Transform the Narrative

I am a member of Entrepreneurs Organization and as a member I can visit the Universities that EO is organising twice a year. The first university of 2015 was in New York and the theme was ‘Transform the Narrative’.

Being a week in New York with almost 1000 successful entrepreneurs from all over the world has given me enough inspiration to continue with transforming the narrative of of my company, the people I work with (my fellow travellers) and the industry we are in.

First the theme of the university explained in more detail (taken from the event website):

We live in a world of narratives. Much like fish, unaware they are enveloped by water, we are surrounded by narratives. These are the stories that tell us how the world works and describe our place in it.

As entrepreneurs, we operate within the narratives of our time. But we are also the drivers of change. We create new story lines with every innovation and endeavour we pursue. The EO New York Global University will explore the fundamental narratives that dominate our entrepreneurial lives today. We will challenge our community of entrepreneurs to explore the issues most critical to their business, family and personal lives.

Today, we are approaching tipping points in the most consequential narratives of our lifetime:

  • Technological advancements like the “internet of things” are driving the marginal costs of goods and services to near zero, while the collaborative commons and the rise of the sharing economy are challenging capitalism as the organizing framework of economic activity. What opportunities are being created during this shift? Who will capitalize on what comes next?
  • Global population growth, income inequality, climate change and sectarian conflicts have been straining the current system of global governance, driving apocalyptic narratives. How can we transform these narratives to address the coming changes as opportunities rather than crises?”

Everybody has his or her own interpretation of these big changes the world is going through and how to adapt yourself and your company towards these changes. As entrepreneurs we are able to create our own stories of how we see the world and where it is going to. From a company that sells domains and SSL we are transforming into a company that gives opportunities to our customers and our fellow travellers to grow their businesses and pursue their personal goals in life. Innovation of our software platform and business model will be continuously going on and on and on. We have great respect for the different cultures and different ideas that our fellow travellers have. In life we have to realise that prejudice is everywhere but that we have to look at the whole story to know what is really going on in peoples life and why they do what they do and behave like they behave. There is a great Tedx video of the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie – The danger of a single story that you should watch to understand what I mean and why it is important to think like this. The world is changing rapidly and so should you to stay relevant.

Sometimes you have to cannibalise your own business in order to stay relevant and we are not scared to do this. Making money is important to be able to make sure that the fellow travellers in my company can live a high quality life and succeed in achieving their personal goals and ambitions in life. Profit is for us a result of Why, What and How we do things but not a goal in itself. We follow and implement the ideas of the book The Big5 for Life by John Strelecky. The general idea is that the people in a company work there to achieve their personal goals in life. Those personal goals should be in synch with the company goals in order to have motivated fellow travellers. What is more motivating than working in a company that gives you the opportunity to work on your personal goals everyday because the company goals are in line with your own? And what is more demotivating than working in a company that just pays you to do something you do not like or does not contribute to your own goals in life? If you are in such a situation get out, change your own narrative and pursue your dreams elsewhere!

Change is scary, it is fun but above all it is necessary. Be creative, think different and transform the narrative!

10 things I did to grow as an entrepreneur and individual

I have been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and have had a lot of successes and made a lot of mistakes. In the end there is no success without failure. In this article I will list the most important things I did that helped me grow as an entrepreneur.

1. Priorities and Focus. I have made so many mistakes with priorities and focus in my career that it is almost amazing my companies have been so successful. My ambitions, ideas and vision many times lead to doing too many things at the same time. In the end the quote of Steve Jobs says it all: Setting priorities is not about deciding what to do, but about deciding what cool things not to do. Since a few years I became much better at setting priorities. It made live easier for my colleagues and it also made Openprovider grow 600% in the last few years.

2. Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. Becoming a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) has made a huge impact on my life. Sharing experiences with other entrepreneurs that cover your whole live (business, personal and family/friends) was really a life changer for me. Combined with the really cool learning and social events EO helped me grow as a person and that has also improved my company and private life.

