the first such, such kind of object. We will learn a lot from the us and Europe from NBA at the, at the moment in the air. I think I've learned a lot in sales and then pitching at the same time, because I remember I was supposed to, I started to work as a marketing director.

I was supposed to lead the struggles of the naming rights. Okay. And the exceptional sales rights, exclusive sales rights for the arena. So I remember when I was doing the first pictures, my, the older of the like invited me after a pitch. And he said like, you know, the content on the, on the screen is good, but somehow I don't believe it.

You do not translate it through yourself. Like, like it's. You are selling the Navy and grass to the arena, which is not built. So the, so the object is never seen in our region. Nobody knows what is real and you are selling it for 10 millions who somebody should pay in advance and you, people should be like more excited and you should be more excited.

It's like what? Like in the, in the theater, like in a show that I don't know, maybe like, but you should somehow be more. Like convincing and more, more alive during the presentation and the next presentation. I tried to make it like out of my comfort zone. I didn't feel really good about that because I was trying to act a bit.

Just like, you know, we are from the pain, so it's more calmer character. So I will want it to be more like us. Let's take a little guy you're not on mine. And then the impact we said, good let's continue. Like better. Like I had to improve lots of times there because it was something that I never did much before.

It was also interesting and learning experience. Yeah. Well, the great thing is that you got feedback and you were able to pivot, you know, make some changes in your target audience. Right? You've got to deliver what your target audience was, regardless if it's a customer or severity pitching to. Yeah. I always think that more energy, higher energy is better.

Even it can be better than the content, you know, then what you're saying, I always feel like guests who come on here with the high energy low. It's going to be a great, a great conversation, regardless of what we talk about. That's just my personal opinion. So let's jump to impulse fitness clubs. You helped launch this in 2012 and you grew this fitness club.

So my understanding for one club to now, there are 11. What specific, what specific challenges did you face in the beginning to go from one club to two clubs and then from two clubs to three clubs? Yeah, not the case. It was from chain to pick a chain because I would consider it as an impulse brand. Yeah.

Now we have 10 clubs, but we have launched another brand repairing. Well, the Lamont gym. So when I drank the company, it was eight clubs in white country. And while I stepped down as a CEO, it was 30 clubs and three. So it's kind of a little bit different journey. I, but I can say, for example, when we launched a new grant Levon chip, which was budget fitness brand, also not present in our region before, so there I've started to build it from one from zero.

Like I was going around the world looking at different quests. And when we decided that we decided to start the budget concept first, because it was pretty empty in the market for the, at that point of time, 2014. So we had to create brand and and start somehow quite strong with that. So we opened the first year we opened for.

And then we continue to opening them in Latvia and Estonia. Now mountain. Now there are even more clubs than, and then went to clubs already in the regions. I believe that the most difficult two problems when I would dunk impulse, the company was struggling and B we had. But before that we need to make operations, right.

The seals to put the sales in place. So at first I was just making sure that the company wouldn't do would go on and concentrated a lot on the sales on. And started also implementing some newer services, some new fitness activities in the market, some new group exercises that were not present to make it more interesting as a brand when launching glamour engine lemon gym.

So it was another challenge. So we had to convince people. Kind of cheap or affordable club can also be of high quality. So, but, but that's always easier. I would say to work with affordable concepts because you know, the price is something that you communicate a lot and if it is a good product with a good price for everybody, the LightStep.

So I think it was even more difficult to make turn around that. And these let us the club's legacy brand to make it work efficient, earn the money, and then earn its reputation as a great brand who is on the part of the, of the market then to launch lemon was easier in the beginning, but then later, probably more difficult to grow it in their different.

Okay. Okay. What is your most interesting project right now that you're working on that Moses milk? Nope. As a, as a startup, which we started from scratch and it's a employee benefit platform, which we believe will engage and motivate the people will make them stay in their job or make them come to their new place of employment.

