Welcome to another episode of the podcast. Today we have Alex Clark with us, game creator and YouTuber. Alex, tell us where you’re from, what you do, and for what people might know you from.

Hey, I’m in Los Angeles, in the United States, and in addition to making that card game we were just talking about, I’m also a big YouTuber. I’ve got four million subscribers on there and I’ve been growing that for the past 10 years.

I noticed that you started your channel in 2009. Can you tell me a little bit about it? Well, actually, I noticed you started your channel on the second of December. Was it? 

Yeah, that sounds right.

You uploaded five days later. Is there any reason why there was that five-day gap?

Uh, I wish I could remember. These are going to be some detailed questions I can tell already.

I usually notice when I upload things or when I start something, I already have something prepped or sometimes when I start something, it’s like: “Oh, I want to start!” And then you start it, and then you realize you don’t actually have content to upload. So I just kind of wanted to go back to when you first started, how it went through your mind.

Yeah, I’m of the mindset like, just get it. Just start doing it. The first time you do something, it’s going to be awful. So who cares if you’re ready or not? Just give yourself a deadline, hit the deadline and then learn from it, improve the next time around.

Nice. So probably that’s what I have. So how was it when you first started in 2009? Obviously with completely different… How was it back then?

Oh, it was the glory days. I feel like an old man, but there was no one online like you could. It was a lot easier to stick out and the market wasn’t as competitive, so it was easier to get ahead. That said, I did not get ahead quickly at all and I wish I knew everything I knew now because I would have skyrocketed right away if I knew now what I knew, if I knew then what I know now.

What do you know? Obviously will probably cover things a bit later, but just a couple of bullet points?

You know, just I’m better at producing content. I know to make stuff more relatable and talk specifically to the person on the other side of the screen. I’m better at editing and animating. I’m just better overall at everything.

And when you first started, what was the process like? Where were you mindset wise? Like also, were you just starting out? Did you come from a career? What was happening in your life?

So, I’m in addition to making that game and being a YouTuber, I’m also a comedian, which is why I started the YouTube channel. I was performing a lot at like small corporate events and little clubs. And I was like: “There has to be a way to reach a wider audience.” And so I started posting videos as a way for when people saw me, they’d be like: “This is great, but we can only see it right now. How can we see you every day?” And so I posted videos as a way to stay in touch with the audience every day of the year.

And was it just stand up comedy in clubs and kind of all we can imagine now if you see a Netflix special or…but smaller?

Say that again?

Was it like what we see now with the Netflix specials, like people on stage, just talking, except the size of the audience would be probably smaller? Was it kind of like that?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what it was. I also came from a circus background. I also did like some juggling acts and stuff too, because when you’re starting out, that pays way better than being a comedian. So, I did a bit of that as well.

But so OK, so let’s kind of go way back because there’s a big background before you started YouTube, which I think would be probably necessary to know to see the terms and yet twists that you had during your YouTube career, being a comedian and animator kind of probably comes from somewhere. So where did you study? How did you start your journey or…?

Fair. I got picked on like crazy in school and so I was always a loner. And then…

Where was school? Was that in L.A. or…?

No, it was in Massachusetts. There’s a lot more bullies. So I was there. And then, I used to watch Aladdin and I loved Robin Williams. So it was like: “Oh, he’s really funny. I want to get into stand up.” And then around the same time I found out that there was a performing arts school near me. And so, I actually made a couple of videos about that. So, I got into the art school, which was very exciting. And then I found out that one of my English teachers had been a comedic juggler. And, I was like: “Oh, you got to teach a juggling class so I can learn to do that, if that’s what you do to make it.” And so, that’s where the juggling came in.

How old were you when you started?

17, 18?

So you learned juggling in high school?


When you enter an arts program like that, how does your day look like? Is it all arts or do you also study math and…?

So, that school was run by hippies, which was a blessing because we didn’t have grades. Instead we had…

How did that work with the government?

So, they had a written evaluation. So, at the end of every semester, you would get like a three paragraph summary of how you were doing in that class. And then…Yeah, so that’s how that worked. And then the day was… It was a longer day. So the first six or seven hours of the day was just regular academics. And then the last two hours of the day was an extended period performing arts class.

So…what kind of things were you doing throughout the week in those extra things, obviously juggling, but can you give a few more examples?

A lot of improv theater. I remember we also, uh, we have this thing called Piedea, where you could in between first and second semester, you had two weeks to create your own curriculum. And so, a friend of mine took that and submitted a proposal to make our own game. And I think that’s probably one of the first games we made.

What kind of game was it?

That was… It wasn’t a card game like. There was a point and click adventure game about surviving and… (I’m having a brain fart right now) Oh, about the Underground Railroad. And it was trying to get through the Underground Railroad successfully.

So is that kind of where you started to stand up, uh, part of your journey or…?

Yeah, at that high school we were… We started like the first comedy after curricular, after school activity curriculum.

You start it or somebody of your teachers started it or…?

Um, the school had only been open for a couple of years. And a friend of mine and I, we started like the first comedy club at the school called “Headgear”. I actually went back a couple weeks ago… a couple of years ago to give like a speech with, like with other alumni. And I wasn’t expecting this, but there was a bunch of kids that were still in that group and they’re like: “Oh, my God, you’re one of the founding members.”And it’s like, I feel so old. I feel like like the first president of the United States or something.

But, I mean, that’s pretty cool. I think it still shows like an entrepreneurial spirit starting something during school. That’s kind of how it starts.


I mean…You just told me you were kind of a loner, which, you know, when I was growing up, kind of similar introvert here. But, I was quite scared during my school time to start some things. So, what was happening in your mind that you were like, no, we need… I mean, unless you were extremely passionate about comedy, why found something? Why not just follow your normal classes?

Um, I think at the time we just wanted an outlet to perform. We were like, this doesn’t exist, so let’s create it. And I’ve always had that mentality.

And so it was just…How did that club go? You would literally just do stand up in there, or was it more than just stand up?

Uh, there was maybe… So we held auditions and cast all our friends as that’s how everything works. And, then we spent a couple of months writing a show and it’s on tape. If anyone wants to watch it, you can. It’s awful. Uh, but, uh, yeah. So it was a combination of sketches and stand up and improv games, if I remember correctly.

You can find it on your YouTube channel or somewhere else?

Uh, I think that was pretty YouTube. You’d have to break into my house and get the VHS, I think.

You can also upload it. Cool! So we kind of now understand where it started all, so now high school finished for you around eighteen years old, right? So what, what then? What was the next?

I went to Emerson College in Boston which is a great film school.

Why film school?

Uh I really, I was like I don’t need to go to school to be a comedian or be an actor. I’m already talented. I need a backup plan. So I went to school for film, and I also got a degree in Web design because those are things I felt more like you would need a degree to help you succeed.

Do you still think so?


Why not? I get this question a lot, so I want to hear from you.

Which question do you get?

If people should go to film school?

Oh, um, I feel like that it’s more I mean, there’s certain things you definitely… Oh, this is weird because it also depends on the person. Like if you’re self-motivated and you start projects on your own and you outreach to people, I don’t think you need to go to college for film school. But if you’re the type of person that needs time to learn and you need to be, um, that time to grow, then I would recommend it. But for me, I kind of feel like it’s more about networking and meeting people and being a good example and learning from your mistakes. So,  for film school, for me, I think it would have been better just to move out here and grow as an artist. But then, I’m I also now that I live here, I also hear from people all the time that they move here and they don’t know anyone and they end up leaving because they’re all alone, whereas with my school, I came out with a network of like dozens of friends and we all still live here and support each other.

Really? All the friends went with together?

Yeah, yeah. All my closest friends, I would say… seventy five percent of my school moves from Boston to Los Angeles at the end of school.

How come? Just because the industry is there or…?

Yeah definitely, because I’m here! No, because of the industry for sure.

But it’s, I mean we’ve actually been looking to scale, I mean companies, video agencies and we’ve been starting to look… We kind of wanted to go to New York from Amsterdam. It’s a bit closer, but it just kind of seems like everything that is film related is happening in L.A.. So, if you compare…

Well, I think it’s. I think it’s different now for sure.

Yeah, the East Coast and West Coast, like, how is it different now?

I would say there’s just more in L.A. than in New York, but there’s still plenty in New York. I mean, I would definitely say go there. If you’re just looking to expand, you’ll still get a lot out of that.

And then… Cool! Then for you after. Well, actually, still film school. How long was film school and what were the biggest lessons that you got out of film school?

Uh, film school. Yeah. Again, I’m more of a do it yourself guy. So freshman year when everyone was still in orientation, some kids I met in my hallway, we started… This was before Internet, TV and stuff. So we started a half an hour sketch comedy show that we talked to the station manager of the college TV station and we started airing that within two weeks of starting school.

Where were you airing it?

On the local college TV station. So as a half hour sketch comedy show and we produced an episode, this was when you had to, like, digitize tapes, like let the tape playback and record onto the computer. So we were digitizing tapes, editing it all and producing a half an hour episode every week for like the first six months of college.


Um. Yeah, and then at the end of the college, same thing, self starter, we took like our final: “Let’s make a film class film three or whatever it is called” and we were like: “Sweet, this is our chance to make a movie.” And so, we wrote this like very Indiana Jones inspired thing with like a plot and a Mayan temple that rises out of the park and this guy dies in a pit of lava. And then, we showed it and our teacher was like: “Is this really what we’re going to do?” I’m like: “Yeah, why else would you take a movie-making class?” And so, we brought our project in on the last day. And there was like… the first guys did like a man eating a sandwich on the bench. The next one was like a guy roller skating. And then, ours was like this 20 minute action adventure film. And we’re like, oh, we overdid it.

How were you able to film that?

I have no idea.

Or did you partially animated?

No, the whole thing was filmed. We built sets. I can probably give you a link. I think there’s a trailer up somewhere on YouTube that you can include in the notes of the podcast. But yeah, we we built an actual physical model for the temple rising out and we composited it on the footage to make it look like it was rising up. Then we built a set out of Styrofoam and wood and paint from Home Depot that looked like the inside of a temple.

So you really went the extra mile.

At the time, we had no idea. We’re just like, we got to get this done.

But it kind of also shows what you meant then with: “Are you self-motivated?” Because it seems to me like the other time, you know, people you were with in class, they kind of just did their assignment. But you guys were doing the sketch. You were doing this movie, that nobody had. And so, do you feel like the film school opened up doors for you outside of the friends? Obviously, the network is valuable, but do you feel like film school opened doors to put your creativity to something, or do you feel like you would have done it anyways if you weren’t in film school?

That’s a good question, I’m not sure. I don’t know on that one, I plead the Fifth.

No worry. It’s always tricky because you never know. Obviously, the environment is a big stimulus. I noticed when I’m not in the office, I just work a little bit different. But OK, let’s move on then from film school. So you got a degree and then you continued with your life, but obviously you just finished film school, and then how do you end up going? Like do you still continue doing your sketches where the stand up comedy come in or juggling?

My college has a satellite office or a satellite school in Los Angeles. So, the last semester I moved to Los Angeles and I got an internship on a on, uh, a show on the TV station Comedy Central. So after that, I just ended up staying in L.A. and got an apartment and struggled for several years like everybody.

What do you mean you struggled? What was happening?

You know, just trying to find a job and figure out, like, what direction you want to go. And like, when I was growing up, I was like, oh, yeah, you do everything you ate at the movies, you write the movies, you starred in the movies. And then as you get older, you’re like, oh, there’s one person that edits it and is really good at editing. There’s one person that writes it and they all like work together. So it’s like, which one of those things do you want to do and how can you make money at the one that you’re the best at?

I mean, technically now you also still manage all of it.

Yeah. YouTube didn’t exist yet. So that happened, I was like, this is my destiny.

So let’s go back to Comedy Central. You got an internship at Comedy Central, like a six month internship or one year…?

Yeah, I would say I was about six months, those for the semester.

Was the internship worth it? What did you learn there?

Uh, yeah. I wish that there was one spot where I wish I was more outgoing. I wish I had asked more questions to people and, um, been more nosy about what everyone was doing. But when I got there, they’re like, you’re going to help the writers. And so basically, I would just scrub the news to try and find headlines for them to think about what they could write about. And I would just go in and leave at the end of the day. But I wish I’d been more nosy and proactive there for sure.

How come you weren’t? Because obviously so far you’re telling me how your high school went. And obviously, if you’re telling me ‘hippie’, then I’m assuming, you know…connecting with people, that’s probably something that is…

I think it was, uh, I was probably a little nervous. Uh, I was like a young kid and every one else there in my eyes was like this big working fancy professional. But now that I’m older, I’m like, oh, we’re all the same. We’re all we’re all the same dipshits that came out of some school somewhere and got picked on.

For the people who are getting internships, let’s say they get in like a big company like Comedy Central or a Disney or whatever. So what would you tell them that they should do?

Uh, just constantly find ways to support the people that you work for and go above and beyond because they’ll remember that forever.

Do you recommend doing more hours as well and putting in more?

Uh, I don’t think you have, like, more than are required. I don’t think you have to do that. I think you just actually have to take the time to think about the person you’re working for beyond what they’re asking you to do and figure out extra ways you can deliver to them something that’s useful to them.

Cool. I mean, I would maybe add to that as well from my experience to walk around and connect also with other people a lot, because you never know down the line if you see them. Do you feel like you’ve met some people that helped you down the line there or…?

No, I don’t know anyone from that job at all.


I wish I did, yeah.

But so, uh, sorry, I forgot it was a six month or one year internship?

It was about six months.

After the six months you said you stayed a bit in L.A., but you, I assume, didn’t get a job with Comedy Central?

No. After that, I got a job at Fancy Film. It was like a really small post house editing videos. Um, and this was like the beginning of my slow transition to being like a, uh, self-employed performer.

I would that job was really flexible. So they’d like me take time off whenever I had gigs. And there’d be times where I’d take like two month stints off because I’d have a slew of gigs. And so they’d let me take that off to perform and come back and. I owe them a lot.

In the job they allowed you to do that?

I was just like a post PE an assistant editor, I’d edit projects when they needed them and help out around the office and that was a really small company. It was like maybe five people.

So then you get out of the internship and you got that job. But you just said that you were doing stand up act or something like that.

I was doing a lot of performing.

Why was it an itch that you were trying to scratch or was it more like you needed the money because it was L.A.?

Why was I performing?

Yeah. Why were you putting in the hours in something else?

Just because I loved it. One hundred percent, I was like, this is what I like the most. I just have to figure out how to make money at it. And so I just kept doing that whenever I could.

So can you tell me more about that journey when you first started in L.A., the first acts that you did, how did they go? Why do you feel you wanted to continue?

Uh, and that is all a blur.

Do you remember your first one maybe?

I’m trying to remember. One thing I do remember is I was like, even though I wanted it so badly, I was still petrified to go on stage. And so for the first while I had a partner that I do all my acts with just because being on stage alone petrified me. And so we’ve been working together for a couple of years and he was kind of giving me this look like he wasn’t going to make it much longer. I was like, OK, I got to figure out how to do this by myself. So after, like, five or six years of performing professionally with a partner, I remember the first time out on stage by myself. I was like shaking and was holding back tears in my eyes because I was so nervous of it failing and coming from that. Like last year, we sold out a tour in twenty three cities. And it’s like crazy to think that even with all that experience, I was still nervous.

Was it really just because suddenly you were alone and then…?


How long did it take you to get used to it? Or did you get a coach or a mentor?

No, I didn’t have a mentor. I just kept making … I like pain, I guess. I just kept going. If I don’t feel a little fear, I, uh, I try to find a scary performance space, I guess, but, uh, yeah. I don’t know. I just, um. I wanted it for myself, so I kept pushing myself to do it.

How long did it take before you finally got: “OK, I’m really maybe not the best, but I’m kind of good at this. I should definitely keep doing this.” Because I know a lot of people that start, I mean, including me. There were many moments where I thought: “Uh, I don’t think I’m good enough” with the impostor syndrome is so famous. So, for you, you say you really wanted it and the struggle is real, like I can feel like obviously you really… You went through a struggle, but some people give up in the middle. So, for you…I can imagine you were feeling that impostor syndrome. When was it slowly, finally getting away? When did you feel like this is really…?

I think when you start you’re like one day I’ll feel good enough and I need to work to that point and then when you when you’re finally a pro at it, you’re like, ‘Oh, you never get to that point.’ You always feel like you’re not good enough and you just keep pushing. But yeah. And you just accept the fact that you always want to improve and I think that’s part of what, um, that’s what makes people succeed, is that they always want to improve and they see what they suck at and they’re like, how can I make this better? And they constantly go back to the drawing board and figure out how to, uh, make a better product, whether it’s being on stage or creating a company.

How long were you in that job, the flexible one, while you were doing the act?

I would say about a year and a half and then I had another job, uh, for about a year and a half. So I’d say about three years of, like, flexible jobs and then I went full time performing around like twenty three.

How much were you … Can ask maybe financially, like, how much were you earning before you said, I’m going to cut the cord and then work for myself?

I have no idea. I would imagine I would imagine, uh, thirty thousand dollars a year minimum, I would guess, but I honestly….

Pretty much your rent and your food and maybe and some other stuff covered and then you’re… So you were just like, that’s it. I’m done. I’ll just do this full time.


Weren’t you scared that some gigs would go away?

Uh, no, because I also, uh, I’ve got to be the most random person. I also learned how to street perform and so, there was a time when you could go outside with other people. And so, for me it was like, oh, at any point if I really need money, I can go out to a street corner and gather a crowd and continue to pay rent that way.

Wait, so OK, you were doing the act.

Just blow your mind out.

You know, you hit something really important because what you created for yourself was a mental backup, which is : “If I quit my job, I have something to fall back on. It’s not the main thing I’m doing, but it’s a backup.” But like I know for for instance, ourselves, like me… To create that backup, it took years to realize the product that you’re really good at that no matter what, it will always be there to cover rent, which is a huge step that most of the population doesn’t have because they’re in the job and they want to sometimes cut the cord, but they don’t have that backup. So how did you get to street performing? When was it even happening? Because obviously you’re doing the act. You’re doing the job. That’s flexible, of course. But like, when did this street performing happen and how did you get into it? How did it become something like a backup in your mind?

Um, well, in high school, I had that, uh, English teacher that I talked about. There was a comedian and juggler. And so that kind of put the idea of street performing into my mind. And then in Boston, uh uh… You are you’re in the Netherlands, right?


There’s a dam square that has all the street performers.

Yeah, well not right now, but I mean…

Right, right. Yeah. So, in the United States, pretty much there’s only like two or three places in all of the United States that has street performers like Dam Square does and one of them is in Boston, Massachusetts and Faneuil Hall. So during college, I would see those guys and I’d be like, oh, that’s that’s interesting. It looks like they’re making a good amount of money. Um, and so, in college, I was a bouncer at a comedy club. And then…

You were a bouncer, as in security.

Yeah, I’ve shrunk down since then.

OK, let’s back up. How did you end up as a bouncer at the…?

Right, so my good college buddy Adam Junior Visión, who is a big comedy agent right now, he started out there with me as well and he was he is like six and a half feet tall and bulky. And so he got a job as a bouncer and thank God for him. He said to his boss, I have another bulky friend that could bounce with me, but that’s how I got that job. Um, yeah.

Cool. So then, OK, so you have that in Boston. You see all these street performers. Are these like… Do you decide in Boston to already try it a little bit?

Yeah. It was the summer after my I want to say junior year we stay. We stayed in Boston for the summer and tried straight performing while I was working as a bouncer at the comedy club at night.

You tried to street performing with friends?

Yeah, that that partner I talked about with whom I performed with the first couple of years.

Were you then juggling or what were you doing? A street performer.

Yeah, I think we were juggling. Yeah.

OK, so you tried it in Boston and then you moved to L.A. Are the rules different in L.A. for street performer because I know city by city in Europe it’s…

Yeah. In L.A. it’s, um, not fun with it. There’s a lot more. Uh, what’s the best way to say this? Free spirited, uh, free spirited vagabonds to compete with, I guess. Yeah. So and then just in general, in the United States, I’d say street performing is more frowned upon than in Europe, so…There’s just not as many opportunities, like I feel like in Europe, the arts just in general are way more accepting. So, every street fair in my mind, every street fair in Europe is like, yeah, we have a street performer. He’s right there and it’s free, and here it’s like if you show up to a street fair to street performer, you’re going to get arrested for breaking and entering more or less.

And you still need permits here? It’s not everywhere like that but in some places, I mean, places like Amsterdam are pretty strict. Rotterdam was so, which is a second city. I know other countries like, you know, the UK, Germany, they’re a bit stricter. But I think if you have a permit, you can do those things. But so, you’re… OK, so right now you’re kind of saying something interesting because in L.A. was different and then how did you decide that that was going to be able to pay your rent? Like was your act preplanned? Did you know that if you do it this way roundabout, you would be earning this much even in a city like L.A.?

Uh, to move on from the street performing because for us, that was more like a starting point for the career and the backup plan. At some point we started booking gigs and got an agent that was really just wonderful, and they would get us … They were a reliable source of income with a lot of gigs that traveled across the US.

You got an agent! How did you get the… Like what was happening that you got an agent?

That, uh, that I was performing at an event in Wisconsin and I noticed that every single other act…. Oh! This is actually a great story for entrepreneurs. So, that gig was the Wisconsin State Fair, and they have… It’s one of the best performance fairs, I would say, in the country. They have, like I would say, over two hundred bands performing every day of the week for like twenty days, and then on top of that, they have all sorts of performers and comedians. But, that booking came because we had sent out a mass mailing like three years before, and never heard anything from any of them. And then one day the guy calls up and he was like, yeah, my boss said, we need it all new entertainment, and I’ve had your folders sitting on my desk for two years. Can we hire you?

Like, a mass real mailing? Not like email?!

Yeah, it was like a folder with like our pictures in it and a DVD. And we had spent thousands of dollars sending hundreds of these out all over and didn’t hear anything.

Really? Where were you sending it to, like … Agencies?

Agencies, fairs, colleges, performance venues, comedy festivals, just like anywhere we could think of, and we never heard anything until two years later when one guy said he’d had it sitting on his desk for years. And so he booked us, and then when we got to the gig, I noticed that every other act at the event that was in our genre had the same agent. So, I was like, all right, I’m going to start sucking up to all these people. So, they had put us in a separate trailer and every day I was like Dave, my partner, I was like: “Dave, we have to go hang out on that other trailer because they’re all represented by the same agent.” And then, so we started doing that, became friends with them all. And what I said about the internship, like be friends with people and over deliver, that’s what I did with all those people in that trailer, like every day I was being super friendly. And like, any time I felt like they needed something, I got it. Like, there was one day the trailer ran out of something simple. It was like it ran out of water. So the next that day during lunch, I ran to the store and got several gallons of water just so they’d have it and like huge change. And after the gig was over, like a week later, the agent called us and was like the people in charge of the fair were raving about how great you were. And then I checked with all our acts and they said you were so nice and easy to work with and like you just were like helpful all week long. So we want to represent you. Um, so that is something I learned probably during those internship days of like just over deliver with everybody.