3. Be a coach and being coached. A few years ago I really was allergic to everything related to coaching. How can coaches charge so much money without being able to guarantee any results? I could never understand this. I had to learn that in coaching the result is not the most important thing but the road you take to get to the changes in your life is the most important part of coaching. Especially Vincent Hooplot and Inzicht have been amazing in my personal development. And from hating coaching I now even enjoy being a coach for my colleagues.

4. Core Values. Developing a set of core values that represent you as a person and that are fundaments for the path the company has to take has been a key factor in the success of Openprovider. We live and breath our core values and they help everybody to make the right decisions. Our core values are:
Be a Wolf not a Sheep – it is all about seeing opportunities in the market and go for them, not being a follower but a leader and being proactive instead of reactive.
Quality results in Quantity – we invest a lot of time in providing high quality in everything we do. Although we made a lot of mistakes the focus on quality in our products, services, software platform and suppliers seems to be paying of.
Knowledge equals Power – we try to educate ourselves and our customers about trends in the market, knowledge about the products and services and general knowledge. We have weekly huddles with our offices to learn about interesting topics that can help you grow as a company and as people. We also invest a lot in educating our people.
Enjoy what you do and do what you Enjoy. Since you spend 40-50 years of your life working it is a waste of your time if you work at a company without having fun. We try to create an environment where people can have fun.

5. It all starts with WHY. Many companies know what they do and how they do it. But WHY they do it is not always very clear. Our WHY is that we believe companies have to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant and competitive. That is why we invest so much in our software platform and our people. Our people are the key to our success. Figuring out and communicating our WHY has been essential for employees, suppliers and customers to understand and believe in my companies vision. Understanding Simon Sinek’s Golden Circles has been key for our growth.

6. Read Read Read. I have the feeling I never read enough and could also do better. However the books that brought me the most value sofar have been:
– Chet Holmes –  The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies . This is a very practical book for boosting your sales results.
– Verne Harnish –  Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm . Mandatory reading for every business that wants to grow fast.
– Jack Stack –  The Great Game of Business, Expanded and Updated: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company . Make sure your employees know their value for the company and teach them the financial side of running your company. Once they know they get more involved.
– Geoff Smart – Who . Great book on hiring the right people and how you should invest time in building a network of A-players and what to do when you interview them.
– John P. Strelecky –  The Big Five for Life – 2012 Edition . Really cool book written as a novel that describes that everybody should have 5 big goals in live and should enjoy the journey to reach those goals more than the goals themselves.
– Daniel Pink – Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us. Must read book about intrinsic motivation and how rewards and punishment cultures don’t work.

7. Meeting the right people at the right time. I don’t believe in luck or coincidence, but sometimes you meet people at the right moment in life and they make a great difference. In my case my first meeting with Serguei Beloussov and Soeren von Varchmin in 2003 was a real game changer. They showed me how to grow my hosting business from almost nothing to a multi million euro company. And they actively helped me do that in those early years. Many other people have influenced my business career but this meeting changed everything.

8. Think big and follow your dreams. Nothing is impossible and it is better to aim high and fail than to aim low and succeed (quote by Michelangelo). Therefor we have set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for ourselves that is huge but the funny thing is that when your people start believing it anything is possible. In our case we want to manage 25 million domain names in 2023. And we are speeding up our growth year over year so we will get close. The goal itself is not the most important thing, but creating the mindset needed for this growth and figuring out the journey to the goal is fun and exciting.

9. Don’t micromanage. Most entrepreneurs including myself are very good in solving problems and giving quick solutions for anything you can think of. It is in our DNA. However giving people autonomy over their jobs and stimulate them to solve their own problems and allowing them to make mistakes to learn from them has been an important lesson that I learned. Most people are very good in self-management once you give them the room and support to do this.

10. Work AT your company and not IN your company. Probably the most important lesson to learn when your company is growing is letting go. My job as an entrepreneur is to make sure the company will last forever so that all stakeholders involved with the company can benefit from it for decades to come. It has not been an easy transition but the better I get at it the more success the company has. It is impossible to do this when you are involved in day to day operations. Letting go is not easy, but it is very rewarding I can tell you….