I think it's, it's very. Challenging. It's very interesting and it has a great potential. So that's the, my main focus at the moment. Okay. How did you see this opportunity? Because I understand it's a web and mobile platform that provides lots of different benefits in choices for employees. How did you stumble upon this idea?

Being CEO and parking with my colleagues who are also, you know, had the heads of the. We always see this strange situation. Like you will not improve life of your employees and you want to care more about them, but when you don't have tools to make a personal approach, you have to come up with like one size fits all solutions.

And you're saying, okay, I will buy them health insurance for everyone. And then half of people are happy about that. And half was not. And for example, okay. I was working in the fitness industry, so everybody, they kind of enjoy exercising, but when I've got companies, like I bought fitness club members just for my team, but some of them are going and visiting and some are not.

So how to give people what they want and you know, what is the best lake segmentation size is one, one person. It's the best sector segment that you know okay. Where to on where maybe somehow similar, but we have several different that we're also, so the best tech matters of one person. If you have the possibility to somehow segment your team and employees and deliver.

Personnel experience, personal motivation, personal engagement. I think that's that, that everybody wants these days. Everybody wants to be approached as a person. So what I think employers will have to take care of employees on the individual level, and that's difficult, you know, that requires time. And if you make it personally, or it requires some tools.

So we we're coming up with a tool which will help it, make it. Personnel from communication perspective to the employee, benefits, selection and usage perspective. I love it. Giving employees the benefit or the opportunity to choose their own benefits. This is sort of innovative. It's kind of a game changer in my experience.

I never really had that opportunity for any employer work with. I always just got stuck with whatever it is that they gave me. So I think this is a game changer in the industry. And I'm excited to see it out there. One question for you is you look pretty healthy. You've been working in the fitness industry for a long time.

Do you have a daily fitness routine? And if so, what, what is that? I do like a short exercise every morning. When I wake up, I do a short meditation, but that's really short in maximum 15 minutes, depending on the day, but they changed it. My Mitsubishi point just to make it a variety, but also I do a short exercise.

I would stay like it's a bit of a stretch that society, mobility exercise. During the whole winter, I started this year in a new thing. I was bathing outside in the, I was going to the river or to the lake cutting back in the lake. It dies. I don't know exactly what it's called in English, but getting the place for me to submerge.

And then from two to five minutes in the water. Yeah. And you know, also. In joining the surroundings only the first, you know, 20, 30 seconds. It's like a bit of a shaking, but afterwards you, when you gone down, when you get used to that, so you can really even enjoy your time and talk with someone. And so what's interesting is.

All right. No way. I've heard about that before. I've tried turning on the shower code for a few seconds, but never thought about jumping in that, you know, it showed lake or something where outside come up to the water is always warmer so that they will do that. Get lower than the last one, you know? So it's warmer.

Then month is where can people learn more about I've been pretty active on LinkedIn. So I'm also posting they're quite regular, I would say. So I think I'm always open for the connection at thin. So everybody welcome to talk about, you know, Emily benefits or fitness or lifestyle or whatever, and you can come up or the Baltic region if you need some connections.

So. So I would say LinkedIn is probably the social media where I'm the most active. Okay. Thank you so much. Good month. As for being on the show, it's been a pleasure having you here. What a fun conversation with bid. Montas a lot of good stuff here, but I doubt I'll be jumping into a freezing lake anytime soon.

My favorite takeaway here is that everyone wants to be approved. On a personal level. That's what technology is. Personalization has led us to. So if an employee benefits platform like milk can make this possible, then your business can too, I've included links from the show on the ICO website and newsletter.

It's number 51. If. And if you enjoy this topic, feel free to give us a review and share it with other people. That's how we grow as always. Thanks for listening. Keep hustling out there. This is Eric signing off. Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it. If you could give us a review and star rating, also, don't forget to sign up for the ICO newsletter innovators, collab.com, where you can get the bio and details of each guest.