Was it because of that internship that you were like, OK, I need to overcompensate because because I really want this? Or was it just something inside of you?

I’d say it was a subconscious thing that I probably learned from making mistakes.

Yeah. Cool! So the agent pretty much calls you from that, which is you got in touch with them by cold print mail and then the agent gets in touch with you a couple of years later.

Oh no. That was a… So I got in touch with the event with cold front mail. The event got in touch with me a couple of years later. And then I noticed doing the event that everyone had the same agent. So then, I sucked up to everyone that was from the agent who are now some of my best friends. And then after that, the agent reached out to us.

Nice. And then the agent reaches out. I mean, at this point you’re kind of like, well, not at the beginning, but also not really like jumping up or something like that. So how do you negotiate with an agent like that? Was he just like, “OK, yeah, we’ll do it.” And then they get a certain percentage and that’s it? Or was there a negotiation? What was happening?

They got a percentage and they are just… So that particular agency ‘GELBERG’ is just so this is how we do things and we do it in the fairest way possible and everything is out in the open to discuss. And I just found from working with them for so long and so many other agents that have they just seem the most genuine and literally care about every single person that they represent, like it’s a family member. And so I, a hundred percent trust them with anything.

They are L.A. based or…?

No, they’re in Minneapolis.

And so just for me to know, how does… Maybe you don’t want to mention their percentages, but in L.A. in general, what are the percentages for good or bad agents? And how can you spy or bad agent?

I don’t know enough about that to say.

And then maybe the tips on how would you know what to do? Because you said a couple of agents you’ve seen already and then this is a good one. What makes a good and what makes a bad one?

For me is I mean, it’s this the same thing, as I said about being an intern, like they go above and beyond and show that they actually care.

Um, how do you test that, though?

That’s something that I’ve tried to get better at when working with people is like… I said a couple of years ago to my wife, I was like from now on, whenever I work with anyone, make sure before I sign the contract to do whatever I make them prove themself. Like just give them some sort of simple test to see if they follow through. Because when you’re first in business, when you’re first working with someone, everything’s a promise, like, yeah, we can do that and this and it’s going to be amazing and we love you and everything is great about it. And then once you sign the dotted line, like they can totally screw you. So for me, it’s like, oh, you want to work together? Cool. Could you put together a list of like ten? I don’t know if it was my stand up. Could you put together a list of like ten events that you have in your roster that you think would be a good fit for? And give me a paragraph description of why I’d be a good fit for each one, like that is not something that would be hard to put together, but it is something that I think if I asked people to do it, a lot would fail at it. And so it’s just because they wouldn’t do it, you know?

So, by that small thing, you pretty much just qualify if they’re going to do big things as well?

Yeah, it’s just do they care enough to put in the effort to help? Because, uh, whenever I work with someone, I want to make sure it’s someone that I care enough to help with. And so I just try and find people like that but feel the same way.

I mean, that’s nice, though. Like we do something similar when we hire people, like a smaller recruitment where we test for the motivation is real because motivation tends to go after a week or two, and then you’re stuck in the company

A hundred percent!

But it’s fun. You kind of also do that with agents, which just shows that technically the agent becomes part of the family, like you said.

Yeah, I wouldn’t I don’t do that just with agents. That was just advice for working with anyone on anything.

True. You have multiple agents or how does that work? Or is there one agent?

Uh. Yeah, um, I would say… Can you ask the question one more time?

Yeah. Do you have multiple agents or do you advise maybe agents for everything, everything that you do, like stand up or YouTuber?

I would say that every agent has a special field, whether that stand up or commercial acting, or TV acting or book writing, whatever you want to do. There is an agent that specializes in that field. And so you should find an agent that does that, like there’s agents that specialize in live touring, but there’s agents that specialize in getting you Netflix specials, right? So, it’s like getting a plumber, right? Some plumbers are specialized in commercial plumbing for major real estate, and others are like more handymen. You want to find the one that specializes in the the field you’re looking to, um, move forward

I didn’t know that. OK, so then let’s move on to the next part. So the agent finally gets on board. Does your life change a lot after that, or what’s the difference before and after?

Yeah, they got us gigs non-stop all the time, and I was just full on performing, traveling all over the US, getting sick of airports and having it be worth it once you got on stage with like a good audience and then from there, I was like, how do we expand this audience? And so, that’s when I started getting into YouTube and posting videos regularly.

So when does it (year wise) when does the agent get onboarded?

Let’s see…I’m going to say, around 2012.

But YouTube started in 2009.

OK, so that maybe it was like 20… I don’t know, it’s all a blur.

No worries, but in your mind, was the YouTube first or the agent first?

I would say it was all around the same time, but I would say that the agent took off way before the YouTube channel.

Cool. So OK, so then you’re doing… OK now I get it. So you’re doing the gigs, and then obviously…It’s not obvious actually, because what you’re saying right now is you were doing the gigs, which is by the way, you said your dream and you’re performing and doing something you love, but then something in your mind goes just, well, if I’m assuming right now, kind of like during high school, something in your mind goes off and it’s like, let’s found this this club. And then suddenly you’re saying like, let’s scale this audience. Why? Was it people approaching you just saying :”Hey, I want to see more of you or what?

That was it. It was like years of people being like: “Oh, we come to see you every year, but we can only see you one day of the year. Like, how do we see more of you?” And I was like, how can I give…? And as I thought about that more, I was like, that’s true, like even if I did a show every hour of every day, I’m still performing for like one small group, whereas on the Internet you can reach the entire world in one click. And so, I was like, I have to scale this audience, and that is why I started posting on YouTube.

It sounds to me like it was a gradual mindset shift, like it wasn’t happening right away. What happened for you to know? How was your reaction at the beginning? Because YouTube existed already.

I always watched YouTube from like the day it started and I think similar to like how I was afraid to be on stage by myself I was probably afraid to post a video. And so I think, um, eventually I was just like, screw it. I’m just going to do it and I’d say I posted videos for like five or six years before one took off.

And how does the animation tie into it? Because for the people just listening and not on computer or something like that, you obviously make animations, and as well you produce and film yourself sometimes. Where do you did you learn that skill from film school and why?

My first job I wanted as a kid was to be an animator, and that’s because I was really good at drawing. That was like the first thing I remember being good at, and, uh, then I started taking some animation and drawing classes and realized how long and arduous and boring being an animator was. And I was like, oh, maybe I don’t like art. Like I said earlier, maybe I don’t like the art of Aladin, maybe I like Robin Williams. And so I transitioned to comedy, and then after doing my YouTube channel for a while, I was like, I used to draw as a kid. Maybe if I try switching to animation, um, that’s closer to comedy. Maybe that’s the move I need to make. And so I tried making one animated video after posting live action videos for a couple of years. And the animated one, I went from getting like a thousand views, a video to like fifty thousand overnight. And I was like, oh, I got to make the switch. And so, I think that was in 2012, December 2012. And then from that point on I was like, I got to go all animation and I learned to draw again.

So it’s pretty much the audience telling you this is what we want to see and then you just make the switch. But isn’t it…? So we actually do some animation as well. Corporate work. It takes a while, like it’s not easy. And what you do is very custom work.


How long does it take you to then make a video or something like that? You can’t just whip it up or…?

Yeah. So I’m like a very analytical problem solver person. And so for me, I’m like… I’m more interested in the back end of animation, which sounds really weird, especially since I just said I hated how analytical and boring it was. But, um, so for me, like, I’ve perfected, like, reusing assets. And so we have like a super organized library of backgrounds that are like categories categorized by like location and type. So like if we need a scene in a bedroom, I can go in a folder and there’s like every angle of a bedroom possible with like our backgrounds are like everything is a separate layer. So they’re completely customizable and reusable. Our characters are super rigged puppets that are like two hundred layers. So the main character that represents me, Alex, is like one hundred and fifty layer puppet about… And we can even drag and drop animations on to him to make him walk or talk or act like all that stuff was animated once and now it’s just urías like as easy as like searching for a gif online.

Right. So you animated it. How did you animated it? Which software did you use?

We use Tune Boom which if you’re interested in animation, I would be impressed if you could show me software that was better suited for it, because what what Tune Boom does is just to me, mind blowing.

What does it do then?

It has, um, it’s hard to explain it with just words, but it just has so many feat. Custom features and its feature-rich that as far as I can see, there’s no other software that has as many features in it as Tune Boom does. Like it has 3D character, 3D camera, which gives you depth, it gives you character rigging, which lets you bend into form drawings in an easy way. It has, um, I mean I could talk endlessly about it, if I could remember the words, but, uh, I would say the most basic explanation is that the amount of features it has is uncomparable.

I mean, you can go pretty technical on this one, but so all the features in there but that’s when you animate new assets, right?


Once you’ve animated them, I can imagine the software that you’re using is pretty intense. You’re switching to a different software. That’s less…

No, we just, uh, we do all the animation in that software.



And can I ask like how… What kind of computers you can use because the expert time must be pretty long?

Um, we, uh, just do it all on like base model or not based model. The whatever the like mid tier IMAX are.


Yeah. What I would say we do have one PC because we had a PC master race person work here for a while and I would say that’s the route to go just because it uh, the graphics card and those are way more affordable and um, that renders are a lot faster on that.

Really? Do you …Did you try an external graphics card as well? You can buy them online.

Uh, no, we haven’t tried that yet. No

You should definitely try. You can get a lot faster in those things. It’d be interesting to hear maybe later also: what’s faster? A PC or a Mac with an external graphics card? Because you can buy one for, I think three hundred bucks on Amazon, and then you can exchange the actual so you can buy the rig and then exchange the graphics card from Nvidio or Reagan, and then that’s good, because you can upgrade it. So, it’d be interesting to hear because I know for software that is strictly strictly Apple, you definitely need a Mac. But then if you use graphics, I’ve always heard Windows. So you kind of saying the same thing right now.

Oh, I totally say the same thing. Um, yeah.

So the graphics card would be the most important part and that’s rig?

Yeah, for sure. I think for anyone just starting out like any computer you have is going to be fine. Don’t worry about having the most powerful computer, but we’re so into the program with the compositing and how taking it to a super advanced level that I think we need more power.

How come it’s different now? Is it just because there are so many layers?

Uh, yeah. We require more power just because we use, um, so many more layers and the puppets we use have so many deformers on them. Um, I would say a puppet probably has like 10 to 20 deformers that can bend and move the puppet around, and so and you have that many deformers on a puppet and then there’s three or four puppets in a scene. It just starts to become taxing on the computer.

Correct. So can I ask then you have a video like, let’s say a five minute video. How long does that take you?

If we were starting from scratch, it would probably take us a month, I would say, if we had absolutely nothing.

But with the library that you have right now?

With the library we have right now, we can…One or two people can pump that out in about a week.

Wow! How do you get…? Because you publish more than once a week, so how do you..?

No, we’re publishing once a week right now.

OK, that explains it, because I saw that you were…But you usually also post live videos. I just saw you posted that as well.

Yeah. The live video we just posted was because we’re launching that card game on Kickstarter, which we’re getting a great response on, and I just wanted to quickly answer some people’s questions. So I did that live video as well.

Tell me about the card game. So…wait, maybe let’s keep that for a second. So you got the agent, the YouTube is kicking off. You made the switch to animation because it gets more audience. So now you’re doing this card game, but you did a card game before and in high school, you said or in…

That was like a point and click adventure game on the computer.

But the game-making has been kind of in you for a while. Have you done any other games since then or is this your first one since that old one?

I would say the love of games has been there forever. And this was the first one that we we actually made. My friend Zack, that I went to college with, his wife and my wife, we’d always play games together and be like: “we’re going to make one, we’re going to make one.” And then he had his twins. And I was like, uh, if we don’t do this now, we’re never going to do it. And so that’s that was what inspired us to make the game.

So this is the first game since pretty much last time.


And then when you’re doing this game, so you’re doing with a friend, which is always nicer. How does that work? And maybe also the dynamic of doing it with a friend, because obviously I have a best friend and we laugh about things and doing a YouTube channel together, but then you actually do it. Is there a difference in your collaboration? And you know, how you work together… Does it help?

Uh, uh, the friend that I did it with, um, or remember earlier when I was talking about starting that TV show in college?


That was the guy I did that with. And then when we made that ridiculous action adventure movie, it was that guy as well. So like we’ve always collaborated together on projects. So, I think we just like each other and respect each other a bunch so that working together, it’s like… It’s very easy for us to throw responsibilities at each other and know who’s in charge of what.

So how did it start? OK, so you’re playing the games. That’s how it started. But when did it really get to the nitty gritty: “You’re doing this. You’re doing that…?”

I would say about a year and a half ago is when we started taking it really seriously and just getting together every week and playing the game over and over again to find out how terrible we could make it. Just like with performing or starting a company or anything, it was like, let’s be really bad at this and keep making it better until it’s at a point that we can share it with everyone. And then I would say maybe six months ago, we’re like, all right, we have something that’s cool. It’s time to start doing the artwork and getting the balls in motion and sharing this with the world.

So it’s pretty much one year and every week on like a Saturday you would get together and play would became this, uh, card game…?

“Sugarheist”, yeah.

And then how is it at the beginning? Like was it really bad or something? Or how did you even come up with the first try?

Right. So, uh, for the mechanics of the game, we looked at all the games that we’d play all the time, like, what do we like about this? And like, well, we like trading cards and we like wreaking havoc on other players, like instigating arguments. Basically, I love card games that instigate arguments, so we are like we have to make a game that instigates people getting upset with each other in a fun way. And so that, uh, was how we started. And then we set up a bunch of rules and played at once and were like, oh, this is not fun. This is fun. This sucks, this doesn’t suck. And then we just did that over and over again until we had more “doesn’t sucks than does sucks.”

How long how long were those games initially?

What do you mean?

So you started in the beginning a year and a half ago. Every week you sat down and then you were playing these kind of beta games. How long were you playing it… For 20 minutes together or..?

Yeah, I would say games would last anywhere from a half an hour to an hour and a half. Sometimes we’d play it all the way through. Sometimes it would be so bad that after ten minutes we’re like, we have to stop. This is awful.

OK, so half a year ago it becomes something fun. Do you then get your life together? Like who’s the first person who actually saw it outside of you two?

I would say, uh, my animators are probably the very first people to play the game. Um, that wasn’t the core group. Um, one day they stayed after work and we all played the game, um, and they gave some feedback and we went back and improved it again.

Why the animators?

Uh, just because they were here already. And I know that… And they play games all the time, like they have, uh, game groups where they go out and play cards and board games with their friends.

Nice. And then, uh, OK, so then the animators… Then you actually design it professionally and then you start printing it. I saw in the video that you also had… You printed it in the printer first?

Yeah, I have some of those right here, actually.

Those look actually pretty good! Why not create like a digital experience where people can just print the card? Well, probably bad for copyright.

What was the question?

Why not just create a digital experience, like they just download the cards and can print it themselves?

We are going to have that but this is more meant to be… We wanted people to have like something that could last a while. So there is going to be a print in play available where they can print it out. But it also requires a ton of cards. There’s one hundred and eighty cards in the game, so I can’t imagine someone wanting to sit there and cut out one hundred and eighty cards.

Cool. So, OK, so then you have that the animators take over. How does the process work, like, you know, to to print something like that to you, go to a printing shop?

I’m in the US. There’s a couple… We’ve been I mean, as everyone has like, uh, made it more difficult to make this all happen with Covid-19. But because the one print shop we were going to use, uh, like, they just aren’t in operation right now. So it took some researching to find one. But there are a couple of when you’re prototyping a game, there’s a couple of great websites that will do. It’s hard to tell, but these are not as high quality as something you’d buy in the stores. They’re pretty close, but it’s not an exact match. But there are companies that will like do basically print on demand games for you and that can include games with like little miniature figures, games with cards, games, boards, like all of that stuff. There’s a couple of great websites that can put together mockups for you.

And then you just Google that or…?

Yeah. The one the one we used if people don’t play games is the one we used for these and I’d recommend them. It’s good quality and fast turn-around. And then the other major one is the game crafter, and those both offer great resources for building prototypes.

Cool. So then, you know, you started kind of in your friends circle and then they gave you the green light. How do you scale that? When it’s the light bulb going on? Okay, this needs to go to the world like… Do you first test it out, try to sell it to your friends and family, or do you right away go to the Kickstarter?

Um, well, uh, the goal was always to share it with my YouTube audience. Um, I’m in a lucky position that I already have, uh, a fan base to that will help bring it to that next level of letting everyone know about it. So, um. The goal was like: “let’s get the fan base excited about it” and hopefully that is enough of a push that it can get it more into the mainstream of other games on Kickstarter.

Do you have a proper strategy in place, as in obviously the strategies in videos? Who are you going to do paid advertising and stuff like that to get it to people that don’t know you yet?

Yeah, we’re going to see how the first day of funding goes. And then based on that, we’ll possibly invest in like Facebook and Instagram ads.

Nice. And the whole infrastructure is done by the providers. So then you don’t have to worry about the whole logistical part, right?

We have a separate company that’s in charge of all that stuff. So the ones I mentioned, uh, print and play games and game crafter, those are more just to print mockups. But we have a separate company that’s helping us with the logistical stuff.

OK, is there like a number you have in mind of…OK, if we achieve this number, then you know, it’s worth it for us to take this to the world. Or if we don’t achieve that number, it’ll just stick with my friends.

Um, I personally I mean, I hope it’s super successful because the game is awesome and I know when people play it, they’re going to love it. But personally, I… It doesn’t matter to me how well it does. Like, it would be a dream if it made lots of money. But me, I’m more excited about just the people that want it get it. Um, just because it’s it’s fun. And I would love to give them something fun to share with their family and friends.

I saw in your last video that you uploaded just before the call. There you said it’d be a dream that if it’s in the stores, um, I think your wife has your dad and then. But don’t you have I mean, you’re doing it with a with a friend. So there’s a partner involved. Don’t you have a strategy to get it into stores or is that something for after you get feedback from the Kickstarter campaign?

The company that’s handling all the logistical stuff does have relationships with stores, but that’s still like… Lots of people make card and board games, especially these days, where, like anyone can do it. So getting it into a store, there has to be enough of a demand for it. We have to prove ourselves basically because we’ve never had anything in a store before, right? So we have to say, look at how many people bought this game already. If you have it in your store, you’re going to have the same success. So, so…

So it’s super important to have your audience.

Yes. One hundred percent. Um, I think we have a huge advantage and I’m confident it will end up in the store. But at the end of the day, like, it’s not up to me, it’s up to everyone coming together and backing the Kickstarter to make it happen.

So, pretty much in short, your audience plus all of their friends, and then, yeah, if they just keep enjoying it, I mean the Kickstarter is thirty days, right?

Yeah, and I have a sizeable audience too, like I have four million subscribers on YouTube, so I’m not at a disadvantage by any means. But um,…

How do you how do you get in touch with your audience, because with YouTube after you hit a certain number, especially like above the millions, I can imagine, not everything pops up in their feed. So how do you interact with all? I’m imagining you’re trying to interact with almost all of them. So how do you get directly to them?

One thing, two things that I love are “Discord”, which for anyone that doesn’t know, um, is this great chat app where you can set up communities. And it just is it’s basically a chat room app, but it’s the current trend. And it’s been a great way for everyone that’s involved in my community to be able to talk to each other. So I’ve been loving that. And then as recently as this week, I just started using this thing called “”, which gives you a … Do you know what that is?

No, I’ve never heard of it.

Oh, it’s great. Community gives you a phone number that people can text message and then it’s still it’s not in beta, but it’s like slowly coming out of beta. Um, and it gives you just all the resources to be able to respond to people one on one, but in a way that can scale to thousands of people. So I get to have one-on-one conversations with people, but also be able to scale that and text people in a way where it still feels one-on-one, but I’m reaching a mass amount of people.

Because the interface of is on your laptop so you can message…?

It’s on the laptop and it’s on the phone. And it just gives you… I don’t know how to explain this, but it does give you a way to like respond to messages, uh, multiple messages at once, but still give it that one on one feel.

OK, so it’s just a little bit more organized, gives you a little bit more features and it’s not all over the place like a WhatsApp or an i-message?

Yeah, exactly. So like I can search for keywords and everyone that uses that keyword in a message, I can respond to them all at once, and they get it in their text message as in like an individual message just to them.

So how much does cost?

Um, I believe it’s one hundred dollars a month for the first thousand users. Um, but I think their pricing structure is still something they’re working on. So that could be totally off. But that’s just what I remember.

And then OK, so again, I’m assuming you’re not getting everybody on text. So what do you do that gets you the most amount of interaction with your audience?

Um, I would say…four million

Like, how do you hit all four million, I imagine you can’t hit all four million?

No, it’s impossible. It is literally impossible. I’ll make… I’m sure even though I’ve been talking about this game for months, um, there is still people that will be like, what do you mean you’re making a game? And it’s like or every single time I post a video, I would say there’s at least one hundred comments. They’re like, why don’t you post videos anymore? And it’s like, I’ve been posting a video every week for the past five years.What do you mean? Why don’t you post videos anymore? And so it’s just, uh, especially with all the competition for eyeballs these days, it’s just you have to accept that not everyone is going to know everything.

Do you have ideas on what the best practices are to actually get as much in touch with them?

I don’t know but if you figure it out, let me know first.

I will. We’re actually looking into it as well. That’s how I was interested, but I’ll let you know if I discover something. So OK, so to give me, like, a little bit numbers wise. So you have these numbers, and stuff like that. Instagram I saw as well. Do you feel like your audience, like, it if let’s say you would start an Instagram today from zero and you would say, hey, audience, have new Instagram, how many of those four million do you think would convert onto an Instagram platform?

None. Yeah, yeah. For me, I mean, I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but for me, getting people to go from platform to platform is really hard. Like…

Really? Why?

I don’t I don’t know. I would say for me, like if I was like: “hey go follow this new Instagram!”, I wouldn’t get any traction. But if it if I was on YouTube and I was like, “hey, go follow this other YouTube!”, that will get a lot more traffic. That would get a ton of people because it’s within the platform. But to get people to switch, like, I don’t I don’t understand that at all. Yeah.

And have you ever tried, like, getting them from YouTube towards an email or something like that, something where they have a newsletter from you?

I would say the most recent conversion I’ve tried to make platform to platform is this card game. And so we announced that… And the card game got …I’m looking right now. Ten thousand sign ups about from reaching out to an audience of four million.

