Father of three and business manager Håvard Bell built a software company from scratch. Today, it has 25 employees and its app is used worldwide.
Håvard talks about a steep learning curve and many challenges: “We were five technology-focused engineers. We thought that if we had a product that was good enough, customers would automatically flock to it. That proved not to be the case. You have to work hard for every single sale.”
The company has had formidable growth in recent years, but the road there has not been easy. In a brutal business world, 7 out of 10 newly established companies go under after the first couple of years.
“It demanded more of us than we originally thought”, says Håvard. “It’s about tackling all the balls that are thrown at you. To live in insecurity, to carry on despite everything.” Håvard compares this with the repetition of the sound in meditation: “At times you feel that the process has stopped, that you are banging your head against the wall. In stages like this it is important not to push but just stay with it. Making progress involves keeping trying and just stay in the field. Is it possible to repeat the sound with just a little less force?”
Try new things
Håvard describes how meditation is about daring to try new approaches. What is the free mental attitude, right here, right now? You have to experiment:
“Then you may notice that, no, this made me tighten up and become constrained. Then you let go again. The important thing is just that space to try out. It’s not a crisis if you do not succeed, but you tried out something. You can live with the fact that you are experimenting.”
This attitude has obviously yielded results. Catenda’s software solutions for the construction industry have been used, among other things, in the expansion of Europe’s largest football stadium Camp Nou in Barcelona, and in the development of several train lines in Paris. But the company is still fighting for market share.
Håvard talks about difficult periods: “It can look dark and you see no immediate solutions, but you just have to keep going.”
He explains how the cash flow in newly established companies is often unstable: “What often breaks a small company with ambitions is that you run out of money. The accounts may look good on the surface, but a lack of liquidity can make you go bankrupt. Then you can suddenly find that there is no money for salaries for the employees”, says Håvard.
In business, you can end up in difficult situations because you do not take note of the signals that you in hindsight can see were there. Just as in meditation, you can be deceived by your own defense mechanisms.
“It’s painful to take in that “This was not what I thought!””, the entrepreneur explains and emphasizes that this is also a meditative insight.
“In meditation, you are confronted with yourself. You have to deal with the difficult sides of your personality.” Håvard talks about a kind of meditative honesty: “When you meditate, you practice seeing things as they are. You may wish and believe that everything is going well, but perhaps on a more basic level, you sense that something is not going smoothly and there is a bit of friction. You have to deal with it.
In business, you have to dare to stare reality directly into the eyes and get as honest an assessment of your business as possible. It may be pleasant to think that no customers will leave us, but that is not the reality. We need to find out why customers leave, get to grips with it, understand why.
Meditation has definitely made me better at seeing reality as it is”, he sums up.
Meditation promotes community
Håvard has been meditating regularly since he turned 16 years old. He has been an instructor in Acem meditation for 25 years and has taught hundreds of people the technique. In addition, he has been central in the development of Acem’s website. He says that the voluntary efforts for Acem have taught him a lot about cooperation.
“You have to have everyone on board as part of the same team. The important thing is the end result and not who has done what or how.”
He draws on experiences from Acem’s communication course: “It’s not all about yourself and what is yours, but what you can contribute to the community. In a conflict, the meditative focus consists in looking at what you can do differently to improve the relationship. It is only there you can make a difference.”
According to Håvard, meditation can promote community: “Meditation over time can make you less invested in issues about yourself and what is yours. Through the constant repetition of the meditation sound with an accepting free attitude, you accept more and more of yourself. You practice accepting who you are in the world. You become less dependent on affirmation from the outside to feel like a whole person. You find a sense of security within yourself”, he explains.
This also makes it easier to collaborate with others. “It is important to see the whole in the company. Without salespeople, developers and accountants, you will not get anywhere. I think it is important to promote this type of company culture”, says Håvard.
Meditation in the business field
Håvard says that he often meditates at work.
“But I am discreet”, he points out. In the Easter quiz that a colleague recently created, one of the questions was: “Which of these people in the company meditates every day?”
Håvard naturally answered himself and expected to get points. It turned out that there were also others in the company who meditated.
“There are many who meditate in the business field”, says Håvard. “We also see this in job interviews. People say they use meditation apps or other forms of meditation.”
In a hectic industry, this obviously comes in handy. Håvard explains how his meditations in challenging periods are full of thoughts about what is happening at work. “Or there is a lot of sleep”, he says and laughs.
In parallel with the development of Catenda, Håvard has had three children. “Meditation makes it easier to combine work and family. It makes it easier to let go of the job and to be more present with the children and my wife. I get less caught up in all the stress and whirlwinds.”
Interviewed by Jonas Meyer
Translated by Eirik Jensen