Surprisingly enough, Volare® wasn’t Kris’s first pick of software when the time came to launch his own company. 18 years ago, he explains, he was a freelance software developer, and had a few projects under his wing.
“l just went out there and tried to get as many projects as possible. We ended up with four projects. And still, I had this small little thought of getting employed somewhere,” he says. “But a year later, I realised I was getting quite good at this business thing, and that’s when I decided to take it seriously. Running a company, you can’t focus on so many products. So that’s when I decided to drop all the projects and keep one.”
Their main client at the time was a global children’s retail and play centre. Unfortunately, the company had a fairly conventional mindset that Kris wasn’t comfortable with, and so, after some evaluation, Volare® became the focal software of the company.
“It was a simple decision in the sense that for this industry — collection — to grow, the banks need to continue to grow. And to grow, they need to lend more, and if they lend more, there’ll be more collection, more non-performing loans. And if the banks continue to grow, there’s a chance that I could ride along with them,” he says pragmatically.
He recalls that one of their first customers was a very small collection agency of five to ten men. They wanted to convert their black and white DOS into a Windows system because DOS was phasing out back then, and Stampede delivered.
Back then, the debt management software was simply called DMS. “That was a silly name. So we thought, we have to give it a name. So I told one of my guys, ‘Let’s just turn on the radio now, and any song that comes up, we will just name it after that song’. The song was Volare®, the Dean Martin song. That’s it,” he smiles. “We didn’t think we would go this far with the product. Lucky for us, the name wasn’t something uncool.”
Since the company began, it has gone from a one-man show to slightly under a hundred staff, in four different countries. Kris admits to being a product man, but is cognisant of the fact that a large part of his job is now about managing people, something he follows through with the same rational meticulousness that created Volare® and maintained its dominant position in the market.
“I always treat myself as another employee of the company. As an employee, I would be able to put myself in their shoes and understand what they are experiencing and what they want. It is a two-way relationship. You have to get what you want, before I can get what I want,” he points out. “I believe the best way to command some amount of respect – some people would say fear, some people are very charismatic – I think one of the best ways is just to deliver, be a high performer.”
For Kris, ensuring that the company is stable and reliable, and providing an environment that is both fun and conducive to work is part of the commitment of being a CEO.
“If you keep delivering on your commitments and on your promises to the people and to the company, and make sure the company is growing at a consistent pace you are a reliable leader. Therefor I don’t have to make people fear me. I just have to deliver on every single promise, every single time.”