But at start you said in your last video, was like twenty thousand, but not all of them confirmed.

Yeah, yeah.

Why do you think that happens?

They didn’t know they had to confirm. It went to their spam, they didn’t see the email, it could be anything. I’ll send out emails. Like, for instance, last year, I went out on tour and I’ll get emails, and we sent out an email blast being like, hey, we’re going on tour and I’ll still get emails to the day. They’re like, hey, I just saw this email that you’re going out on tour. Sorry that I missed it. I’m like, who checks their email from eight months ago?

Yeah, I get that. So, how interesting, we’ve tried some stuff over the over the past couple of months because since MailChimp changed a lot of things which was made last year, I think, a lot of these emails don’t get into the inbox. And what we’ve noticed is if we build our landing pages a little bit different, warning them that there is going to be a confirmation link and they will arrive in the next one or two minutes, it seems to help a little bit. But we also have… Sometimes we just skip the double opt in and we go straight for the single opton. Have you ever tried that?

Um. Yeah, I do it for my personal email list, but for this, since we’re working with a company, we had to do the double up and…

What’s the difference between… If you noticed, like double opt in and single opt in. Do you notice the difference?

Um, personally, I don’t I don’t I don’t know why we need a double opt in. I know it’s the law sometimes, but for me, I’m just like if they put it in their email address, let me send them e-mails.

No, the double opt in is not for the law, I think. Well, now would you DPR might be a bit different, but before that, I think it was more of making sure that they put in the right email. Yeah, because if you’re sending to 10000 subscribers, but nine thousand of those are like Brian with two N’s or something like that. And you screwed up and suddenly you’re paying for a subscriber that doesn’t exist. Yeah. So that’s usually…

In that regard, I’d say the double opt in is worth it for sure.

Cool. OK, so a lot of the card game I’m probably going to add.

It’s so good. Get it guys. Yeah. Kickstarter 26. That’s going to be awesome.

I’m definitely getting it. I’ve been excited but I’m definitely going to ask a bit more later about it. But let’s go a little bit back again because I was super excited where we were going with the whole: “she got the agent thing and now you’re doing the YouTube thing.” So, your first couple of years you’re doing live videos, right? You’re not doing animation yet. So how many subscribers did you get before you made the switch to the…Well, yeah, before we made the switch to make an animation?

I don’t remember exactly, but I would say when I posted my first animation, so from 2007…When did I start the YouTube channel?


I’d say from 2009 to 2012, I had like ten thousand subscribers total. And then once I switched to animation, I jumped up to like, uh, maybe like one hundred thousand and then within a year or so, it just started getting into the millions.

You think it was because of the animation? So what were you doing that was so attracting them? That was so different even than the live videos.

I mean, at the time it was different. There was maybe two people posting animated videos on YouTube, um, and the similar format to me. And so at the time that stuck out as individual. Now there’s like there’s so many that I couldn’t even name them all. But at the time it was a very unique genre.

That’s fun. And then obviously, YouTube started growing outside of posting weekly. You were posting weekly, right? So outside of posting weekly and then switching over to the animation, were there any big things that you were doing that gave you a light like “Aha!” moment where you were like, OK, if I do this, they will give me more subscribers?

Um. I can’t think of anything now.

Because I saw I saw, for instance, you talk a lot about your life, but then I saw also that that one video about the gun policy with the cats.

Oh, yeah, that video exploded.


And I’ve tried to make other videos similar to that, and they just haven’t clicked as well. So for people tuning in, then I have no idea what we’re talking about. I did a video called “The Guns Explained with Cats”, which was just a little parody of like if having a cat lady on your street and how absurd she gets with cats, but that’s the way people are treating guns in America and that exploded. But I think that was also at a time when that was… It said what needed to be said and, uh, an appetizing way. So people that didn’t even care about the comedy of it just shared it because they’re like, this is the point I need to get across. And it’s getting it across in a way that is easy to consume.

But were are you always looking for trending topics? Like what got you to that first ten thousand and then what got you from ten to hundred? So, from ten to one hundred. I’m assuming it was the animation that you were unique and everything, but to ten thousand you were probably doing something that still… Were you talking about trending topics? Was it relatable subjects just because it was your life?

I would say the video that really blew up was I made this video called “My hot babysitter got me in trouble.” And it was about the story from school, um, in middle school. And I dated my babysitter and who is about the same age as me. Anyways, it’s a ridiculous topic, but I think that scratch the itch of like a relatable story. So people connect with it and see themselves in the shoes of me. It gave them excitement of like, “Oh my God, I wish this would happen to me.” And then the third thing was that it ended on a cliffhanger that was like, oh, I want to see more. And so when you make content online, like as much as you want to make something that’s good, like that matters very little. Unfortunately, what matters is you make content that people watch to the end, that they leave comments on, they watch another one. So when you make your content, those are the three most important things. So that video got a lot of people to leave comments. It got a lot of people to subscribe because they wanted to see more of the story, and it got them to click on other videos, which is as far as YouTube is concerned, that’s literally all the algorithm cares about. And it’s the same with Tik Tok or Twitter, Instagram, like as much as you like: “Oh, I want to make this a good thing.” It doesn’t matter. What matters is making stuff that turns on the buttons on YouTube that says I have to share this with more people.

So do you make then a series about the baby sit? Or like if you make content now, do you think out a series of content: part one babysitter, part two baby sitter and then to trigger those three things or…?

Yeah, that’s one… That’s been interesting. So the baby sitter thing we wrapped up in December with a movie, uh, which is crazy. We posted like an hour and a half long movie that…

I saw that.

Yeah. I can’t believe we did that still, but. So… They love like as far as the algorithm is concerned, it loves the continuation and like getting people to come back for more. But the audience in the comments, they like what’s with all these cliffhangers? So it’s been interesting figuring out an approach that makes them want to see what happens next, but doesn’t get them upset that the story isn’t finished. So the most recent one, as I’ve been telling the story of how I met my wife and, um, it’s we’re trying to scratch that itch of like I want to know what happens next, but also give them a conclusion that doesn’t leave them upset, which is weird because TV is so episodic and like the next episode.

So how do you do it then? Because with TV there are cliffhangers, which is why you keep watching the episodes. And obviously like for instance, I watch things like Suits and get super angry because it’s like “No! Why?!” Why now…?

Yeah. Yeah

But so YouTube you’re telling me is different and you don’t really want to do such cliffhangers because your audience will get upset, you’re telling me.

Well, I think I mean, it’s hard to say because, like, their reaction might be as trivial as the way you just were talking about Suits or whatever you’re talking about, like: “No, why now?!” All I can see is the text of the comment, which is why did you do that to me? which I can read many different ways.

Um, so, um, one thing I found that helps is instead of just ending it right on the cliffhanger, like leaving it up to the audience and, like having a conversation with them one-on-one at the end of the video, that’s like “we could end the story here”, or if you want me to continue it, let me know that and we can continue in the next one or like letting it become more of a “choose your own adventure” than a cliffhanger, right? So at the end of the video, being like, on the next one you could go in this direction or that direction. Which way… Which part of the story do you want me to tell? And we’ve seen success with that and, uh, pleasing people.

So it’s kind of like a new generation TV series where at Netflix you pretty much get your TV series with a cliffhanger. And here it’s more like you make a full rounded story with a conclusion. But then at the end, you have this question: do you want to explore more? If so, what do you want to explore?


Interesting. How did you come up with that or was it just naturally came up?

Lots of trial and error similar to… Yeah, I think my whole life is trial and error actually.

Sounds like it. But it sounds like you’re learning which is the most important part.


So… Sorry… So those first ten thousand was about those topics that you were just mentioning then? Do you think the ten thousand two hundred thousand was because you introduced animation on top of that?

Yeah, for sure.

Then what do you think got you from one hundred thousand to your first million?

Totally that babysitter video, that first babysitter video got me like a million subscribers and a couple of months or a couple of weeks, I’m sorry. It was the growth from that that was insane. It was unbelievable.

So… Is literally just you got lucky with a certain topic and then it just hit home?


Do you wish that sometimes you could produce more than once a week just so that… You know…?

Yeah. I wish I could produce every day of the week. It would be great. But it’s just especially the animation. It’s impossible. Even with a video a week. It’s a real… The animation part is challenging and as difficult as it is, that’s very like paint by number and so it’s easy for us to accomplish. The thing that is most draining for me is coming up with the scripts and interesting stories and topics, because with YouTube, they want personal personal experiences and personal stories. And so, to come up with something fresh and interesting every single week on top of directing and producing all these videos, that’s the most challenging part. So I don’t know how one person could do that.

And why have you never thought (just out of interest for me)…? Because, you know, we deal more corporate, so I get to see that part. Why have you never thought of it as a studio where you get, you know, a couple of screenwriters together, you think out your ideas for the next year and then you get like an editing team or even maybe outsource the editing? I don’t know.

So we did that for… I’ve hired writers before and trying to get people to match my voice has been very challenging. Um, I even went as far as to make a really detailed and thorough, like script Bible with like, this is the voice that needs to be in and this is how it needs to be written and this is what it needs to include and not include. And like, I don’t know if I just didn’t find the right people, but it was just… It was difficult to find people that wrote in the same tone as I am. And because YouTube is so personal, like I’d say, that’s the most important thing.

And what about mentoring somebody or?

What do you mean?

I don’t know. I’ve noticed that delegation is being one of the hardest things also for some of the team leaders in my team. And that, um…

Like they have a hard time telling people what to do?

Yeah, they have a hard time translating their voice, like you said. Yeah. And then I’ve noticed that it just is difficult when especially when it gets more personal when we do creative work. But when you get people like really as a blank slate in the beginning of their careers and they stay with you for like let’s say a year or something like that, um, suddenly it just becomes a little bit easier to… To explain these things to them, because they haven’t gotten outside perspectives or something like that to have a different voice. You know what I mean?Have you tried something like that, like interns?

I would say writing wise I haven’t, but animation wise I would say one of our best… I work with the animators all the time and I would say my best success story wasn’t someone that applied for a job, it was someone that kept sending in fan art. And I was like, hey, you’re really good at this. Do you want to come in an intern? And they came in an intern and they were great. And I was like, hey, do you want to possibly, uh, start out assistant animating? And then they did that and they totally killed it. And then I was like, hey, you’re really good at this. Do you want to be a full time animator? And that’s similar to what you’re saying, someone that like was mentored and grew up within the system of what we do here. And so they just get it. And I think that was our most successful person we’ve worked with, I would say. I mean, I work with so many great people, but that one was just like it was such a pleasant surprise for both her and I, I think.

What’s the… What’s the issue of doing that for writers?

Um, I just it’s hard to… Well, one thing with writers…

I mean, I’m struggling with the same thing. I have to say for writers specifically, it’s quite difficult. But, yeah, I’d love to hear from you. Like, why?

Um, well, writing is hard. I hate doing it myself. So I think that’s the first problem. But the second thing is it’s, um. A lot of the writers we hired would write it more in line with the traditional TV show with like, dialogue and scene changes and a story arc, which there is a story arc, but with YouTube, it’s more about personal antidotes and telling stories. And as many times that be like we have to take all this dialogue out and make it directed at the person listening, like it just wasn’t conveyed in the scripts. And so. Fine.

What if you what if you take like a retreat or something like that, you do retreat where you sit down with screenwriters and you literally plot out the next year of content?

I think, so we did do that when we were using writers a lot. I think the other thing is that I’ve also gotten way more efficient at writing scripts, and so I have less of a need for that. But the other thing, we did do that for a while, where we’d meet once a month and we talk about what their script would be about and then they’d go out and write it. Um, and like I said, I put together that really thorough, um, writer’s guide and Bible that like detailed how many lines of dialogue should be in a script and how it should be written. Um, and the perspective and voice and how each character should talk. Um, and again, like all my stories are based on real life. So it’s not like they’re making stuff up, but, um, it just still wasn’t it wasn’t in the right voice and in a way that worked for me. So I would love to try it again. It’s just something we’ve put on pause for a while.

Interesting. Cool,  so um. Yeah, so then one hundred thousand to a million was the babysitter. Obviously, you’re going now one million to 10 million or even five million because you’re close. Do you feel like there’s a different thing you’re doing now?

What do you mean?

Are you focusing on different things or maybe you’ve piled up everything you’ve learned and you just keep doing that, or have you introduced a new learning lesson to it?

Um, for the like, what is my next phase of my career? Is that what you’re asking?

For YouTube specifically. So the first ten thousand was about getting those three topics in order, something that they comment on, that they come back and stuff like that. Then afterwards, you introduced the animation and then afterwards you introduce these topics that are very clickable. So, now that you’re going into your next phase of YouTube, so to say, do you feel like there is another learning lesson that you’re doing? Are you doing more training?

Oh, yeah, totally. So, as I said earlier, like, the whole reason I started my channel was to scale my performance audience. And so, we did it last year for the first time, we did 20, 30 cities, and it did great. But we got lots of emails that were like, we didn’t know you did stand up. We didn’t know you were a comedian. What are you going to be like on stage? And then I’d finish the show and I’m like, that was really great, but that’s not what I was expecting. And so from that, we’re like, “oh my God.” The whole reason I started this is not clear to the audience. So now, it’s been all moving forward. I want to make sure that it’s very clear in every video that I’m a comedian and that what I build my persona on stage, because I guess it’s a little bit different than it is in the videos. And so originally, I was just going to start recording all of my sets and talk about similar topics that are in the videos and kind of interweave those with the stories that I tell, similar to how… Do you ever watch Seinfeld?

Yeah, I did.

Do you know how like at the beginning or the end of Seinfeld, there’d be like a little clip of him doing standup?


I was going to do something similar to that, but animated. So that would be the animated story. And then there’d be like a little clip of animated standup that would be related to the topic. And so that was the plan. And then every comedy club in the entire world closed because of the pandemic. Uh, so that idea has been put on pause right now, but that is what we’re going to do as soon as we can.

But why not do an anime like you said yourself, just do the animated skits so you not being like just you like this and then just animate yourself doing your…

Because I think what’s because I mean, that’s what we were already doing. I feel like four years and they’re still not getting that. I’m a comedian. So I think actually having the feedback of a live audience and like seeing me at a microphone is what will, um, make that clear.

To pretty much making that sound fall. So, I guess the next part of your journey is making clear what you really do and getting your whole audience on board. And I guess the transition that you’re then making is getting your offline world connected with your online world, where before it was very much about growing your online world. And you’re off the world. But now it’s about bringing them together and connecting them.

Yeah, exactly.

It’s really cool. So outside of the card game…

And just to give you a heads up, I have to go in about 15 minutes…

Yeah, sounds great. We’re about to wrap up anyway, but I guess that’s partially what I wanted to wrap up with was going into the future. And the next thing that you want to do, your YouTube, it’s pretty clear. The card game that you’re doing right now, that’s kind of, again, bringing your offline and online together as well.

I’m so excited about it. It’s so good.

But outside of the card game and your YouTube, have you thought about a Netflix stand up on Netflix or something like that? I can imagine that could be interesting.

Yeah, I think that is the next kind of area I want to go to is, uh, a standup special or some live performance more and getting it back to that, because the past couple of years have been all about growing the online audience and like where my heart and like true passion is is and performing for people. So, I mean, all these other projects we’ve talked about are super fun and I love them and I put my heart into them. But I feel like the the most satisfying I ever feel is when I get off stage. And so I was like, that was the best thing I’ve ever seen, that just like it gives me life and it makes me feel like I did something good for a person to, like, give them that much joy. So that is what I want to share more of.

For people who would be looking and thinking that they have that, you know, live entertainment. But they would maybe like speaking or entertaining or something like that. But obviously now with Corona, YouTubers are a little bit better off than than…So, how would you tell this person to transition into digital and what tips would you give this person?

Do it and trial and error. Just do it over and over and over again. And good luck.  Cause it’s so oversaturated right now.

Any like practical things you should definitely be doing or not doing?

Um, be be ready for when it’s I would say, I mean I’m a very interesting person because I’m interested in both the YouTube, which is a very secluded life and the performing which is very in front of people. And I think most people don’t have both itches, both bugs. Um, but I would say if you are a live performer, like there’s so much you can be doing right now to be ready for when this is over. And I think when it is over, people are going to be so desperate and excited to see live entertainment that they’re just going to explode and you’re going to have so much work.

So how would you tell them to prepare already for that?

Update your promo material, reach out to people that are in your industry that are affected by this and just be like, I’m thinking about you and hoping you’re OK, just like the same story of like how at that fair I got water for all those people. Like, just because you can’t get money from someone doesn’t mean you can’t connect with them and be helpful to them, right? Uh, yeah.

Cool. I think that’s a really good one. Um, maybe the last question that I’ve been getting is a request a lot. Are you reading any books right now? Do you have something interesting to recommend that has helped?

There was …I just finished the Robin Williams biography, um, which was, uh, for a performer like it is a very sad book. Uh, but, uh, as a performer in major, I realized, like, why are we all trying so hard?

What do you mean?

The whole book, like he was my Robin Williams was my idol and like he is just like the most talented comedian on the face of the planet. And like half the book is him talking about how, like, critics hated him and he never felt like he was good enough and he felt like Jim Carrey was going to ruin his career because he was so talented and like people didn’t want to work with him because he wasn’t a good actor. And I’m like, you are like the most phenomenal actor comedian I can think of. How could you even be having these thoughts? And just to see that like someone and as phenomenal as him was also struggling with being accepted was just mind blowing to me.

How did it affect you? Were like, what did you get out of that learning?

Um. Well, it made me a little depressed. Uh, and then, uh, then I felt, uh, I was like, it’s good to be depressed, I guess, because he was he felt the same exact way. So, uh, yeah. It was just good to not feel alone.

Right. I guess that’s a good one to close with because… No, it’s a bit depressing, but hear me out. I think I think, you know, knowing that we’re not alone is partially why we’re doing this in the first place. I can tell you, like from our end, like the reason we did we did these events and doing the podcast, just realizing we’re not alone, no matter how big you’re becoming, everybody’s struggling, which is kind of also what I learned. But at the same time, maybe the conclusion wouldn’t be, oh, you know, everything’s bad and everybody’s going to hate us. But it’s more like, you know, we’re not alone. Everybody’s struggling. But at the same time, it’s trial and error. And if you keep just learning, then maybe we’ll have those learning lessons that you’ll have as well, going to your ten thousand subscribers and hundred thousand, a million. But also, at the same time with your audience and how you learned from Comedy Central compared to like that gig that you got and eventually ended up being your… Becoming an agent that came to you. I think it’s just I would add to that just to trial and error, you know. We’re not alone. It’s hard, everybody  is struggling. But as long as you do trial and error, you’ll kind of get ahead.

You know, one thing that is similar to that, the I think it might be a little bit inspiring. There was a series on Netflix. It was about… Like, I can’t recall what it was called, but it was about like, uh, movies and where they came from.

Oh yeah, I forgot it. Explain or something. No, I remember what you mean. They did one on ‘Home Alone.’

Yeah, that’s the one I’m thinking of.

If you type in ‘Home Alone’ in Netflix, you’ll find the series, um, ‘Director’s cut’ or something? Was it that one?

Home Alone Netflix….Oh, turn that off. Stop now. Where is that coming from? Stop talking. Uh, ‘The Movies that Made Us’!

‘The Movies that Made Us’, right.

Uh, ‘The Movies that Made Us’ is all about these huge blockbuster successful movies and how they became huge successes. And pretty much every single one of them at some point or another was a complete failure. And the people that worked on it, uh, were not expecting it to be even a success at all. Oh, and it just kind of reminded me of that Robin Williams book and how… It makes me feel like absolutely everything everyone makes sucks. Always. Everything everyone makes always sucks. And the only time something is successful is like winning the lottery. Like you get lucky with that one thing and the people that get lucky on it, capitalize it and try and get lucky again. But if you’re making something or working on something, it does suck because everything sucks and it’s just people that keep making sucky things cash out when they get the lucky one. So just keep working on whatever you’re working on and keep hoping you get lucky. Like, the more times you try something, the more chances you have to get lucky. So that’s kind of how I felt about everything I’ve ever worked on lately.

That is so that’s so true also in business that you’re going to do so many failures. And it’s usually that one then makes it worth it for all of the failures. With investment, same thing. So it’s just interesting that also in the creative arts, it’s pretty much the same thing.

Yeah, exactly. I think it’s the same for everything. Everything sucks, you guys.

But I think that’s a good… That’s a more positive one to to kind of close with. I really enjoyed this. I’m very happy that you came on. I really hope the Kickstarter goes really well, will definitely promote it. Well, I’m definitely going to be buying one. So…

Yay! You’re going to have a lot of fun with it. It’s a great game.

I’ll, uh, I’ll definitely give you a testimonial and see how it goes. But thank you so much for coming on. And I hope to invite you once again after the Kickstarter or something like that.

Yeah, that’d be great.

Good luck.

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Welcome to the Impact Talks Podcast. Today we have Lance Allred with us. Obviously, I always want to ask you who you are, what do you do and what your current job is. Just tell the listeners everything. Oh, well. That’s a loaded question, so I retired from basketball about five years ago, so I’m now in my second career, I played professional basketball for 10 years. I was the first legally deaf player in the NBA. I couldn’t play basketball with my hearing aids in.

And so I had to learn to play in a very different way, keeping my head on a swivel, approaching it from a very visual aspect, intuiting people’s body language and responding in kind and playing more intuitive, more heart centered and staying in my body.

Because when we’re always analyzing in our head, you’re step behind on the basketball court when you’re aiming your shots is when you’re missing them. And so when you trust in your intuition and you’re just out there playing basketball, that’s how I learned to play it. And it allowed me to play professionally for ten years all around the world and in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers. And I retired from basketball about five years ago and I was going through a divorce, didn’t want to be away from my son.

And he was only 15 months old at the time. So I had to figure out something to do to.

Adjust and adapt to be with my son, and since my days with the Cleveland Cavaliers, I had so many schools and people reaching out for me to come speak to them and coach them. And I was like, so I guess there’s this rumor that people can get paid to speak. And so I transitioned and little by little through the hair, my by the skin of my teeth, really, the expression goes just hanging in there. I found a way to make it work.

And so with my new book came out two weeks ago. Right. With the whole meltdown of the coronavirus and everything, my book tour was just stopped. And we’re all having to adapt and to adjust. And that’s the whole message of the book anyway. And so it’s a good opportunity for me to walk my talk. As far as hey, as a basketball player, if the ref starts calling the game differently in the fourth quarter than what they were in the second in the second quarter, the first half, I can throw a fit and POW and cry about it, but I’m not going to win the game.

