My first year being an entrepreneur

Last week I celebrated my first birthday being an official entrepreneur! To clarify, I celebrated being an official entrepreneur, because I have been an entrepreneur my entire work life disguised as an employee. When the company limited me in executing my entrepreneurial abilities, I left. Last year I decided to start my own business. in this post, I will share my learnings, beliefs and experiences so far.

“I am only present when I believe I can add value”

This was one of the first beliefs I implemented when designing partnerships with my clients. My clients cannot hire me for more than 3 days per week and I will not be present when there is no value to be added. Both of us do not benefit from me being on site for 40 hours a week. Especially in The ‘part-time paradise’ Netherlands, not many people are in the office on Fridays or Wednesdays. And when there are no people around, then there is no value for me being there. This has been one my greatest frustrations working for consultancy firms. Payment by the hours means making as many hours a possible first, looking at value added second. That didn’t feel right! So, my first order of business being my own business was to prevent that from happening.

When there is no real value for me to add, I am not going to sit behind my PC and do things I can easily do at home in my own time. My hourly rate is somewhat at the higher end of the market, but clients only pay me when I am there. And when I am, things are happening!

How to determine I need to be on site? Experience, gut feel and most of all continuously being aligned with my client to know what is happening (or about to happen). My type of work doesn’t require me to be around all the time. It is even better that I am not. Every intervention I do needs some time to digest for companies so sometimes you need to close the oven door to get some real heat.

“Collaborate only with true partners!”

I have gained some great partnerships throughout this previous year and I have declined collaborating even more! Being an independent professional is great, but the risk is that you end up stuck in a status quo bubble. You need to continuously find new insights, conversations and collaborations, which I did. I have created some great partnerships together with WannaflexCapgemini Academy and Incentro last year. With each of these organizations I have experienced true partnership where we help each other out, create new services and product together and trust each other we both operate for the interest of our clients. For example, when a new training course is still needs to get some traction for a class to completely fill up but we both invested in getting it up and running, we deviated for our initial price agreements to make both parties have at least a healthy margin. That is being partners! I have had many conversations last year where I would end up being ‘that Scrum guy’ in a customer-supplier relationship. Even though the monetary rewards would be great, I turned down all those offers.

“When you are open to it, it happens”

This is one of the biggest fears for each entrepreneur. The uncertainty of not having a customer. We have all been there, so have I. Last December, when I looked at my agenda from February onwards, it was empty! Strangely enough, I wasn’t scared or panicking at all. I thought, something will come up, I just have to keep my eyes open to these opportunities. Over the last year, I have experienced that every time I started to get a little worried about new assignments, every time with a couple of hours or days, a new opportunity would arise from…. well from anywhere. I learned that when you love what you are doing, you are good at what you do, people will find you! It’s like when you bought something new, like a car, you see that same car driving everywhere. They have always been there, but now that you are open to it, you see it!

“Starting a second business”

I like being an entrepreneur so much, that I have even started a second business this year! Together with Susanne van Dijk, I have founded Entrepreneurability. We see many organisations, mostly rapidly expanding organisations, struggling with transferring the entrepreneurial mind-set and behaviour of the owner(s) and first generation of employees. Companies unsuccessful in doing this are struggling with attracting new employees and engaging existing ones. This can have many sources but primarily you find some contradicting elements in the governance model, product portfolio and skills set (entrepreneurial ability) of the organisations. This is where we are can help with proper coaching and training of the owner and the employees. A great new adventure we are in and I believe in the next couple of months you will hear more about it.

“Entrepreneur in disguise”

The decision I took a little over a year ago was one of the best decision I made in my life! I am doing the thing I love, which is causing as many powerful, fundamental learning moments as possible, bringing about sustainable growth in humans. I can do this in my own pace with my quality standard with people and organisations I want to work with. And I earn money doing that…. isn’t that just awesome?

Stephan van Rooden