Discovering the entrepreneurial itch

The future of advertising is the Internet.

Bill Gates

How I started and grew a digital marketing agency called Adforce.

After graduating I soon realised I wasn’t made for the daily grind of going to the office at 9 and leave at 7 to work for a big and soulless organisation. I tried it for little less than a year in a large consultancy firm.

Again I was privileged, as I saw the good, the bad and the ugly of corporate mechanics. I worked closely with the project manager of the biggest project that company ran in our country, having access to communications that a first year professional normally doesn’t see.

I was especially touched by the fact these organisations sucked so much energy out of these wonderfully motivated and talented people. I left the company as I couldn’t drive my passion for the internet and its possibilities forward. So I decided to launch my own digital marketing company, alone, starting from an idea. It was November 2006…

“The Force” – The inception

My start up was doing quite well. The company grew year by year and we hit our first million after 4 years. From my living room.

The management was intense. I had no experience, only a deep theoretical knowledge of business.

My ambitions were not on the money. I wanted to prove that young people were able to succeed by working closely together. That the young generations were able to do things differently and still be successful. That rooted in trust, we could make a difference and do things differently.

“The Force” – People

In my initial management years I noticed I didn’t always hire the right kind of people. Some weren’t honest, others weren’t capable and others weren’t motivated.

So I decided I needed to solve this. This not only cost our company money and traction but it also hurt me personally as I truely cared for every person in my organisation. I concluded my recruiting skills were flawed. Also I believed every organisation should offer growth possibilities for its team members, I still do.

A friend of mine had the same experience so we decided to work on a software tool to help improve the ‘match’ rate between organisations and applicants. We teamed up with a former corporate colleague of mine and launched a spin out.

To ensure they could pay their bills, they joined my digital agency part-time so they could work on it. They would then take it up full-time, supported by expertise of the agency.

“The Force” – Moving things forward

As we were growing so quickly both in numbers as in team members, I realised I needed support and senior management coaching. An angel investment round followed.

I negotiated a strategic agreement providing the cash and expertise we needed to grow and become a mature organisation. More importantly though, I thought I found my coach, someone whom I could trust, someone who could steer me to the next level.

We agreed upon a staged funding over 18 months along with an agreement all web development activities would be run via our company without any specific conditions. I was exalted.

The finance would help me grow the company and the added work would enable me to build our own internal web development team, something which fitted in the overall strategy.

Additionally we agreed my business angel would coach me on a weekly basis for 6 months to upgrade my management skills.

It seemed to be a perfect fit, 3 out of 3: cash, business and coaching.

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