So it’s all about adjusting and adapting. And that’s what my skill has been. And being able to take my basketball and sports experiences to connect with all ranges of people in various eclectic audiences, people who are big into self development, where people who don’t care about that at all. I’m able to find a way to connect with people all across the board when I go speak. And so I speak, mostly private, corporate or company events. I’m not a I’m not a conference speaker where there’s a bunch of lineups of other speakers coming in and they kind of present a Course or a packet.

But I’m more of an in-house content speaker and trainer. And so I’ve been doing that for about five years now and I love it. It’s very fulfilling and I don’t miss basketball because of it.

So how is it structured? Do you have a team around you or do you have a P.A. or you at an agency right now?

So I work with. Seven legitimate speaker bureaus that get me engagement’s, and I love them and they work hard for me, but for the most part, most of my speaking events come through word of mouth. And referrals from past clients that I’ve worked with and, yeah, online social media marketing, it helps is gotten me lots of engagements too. Do you use LinkedIn or Instagram?

Yeah, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter. LinkedIn has gotten me the most speaking engagements, really. And the number the number one way to do LinkedIn, I tell people, don’t pitch too hard.

Just simply adding people into your network and if you have a solid resume and if you’ve actually achieved something in your life because as you know, it’s such a saturated market, the whole speaker influencer thing that anyone like YouTube and I remember in basketball, my basketball days, anyone can edit their basketball highlight film to make him look like an all star.

But when push comes to shove, when it’s time to produce, can you actually show up and help the team win the game? That’s a very different story. And so influencing is not that hard to do as far as padding your stats, getting fake likes, fake followers, getting a million followers on Instagram. I get offered that almost every day by these boutique social media marketing firms. And I’m like, no, I’m going to trust in my message and my content and my authenticity to carry me through.

But it has been quite sobering. In researching for my book, I was kind of tackling this topic in my book, The New Alpha Male How to Win the Game. The rules are changing. I decided to play along with one of the marketing boutiques and they invited me into what’s called an engagement pod. An engagement pod is where influencers get together and they automatically like and comment on each other’s posts.

OK, so it’s like it’s a life event or is not a live event is actually there’s a bot in the middle of it, a robot.

OK, so any time anyone makes an update, they automatically have everybody else in their group making comments like that to help their algorithm rankings and Instagram or LinkedIn.

And so a lot of people are cheating the system. And I don’t want to throw people under the bus or be a gossiper. But I will tell you, it was quite surprising. The names that were in that engagement pod, some pretty big names that you would think wouldn’t need that kind of aboost.

Why do you think that happens though?

So, yeah, they were worried because I think a lot of people are getting stuck in the whole keeping up with the Joneses. Thing is that especially in America, where you’re trying to keep up with your competition to make you look like you’re more important than you really are. But once you start taking that drug, you can’t stop it. OK, I got 100000 followers now. OK, I got to get out of these by all these likes and by all these comments to keep up with that all.

But what’s my competition doing? Oh my gosh. They drew a million followers in just six months. How is that possible? Because they bought them.

And I think we’ll all I think we would all be sobered if we saw all of our favorite influencers and celebrities. How much are their followers were actually real followers.

That is part of the whole marketing gimmick. Now, is is not just no longer having your your face on a magazine at a grocery store. To say you are important in your celebrity is to say, oh, I have 20 million followers or I have a million followers. So much of it is a racket especially. If it is someone who hasn’t really accomplished anything, who hasn’t really done something remarkable with your life, but then suddenly they’re just an influencer and they have all of these followers.

How does that how does that affect you in your career? Because obviously you have accomplished something. Do you find that you get less speaking engagements or do you find that because you’re doing word of mouth and that word of mouth?

That’s a great question, because, yes, some event planners haven’t figured this truth out yet. Some event planners still think that, oh, he has 100000 followers on Twitter. That must mean he’s really important. But then they don’t take the time to actually look at the engagement, are the comments authentic? Are they real or are they just generic emojis or comments that have nothing to do with the content? A lot of event planners don’t go that far, but more and more they’re figuring it out.

They’re getting wiser to it. With all that being said, going back to LinkedIn and. When I add people or reach out and I research event planners or HR people and I add them just my resume, when they say, OK, they read first legally deaf player in NBA history, an inspirational speaker, four million of TedX they’re going to see.

Oh, wow, that’s just a free marketing right there. And I don’t follow up with some email or pitch. I they now just know that I’m their just because they read my bio when they accepted my friend request and then now that they’re connected with me, if I just post good content, hopefully they see it.

But LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram, it’s it’s tough because you might have people follow you, but they’re not all going to they’re not all going to see your content because of the algorithms that they have. And so you have to, like, pay to get even your own followers to see your content. So it’s frustrating. It’s difficult. And so I think what you’re doing is brilliant, actually, by creating your own platform, having people signing. And so therefore you’re not having to pay a premium just to reach your own followers.

So that’s the genius of what you’re doing, recognizing that’s where the trend was going and not having to pay to stay connected with people that have chosen to stay connected with you. And so hats off to you with that. It’s a very valuable thing that you’ve done and created for yourself. And so all that being said. Right now with social media. And influencer marketing, just staying authentic and staying real with people is the most important thing, though, do you think?

Don’t you think that I mean, that’s been my experience, at least in the last couple of years as we were growing our event, that there’s a trend now going towards online and offline because a lot of people are looking at all these influencers and exactly what you’re saying. They’re realizing that pretty much you can edit your highlight reel and it’ll look like you’re awesome, but not everybody can actually do it consistently and and show all these. How do you say actual like real life things?

So and what I mean with that is look at Amazon. Amazon is an online store, but yet they are starting to go in the physical world, something I see with my clients a lot as well, partially why we did the event as well as a little bit to show. Look, you can highlight you can do a lot of ads, paid ads and make yourself look great. But at the same time, what if you actually had a thing where you would bring people together like an event and you know, or like a virtual community?

Because when we started building course platforms for clients, we noticed that exactly what she said people need to do, paid ads just to get in touch with their fans. So we we started asking our clients, OK, look, you can go that way. You can have all the followers and you can do all of that and not really our expertise. Or you can actually build a physical event or a virtual space where you can really get in touch with all of them at the same time with no ads necessary.

A little bit. Right. Like a WhatsApp where all of them have personal interaction with you and your team. And the thing that a lot of people don’t understand there is also that you really need a team to execute on that. I mean, here you have one super cool, but it’s almost impossible for you to interact with a thousand people at the same time. Yeah, you can. But if you have direct interaction with all of these people that follow you, then, you know, and you have a team around you that can answer the most basic questions that you get asked all the time.

And then you are there for the valuable questions that gets more valuable. So to turn that back around to you, my question is, because obviously you are in that part of your career where you’ve experienced, you know, the time before the craziness of social media with a successful career, having fans and stuff like that. And now you’re actually going into the craziness of this whole thing as a speaker. And so my question is, don’t you think the trend is going now towards using both like the physical and online?

Yes, you are. To your point, it’s 100 percent accurate that just two months ago, I mean, I’ve been shooting online courses in my head for the last year, you know? I know. And I got to get a spun up. I get spun up. But just a month ago in February, I said, you know what kind of start doing it.

So I started doing some production of online courses and then bam coronavirus hits. So to your point is like, yeah, intuitively it is important to be able to offer courses for people to stay connected with you because again, a keynote.

I love keynotes. I love being able to go into an audience and people are shocked because I’m not up there giving them cliches. I’m not giving them just I’m not repeating Tony Robbins. I’m not repeating Wayne Dyer as much as I love them. I’m not using other people’s quotes in my PowerPoint. I’m not having bullet points.

Why would someone pay me to read out loud on Akino?

It blows my mind when people do that, but my ability to go into any audience and the basketball player in me comes out when I’m able to adlib or I’m able to respond and feed off the crowd and play like I did as a basketball player. That’s something that people respond very strongly to because they are tired again of the perfectly polished presentations.

What do you speak about usually or how does a typical presentation go?

Well, a typical presentation goes is that I have my principles of perseverance. I have seven of them that I use in the book. But depending on the client, I will use four or five and I’ll customize it, but I have just the word, I have videos, pictures and one word integrity or discomfort or compassion and just the word. And then I will go into the crowd and I’ll ask someone, what does this word mean to you?

Did you learn how to build the PowerPoint somehow?

Or I have a friend named Marcie in the former NBA all star. He does speak and as well. I went and saw him one time and I saw how he used a lot of black screen, meaning when he was done using the word, he clicked the clicker and the screen behind him went blank. So therefore everyone could go back to him. They could focus on him, so I love using black screen, I’ll use the word and then I’ll get the black screen so people aren’t just there looking at a graphic.

They’re actually focused on me and I can look them in the eye and we can actually feed off of each other. That was a very valuable thing that I learned. I loved it. And so taking that, always asking to. What will entertain me, yeah, because I have to make sure I’m putting myself in the audience’s shoes. Because, again, just because you’ve seen Zig Ziglar or someone do the perfect, polished, smooth presentation, maybe that was cool in the 1980s at the beginning of this keynote speaking trend.

But people’s attention span is shorter because of social media. People are just clicking and scrolling. They need to be captivated. And so if you’re just there clicking, it takes him back to the default mode of when they were in high school and their teachers are talking down to them, just going through recited short term memory people are going to check out. So taking the basketball background that I have is I actually I was an entertainer as an athlete and I had to learn to feed off the crowd and give them something that will captivate them and hold their attention by having a crazy story.

Growing up in a polygamous cold in rural Montana, escaping when I was 13, started playing basketball when I was 14. At the end of the hearing loss, I kind of played my hearing aids and talking about that as a disability, then talking about obsessive compulsive disorder, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, the things that I’ve gone through being authentic and brave enough to talk about the real human journey of this life. And not giving people boring cliches and platitudes, but actually meeting people at the human element of the heart.

People remember what they feel, not what they hear, right, and that’s where I’m lucky that I don’t hear very well, but I’ve learned to understand that’s OK being in speech therapy until I was 16, having to learn how to communicate, do I communicate to have anyone listen to how smart I am? No. Being the smartest guy in the room doesn’t really get you anywhere. Are you the best listener and can you feel where people are at? You know, meet them there, sort of answer your question?

Yes. The need for live, public engagement in person will always be a necessity. It’s been that way since the dawn of time. People need to have their fireside ceremony like the Greeks did. The great bonfire, where they were all great and tell stories is part of human connection. That need will always be there. And then going to the point of online is I have a message that is a big message and I can’t get to everybody.

I can only be in one place at one time. So the need to be able to expand on the keynote, c’os again, I can only speak to 45 minutes to an hour, but with the online courses I can go for hours. I can expand and go deeper and provide more educational content because a keynote is inspiration, but it’s also entertainment.

Yeah, an online course is more education. Right. And then hopefully entertainment and inspiration. So that’s the need of the online course, which is further systemic development, a culture of a company, but someone’s own culture within their head. And so your point is they’re both just as valuable now, correct?

Yeah, we started in January this year focusing on the educational aspect of our company, focusing with recognizable brands and some celebrities to really hone in on creating a journey of let’s do an online course, but then also see how we manage the community part of it. How can we get a fireside chat together? Yeah, using kind of also ourselves as the example of Startup Funding Event how we went from online content to fully physical, nothing online, just events.

And then at the same time, once we figured out the systems for that, brought that back to online. And now, you know, we were our biggest event I think was there like around a thousand people. But then when we started doing the podcasts, we started launching those. And then with the listeners, that hundred xed so thinking exponentially, just exactly what you said. You have to look at, you know, the fireside chats just like the Greeks, which I love that analogy.

But at the same time also I don’t want to get too marketing about it because I just wanted to hear your perspective on it because you’re actually in it, but you’re in it and you’re right on time.

You’re right.

I’m I’m I’m more interested in actually the beginning. Your mindset. Um, one of the things obviously, as we grow, my company grows, my team grows. So many obstacles pop up. So many people want to be a part of it. And so for me, the mindsets of the people that come into podcasts and more specifically with you and everything that I’ve researched about you is for me, more interesting. So my question to you is, how did your journey kind of start?

And I guess my question is more specifically, when did your personal development journey start? When did you become aware of what you wanted to do, where you wanted to be, or was it just day to day?

Great question. When did my personal development journey start? It has started ever since, I can remember, and every day being raised in a polygamous cult in rural Montana in the wilderness, there were no amenities to learn, sign language and stay in my comfort zone of having people meet me where I was at. So every day when my mom forced me to wear my hearing aids and she forced me to go to speech therapy, she would drive me out of the commune to a tiny town where there was a speech therapist pushing me out of my comfort zone.

What kind of commune was it? So it was a ultrareligious Mormon or Latter-Day Saints branch. It was a break off of the Mormon faith where they still practice polygamy. Multiple wives, mainstream Mormonism in Utah does not do polygamy. They outlawed that a long time ago. But my grandfather broke away and continued his own little sect. And so it was a very religious extreme fanaticism. And so it was ironic that I’m growing up in this tiny bubble of a cold, but at the same time I’m being forced outside of my comfort zone every day as a kid learning how to read people’s lips.

I had to learn how to read English first and then watch people read it so I could read their lips and take the context of the conversation of what we’re talking about, piecing together the vowel shifts, IOU, and then just over the years, learning out OK, learning how did people communicate? What are their patterns? And so to answer your point, your question, I’m sorry, the cell development journey has been ingrained in me because I live between worlds.

I’m not fully of the hearing world. I’m not fully of the deaf world. I’m between two worlds. I’m being an outsider. I have had to watch people all my life. What do you do here?

Because I read somewhere 80 percent. 80 percent. So what how does that can you describe it? Do you hear something, or? the best way to describe it.

I hear percussions. I feel, even though I can’t hear what’s being said, my skull, my brain, I still feel sound waves like a bass or a drum. So I wake at the slightest murmurs. I can feel all those but the sound. If it’s a higher pitch, I don’t hear it at all. But lower pitches like a male voice. I can hear something if I’m in close proximity, like if I’m in the same room with you and I don’t have my hearing aids.

But you have a male voice and you say something, I’ll know that you’re speaking and then I can turn and look at you and say, Can you repeat that? And then I’ll read your lips. So I’m a lip reader. So that’s why I do the face times. I’m a lip reader when I communicate with people, I still rely mostly on lip reading and hearing aid.

Help you a lot then or I say again, sorry, the hearing aid, does it help a lot oh the hearing aid?

Yeah, the digital hearing aid is amazing now that we have digital because I remember growing up we had to have analog back in the day, but digital really discern foreground and background noise. So I could actually figure out, OK, that helps me hear a little bit better. So hearing aids definitely do help, but it puts me up. Hearing aids putting up to about 60 to 70 percent of what normal people hear. But I still usually have to be reading their lips.

And so with it all, with them and with them, it sounds like the best way I can describe it from what I’ve watched and seen, it sound like, you know, what it sounds like when you’re underwater and everything is really muffled.

Yeah. That you can feel noises around you sometimes, but like, everything is just so muffled and you can’t really even make out what they’re saying.

So you to that’s you really then if that’s how you heard, then you also really wanted to do to lipreading I’m assuming.

Yeah. I wanted to be able to connect and understand. And so learning how to connect with people, being an outsider, basically being a cat, trying to make friends with dogs, learning how to connect with them.

Why was that so important? Like why not like play Xbox or PlayStation all day?

Well, what do we here to do as humans? To me, I’m here to connect. We’re here to have the human experience, which is having intimacy, which is being able to feel what makes us human is not our ability to think and analyze and be smarter than all the other animals in the world, which makes us human is our ability to feel multiple emotions at once. Meaning? I can hold sadness for a failed marriage and at the same time I can hold gratitude for all the things I learned about myself through that process, I can hold both at the same time.

That’s what makes me human. And so, yes, we humans have to be able to distract ourselves and turn off the brain and play an Xbox, watch a movie, check out for a while. It’s part of just self maintenance. But what we’re really here to do is to have the human experience and be able to report back to the universe, to the mainframe, whatever you choose to believe in information, data of what the human condition is.

Yeah. And so that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to live and be able to report back, because I think we’re all just Antanas, we’re all just extensions of the universe that we’re here reporting the universe, helping the universe learn more about its self. And so that’s how I see living in this world, that we’re here to experience the human condition and to have real intimacy. Intimacy is not what the movies tell us, that we have to play a role.

Intimacy is being able to have a real conversation and say, OK, wow, I have a blind spot coming up. When you said this, you brought up a deep wound or a trigger in my childhood, and I need it not to happen again.

And also, I understand, is bringing up a great opportunity for me to go inward and do some healing. That’s intimacy. Being able to have a real conversation with a partner or friend in your life instead of projecting onto your partner. Oh, you did this. You’re never going to do that again. And you’re supposed to read my mind anyway. Yeah, a lot of people think the soulmate thing is just people being able to magically read your mind and you’re just supposed to get me away.

You’re not reading my mind. What I’m hearing when people say that and they talk about a soulmate as people saying, I don’t want to have to communicate. Yeah.

And so it’s funny that me, the deaf guy, I get paid a lot of money to help teams, corporations communicate better.

Because I learned how essential it is and I learned how to do it, to get past the whole one dimensional surface level communication stuff and find a way to really connect with people. So to answer your question, why do we do it? We’re here to we’re here to feel it. Right here to feel love. We’re here to feel intimacy and have real connection with people. And I’m very fortunate that I get to talk about these kind of things with the basketball metaphor as a big Trojan horse coming in first to get people to suddenly say, oh, wow, he he he’s been through a lot.

He’s paid a price to be on a stage talking to us. And now he’s going to pivot and not just tell sports stories, but use those experiences to help us all learn to communicate better. So that’s my that’s my big passion. I love it.

I like what you said about the whole soul mate, that what you hear is people actually not wanting to communicate. But it’s kind of what you said.

If you are like this soul mate, you have to work to constantly communicate, always constant communication, constant humility of knowing that you were always going to have blind spots. Yeah. That you’re always going to be activated, that you’re going to have archetypes. So the Greeks to talk about the archetypes, call young Joseph Campbell, the archetypes. You all have archetypes in our psyche. And when you fall in love with someone, you fall in love with two of their main archetypes.

But then when you get married or move in with them, 10 other people move in with them. Like, who is this person? Yeah. And who am I? I’m bringing in stuff, too. We’re all bringing in our own baggage to every relationship. But do you have the humility to know that you’re blind spots are going to be exposed until the day you die? Yeah. And do you have the humility to know that you don’t have all the answers?

And are you do you have a real soul mate who is meeting you at that level, who has the accountability to own their stories of what they bring into a relationship? And most people, when they want relationships, it’s like, oh, no, I have a sad story. You’re responsible for healing that story.

And they think that’s love. It’s not as co-dependency, real, authentic intimacy as being able to have that vulnerability to be on the same wavelength with somebody to say, I got a lot of bullshit I’m bringing into this relationship and I’m going to own it. And I need you to be patient with me. And when I’m operating with a blind spot and I’m not seeing it, I need you to call me out. Yeah, smart. That’s that’s real powerful communication, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a deep friendship, family or even professional.

I’m working now with a lot of companies that want to have more authentic communication. And I say, OK, how authentic do you really want to get? Yeah, because people say they want authenticity. Yeah, but a lot of people, as you know, love to say the big words, the key word is at the moment, but what does it actually mean? And so since I was a kid, long winded answer, I know I’m coming back since I was a kid, being on the outside, looking in, watching people and their body language, watching them change their body language, depending on who they’re talking to, which is not integrity.

Integrity is the same person. Are you the same person in every room that you walk into? Yeah. Every person you’re talking to, whether they have money, whether they don’t have money. And can they help your career or not? Do you still talk to everyone? Exactly the same. That’s integrity. But watching so many people in leadership positions in my religious upbringing, not being integrity, say one thing on the stage, but then off the stage at home, be a very different person.

And I got a very early education on that with my ability to watch body language. And so living in a quiet world, when I take my hearing aids out at night, everything goes quiet. Laying there in bed as a kid, I would just replay the entire day in a very quiet world asking.

Why did I feel the need to say that today, why did I behave that way? So how young were you when you were having these conversations? Five, six. Wow, that’s crazy. Self reflective for such an age.

It was I was a very sober kid, too. I dealt with a lot of self-esteem issues, but that the skill of introspection and this a skill because if everyone could do it, they would. Yeah, but they don’t. I think I’ve learned the more and more you go into self development, work of accountability, introspection, reflection, the more and more you realize that not many people have the skill. Of insight and self reflection, and so it’s been a lonely world, but it’s also been rewarding again for platforms like this that you’re building, finding the small percentage of people, the 10 percent in the world who are into self development, who are asking the deeper questions of why are we actually here?

What are we trying to accomplish? I believe I don’t believe that death is a finite thing, I believe in eternal progression, I believe in constant growth and sometimes growth is contraction. That’s where the universe is expansion and contraction. And we had to have it. And I believe in that. And so and I know the people in your following that are listening to this now, a lot of them, if not all of them, are big into growth because otherwise if we’re not growing.

Then what the hell are we even doing? Why are we even here? And so those questions are questions I’ve been asking since I was a kid, and is it like something your parents gave you or because you were in the in the religion?

No, the religion did not have a lot to do with it, because the religion, the religion, my religion is such a cult mentality where they operate in absolute truths. Really, we’re God’s chosen people. You know, everyone else is a gentile or not going to heaven. That creates a comfort zone. The absolute truth creates a comfort zone that says I’m safe. I don’t have to do any real hard questions in my head. I don’t have to ask too many questions or wonder where is this all going?

Because I have a prophet telling me what’s going to happen and everything is going to be OK. And so, no, it didn’t come from religion. But my mother my mother was not raised in this cult. Her mom joined when she was 15. But my mom, her father, my maternal grandfather was a man who raised her on the truth or the expression that thoughts are things. So my mom always remember that, and so my mom was big on accountability.

Accountability is the first principle of perseverance that’s shared with everybody. Accountability is many things, but basically is the buck stops with me. I am a star. I am responsible for my not only my behaviors and my actions, but I’m responsible for my thoughts. I’m responsible for the stories that I tell them I had an event is an actual thing that happened, but your story is how you choose to tell it. Excuse me. Get excited here and I’m rattling my desk.

Your story is how you choose to tell the event. And so my mom was always someone that hammered home accountability. Not only do I say what I do, what I say I’m going to do, do I follow through and do I own up my mistakes? Because I think you would agree accountability is inspiring when you have a leader. Who owns the fact they made a mistake? And it says, guys, I screwed up. That’s inspiring, and yet we were raised in a world with 24/7 news, social media, where people live in fear that if they make a mistake, they’re done for.

So I always have to be perfect. And therefore, you have a lot of people in leadership positions that are so afraid to apologize. Let me ask you, in my 10 years of pro basketball, how many times you think I had a coach ever truly apologize to the team?

