Building a business – When it rains it pours

It has been an interesting week.

We had the first meeting with our Board of Advisors. A few months ago we decided that it would be a good idea to have a small group of senior people, with a mix of Corporate Boardroom background, Entrepreneurial experience and business & technology management experience to advice us on our Strategy and Structure, on our Reputation on the world and on our business model and operational challenges. At the same time we want this group to know and understand so much about our business that they can provide intelligence and leads on where we should use or extend our network.

The three advisors are Peter Wakkie, lawyer, former boardmember of Ahold, and now member of the Supervisory Board of ABN-AMRO, TomTom and BCD Holdings. Peter is a relative outsider to the content of our business, but his feedback is in an excellent position to advice on how the corporate world sees us. His feedback is both direct and spot-on. Hennie Wesseling is a former CIO of TNT. He knows the business technology world inside out, and can help us sharpen our proposition and focus. Gerrit Schipper is both entrepreneur and boardmember. The companies he worked for have a large technology component.

The most important lesson from this first meeting probably was: focus on the top of the market. Even if you do a lot of work with a much more operational character: you will get the interesting assignment from executive and through non-executive directors. So: you can do a lot of different things, but you do not have to mention all those things. Find and interest the top boardroom advisors on Business and Technology strategy, and guarantee smooth execution of those strategies. If you cannot explains to a CEO which strategy, which risks to consider and which choices make most sense in the light of his business strategy, there is little use in trying to be the one to execute it.

I am probably better at advising than at being advised. When you think you have it all figured out, others with a different perspective see plenty of room for improvement. Annoying when you hear it, also stimulating when you think about it back at the office, and very useful when you something with it.

The next day I was called that Qhuba has won a FD Gazellen Award for fastest growing companies. So we did get somewhere the past few years. Sometimes we forget that it is not obvious that companies grow fast, that plans lead to success. Instead we have the tendency to focus on what could have gone better, where we could have been. What’s the use of a prize? Well at least some people – again with a different perspective – look at your company, and at it performance and plans. If they decide you did something special, that is stimulating. In this case, KPMG, ABN-AMRO bank and Graydon did the research and interviews. Of course, in marketing terms it is a hundred times more relevant what others say about you, than what you say about yourself.

Last Friday afternoon we came close to reaching an agreement with Deutsche Bank.  Compared to earlier conversations with other banks, they seem to be more interested in what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it. The proposal was not exactly what we were looking for, but this week I expect a term sheet with better conditions, and the kind of flexibility that will enable further growth.

And finally we have been talking about assignments to several new clients that have the size, the ambition and the kind of Business Technology Integration challenges that suit us best. When Philips, Heineken and a Private Equity funds call us for help, we are getting where we wanted to be.

When it rains, it pours.

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