The Power of Quick Wins

quick win

I am always thinking how to improve my business and let my people grow. As any entrepreneur knows that is not easy, not easy at all…

One of the things we implemented is called Quick Wins. I got the idea after reading two books. The first book I read was ‘The greatest business decisions of all times” by Verne Harnish. In chapter 15 he describes the Saturday Meetings that Walmart started in 1962. Basically all office people came to work on their free day and they reported what competitors did better than Walmart. After every meeting they implemented at least two things that a competitor did better in the Walmart stores. It helped Walmart to become the biggest retail chain in the world.

Chet Holmes wrote the “The Ultimate Sales Machine” which is a great book to read for anybody who wants to sell more. We use it a lot in Openprovider. In chapter one he describes how implementing a “pigheaded discipline” is necessary for every company to be able to succeed and move forward. We use his ideas on timemanagement as well but that story is for another time.

From these two chapters we created the idea of Quick Wins. As you may know Openprovider currently has three offices in Netherlands, Spain and Russia. We decided that every office has to deliver one quick win per week.

A quick win we defined as: A Quick Win is an activity that is not taking longer than 1 hour to execute, that either has business value, improves customer experience, productivity or working environment of the team. Quick Win is something that you would NOT normally do, something that normally does NOT have a high priority, but requires an effort to complete.

We started a Google doc to keep track of all Quick Wins people can come up with. We also decided that every office could spend 250 euro per month on Quick wins. In our case 750 euro a month with currently 33 people should be enough. For your company different budgets could apply depending on your goals and size.

The most important requirement was to report the Quick Wins every monday. Since the Quick Wins could be very trivial and don’t have a high priority and are created and done by employees themselves it is very important to celebrate and share the results.

With all new initiatives and especially this one the hard part was to get people enthusiastic and disciplined to create the ideas and to actually implement the ideas. Both are not easy to maintain. Our Management Team had a hard job to manage the Quick Win process in the beginning. Even for them it was not easy to maintain the pace and motivate their people to really do it.

After a few months of hard work we see the results of our pigheaded discipline. Everybody really starts to enjoy the quick wins. The Russian team created the logo you see on top of this article and really are our Quick Win champions. Instead of doing one Quick Win per week they report 2-5 Quick Wins per week and now all teams really enjoy doing and reporting Quick Wins. It took us 6 months to get there but now people love and cherish the Quick Wins.

Without any real effort we now improve over 150 things per year what hopefully will bring us a similar success as Walmart in the past. A simple initiative combined with disciplined execution that totally fits in our core values “Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy” and “Quality leads to quantity” is all it took…

Some examples:

Buy table football table for Dutch office
Fix toilet door in Russian office
Send pizza to customer after fuck-up on our end.
Buy screwdriver set for office to fix small things
Numerous quick wins around small textual changes and translations in the customer control panel
Throw away boxes that were stored for long time
Pick up stuff that lies around the office and store it or throw it away
Buying plants for Dutch office when returning from a customer meeting
“Happy to inform you I’ve knocked in the nail into my desk to make possible to hang my backpack on it. I’ve made this world better therefore.”

Currently our Quick win list has 205 items that will be done in the coming year and every week new items are added without management involvement. How cool is that?

“In the red room in our office on the windowsill our guys kept the most important tools such as the drill, the hammer, the hand simulator and other important things … that are not used every day. And we have a free closet in another room… 30 minutes and sill free!  In the future , we can put there flowers  :-)”


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“The ladies wanted a bit more ‘green’ in the office, so we cut a forest (at Ikea).”



“I used to have all pens and pencils around the table, as well as the business cards.  As I am very big fan of the Yatekomo noodles for a quick lunch in the office sometimes (although Javier is against this rubbish food :), I took the empty cup and cleaned after eat it all, to be used for tiding all this pens and pencils. So we didn’t have to buy anything new Saving money in Openprovider is not flat fees 🙂 About the business cards cup was took from an empty cup of sugar packets.”IMG_0474 index