Uh, I you don’t really deep into all the NBA. I’m very passionate about NBA. For a while time, I only heard of one coach who was famous for that. And I think that was the guy for the San Antonio Spurs. Popovich. Yeah, I heard he was one of the like maybe only a few ones who actually like the stories I read about him. So interesting. I don’t know if there were other coaches famous.

Yeah, you. So you said one in my own person. I’ve never played for Popovich. I have one coach who truly apologized to the team in my ten years and I’ve had coaches sit me down one on one and own up to it. But in front of the entire team, one coach said, Guys, I screwed up. Really, I’m going to make it up to you. That was so inspiring to me, I would do anything for that man was he was he was my coach, my last coach in Puerto Rico, my last job.

I was playing in Puerto Rico. Great league fun. A tiny little dude who had every right to have a Napoleon complex and be threatened by my size.

But yes. How tall are you?

I’m six 11, six foot 11 or 211 centimeters.

211? Yeah, 211 centimeters. Oh, wow. So, yeah, I’m a big dude.

I had no idea that six eleven was 210.

Yeah. It’s somewhere around there. It’s 210 or 211. And this coach, he apologized and it was so inspiring. I would run through a brick wall for that man.

But like nobody apologize. I mean, not apologies. Nobody really owned up.

And yeah, because these coaches live in fear. Why 90 percent of the world operates in fear that the world is not a safe place, that they lose their job, that people were undermined me and trying to take my job from me. 10 percent of the world operates in trust. That says if I keep showing up authentically every day with humility, with accountability, owning my shortcomings. Walk in my authentic path, I will get to where I need to go, if I’m always and integrity, always in accountability, that even if I have a bad experience.

A person who is big in self development if we have a setback or heartbreak. Instead of us saying, oh, why does this always happen to me, we say what a great opportunity for me to learn. What can I learn in this experience and choosing to step out of the victim archetype that so much of the world operates, and especially on social media, people love to play the victim and have it be validated. But the opposite of the victim archetype is the teacher.

The victim says, why does this happen to me? The teacher says, What can I learn about myself in this experience and how can I share with other people to empower them?

And that’s why teacher. That’s teacher. Victim says, Oh, I am the center of this experience and everyone needs to know about it so I can take empathy, compassion from them. The teacher says, how do I get empathy and compassion in an educational context and give it. And so, so few people, so few coaches operate in that kind of trust because they live in fear, because it’s all about them and they don’t know how to be teachers.

They only know how to be a boss.

But isn’t it that if you go into higher, you go the less? Well, I’ve noticed when I work with some corporates, um, that so when you go to C level, which is like the usual managers who are 10, 20 years in the company, they operate exactly how you describe it. Like the moment you start going to the more executive people they are. So chill, super nice people. And so I kind of assume that the higher you would go, the more like the more chill, I guess more flexible, the more, you know, leadership esque.

Yeah. People would be.

Your point is valid. I’ll answer in a couple of parts. It’s easy to be chill. When you control the whole thing. When you get the final say, but. I will say that more and more we have more people ascending to leadership positions because they have the humility to always be a student of life. The mid-level management or the sea level, as you said, yeah, most coaches in professional sports are sea level because they have the answer to the general managers that have to answer to the owners.

So they’re stuck in mid-level management.

Really Wouldn’t you assume that a coach would be saying to the owner, hey, let me do this thing because I’ll get you there?

Yes, you think they would, but only a few coaches have that kind of leverage. Popovich is one of them because he’s been coaching for so long and he’s been successful.

But basketball has become so corporate now with all the sponsors and advertising that there are so many different bosses that people have to answer to, said they are really like two or three levels away from the owner almost.

Mm hmm. And so they’re stuck in that sea level that you’re talking about where people are trying to control things and they had the boss cap on rather than being a leader or, again, always a student.

And so it’s fascinating when people fail to recognize that if you are someone that can never apologize, people will want to see you fall.

But if you’re someone that has the humility to say, I don’t know anything, yeah, I’m learning with you. And I’m in a position where someone decided that I should be the leader of this group, I don’t feel like I’m the right fit, but I don’t know anything. And I’m going to learn and grow with you. This same coach, this Puerto Rican guy I was talking about, Juan Cardona, he was also the coach that could pull me over to the side of a game and say, Lance, what are you seeing out there in the middle as the center, as the big man that I can’t see from my perspective.

And I would tell him now whether or not he took my advice and applied, it did not matter. Just the fact that he was willing to listen to what I had to say, which then allowed me to know that he saw me as a human being. He saw my perspective and my human experience and took it in consideration. Once he heard it, I was in complete trust that he was going to make the best informed decision with all the information he had for the whole group.

Did you ever disagree? Oh, yeah, we disagreed all the time.

But because he still was willing to hear what I had to say. I’m like, OK, coach, this is what I say, you’re going to go a different way. I can I can wash my hands and I can choose to trust I’m going to follow you because you’re the one that has the ultimate say. At the end of the day, the coaches who could not hear feedback that rule with the iron fist that acted like they knew everything.

It was just like, OK, coach, make your call and we’ll do your game plan and then you can fall on your sword. Yeah, because you don’t have the humility to acknowledge that you’re just human. Yeah. And just a big game. When you’re human, you’re going to make mistakes every have the humility, the honor and follow up with you.

Everything you’re just describing right now is partially why I became an entrepreneur, because I was in jobs and uh, and I just never saw one of my earliest, earliest mentors was in the Special Forces until my entire leadership, you know, perspective and how I saw somebody should lead me came from that. Um, so when I started working, I just I really didn’t understand how, you know, you would do the extra effort and then people would react exactly like you’re mentioning right now.

And I didn’t even really start ever working in my student time. I worked. But I kind of said to myself, I there are so few people that I would follow. I don’t think I would be a bad employee. But just I guess I’d be a bad employee if I have a bad leader. So I would rather just work for myself. And as long as I can survive, I guess I’ll just do this, you know, game that I’m playing.

Eventually I started meeting people that I would actually follow. But at that time, you know, we had a company, so we were just collaborating with them. Um, they would become my clients. But everything you just said, I imagine you’re a bad employee for bad leadership.

Yeah, that’s a beautiful way to put it. Yeah, that’s a that’s that’s a very beautiful way to articulate it. And it’s not so much that people have bad employees that have bad leadership. Yeah. If you have bad leadership, going to have bad employees. Simple as that.

When we started recruiting here, one of the things we started doing is, uh, before it was popular, this was like. I know. Uh, when do we start recruiting our first people? Like five, four years ago or something like that? We started looking at the three core values that we value, which is honesty, loyalty, curiosity, which a lot of people, they hear that and they think it’s a buzz word. Um, it’s what they don’t get is that to me, like my honesty came from the fact that I had a really bad experience with my parents and our entire life collapsed because they lied.

So in my mind, honesty was painful and not good. And, you know, when you have the bad feeling inside of you of, oh, should I say it, should I not say it? And then I kind of ingrained it in myself that every time you feel that you should say it, which is something that a lot of people, if they’re not in a safe environment, they struggle with so little loyalty came from people, just not having my back when I was alone, trying to feed myself working.

And eventually then at one point, the government had this charity that actually, help children from low income families to graduate. And if they had not supported me, I would never have graduated and been in a position where I am today able to help them back. And it’s, you know, when you feel that that’s what loyalty starts becoming free. And then curiosity, obviously, everybody, what you said growth. But then when we start recruiting people, it’s brutal for them because they’ve never been in a safe environment where you were expected to fail, where if you lie, you will be severely punished up to the point where you could be fired.

And it’s just like, yeah.

So the fact is you want people to fail. I mean, there’s two different types of failure.

Uh, failure to me, real failure means you’re simply stepping outside your comfort zone, that you’re trying something new. Yeah, but you’re taking a risk.

Whereas the the bad failure is when people who stand inside their bubble and try to play it safe and not make a mistake.

Why would you say that it’s a failure? Because they’re staying inside. They’re being mediocre. Yeah, because you’re being because they’re just sitting there trying to find all the stats to make sure they don’t take any risk, that everything is predictable, that I can have all these great out. With minimal risk involved, so I’m going to do the bottom line, that’s required not take any risk so I won’t lose my job or have my heart broken. That’s called playing it safe.

That’s called being mediocre. And that’s the real essence of failure to me.

Do those players, like if you look at your career, does players make it very long in their careers?

No the players who are afraid to take risk and step outside of their comfort zone don’t last long at all. The thing is, the greats are the people who are willing to step onto the court and say my worth is not attached to an outcome, that with accountability I am making the best decision I can in the moment and I’m going to take the shot. If I missed the last six shots is gone. Is done. Yeah, being present. Looking back in the past and feeling guilty.

Feeling bad, that’s not accountability. Accountability is saying I own what has happened and all I can do to ameliorate that is be present in the moment and make the best decision in this moment. Because if I’m thinking back in the past regretting stuff I’m still in the past, I cannot make the best decision right now.

And so the players who are able to say, all right, this is the situation, I got to take a risk. And if I miss the shot, yeah, some people will blame me, but that’s part of life. At least I had the courage to step up and take the shot that needed to be taken.

Do you have an example of a story like that?

Oh, gosh. Like a good I got I got I got two examples from my own experience. Different years back to back years. Actually, one year I was in Japan, one year I was in Mexico playing in Mexico. Last couple of season in my career in Japan, we were the number one team and we were in the semifinals and is we were down by one. And I had a choice with ten seconds left to go in the game.

Oh, this is a difficult shot, but I can make this shot and I’m open. Or do I pass it to somebody who might be a better shooter from three point land, but they’re going to be guarded because the defense is guarding them.

Because you’re a center right. I’m a center, but I can I can shoot everywhere.

I want that type of player.

I want a horse trophy, an NBA all star weekend horse is the game where people have to match your shot. So I was a big guy and I won horse trophies. I was I was a different type of center. I played much more cerebrally versatile in Japan.

I took the shot rimmed in and out owner, coach all freaked out. They blame me. They cut me. I didn’t get renewed for the next year, even though I was the only all star on the team, we were the best team in the league.

But because they blame or they focus so much on outcome rather than process rather than the consistent beat, you keep through it all knowing that you were getting attached to an outcome.

But the Japanese do think that way. Yeah. So they’re afraid to make mistakes.

As much as I love Japan and my time there and their consistency as a product and everything, their ability to grow and let new ideas come in, you know, very, very, very old conservative mentality of Japanese culture.

And so they’re afraid to take risk. Because they’re afraid, they know that their community, their society will shame them. Whereas in Mexico the next year. Again, I had an opportunity in the playoffs, three pointer and of the game game seven, oh my God, do I live in fear? Last time I took a three pointer and I missed it, I wasn’t renewed for the next year. Or do I say I missed that shot last year because that was because that is what was supposed to happen.

Why was that supposed to happen. Because that’s what happened.

Yeah. And you have to let it go and you have to keep playing on that basketball players, no basketball player has ever played a perfect game is all about. Who has the grit and the tenacity to keep getting up and keep playing on? That it. Most people, they make it fail, they make a mistake, they get so stuck there, they can’t move. So I had a choice to say, oh, oh my gosh, last time I took the shot in a playoff game, I missed it.

I lost my job. What I say. The best way I can be a teammate. I’m open, I got to take the shot, this is the highest percentage shot for our team to win the game and I took it and we won. Really?

So. We’re going to fail, but it’s not failing if you’re learning from it and you’re playing on it is failing. What’s going through your minds here?

Standing at three point line in Mexico and then, like, are you actually in the game of the adrenaline’s happening, weren’t you actually thinking, is there, you know, a millisecond of fear coming?

Oh, I might get, of course, that millisecond of fear that says, OK, OK, something bad happened to me the last time I was here. Yeah. But then I said, oh, sweet, I get a do over. Just try it again. Nice.

And life or the universe will always give you do overs, meaning you’re not going to get the same opportunity, the same window but the same lessons. Right. Are going to keep coming at you until you finally learn the lesson. It might appear in a different context, in a different dynamic with somebody or in a different job or a different career. But the things that you’re afraid of that you keep running from are going to keep coming back to bite you until you learn to face them head on.

So this was a beautiful lesson to gauge how much I’ve grown up getting out of my head and choosing to be heart centered, saying, you know what, I’m here, I’m in this moment.

That shot last year is gone. It’s over. Yeah. And now I’m here in the moment. I’m playing from the heart, not in the head, playing from the heart, which is the louses, again, called the Zone. It’s called the Zone. That’s when you’re playing in your heart, when you’re masculine and feminine. The greats are masculine and feminine, meaning Michael Jordan. He was feminine when he passed the ball off the Steve Kerr and John Paxson for their game winning shots of their respective NBA titles in 93 and 95.

No, yeah, Ninety, yeah. Anyway, won’t won’t go into those details, but that doesn’t matter. They made their shots because Jordan passed it. Passing is a feminine act. Jordan in 1998, when he pushed off Byron Ruso, the Utah Jazz, the great push off shot, and he hit the game winner to win the NBA finals in 1998. Very masculine. He pushed he took the shot. The basketball players, the greats know how to be masculine and feminine at the same time, if you’re always masculine, always shooting the ball every time you touch it, you’re going to get benched.

Same thing in life. If you’re always going to like trying to press it, trying to just blast your way through everything, be the ultimate tough guy, false bravado, authoritarian. You’re going to get benched. Life’s going to take you out. But also, if you’re too passive, always playing, OK, you know, I can’t take the risk and take the risk. You’re going to get benched because either way, you become easy to guard on a basketball court.

If I know you always want to shoot it, I can guard you very simply. If you always want to pass it, I can guide you very simply, but if you’re able to do both, it’s very hard to guard. Life is the same way. The universe is the same way. If you’re one dimensional and you’re easy to guard, always am asking and they’re always feminin, you’re going to get stuck. He had to be able to play masculine and feminine in the game of life and flow with all that, and so that moment in that mine in my head was like, you know what?

I can be in my head and analyze and aim the shot and I’ll miss the shot if I do, because too much in the head is too masculine. Heart is masculine and feminine, like, you know what?

I’m here in the moment, I’m in the heart, shoot it, whack, make it so with all that being said, it’s there’s no such thing as a perfect game. And I think self-help books have fallen into a trap.

My book, The New Alpha Male, doesn’t have any stats. Is me going through human experience? Of what it means to be human and applying those stories and making them generalizable to everybody else with actionable teaching points, we’ve fallen into self-help books where they’re trying to throw stats at everything so people can feel like that’s how they’re going to win the game. But guess what, I scouted so many teams, we had so many game plans, we watched all of this film and we thought we had an idea of how the game was going to go.

But you think the other team wasn’t getting ready to throw us a wrinkle? That we come out and some the team is running a whole new set of offensive plays that we had no idea they were going to run and do we thought fit and say, oh, wow, that’s not the way you’re supposed to be because the stats said this. Instead, it’s like, OK, stats inform us as athletes, but they don’t drive us. That we have to be ready to play ball and adapt states allow people the illusion of a comfort zone to think that they’re in control.

So what do you think then? Maybe outside question, but what do you think of that movie? Um, I forgot it was Moneyball, the ad that won with Brad Moneyball.

First off, baseball, more than any other game, is probably more conducive to stats because there’s a very simple game where you throw a ball. They have a choice of how they want to hit that ball if you throw them a curve or a strike. But because basketball and football are so in a symbiotic dance offense and defene too many variables, too many variables.

Baseball has very few variables. But I do believe Moneyball. As cute as it is, yeah, it did help the Red Sox, it did help the Cubs a bit, but granted they drafted so well, it wasn’t like they just suddenly drafted these simple players that Phil Stastny, the Theo Epstein for the Cubs, they have great players. And so the whole notion of Moneyball really sold the idea that. The human component, the human element can be marginalized.

Baseball is a unique game in that baseball. If you remember when Alex Rodriguez left the Seattle Mariners and went to the Texas Rangers in baseball the next season, the Mariners had the best record in baseball. And I didn;t know that baseball is a game where, again, it’s just so one on one in that moment that. You can lose your star.

And your team, the pitching staff and everything, baseball, so it the women pitching and hitting that all the other things kind of separate, but because basketball and basketball have something similar, when you have like they tried a basketball, they tried to have all their advanced stats and everything, but really the advanced stats could never have predicted that Steph Curry was going to come in and revolutionize an entire game with the long ball, with a three point shot. That was him being a magician.

And blowing stats out of the water. And just making everyone adapt and revolutionize, and now everyone’s trying to say, hey, well, now these are the current stats, this is the best way to be effective in the Steph Curry era of basketball. But someone else is going to come along, some other coach or some other player. They’re going to change it up again. Basketball more than baseball. Baseball is pretty consistent as far as, hey, you know what, nine innings, three three outs.

It can only be so cerebral. But basketball, because it’s all real time action, offense and defense people having to interact with each other.

People have fallen into the trap with stats, whether it’s sports or corporations, as you know, I think, and they can quantify heart.

That they can quantify chemistry. They can quantify these two people are going to get along because we have all their stats. Baseball, again, you may like your friends, whatever these guys, but you’re one guy is an outfield, one guy in third base, it’s not like you’re really doing a lot of, maybe trying to make a great catch and a pass and get that guy struck out. That’s as far as the interaction goes. When you’re on offense, you have to bat.

Everyone’s on the way.

If you hit the ball, great. But basketball, you have to be able to read off of each other, pass screen, cut through. There’s so much chemistry involved that people have tried to think that you can pigeonhole that through stats.

And what was the best like team you were a part of? How did the coach create the chemistry?

Oh boy. Best team will play with the Cavaliers was fun, but the team I was called up from in the NBA minor leagues, the NBA Development League at the time I’m hosting what’s that? NBA development NBA Development League is like a minor league team, minor league like baseball’s minor league, the NBA minor leagues, the NBA Development League. I was called up in the Idaho stampede when I went after that league.

It’s the NBA. Yes, OK, yes.

It doesn’t pay as much as the European leagues, but some guys choose to stay in the minor league and get a chance to get called up. That’s what I did. I got called up from there, this coach. Had the humility, Brian Gates and I love him, he wasn’t the type to ever really apologize in front of everybody, but at the end of the day, he was a coach that could sit with you one on one.

And figure out how can we find the winwin together to make sure you have a best opportunity to grow from here, not just this season, but next season.

He was so good at seeing beyond stats that he could watch guys on film and see, oh, this guy has an intangible something that can’t be measured.

This guy is always in the right place at the right time. This guy is not afraid to set a screen and take a hit. This guy knows how to make the extra pass.

He could see those intangibles that cannot be measured on stat sheets. And that team was the funnest team I ever played on and we loved each other.

What did you do? Just a one on one interactions or one on one interaction.

But because I was a team captain, but also our other team captain was a point guard who was a veteran, that he had played for 10 NBA teams, that he was just here to play and have fun. And he wasn’t there to get his own stats. But he was a point guard that knew how to pass it at the right place at the right time. But the one deal was if you take a dribble, he loses the assist credit.

So his deal was, I’m going to get you all the ball, but don’t you dare take a dribble. You shoot it when I get you the ball. I’m going to make you look good, you make me look good, and that was kind of the deal that we all trusted. He knew he was going to this guy was avenging the first month of the season. It was ridiculous. He was averaging 19 assists the game.

And what normal average?

The normal average for point guard in the NBA Development League is like maybe five. He was getting 15, 15 to 19, but he ended up with like 15 that year, the first month he was just on fire.

But more important, the actual points or the assists, there’s no real importance.

There all matter. You don’t get the assists without the points. Right. But.

But because he was playing in a way that was transparent, it was, hey, we’re all here to get our stats. That’s what the minor leagues for. But we’re going to help each other do it and we’re going to help each other look really good. So calling it out instead of just saying, oh, we’re all here to be champions, and if we’re champions, we’ll get better jobs, doesn’t really work that way. In the minor leagues, she was who’s being most productive instead of just saying, hey, we’re all here to get better jobs next year?

We’re all here to make sure everyone has a fighting chance to be seen by other teams. It’s a very pointed, very team oriented and very transparent, instead of just spouting out, again, as you say, buzzwords and cliches where you have a coach they’re very transparently, you can say he wants to get a better job next year instead of the coach saying, oh, we all need to sacrifice and be team first.

But when I get a better job, I’m going to leave you all on the dust.

It’s very much like when you were a child and you saw these religion religious leaders absolutely says so. Pretty much as long as you say what you really want and then think from a team perspective how to get there, you’ve you always felt like and you got the team nailed it.

You understood it, told me you’ve done the work. This was the same team at the beginning of the year. I was able to say, hey, coach, do you trust me with an exercise? He said, Yeah. What we did one night, we said, hey, guys, we all want to get the better job, we all want to make money. But I want to know, why do you want the money? Why do you need the money?

Help me know, and so we all go down. We got one guy owed child support, never been able to see his daughter, so he needed to pay child support. One guy’s mom had cancer. One guy wanted to go back to school and be a medical doctor. One guy apparently said, hey, I like ladies, I like women. I want to be a baller. But the fact that we knew. Transparently, why they needed the money, wanted it.

It allowed me to care. It allowed me to connect with them and say, you know what? All right, pass it. Go to Darnell. Darnell, get that bucket. All right.

You might get a chance to help you help you make money to see your daughter. And so when he made it, I was happy for him. So when people tried to shame individual need in team settings and say, oh, you’re being selfish, you need to sacrifice to the team, but then, you know, well, coach, you’re going to abandon us as soon as you can to get that better job. So don’t try to sell me on the whole altruistic notion of team.

Yes, we all want to win, why do we want to win now, because we actually care about each other. And we’re having fun playing together. Transparency is one of the most beautiful things you can have in team development. So going back to what you were sharing, you have your honesty, you have your loyalty, and you have your exploration, you have your curiosity.

It allows you to say, hey, I’m going for honesty, I’m going for transparency. I don’t care if you make a mistake. I want to know why you’re here and what inspired you to even get to this point? What are you wanting in your personal life to look like by working here? And once you know that, you can understand when they’re acting out of fear, that part of that is that they’re afraid that something is not being supported from the back end.

And you can meet them quickly saying, hey, what’s going on? Are you feeling like I’m not helping you reach this to help this dream come true for your personal life? That’s inspired leadership, where there’s transparency, which allows everyone to play their role, which serves the greater whole. That’s true.

And also when eventually people would leave, they would actually still stick around as volunteers for the event. So they would actually never really leave. They would still be on their monthly calls. And that is something that I could have never imagined me doing for for another boss. So I’m always, like, baffled and surprised. But I guess what I’m getting out of your story is how important it is to have the transparency when you’re in a team operation, when in business, it’s like we think it’s a team, but it’s not as transparent as in an NBA where it’s like you really see results.

If the team works or not. Um, so, yeah, just very interesting.

Sorry I was about this. No, no, no. I could talk for hours about this and it was no, these are just the kind of experiences that I have to take into these corporate settings where you have these Seasprite people talking a big game about team. And I’m saying, hey, look. If you think that you’re selling your employees on the vision of team. And thinking they don’t see that you are firstly being most self-serving for yourself, but you’re just trying to make sure you get that job promotion.

They’re going to hit you. People love transparency. It gives them dignity to the point you talk about with your parents and the honesty, honesty, as harsh as it may be up front. You’re still giving people dignity, yeah, by telling them straight up like, hey, you know what you have companies are about to lay people off. Yeah. And I tell them, you let your employees know now so you can tell them, hey, you know what?

We’re going to let you off in two months. And if you can just work your hardest for me these last two months, I am going to do my best to help you get a better job somewhere else. Yeah. Instead of just saying, hey, I’m going to manipulate you, milk you along and get you, I get everything out of you and then I’m going to cut you. That gives people no dignity and they will hate you. If you can hit people with the brutal honesty straight up front and say, hey, as a C suite executive, say, hey guys, it’s really important me, I’m trying to get promoted.

And I also know that I don’t know anything. I would love to keep working this ladder. And I know some of you had that same vision. I know some of you don’t even care. But if you can help me as I learn, I’m going to fight for you, I’m going to give you the best resume, I’m going to help you grow and move from here, that you give people the transparency of what you’re actually trying to do.

Most people aren’t stupid. You have all these people in leadership position thinking that people are stupid.

Yeah, I assume people are smarter than me. And then I make assumptions based on that assumption. Do you know do you know the book Leaders Code by Donovan Campbell?

I know the book, but I’ve not read it. Oh, very good book. OK, but he talks about the leader servant model to quickly summarize it, what do you think of the notion of when you’re in that mindset of a team? What do you think of the notion that the leader works the hardest, the most hours, the last pretty much with people like Simon Sinek, maybe, you know, him talks about from my perspective, it’s a very hard thing.

And I mean, it’s extremely hard. I never kind of knew I kind of knew what it was. And hopefully I’m doing it right from what my team tells me. I do it right. But it is extremely difficult, extremely lonely. And I think the the one movie scene that really summarized it for me was, um, in the movie Three Hundredth with King Leonidas. I don’t know if you saw that movie, but yeah, I did.

That movie just summarized how brutal leadership is and how it is. Yeah, it’s like at the end of the day, the guy was dead. Yeah. So have leadership.

Leadership to me is service. But when did you know your ready? leadership was not power, you know, you’re going to be a leader when you don’t want to really be a leader, meaning? You know, you’re a leader that when you have a vision and you’re chasing it, and even if it means you have to go it alone. And you do not care whether people validate you or not. That means you have the humility to be a leader because you’re not playing the ego game.

I says I want to be leader so I can have success so people can look at me and say, I’m so successful and I can get a pat on the back. A true leader does not care about his own self glory. How do you find the people that are like that and the ones that you know are faking it? Have you had that experience?

Oh, yeah, so many of them. Body language is a big tell. I have found that a real leader is someone. Their shoulders are straight, but they’re not rigid. When you have someone who’s standing with their feet together and rigid. That’s someone that wants to be a boss, that’s someone that wants control when he has a leader that can be present and confident but is able to stand usually with their left foot forward. The body tells you everything.

I’ve watched all these things. I help people with communication. But a left foot forward means humility means a feminine side that you’re able to receive information. Watching those cues, the body language, have really helped me, but again, the leader that I know I can work for is one who is willing to hear feedback. Yeah. He was not threatened by feedback, and you’re not stupid if you’ve been around long enough. You picked that up pretty quickly.

Yeah, you’ve been around long enough, especially in your field when you meet someone. Is this someone that can hear feedback or someone that can’t? Yeah, and you can intuit that. You can feel that. And I immediately know right away. Yeah. This isn’t a leader because a real leader. Is someone who is. Able to be a leader of their own life. Being a leader of your own life is someone that is brave enough to say, I decide for myself, what are the metrics of success that I will measure.

My growth. Not what my culture, my family or my community or materialism, I decide. And if that means I have to walk it alone. So be it. Yeah, people follow that. Yeah, I mean, when people know that you’re not playing the game for validation, they can see that you’re confident enough and they will follow you.

But if you’re being the leader that wants validation, that reeks of insecurity. If you want people to pat you on the back and say, oh, congratulations on the new fancy car. Yeah. That tells people that you’re insecure and you want validation. Yeah, that is not leadership. That is not a leader. And I do not follow people who aren’t who I can tell very clearly want validation. Those aren’t leaders.

Yeah I, I’m interested to hear. So in my company I’ve noticed that sometimes you can really wait too long before you want to see if somebody needs a team. So I’ve noticed obviously that’s also how I’ve been taught that when you put somebody under pressure, their real self comes out. Um. So before we promote anybody or before we give a team to anybody, um, we always put them under really intense pressure, impossible deadlines, really something that would make them really angry or something.

And then, you know, in those moments we when they’re about to break, we give them feedback and we see how they react. My question is, you know, looking at your basketball career, how how do you guys do it in a team environment? How do you put pressure and really see who’s who and who deserves to be promoted?

Or, you know, there’s all sorts of all sorts of things. Well, just in practice, like, OK, you have people do a free throw drill where they have to make ten free throws in a row. Or else there be there all day and you see how long it takes people and you see how quickly they get frustrated. If they get frustrated quickly, it means they will crack under pressure. It’s one thing to be competitive, it’s one thing to hold yourself to a high standard.

And he said, yeah, that’s not good enough, and he keeps stepping up to the challenge, but you eventually learn, here’s how you know. Who will crack under pressure? Someone who is always in their head. Again, meaning basketball, we have to play in our bodies, we humans, but with all the stats and all the information out there, we learn to cut our head off from our bodies. We have to learn to get back into our bodies.

Trust your heart. Trust your instincts. Trust your intuition. Yes, the brain has its place. The brain is analysis, is analyzing. And you use that to process information and quickly get it back down into your body to make sure you never repeat that same mistake again. The brain is where you funnel information and filter in and say, OK, this is what I’ve learned from it. Now let’s get it back down to the body for muscle memory.

We live in a world where we think the brain is the most important organ and the brain thinks it’s the smartest organ, know the heart is the heart also produces the electromagnetic energy, just that the brain does the heart and is just as intelligent. But we become so masculine left brain logic that we think the brain is the only thing that we have to worry about. And so when I have a teammate on the floor who was stuck in his head, that means they’re doubting themselves, they’re not in their body, it means they’re OK, what play we’re running OK.

I’m afraid to make a mistake.

How do you get out of your head in those moments?

Taking the breath, taking a breath, having it, having the daily discipline to do I do lots of drumming exercises, breathing exercises. I would do breathing routines before the game to get myself into my body. And I have them listed in the new book, The New Alpha Male. They’re all there. I have people that go through. I help people go through them learning to get in your body. And reminding yourself constantly to shut your brain off.

I would tell myself all the time, rebound and run. Yeah, rebound and run. That was it. Keep it simple. Let my body take care of the rest. The analysis can come after the game, right? Analysis can come during film session. But right now I have to trust my instinct. What’s with the body language around me is doing? What am I opponents doing? And I have to trust my years of experience. And go out there and apply it in my body.

So going back to the pressure part, so you so when they did repetitive tasks that were pretty much almost like almost impossible, of course, almost impossible. Yeah. Then you would see their frustrations pop up because everybody would get frustrated and everyone would get frustrated and angry.

Frustrated. Yeah. How quickly they get frustrated and who will stay there all day if they have to? People would walk away.

Yeah. Really.

After like two or three hours some would just say at this out or sometimes a coach would give them an out really to coach or say, OK, time’s up, we’ve had enough. And some would take it, whereas some would just say no. No, I’m going to stay here. Turn the lights off. I don’t care, and I’m glad to stay here. Have you seem like a guy or person you’re playing with who would actually have the attitude of I’m out of here and then actually make it to the NBA or not?

Usually not.

Usually those are guys with the guys who have that attitude. Will also the most talented. Because they thought they were because they knew they were talented, they thought they were an exception. And the sad thing is companies and corporations keep trying to recruit talent. And then asking me to come in and motivate their talent. And I tell them, doesn’t work that way. Hard work, the ability to work hard is actually the greatest talent of all. Because if everyone could do it, they would.

Serious a talent. But it’s also people with that talent who are willing to develop skills through so much adversity and so. I was not the most talented. I was not the most athletic. I didn’t make the NBA until I was 27. The average NBA rookie is twenty seven years longer, seven years longer of heartbreak and disappointment.

Why did you continue it?

Because I chose to. Because I chose to I failed so many times, I’ve been knocked down so many times, but I set a goal to myself that I was going to be the first deaf player in NBA history because I didn’t have a lot of role models as a kid to look up to. But I thought, you know what? I have a chance to do something here. Two blazed a trail to be an inspiration for so many other kids with disabilities that are being pigeonholed or labeled for being minimalized.

We actually went to, of course, a little bit.

But it’s super relevant to what you’re saying about how that personal development journey from like two hours back now when you were a child.

So obviously five, six years old, you’ve started getting this introspection scale. But like, how were your teenage years? When did you know the little bug coming your mind to become an NBA player? Like, well, yeah. What led up to you being dad dedicated, which I mean, most people that’s how I’ve been called my entire life until I moved to the Netherlands, which is super entrepreneurial. They always call me weird that I had crazy goals in my mind.

So great question. My family broke away from polygamy when I was 13. My father blew the whistle on child abuse, some money laundering. So we had to go into hiding when we escaped. And then next year we went to a public school. I was a new kid. I grew from five, ten to six for that year. I was an eighth grader at the age of 14. There was a lot, but I was new, didn’t have any friends, and the coach saw me walking down the hall and said, Hey, you should come play basketball.

I’m just going, Oh yeah, I’ve never played before. I had no basketball skills at all. I got a late start. But my sister, my oldest sister, growing up in a polygamous, ultra patriarchal commune where women did not get educations when she was 11, she said, I want to be a medical doctor, OK? And everyone laughed at her and said, yeah, that’s impossible. Women don’t get educations. How many brothers and sisters? I was the youngest of five and my mom, my dad had three other kids from the second wife.

So I was the youngest of eight total, but.

My sister, when we went into hiding, she was also accepted that same time to the University of Utah Medical School. And so when she saw me later that year start playing basketball, she saw how much I began to care. She said, oh, Lance, here’s what you do. You write down your goals, and I love her so much, you write down your goals and you put them above your light switch and every time you touch a light switch on or off, you read your goals out loud.

My first set of goals, I Lance Allred will start from a high school team by my junior year, I Lance Allred will average of three point five GPA. I Lance Allred we get a college scholarship to play basketball. That was it simple, but I read them every day for three years and here’s the thing about the whole law of attraction that people love to talk about. You can’t just make a wish and then it’s going to come true. As you set an intention, you declare an intention, and then you get a download, an intuitive here that says this is what I have to do, this is how hard I have to work to make this dream come true.

Most people stop. Because it’s hard and it requires accountability, a lot of people want shortcuts, and I tell people there really aren’t shortcuts, there is shortcuts. After you walk that path first, then you look back and, you know, OK, those are the shortcuts I can take. But I wouldn’t know about those shortcuts without the experience of walking the path.

So, so many people are trying to do this whole I want to be a millionaire and get rich quick, listen to podcast, give me a time hack or a cheat sheet. And I tell people there are no there are no shortcuts. You have to pay the price and you have to be willing to wake up every morning like I did from the age of 14 to 17 every morning at 5:00 a.m. and work out before school with my coach biking through rain, sleet or snow, working out with them before school.

Your coach did that. He’s a great man. I know. He’s a great man. He met me one on one when he’s now he’s now the associate head coach at Oregon State University. But he you you recognize the investment he made to me. He’s my greatest mentor.

Who? He didn’t receive an extra penny at all as a high school teacher and basketball coach. But he showed up every day and met me for three years and worked out with me. Wow. And that was the price we have to pay. There were no shortcuts.

Are you still in touch with him? Oh, yeah.

Yeah, in touch with him a lot. I love him so much. And so. To answer your question, at that time, when I started learning the power of the written word and the spoken word, understanding the power of intuition, download that we tap into the mainframe, we get that download hit that says, this is what I have to do to make this dream come true. And the end of my junior year, like I said, I was going through almost half of my junior my high school team at my junior year, three point five GPA.

I then went to a national tournament for high school athletes to fill in for a player that was injured. Yeah, and I went an unknown and I came back, ranked the best center in the western United States.

Wow, that’s weird.

To answer your question, I was like, oh, I might actually have a shot to play professional basketball.

So that was just a validation of of your initial I mean, your goal was not even that big initially was just the validation that made you see what’s possible, your validation, but made me see what’s possible.

You got it. That made me see again the power of the written and spoken word. Yeah. That I have to follow these intuitive hits and chase it as though I were on fire.

Did you did you get scared? So there’s this part you probably watch Coach Coach Carter. Right. So when when the guy gets up and reads the poem of what scares us most is in our darkness or something like that, it’s the light windedness or like pretty much how that most people are scared of truly becoming great. It’s not, oh, I’m going to fail. And it’s not really what I’ve noticed from a lot of friends, entrepreneurs as well, the ones that have really made it seem that there’s this moment where you have to go over, which is, uh, you have to realize that at one point failure is one thing and most people are scared of it, including me.

Everybody’s still scared of it. But truly, the thing that holds us back is realizing that at one point you can become so big beyond your dreams and have noticed for me, that’s very scary. Um, so when you won and you became this you got you got this title, did you get scared?

No, I understand that that’s not my biggest fear. Would be, I would say my biggest fear that drove me was the fear that I. Which falls short. Because going back to my childhood. There are many motivators to answer your question. Being pushed outside of my comfort zone gave me as a child with a hearing aids and speech therapy, gave me a high threshold for discomfort, gave me a high tolerance for risk. It did. And this intuitive knowing that, OK, I’m alive, I wasn’t supposed to be alive.

I should have been dead when I was born. Something called RH Factor. That’s why I had a hearing loss. But it’s like, you know, there’s something to it. You know, I’m here to do something. I don’t know what, but I’m here to do something. And all I can do is keep showing up, and so that was the the fear of being too big was never really what scared me. It was I would fall short because I felt there was some mission I was here to do to not get enough help.

Yeah, not being good enough is definitely probably a big driving factor. But also there are stories to drive us to. A big story was at the age of five in this religious commune, I had a church teacher tell me that God had made me death as punishment for something I did wrong in the pre life.

And so even as an adult, there’s someone says how you say, okay, you’re crazy, get yourself checked into an institution. But when you’re a kid and you’re absorbing all this information. So I had a deeply embedded story that I wasn’t worthy of love, that God was angry with me, that I had to do something superhuman. And then, you know, I’d be worthy of love. And so the fear of not being enough, the fear that I had to do something and then I’d be worthy of love was my biggest driving factor of making it to the NBA.

And then you can imagine, once I got to the NBA, well, you’re skipping a bit where you won that one tournament.

OK. OK, so now you say you realize now that you’re like, good enough for the NBA to your new goal became I want to go to the NBA. Yeah.

My goal there. So it’s like, you know what? I had this deep insecurity that I wasn’t worthy of love. And then it’s OK. Wow. I actually have a chance to make the NBA other right away.

NBA after I was in high school once once I started getting the recruiting letters to college, it’s like, oh, I might have a chance to make the NBA. So I updated my goals and I started to be the first deaf player in NBA history. I started buying that when I was 17. Took me ten years, seventeen to twenty seven and but a big driving factor was I had to do it and then I’d be worthy of love. But then you can imagine when I finally get to the NBA, it’s like I’m shooting my free throw in front of 20000 people for my first point of the NBA.

I’m shooting a free throw. But then a thought came. It was like, is this it? Yeah. Why why would I feel any different?

Because for so long, I was living my life on other people’s standards of what is success, what is happiness. I didn’t know how to be a leader of my own life. Yeah, I wasn’t playing basketball. Yeah. There were times where it was pure joy and pure love, but there were many times too. I wasn’t playing basketball for me. Yeah, I was playing basketball for other people to make them validate me, to have them be proud of me and to be worthy of love.

And so when we chase our dreams and we go after them for external validation. You’re always going to be unfulfilled. Always, that’s why you see so many people do the corporate thing and stab people in the back and the people in the rug and then get that job promotion and they’re so damn unhappy that they’re still trying to buy the next boat, their next car, because they still feel so empty, because they have no self actualization, they have no intimacy with themselves.

To ask the hard questions, why do I choose to strive for greatness, for other people to validate me, or do I do it because I choose to for me? And so much of our world strives for greatness, to earn love or to be validated. So how did you deal? What happened after that first game? After the first time you scored?

It was sobering. It was like, you know, well, I guess it’s a job because you see the politics of it all outside the court when there’s that much money involved.

Of course, there’s politics. And then in 2008, the next season, the economy crashed and I was released to save money for the team. They released me. And I nearly committed suicide. What was going through your mind, because I remember when, um, when I finally achieved a certain goal, I think it was on point we had and it was something big. I remember the last year and I just, um, I think it was maybe our revenge or something like something big happened in the company.

And that summer I took, uh, a vacation for a week. I called it, um, my, uh, genie trip, where you go for a week and then you ask your three wishes, which you write down, and then you go back into life and then you execute on that. When in that genie trip I remembered I had almost like a crisis of identity, like, yeah. What is the point of working such crazy hours and sacrificing myself as a leader for my people?

If it pretty much. Yeah. I guess my question to you is what happened after that and how did you deal with it? How did you get back from those toxic thoughts?

So after I nearly jumped out of a window and killed myself, I was in Italy at the time playing in Italy. The team wasn’t paying me money. And so I was frustrated, angry at everything, angry at life, because I’m like, what the hell was it all for? I work that hard for what and. It took 10 years to answer your question of me in 2008, 2009, going through a long, arduous journey. I’m choosing to catch myself in my thought patterns and my stories and the whole expression, change your thoughts, change your life is not enough.

You have to change your motherboard, just the wiring of your brain, so much of our culture where we come from, our culture has so much programming in our brain of how we process information, how we tell stories and how very sober, very somber are really excited about life.

So much of our culture and our family DNA, our family heritage is ingrained into our system and how we choose to see the world. So it was 10 years of long, slow accountability of waking up every day and asking myself. Do I choose to see and narrate life as a victim? Would I choose to narrate life as a teacher, right? Where do you get that from?

I’ve had a couple of good mentors in my life. One was a gal named Denise Lynch, really helpful for me. She’s pretty. She’s very small. She likes to keep her things small, but she’s here in Utah. But I’ve also spent a lot of time with Native American teachers doing sacred drumming, sweat lodge ceremonies, town or Utah, Montana, Canada.

I go to lots of places with these people and them helping me learn to. See the humility? See that humility and being able to bow and understand that we don’t have control, even though we like to think we do, as our Western culture likes to tell us. We do that. We actually don’t have as much control as we like to think we do. Once you step into that surrender. That’s when he actually gained true power. To let life come through you.

Instead of making it, forcing it to be a certain way, but the funny thing is I was already doing that as a basketball player when I was in the zone that I talked about when I was no longer aiming my shots, when I was just letting life come through me, when I wasn’t in my head trying to control everything. And I already had those skills, it was just learning how to apply them in real life for myself.

So what was the what was like the click? What I mean, obviously, you learn it in an NBA or basketball and then you’re talking with the Native Americans and they’re what are they telling you to apply in real life?

Applying it just like it’s just learning to see, like, OK, one of the great ones was you’re here to learn to have the ability to bow to something greater than yourself. And learning to bow to an idea of a creator or a mainframe, if you’re I mean, I don’t care if you believe in simulation theory, whether you believe that there’s we’re just a simulation within another simulation or something, you have to have the humility to bow to a greater intelligence than yourself.

We humans I grew up in a very arrogant world of extreme religion that thought we could put God inside of a box and have God match our mental construct, that we humans love to think that we’re somehow this really intelligent being that we can grasp the vastness of the cosmos. That’s hubris to think that we’re that smart. We’re not as smart as we like to think we are. And having the humility to bow and so dealing also with the people on the atheist spectrum who say there is no greater intelligence, this is all a mindless accident.

That’s pretty arrogant to think that somehow we’re the greatest intelligence out there. That is that is ripe for a Greek tragedy of hubris to think that you are somehow this created intelligence. So learning to bow in humility after the heartbreak of the NBA disenchantment and realizing, wait, this God I have been chasing from this mental construct of extreme religion, didn’t fulfill his end of the deal. That way I’m going to do something amazing and then all my dreams are going to come true and you’re going to love me and I’ll feel all this happy ending.

That is a mental construct that we humans do to try to make sense of the world, to think that we can pigeonhole God to make sense of the world. When you realize that we don’t get to make sense of it, we can try all we want, but there’s still this great mystery. That all we can do is tap into it and dance with it. That’s where we athletes do when we’re in the zone. That’s where the meditation and gurus do when they’re meditating.

That’s what the Indian fired sun dancers do when they’re doing the Sundance in the sun, they’re getting out of their head and they’re getting into their body and they’re tapping into the ephemeral plain. That is the great mystery. Do they use, uh, like drugs or something to…? Some use peyote? But the ones I work with, we don’t use any. We use tobacco, we use sage, but we don’t use any real mind altering substance.

So like that tabacco, that’d be like obviously I’ve never done anything like that, but I’m imagining something like a water pipe or something like that. Yeah.

Yeah, just that tobacco is a sacred plant, sacred energy. But the thing is, so many people want to take the shortcut to get the ultimate high. Yeah, but if you just breathe correctly and you sit and focus or you can drum, I have some medicine drums where if you just drum and get your brain to a theta state faster, what we can, you know, what’s a medicine drum?

A medicine drum. It’s like a normal you can be any drum.

But as these drums that I’ve made that you close your eyes and you drum, it helps you bring it to a theta state faster and then you can go inward and get the messages inward that we think in our logical, masculine mind that everything is outside of us.

Right. But really, messages come from within. They don’t come like from some external radio station. Yeah, they come from within. And so learning those type of skills.

But again, those are things I was already doing as a basketball player when I had my breathing techniques before the game. Right. Those are things I intuitively knew how to do when I was listening to my body. Right, right. Our heart is very intelligent. If we just take a minute to sit and listen to your body instead of trying to make sense of all of it with your head. Mm hmm. That’s the trick. That’s the key.

That’s what I can share with people I know. We’re coming up on two hours now, so hopefully I’ve been able to give you something. Yeah. Have some takeaways.

But again, to you, I thank you for trusting me with the time and to share some of your experience and your listeners with me. My message and I hope has helped you in some way. And, you know, it would mean a lot right now, especially with the whole quarantine happening. My book is out there. My book came out this week. Everything. Yeah.

Let the let the listeners know where because you have four books, if I’m correct.

Yeah, I have four books. And first two were memoirs. The third one was more of a public speaking book. How to get million view TEDX Talks to help people with public speaking skills. Yeah, that’s on Audible as well as print or Kindle. But then the last latest book, The New Alpha Male How to Win the Game. And the rules are changing. It’s for men and women, but it helps us with authentic communication.

Right. Again, it’s a lot of these things I’ve walked you through helping us get grounded. Yeah. Get out of our head and get grounded to better play the game of life and maneuver through it. And I’m really proud of the book. I love it. It’s what sounds to publishers and testimonials from people.

Finally, can they get it on places like you can get out, you get an Amazon, audible for audio books, you can get it all over. It’s online there so you can find it.

So you do the did you do the voice for the audio book? Yeah, I did. Yeah, I read. That’s always nicer when you actually hear the author. Oh yeah.

Now if, if authors don’t and self-help books if authors don’t read their books. I don’t, I don’t. Yeah. I don’t understand why they would do that. It doesn’t make sense to me sometimes.

Yeah. Sometimes it’s deeper. Voices make you fall asleep but then it’s like you want to do it but no thank you so much. Maybe last question because I really wanted to cover it before you go. Yeah. You can answer short or long or whatever you want now obviously can deny it. Coronaviruses happening, especially with your last book and what you’re doing with it. It’s very much about innovation, innovating, going with what’s happening. Coronavirus has said everybody really hard, especially in the event industry.

How are you dealing with it? How are you innovating? A great question. What are you especially all this inner journey, I think can help a lot of entrepreneurs. But how are you applying your pretty to hopefully now stable mindset?

Yeah, great question. So when my first book came out with HarperCollins called Long Shot in 2009, it came out during the recession when I lost my job with the Cavaliers.

Right. Yeah. And it didn’t do very well. Critically did great. Book sales were bad. Yeah. And here I am. Eleven years later my book comes out and my next major book with a major publisher comes out and comes out during another recession. Ah, a do over. You got it. I had a choice, I could say, oh, man, look, shit’s happening to me again. I was very angry and that’s what I nearly committed, suicide, right along with the  the release of the book.

Right. And I was so angry. And now I’m like, wow, what a good chance for a do over what had a chance to walk my talk. That, as you know, there’s a lot of speakers out there that talk a really big game, but they can actually walk their talk, right? Can I actually choose to accept the situation for what it is? Meaning the shot was missed, but I’m going to be present and I’m going to flow and I’m going to adapt and I’m going to learn to take all this craziness and find the cracks, because right now is a huge opportunity with the status quo losing power.

Yeah. For us to fill in cracks.

So with your eyes out, with your future looking like how are you innovating, how are you adapting?

So how am I innovating what I’m doing? Yes, online courses, more I’ve taken on more one on one clients book coaching.

I booked a lot of one on one client that I can work with digitally and just the last two weeks than I have in the last five years. Wow. Because I wasn’t really focusing on that. But like, no, this is a good time to work with clients because I do avatar decoding, I do astrology for my travels and Greece and all sorts of things. I don’t do the whole fairy dust astrology, but I work on people’s psyches, the avatars, the archetypes to help them see their blind spots.

So I’m doing all that working now also with a consulting firm that helps with factory worker and safety wellness developing courses with them for thousands and thousands of people is like that stuff that I would not have taken the time to do when I was so busy traveling, doing keynotes and going on the book tour.

And now it’s like, hey, this is forcing me to take a step back and figure out a way to be more efficient with my time.

And another thing I want to share with you, it is not wasting time when we’re forced to slow down right now. Yeah, it is not wasting time to take your shoes off and go outside and walk on some grass and just ground yourself and breathe is wasting time. If you’re sitting there in social media and just scrolling mindlessly, clicking through the channels, mindlessly trying to find a distraction, trying to find a distraction, is wasting time getting yourself grounded and just being present in the moment.

That is never, never wasting time. That’s where are you going to get messages coming to you from within. So this is a great time for you to learn so much more about yourself and also get so many more messages that you otherwise would not be able to hear, right?

Yeah. Also in business and also. Yeah, if you take it, I would agree that my biggest revelations came when I was just taking my time like the genie and just listening to my inner self and where to innovate. And I think that’s actually a really good way to end to understand that, you know, during these crazy times, I mean, you can also just take the time, not be on social media and just reflect about what you should be doing.

And especially if you’re struggling with business, maybe the answer’s already inside or. I think what I also take away from this podcast is mentorship, connecting with people and making sure that they can guide you into a certain direction. Absolutely. So agree. Thank you so much. Going to close the podcast here. And, um, I’d love your questions, by the way.

Man, these are great questions. Thank you. If you like this episode, you can check out our most recent one here. And if you haven’t already, make sure you click here to subscribe and see the next one. But if you’re interested in more tips and tricks to make sure to join our Facebook group where you can find thousands of like minded people and you get direct access and support to any business question from the entire Startup Funding Event team.





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Welcome to the Impact Talks Podcast. Today, we have a cool guest with us today, Ynzo, introduce yourself and for which company do you work for?



Hi. Yes, it’s great to be here. Thanks for that. My name is Ynzo van Zanten.



I’m the Choco evangelist of Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch choco company that’s trying to change the cocoa industry from within to make sure that chocolate becomes 100 percent slavery-free. So that’s our mission. And my role as an evangelist is to simply spread our values towards the consumers of other businesses to make people more aware of the issue in the cocoa industry, but also to show the way we want to change the industry from within and also mostly to inspire other organizations to change their ways and hopefully also consumers to change their buying behaviors.



So that is my role within the company.



Ok, so I’m super interested in specifically more, I guess. First, let’s go into the background of the company because it’s growing a lot. And then I would also love to know kind of your background, but so how big are you guys and how many countries are you active and how global are you?



Right. So we’re I would say we’re small and big at the same time. So because even though we became the market leader in the Netherlands in chocolate in a very short timeframe, we launched our first bars in 2005 and as a business started picking up in the last seven or eight years. And we do about a 70 million euro turnover and we’re available now in Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia, Finland, Germany, France, the UK and the US, and some exotic places like Dubai, Japan, and Taiwan.



And that sounds big.



But on the grand scheme of things, if you look at the total cocoa that is bought in the whole world and our part in that, I mean, we now work together with about 6600 farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone. But in those two countries, there are more than two and a half million farms that grow cocoa. So there’s a long way to go for us, we are a drop in the ocean, if you look at the total industry that we want to change from within, but we’re working hard on that.



And how do You fit into a company? How did you start? What is your background? How did you get recruited or did you just join it?



So I ages go… let me go back in my personal nutshell, I studied economics in Groningen, and there I became friends with another guy. And after our university years, he first started working for Heineken and I became a management consultant. And after about five or six years, I literally burned my grey suits and started traveling the world. And during my travels, I ran into a guy, a British guy in Belize who was on holiday.



And he told me about a little British company called Innocent Drinks. And they are a company that makes fruit smoothies and now bought by Coke. And it was very inspiring to me. It was fast-moving. It was very sustainable. It was very positive and young. And I brought a business case together with a university friend of mine. And well long story short, we launched Innocent Drinks in the Benelux and ran that together as country managers for about four years, five, almost five years.



And in the end, we got this entrepreneurial urge again to do different things because we were growing so fast. And for us, it was slightly too much at the end being led by the British. So we decided to sell our stocks and go our way again. I became an independent consultant in the field of strategy, sustainability, and communication. And that friend of mine, after about two years search of what he wanted to do, he bought the minority share and then the majority share in a company called Tony’s.



So that is the chief chocolate officer, Henk Jan Beltman.



And from day one that he took over at Tony’s, I became involved as an external advisor. So I set up the whole brand values and the HR handbook, all that part. And I always used to run the quarterly meetings as a facilitator, et cetera, et cetera. So I knew the team inside and out, but I wasn’t officially on the payroll of Tony’s. And then about four or five years ago, Henk Jan gave me a call and asked, Ynzo, you’re busy?



I said, Yeah, is that you want a job? I said, no. And then we got to talk about the fact that at Tony’s, we don’t do any paid media. So it’s always been word of mouth. And the mouth used to be well, Henk Jan, our former CEO, Eva, our value chain bookie, and sometimes the people that would do marketing at Tony’s, but it became almost a full-time job doing in that way.



So, Henk Jan asked me to come on board as the Choco evangelist or the chief evangelist of Tony’s to have somebody that is well then part-time but not full-time involved in spreading those values of Tony’s.



So in a sense, my job is that some companies would call it the spokesperson or the word for in Dutch. But we say that everybody at Tony’s needs to be the spokesperson of Tony’s. And also the job is slightly different because it’s one of the channels to also just engage other organizations and consumers. So I tend to say that we communicate on-pack, which is our packaging, which is our brand story and individuals.



It’s online. So we have a social team that’s constantly engaging with people online and it’s on stage and that’s my part. So there’s a lot of conferences, there’s a lot of podcasts, a lot of interviews that I do, which is part of being a spokesperson, but also, well, broader and also different in a certain sense.



So that is my job and how I got involved with Tony’s.



And in the meanwhile, a couple of years ago, I also was head of people and culture. So that’s what some people would call the HR department at Tony’s. So I’ve been around the blog within and outside of Tony’s for the last years.



super interesting!



A lot of terms packed here, but my interest mostly fell… Well, I’ll start with the culture and the HR, because you said that you have laid out that, one of the things that scale-up, I mean myself as well as big changes happened in the company, there’s so much trouble happening in HRs, especially when you make big jumps, doubling a team over summer. That’s something that happened here. It was quite hard to establish something, which I always look up to people with more experience.



So where were the first steps, especially coming, being a country manager for Innocent and everything? How then you now,  restarted with this new company and you were laying out the HR principles. What were you exactly doing?






I mean, honestly, the first thing we did is to realize that HR in itself might be the lamest word you can imagine because human resources to me have always sounded like the most dehumanized word you can imagine. Right, is if you could turn humans into resources as if you want to turn humans into resources like tin, copper, lead, etc.. So the first thing we did, we tend to do at both industries but also Tony’s Chocolonely is to get rid of the words.



So, at Tony’s, we call it people and culture. And I think those are the two pillars that are so essential in that part. And it’s also it means it’s a lot more forward-looking proactive kind of thing than in my experience, where human resources tend to have been over the last decades.



For me, it sometimes feels like a very reactive part. Whilst at Tony’s, it feels like it is the one team that is not working in the company, but it’s working on the company. So it’s forward-looking at how to create and establish a company culture and maintain a company culture that makes sure that, well, in my opinion, culture and company culture has always been that the invisible glue between the separate parts of the company. Right. It’s the lines that connect the people within the company that makes sure that together you are more than the sum of the parts.



So it has to do for us with making sure that there’s a well, let me put it like this.



One of our core values at the company is making you smile. So you’re working on a very serious subject, which you need to make sure that for the team, it’s the most fun experience that you can have. I mean, you spend more time at work than you tend to spend at home and in an awake state. And so you better make working on that serious subject as fun as possible. So make sure that when people come to the office on Monday they actually come to the office skipping of happiness, so it tends to evolve around three pillars within the culture.



I would say there’s a personal purpose that you have as a person, which I would normally tend to call meaning in English. So what is your personal meaning within that company purpose that you have? And we try to really connect those two things. There is a sense of personal growth so that you can actually achieve and grow as a person and as a soul within a company, and it tends to evolve around personal relationships. So, for example, a very clear ritual that we have at Tony’s is our lunch.



I mean, we don’t lunch with a melted cheese behind your laptop to be able to continue working. No, lunch is an institutional thing. So you come down, you sit at lunch with the people around you. We have the most amazing lunches made by Titsi, our cook at Tony’s, to make sure that you actually relate with people, see how they’re doing, see what they’re doing and what they’re up to from all different teams and all different places within the company.



So it tends to evolve around these rituals, the fun things. And sometimes for people, it sounds like, you know, the fun things we do are just fun things. But I disagree. If you keep connecting fun things consistently, your whole job and hopefully, therefore, your life becomes more fun.



So this is the rituals that we do.



But it’s also the symbols, that you have. Those are the visual things that you have. So everything at Tony’s is utterly tonified.



Our tennis table is actually completely branded Tony’s and says ping pong on both sides. It’s just a stupid fun thing that we have that makes everything. Well, it makes you smile, which is important, I think.



And what are the second and the third pillar?



So it’s your personal purpose, so that’s your meaning, how does your meaning connect to the purpose of the company? Our purpose is first and foremost within the company and in these times where sometimes there’s an exceeding amount of purpose washing



I would say ours is as authentic as it comes. So for us, our purpose is 100 percent slave-free chocolate and that is first and foremost in everything that we do. For us, our financial success isn’t an end goal. I mean, don’t get me wrong, why commercial is hell! but it is a means towards a goal.



The goal is crystal clear, 100 percent slavery-free chocolate. And in everything we do, we relate to our purpose. We relate to our mission.



So in the question, we could do, we could say, so how does that help us become closer, get closer to our mission? We also look at that.



Where did the mission come from? Because we were just talking about laying out the practicalities of HR. But…






I can imagine, you know, the founder didn’t just come up with the idea. Oh, that said, I want to make a chocolate slave-free or something. Maybe like what’s the background behind the mission?



But then we need to go back. Yeah exactly, we then need to go back to the day to the why we were launched because, in the early 2000s, there were journalists from an investigative Dutch television show looking at the reality behind certain food marketing. It’s called “Keuringsdienst van waarde” which is like an equivalent of the 60 Minutes of food or the Food CIA. And they saw a very tiny article on page 12 of a newspaper that spoke about child slaves in Mali, being sold to work in the cocoa industry.



And they were like they were flabbergasted. They were like, how can this not be front-page news? How can this not be a full-page article? So they started investigating and realized that there’s a very bitter reality in the cocoa industry, which has to do with more than two million children alone in Ghana and Ivory Coast working under illegal circumstances, of which tens of thousands work in situations that we consider modern slavery, which is ridiculous in it, in the industry, in a value chain of a product that we all eat almost daily in Western society.



So they wanted to shed much more light on this. But the cocoa industry wasn’t very open and prone to speak to them. So long story short, in the end, they just simply launched their own chocolate company to change the system from within to show that it could be done with them.



Who is them? Who was it?



So this is “Keuringsdienst van waarde” a television show with the journalist “teun van de keuken”



Oh. So the television show launched their own chocolate company?



Exactly. Exactly. So Tony’s Chocolonely is derived from the first name of Tony, the international version of Tony’s, and Chocolonely for our lonely battle in the chocolate industry. So he simply launched his chocolate brand to show that it could be done differently. And that is Tony’s Chocolonely, which was launched in 2005. So you could say some people sometimes ask us, so where did your purpose come from when you were a company?



It’s been the other way around. Our company was launched, was born out of this purpose. That was to change the industry from within.



But how can you say… this is extremely interesting. So I don’t know how much you were involved with that, but how are you just like that and train what I can imagine being a very traditional market?



Yeah, I wasn’t involved in that at that moment. Nobody was at Tony’s because this was launched from and within the production company of the television show.






 and it is. And we still see that it’s hard to change such a huge and a traditional and slightly rusted down industry from within as a small company.



because it is still happening like, is it getting better, or is it there today?



It is still there today, unfortunately. And in absolute figures, it’s even become worse over the last two decades because there’s more demand for chocolate. So you could say in relative terms it’s diminished, but in absolute terms, it has even increased. So it means, even more importantly, for us to make that difference and showed that it can be done differently and inspire other companies to follow suit. It is still there. Today is there still more than two million children working in illegal circumstances. Today there are still more than 30,000 children and grown-ups working in situations that we consider modern slavery, which is ridiculous.



Yeah, but then ok. So let’s shift back to the practicality of it. So the company starts and then obviously, I’m assuming it’s started growing because people started buying, so teams now started growing, so, ok, the first question that pops up in the whole thing, why not start as a charity? Why does it have to be a commercial company? And then how do you onboard people that for such a mission? But then explain oh, no, but it is a commercial company.



I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, honestly, so that is an important message, I think. So, I think you can be a commercial company and have a very clear purpose to change the world. We consider that the only way we could actually change this system is by showing the system from within, that it can be done differently. So we are a commercial company. We have shareholders. We have very clear KPIs and how we want to grow, where we want to grow to and we need to make a financial profit because we are convinced that we can only make that impact year on year again if we are simply commercially viable.



So we have three very clear performance indicators and one has always been a 50 percent year on year growth. The second one has always been a 40 percent gross profit and a third one and that is where we slightly differ from the rest of the industry has for us always been at least 4 percent net profit, where the rest of the industry is always working towards 20, 25, 30 percent net profit, we think, to divide that that financial success within your value chain.



So making sure that the farmers at the beginning of that value chain actually earn a living income and are fairly paid, which we call a living income reference price for the cocoa beans that they grow, that is a much more equal and fair division of that value within the value chain.



But so if everybody striving for 20 percent profits and then you guys are striving for 4 percent, doesn’t that beat the whole purpose of you? I mean, I guess then you. Well, I don’t know exactly how it works, but I’m assuming you’re making less money. So then if another chocolate company looks at you, they think, oh, but, you know, we want 20 percent.



But if we grow 50 percent year on year, isn’t that the more interesting number?



Isn’t it in the end, the absolute amount of euros that you have in your bank account as a commercial company, that might be more interesting than a relative amount, isn’t it a note about doing business where only you profit in your value chain and other people are actually working in situations like modern slavery? So I think for me, as from the human perspective, it is absolutely unacceptable to be in a business where people are actually suffering on the other end of the value chain.



I agree.



 And I think those things are much more important than financial figures on your bank account today.



But so when it got started, how many years after it got started, did you start joining in?



 Me personally?



 yeah,  when you started writing the plans that you said.



so let me think back, I think overall that must have been about 10 years ago. I think.



So that is …



Because I got involved …



into the inception of the idea.



Exactly. Exactly.



So it is about five, six years into the start of Tony’s when Henk Jan Beltman as a chief chocolate officer first took over the minority share and then the majority share.



Ok, and so you walk in and what do you see? How big was the team? What were they struggling with?



I think the first time I was got involved was when the team was about five, or six people I think.



 Wait, they were five years old as a company, but there were only five people.






How? Because obviously when you look from the outside, it looks so big, so then you assume, which is, by the way, what happens all the time when we run our events, you see all these successes and they have all exponential growth. And somehow I don’t know why, when you look at Tony’s, you also think, oh, my God, this is exponential growth.



But yet now it’s like, oh, five years later into the inception, there were only five people.



How…. why was it only …



Ok, But if you take the technical term of exponentiality, you think back from today and then you end up at about five people after five years.



So if you start with half and you go to one and then to two to four and into eight.



So we were I think there in a year, four or five at around that amount of people.



And now we’re at about 160 people.



So I think that line is more or less exponential.



Yeah, so so actually five people after five years, you would say is a pretty steady and healthy growth?



Well, it depends on, No. It depends on where you come from. And for us, you know, growth in a sense isn’t our goal. Our goal of growth isn’t just to grow. Our goal of growth is to make an impact. So for us, growth has to do with making more impact year on year. And it’s been a while.



I mean, in the first years we were struggling as a company and only in the last six, seven, eight years have we grown so incredibly fast.



And what changed?



 I think the change was when Henk Jan took over as chief chocolate officer. I think then did the whole entrepreneurial side of the business much more accelerated. It was then that we realized that we needed to grow to make that impact, to make sure that we could show the industry that it was a proper, viable business that you could run in the chocolate industry.



But so what were the changes that you saw happen? Because of our experience, it was very much ok, so we could start as a small kind of charity event, give back wherever possible. But then on the other side, it was very much like, yeah, but if we don’t go as big as we can, then nobody will see or hear that these changes are possible and what I’m hearing from you is a very similar thought process.



Like it has to go big just to prove a point.



But then …









And especially when it’s so impact-oriented…



because in the end, you need to show within, and I mean, if you need to show in an old system that you can change towards the new system, but still within the parameters of the old system. So we need to show the chocolate industry, which is a very competitive and commercial industry, that you can change within their parameters, which still has to do with being commercially sound, being on shelves in the supermarkets, being visible.



We need, it’s our end goal in our strategies to inspire other companies to act themselves and to take their responsibility when it has to do with human rights when it has to do with eradicating any form of forced child labor within your value chain. And by showing that you can do that, being a very sustainable company, being one of the best employers within the Netherlands, that you can also move within those parameters of the old economy.



Ok, so let’s go a little bit back because obviously, we can talk quite long about the growth and the impact, which I truly believe will eventually happen, uh, because you cannot ignore when it’s being done. So you’re mentioning things like becoming one of the best employers in the Netherlands, as well as walking in when I was five people. How do you go from walking in five people to now one hundred sixty people and these clear culture? Well, I guess shifts or you know, there’s a clear culture that you can see even when you walk into supermarkets and you see everybody’s packages. How do you go from five people to 160 and the best employer, like what are the practicalities of it? Do you write a business plan? Do you go to the CEO and say, hey, like what are the tiny experiments that someone like me with a small team can, you know, really implement in the company?



Yeah, and I can imagine the question. The thing is, we always get asked, what is the magic trick? Right. What are the three key things to you, what makes you successful? And I gotta honestly say much of the stuff we have experience has all come from the gut and didn’t have a clear pre-written strategy behind it. So a lot of our growth has been organic.



But I would say that if you are looking for the magic wand, I think one of the most important things is this very clear mission that we stand behind, this purpose that we have that is such a huge driver in everything that we do, they can use as an acid test for anything that we do.



The second is to realize that your team is key here. So we always say for us it’s two pillars, team and impact. Yes. In the end, it’s making that impact, but it’s by having the most inspired and motivated team that you can imagine. So that’s why there’s so much focus on our team. And often when I speak about what we do within our team and what we do in our company culture, people are sometimes challenged by saying, yeah, but in the end, it’s got to be the sales figures, right?



In the end, I got to make a profit. And then you see that often those entrepreneurs, the first thing they cut is the effort, whether it’s financial or time, towards making sure that your team is as good as it is. And I think that should be the other way around. So I always take this quote by Richard Branson, who tends to say, I’m not happy because I’m successful, I’m successful because I’m happy and I don’t put my customers first.



I put my employees first because they create happy customers. And I strongly believe in that.



So by keeping folks on our team and that doesn’t mean always throwing shitloads of money against it.



It has to do with a focus on your team, on those company values that you have on that mission that you have. So it’s always first and foremost and you see that everywhere within our team. And it’s really on focus on each other. You see it in these times, in strange times that we’re all working from home during the Corona happening around us. It’s constantly this focus on the team, on each other. Is everybody ok?



How are you doing? Checks, body checks, friendship, love, and empathy around you.



So it has to do with focus, I would say one having your purpose. So that is the impact. Side two is that team and making sure that you’re right within the details. I think everybody is so focused on making sure that everything is authentic until the smallest detail.



Yes. So I want to cover a little bit of the whole Corona situation, because obviously with a bigger company, it’s different. But, a little bit later, I guess my question was right now, so what I ask maybe in these type of situations because obviously, culture is very hard to explain, but have you done experiments that were really like pivoting or I can imagine when you’re hiring, we have a recruitment funnel that is almost three weeks long for employees. And in there we test personalities and not specifically their grades or anything. So what were the experiments that you did where you thought, whoa, ok, this is really going to be pivotal or, and what do you do when you know somebody slips through? How do you catch the person that doesn’t live the mission or the vision?



Well, I think those are a lot of questions in one. Honestly, I think, yes, onboarding, but onboarding is also such a strange term.



But that has also grown organically.



I mean, in the last three years, three to four years, we’ve grown from, I have 30 people to 160 or something, so you have to set up some kind of processes for people and we call that in our case, the typical Tony’s time. So for at least one week, you get a deep dive into the background of cocoa, into how you make chocolate, into how we work as a team. You have this body assigned to you that helps you through any technicality.



Where can you find the files you need, etcetera… and how do things work within Tony’s and you drink as much coffee with as many Tony’s as you can.



You can within a week just have an automatic deep dive into the company culture. That is one. But it’s also about having these four company values that we have.



So that has to do with being entrepreneurial, being willful, being outspoken and Tony’s makes you smile to use those as, I don’t know, the bar’s measurements to see how anybody would fit anyhow within it, within the recruitment process. And obviously, with it, I mean, sometimes there’s not a fit and we do this constant check every year, you know, is it still a good fit for where you are within your job?



Because it often doesn’t have to do with you being a quote-unquote wrong fit, it also has to do with the company around you evolving and changing. So your job might change more quickly than you could change or maybe you change more quickly than your job does. So there’s a sanity check on you or your job also very often. And within the company, there are people that go sideways, go up ways, go everywhere and it has to be with it just plain sanity check on there as well.



And you do that check every year or every …



At least. So you have at least once a year. But we used to have two moments a year that you really had this check. But I think it’s an ongoing process between you and the people you work with around you, your team, anyhow.



Ok, so, just out of curiosity, would you ask them then and what happens if the person says, yeah, I don’t really like it here, my boss sucks or something like…






yeah, how do the conversations go?



Oh, it’s a conversation like you would have with anybody else. I mean, there isn’t a very huge rigid structure behind it. You just make sure that at least twice a year you have this chat and this check-up with how you’re doing.



And we used to have a rating that was linked with it. We dropped the rating and just to have a sanity check on how are you doing?



But we do have what we do, for example, we work with annual goals and we work with quarterly goals for you personally.



And we see whether how you set up those goals together with your manager and see how they actually work out every quarter and every year.



And I would personally advise people to have this almost on a weekly level so what you are focused on. So that also helps you with your focus. We call those the big threes and we see how that works out and sometimes it doesn’t work out.



And then we see how anybody can help you around you to make you reach those goals.



But the discussions, the checks that we have are just discussions, literally.



You just have a cup of coffee with your manager and or the person that works with you and see how that’s working out.



Why did you try to rate though?



Yeah, because it was a bit too rigid in an old school, we felt it just needed a more open discussion. We do have 360 evaluations around the company as well. We also ask input from people around you that you can use in these discussions and see how people can measure up to company values and their own goals and how it works out for them.



Ok, cool. So it’s a pretty much a checkup twice a year maybe to make sure that everybody fits






Yeah. And then within the teams, obviously you probably have the lunches and the talks and then things like that happen. Interestingly, you dropped the ratings, though. It’s very interesting that it became just like a discussion. Which kind of shows also a little bit of a rebel spirit against the traditional? um. Yeah, things which are good because that’s obviously within the industry needs.



So, again, back to the start, you walk in,  five people there. What was the kind of the first things you were doing?



Now that you shouldn’t ask me, you should Henk Jan ask the question, because he was the entrepreneur walking in and what I did when I saw the team, in the beginning, was work with them to establish those, for example, those core values that we just spoke about.



So you were the facilitator behind those core values?



Exactly what we worked. It came and comes still from everybody within Tony’s. I got to tell you, I think things like the core values of a company never stand still, right.



You need to always keep evaluating them and see how it works within the time frame that you’re living in as a company at that moment in time.



So, ok, then you were facilitating those processes and they came. Yeah, usually those core values come from the employees or the founding team. So you were pretty much in the next 10 years of that growth facilitating most of it, or were you also part of some pivotal moments that changed the course of the company?



Both, I would say, I mean, I was there externally and then internally and I think the biggest pivotal moment that I would name in the last five or 10 years was real this realization that we’re working towards becoming a global movement. I mean, five years ago, I could not imagine speaking to you today, talking about actually literally becoming a global brand.



And in the end, for me, it’s not about Tony’s becoming a global brand. It’s about the thought, the thought leadership that we have that the changing the industry from within, and that movement that comes behind it. That is what is changing at the moment. I see that as a very pivotal moment.



 And, maybe an interesting part for me, how do you see Tony’s being, you know, based in the Netherlands? Is that something that is because the Netherlands is very small. So,






considering the mission



or not even the biggest chocolate consumers.



Yeah. So and considering the mission, would you want to be in a place like San Francisco or in…



Yeah, but you can’t choose where you’re born. Right. So this is we were simply born in the Netherlands.



But that is the reason why we went, for example, the first country we went to outside of the Netherlands was and is the U.S.






Yeah, yeah. And that is not the most logical step normally from Holland, you would tend to first go to Belgium and Germany, Scandinavia. First was the other way around. We realized that some of the biggest chocolate producers had their headquarters in the U.S. and we figured, if you want to be copied, you need to be noticed, and to be noticed, you better make a sound in the backyard.



So that’s why we went to the U.S. and launched in Portland, Oregon, and as a first place outside of the Netherlands.



But, I mean, Oregon doesn’t sound like L.A. or New York. Why?



But Oregon is a very food conscious area of the US.






Portland is a city where there are very conscious foodies. Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of early food movement comes from Portland, Oregon.



So you were part of that growth when you were going to the US? What was happening when you first decided to scale there?



We launched in Portland, add several natural chains, so these are supermarkets that are focused on very well, for example, organic food, very conscious food, delis, and we launched there same as we would do in any other country, honestly.



And also in Holland is a ground-up movement. It’s a lot of reaching out to consumers, reaching out to people that are involved in the food industry, showing this, telling the story at any stage you can find, and grow it from the ground up. And that is how we launch from Portland in the US. So it’s going around with chocolate and telling the story.



But so you guys flew there or did you hire an agent or?



 [Laughing] you tend to do … you tend to fly to Portland, Oregon, nowadays. So we have Peter, a Dutch guy who had been living in the U.S. for a long time, who was our sales guy in Portland. But then we simply opened a full organization and company and office in Portland with somebody responsible for marketing, somebody responsible for sales, finance, operations. So it’s a skeleton over a company that was set up in any country that we launch.



And then indeed, you approach retailers, you approach the best stores you can find. And but since as I said in the beginning, we have a zero paid media policy, we don’t do any advertising.



So it’s finding the right people, finding it right. And newspapers, writers, journalists to get in touch with and talk to these people with about our mission.



So, you don’t pay at all for any ads, also not …



At all. Zero paid media,



But also not like Facebook ads or Google ads?



No, zero paid media. 



Isn’t that like starting a business with the kind of like, you know, one hand tied down or something like that? Isn’t that hard…



Uh, it might be harder, but we think our story needs more than the 20 seconds of attention that you would get in an ad or the five seconds that you would get in a newspaper or a magazine. For us, it’s going directly into this longer-term relationship with consumers, with organizations, and that takes a bit more time. We might not be the easy path, but we felt it was the path that merits that it has to do with how we work, with the making the impact.



Do you know a company called Charity Water because they released…






that documentary videos as Facebook ads and went viral. Did you see that?



No, I haven’t seen that, but I do know charity,



so, yeah, but what they did is they also don’t advertise that much, I think, but they have this documentary video that was like 20 or 30 minutes about the founder and why he believes in clean water and everything.



But have you seen our documentary?



No, I haven’t. I thought,



Oh, there you go. So that’s documentary that was online.



And if you become a serious friend of Tony’s on our website, there’s a page with a whole toolbox where also you can find a documentary.



So it’s Tony’s…



And it’s been aired on national television in Holland.



What is the website then? Tonyschocolonely





Ok, so the way you spell this, Tonyschocolonely






 It is more for the listeners.



So it’s



Great, and I am on the website right now. So where do I scroll for the documentary?



 You become a serious friend. That is the most important step.



Where is the serious…



On our website, you become a serious friend, is that consumers that are spreading our mission amongst their friends and family, for those are in our core of brand ambassadors, I would say.



So you have to click on our mission and our…



Let me have a look together. So it’s our mission, no “Doe mee” in Dutch, let me switch to the English website so we can do this in English. It’s “join in” and then let’s be serious friends. You join us, become a serious friend. And once you’re logged in, you can find our documentary, which you can see.



But I would also recommend people to have a screening with their friends at this moment. I would say have it from your home with your friends at the same time while you’re munching down on a bar of chocolate.



And then so as serious friends, you can watch a documentary. But it’s you can also, I think, find it on Google Play and other pay-TV sites. If you want to watch it for free, you need to log in as a serious friend.



How come it’s behind “sign up” well. Why do people have to sign and why is it not like on the website?



Well, I don’t know what the reasoning behind that was.



I think in the beginning it was simply because it was a documentary. It was on pay-TV. It’s been aired on national television on Holland a couple of times. So there was visible and also after the fact and I think left and right, you might find it also directly.



But what we want to do is engage these people and ask them to join in. And that’s why we have it in our toolkit as a serious friend.



Clear. But you’ve never thought about running those types of things as the document, sorry, as paid ads because I can imagine those things going viral, like…



Yeah, but again, we have a zero paid media policy, so we don’t do pay that.



Yeah, I guess so.



Note interesting. But and I guess it works because you’re growing so you just have to be more strict about who you reach out to and how you portray yourself.



This is exactly my answer when people ask me, so does it work, I said, well apparently it does. Yes. We became the market leader.



Yeah, true. I like the focus on the mission as well. It’s on the main website right away. So you can only see that, I am interested now. So I know the mission, everything. I have not gone into the background yet, but before we do, I’m still interested in it, now it’s the 25th of March 2020. So obviously Corona has gotten pretty bad in the Netherlands.



How especially… like from our perspective it was like from one week to another, things were changing now on our side were mostly digital already since January, which was a policy that we’ve been adapting to for the last, I think, nine months, and officially rolled out in January, but we are a much smaller company. So how does that work with like our sales up, our sales down, how is the team performing, how what is going through your minds when this happened?



Right. Well, it’s had a huge impact overall. I got to tell you, and those people that have been stricken by much more than we have, so there’s no pity necessarily on our end at all.



I think if you look at sales, we do see a decline. There’s we don’t know yet because we’re in such early stages how long term that decline is, because what you see is that supermarkets are being replenished after they have been completely emptied in the last one and a half weeks by consumers. First being replenished with the most necessary goods.



So vegetables, toilet paper, cleaning material, etc.. We did see a complete sell-out on chocolate as well because I presume most people still will keep eating chocolate.



Yeah, I can imagine.



Perhaps even more …



I can imagine Tony’s would be sold out. So how are these sales declining?



We were sold out. If I look at supermarkets around where we saw us being completely sold out, but we don’t know whether that was because there were more sales or whether there was just no stocking from the back end. Right. There was no replenishment from the back end. So we don’t know that yet.



We, on the one hand, you could assume that there are more sales because people are more at home. So would eat more chocolate at home.



But we don’t know yet. For example, we have a big chunk in our business that has to do with travel and duty-free. There is zero there at the moment so that those sales have completely imploded. There are direct sales from our stores.



That is not existent at the moment because our stores have closed.



But the biggest sales that we have are supermarkets.



So we’re just looking at what’s happening over there. There is still the opportunity to buy online from our webshop, which is still going on.



So we think that overall it will not have a huge impact on sales in that part of the sales because the majority is done through supermarkets. But at the same time, we’re a business that is still very much in a growth base. So the new supermarkets coming on board are more hesitant. You don’t have a face to face talks with the new supermarkets. So that is on hold. So…



Why is it on hold? though wouldn’t you as a supermarket want more chocolate if it’s getting sold out?



No, but I mean, at new supermarkets, I’m talking about your discussions with new supermarkets now because they are focused on their logistical chain at the moment, I can imagine they have bigger things to focus on now than put in new materials on their shelves. So they are focusing on their logistics systems. They don’t know where this is leading to either. So everybody’s slightly hesitant at the moment and not knowing where this is leading.



So that normally means you’re kind of in lockdown and a standstill and we see that happening. We completely appreciate and understand why that is happening. And at the same time, though, if you look at us as a company, it’s 160 people that are all working from home.



So that does have an impact.



Every single one from home? nobody goes…



every single one.



And since when? since the announcement or before already…



Since, what are we Wednesday 25th for one and a half weeks since the Friday one and a half weeks ago, almost two weeks ago.



And was that like a shop or did your guys have systems in place already? Like how was the step towards that?



Well, normally nobody is prepared for a situation like this, let’s face it. But we do have a system where we all work through, for example, Microsoft Teams. So for us, the infrastructure was already there to be able to work from home. We all have laptops so we can all work from home anyhow.



But for me, in my job, for example, I tend to travel the world and be on stage at conferences and they are all canceled.



So I’m doing Tony’s talks online now in a live stream from my home, which is completely different than what I was used to. And this counts for many people. I mean, the people that are normally running our offices, the people running our stores, things are changing quickly.



And so …



So it has a huge impact there.



And then you don’t have face to face physical meetings and sit-downs. What we now have is in the morning we have our online meetings and Huddles to see how everybody is doing. We sent a current Tony’s survival package as a bit of Tony’s cheek last week to everybody within our team, tried to keep the spirits up. We did a pop quiz from home trying to keep the spirits up.



So it’s making sure that everybody is ok.



How are the Huddles calls? I’m assuming it’s not all hundred sixty people. It’s just teams. Right.



We have that.



We’ve had that twice now, a complete Tony’s Huddles. We do that once a week at least to make sure that we see the leadership team, see what the heads and chiefs are about, but also just make sure that everybody’s ok and get a rundown from everybody in the company. Every Monday morning, we always within the company have a Monday morning meeting anyhow, that is within the bigger team. So that is Holland. But we have the UK, the US calling in as well and we are.



And every morning we have it within the teams and also within the specific teams. So for example, in the marketing team, which is the overall marketing team at 9 a.m. we have an online huddle and then at 9.30, we also have a huddle in the specific team. So that’s design, that is movement, that is products, etc..



So how do you think it has affected productivity or did you introduce new technologies as well to maintain productivity?



Now when we have Microsoft Teams, which is the technology that we have anyhow, but for example, we quickly set up for me personally, we set up a live stream with OBS software that we sent through to our YouTube channel of Tony’s, where people can log in and see online Tony’s talks, for example. That was a new technology for us.



But having already we’re already working with Microsoft 360 and Microsoft Teams meant that we were already set up to work the way we work now.



So what is Tony’s talks then? Just you talking the whole day or different people talking?



[laughing] Well, my job in a sense, is yes. To present about where we come from as Tony’s, where we’re working towards, our mission, the way we work as a team, the way we do marketing, the way we do sales. So that is why I would tend to do on stage anyhow. And those talks, we have now turned on to online talks where I started first for well-graded school students because I wanted to help universities and high schools and grade schools. After all, they were switching to online and they were struggling with finding content for themselves in the beginning as well.



So I just offered them, you know, you need content, let me know and I’ll set up an online talk in Dutch, in English.



So that quickly became a huge success where yesterday we had an online talk with 250 people from several universities and universities of applied sciences logging in from Belgium and Holland. And I tried to answer all of the questions that they might have. And I’d also do conference calls.



I do a lot of these interviews and podcasts these days because of … things don’t standstill. But I think, first of all, let’s focus that we’re all ok and that the team is still healthy and ok everywhere to…



How did the company start treating, Yeah, the Coronavirus when it first happened? Is there a crisis team or whether significant changes in how employees were handled?



I don’t think I understand your question.



So a lot of companies from the Corona crisis had even before any measurements from the government started establishing crisis teams, taking specific…



Right. Well, we just decided slightly ahead of the curve to start working from home.



I don’t know when the first press conference was in Holland, but I think the day before we already decided to close our stores, for example, start working from home and …



How many stores you guys have in the Netherlands?



We have two stores.



We have one store in our office that the West Host area in Amsterdam, we have one store in the center of Amsterdam, the superstore in the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. And so we closed those down to make sure that we weren’t part of the problem, but more part of the solution.



And then I started working for a home as just about everybody does. And we have our people and culture team is focused on how the team is doing. But we also have the IT support that’s constantly working with the Microsoft Teams, how we can work. But again, we have these systems in place. So that wasn’t so difficult for us. I mean, we all have laptops so we can work from home anyhow.



So and then if we would look at like the smaller companies, we have a ton of startups that apply to our events that are entering certain markets like vegan food and healthy food, gluten-free food, that type of thing. Also, startups that replace meat, obviously that’s popular nowadays. So you’re saying a lot of negotiations are stopping at supermarkets. A lot of things are closing. What would you advise those types of starting companies that need to kind of figure things out now?



Like a lot of people are saying, yeah, you have to innovate, innovate, but like, how would they be able to innovate?



Yeah, and I think that’s a struggle for everybody at the moment and starting startups and starting entrepreneurs, you know, on a bigger scheme of things, there’s a lot of hardship and obviously, a lot of people falling ill from Corona. At the same time, you need to have a positive view on this, too. I mean, what can we learn from this? How can we work together? I see a lot of people coming together. There’s a lot of social activities that you see happening, whether it’s online or in neighborhoods. There’re people delivering food to other people. I think this is also a moment that we can recalibrate the whole capitalist system that we’re in. And hopefully, the Post-Corona era will mean that we can use this to change for good and an entrepreneurial perspective.



And for these startups, I would say I’d rather have an optimistic view and see how businesses can adapt to this and see what they can learn from it and see what they can do to stay afloat. And I see loads of lovely entrepreneurial things going around where people that had no delivery are all of a sudden setting up delivery when it comes to food, people with food trucks that are getting in touch with people in neighborhoods where they could perhaps set up on a square in the neighborhood and deliver to the whole area, et cetera, et cetera.



So obviously, I don’t want to downplay the huge negative sides for many entrepreneurs, but there’s a lot of opportunities as well. And this is entrepreneurship and its core, I think.



What do you think the future like the future is going to look like after Corona? What do you think about the changes …



I wish I knew,



but from your experiences…



I can only hope. I mean, I think you know what there is I think 20th-century capitalism has evolved to a situation where a lot of entrepreneurs are slightly confused, I think, or get slightly confused about what their purpose in life and within society is. And this is not about creating as much wealth for themselves as they can get together.



I think within three, four, or five decades, we have gone the wrong way. I mean, it’s all been about growth, growth, growth. And I think hopefully 21st-century capitalism is much more about empathy and love and sympathy and true meaning and purpose and much more human to humankind of business.



And hopefully, this moment will open our eyes that indeed it’s not about B2B or B2C, but it’s H2H, human to human. I think what you now see is that, yes, you need a system, you need a social system. This disease is striking everybody as hard.



And there’s no discrimination within this disease. And hopefully, we can see that people get together much more.



And this hopefully means a new system that we can work in.



So then just out of interest from your experience, do you think the industry, was especially this industry, which is a little bit different than, let’s say, my industry of events or video or whatever, the supermarkets are being sold out, like every day things are empty? Do you think that things will change going forward for them or are they just going to be like, no, we made a lot of money so we don’t have to change anything? So being very traditional.



I know I don’t think it’s up to me to judge the supermarket at this moment in time, I think we should wait and give everybody the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know what we should judge at this moment, supermarkets profiting from them selling out. I mean, their role is to deliver food and goods to people that need it.



And they’re working very hard to replenish their shelves and their stocks to help people. And you see also supermarkets actively trying to avoid the huge hoarding that we’ve seen in the last two weeks in playful manners or restrictive manners. I mean, I love this sign by a Danish supermarket I think that said, the first product or the first two products have the regular price and the next product is a hundred and thirty-four euros.



More playfully, making sure that people don’t start hoarding and act more socially.



But even the hoarding part, you see this I think it’s only a small part of society. I think the bigger part of society is joining hands and helping each other. And that’s a more optimistic and positive view. I think



So let us not judge the supermarket at this point. Let’s wait till after the fact.



Because I think there’s a lot of them that are playing a social role in society.



Right. Yeah, I didn’t mean in the sense that they are profiting from it. They are working hard. What I meant with is a lot of technological innovations happen when this crisis has happened, but usually in industries that are suffering, and in this case, that industry is going to suffer that much for good reason, because obviously, we all need our groceries, and I hope they make a lot of money so that there could be even more groceries so that it doesn’t get sold out.



But at the same time, I’m thinking there could be so much innovation happening within those supermarkets.






And somehow, like, for instance, the reason I say that is one of the things that is happening now in the Netherlands is every single supermarket cannot deliver because everything’s sold out, every single slot is sold out. So, I’m assuming the logistical value chain of getting food or groceries from a supermarket to somebody’s house can use quite a lot of innovation, just like Amazon is innovating their groceries or, you know logistical things.



But see right now, everybody’s super busy. So that’s not going to happen with those innovations, as you mentioned, because, well, they’re all busy. But I can imagine from the perspective of Tony’s then, you guys have a little bit more time on your hands because one of your stores, you closed it and, the negotiations are mellowing down. Are there specific innovations you’re looking at to become more of an Amazon for chocolates or something like that?



[Laughing] we don’t have the aspiration at all to become Amazon of chocolate honestly. I wish perhaps Amazon would become Tony’s of the online ordering platforms.



But I think we are at the moment, business as usual. In a sense, we are not looking at technological innovation as much as other companies tend to do. I think we are much more looking at social and societal innovation and how you can innovate in the field of making a physical impact in value chains. That is what we look at. So I would call that social innovation, which is the angle that we choose. What you do see, for example, now we call them Tony’s Unlimited, which is a machine that we have in one of our stores that produces your bar of Tony’s. So you can make more than twenty-two thousand different combinations of chocolate, but also of packaging and you can put your name on that. And for example, I think the team behind that is now working hard on how can we make sure that those home deliveries get brought to people.



But again, we are in such an early phase of this Corona crisis at the moment, we are more looking at how we can support local initiatives with our chocolate. How can we put a bit of a smile on the faces of people that are finding hardship at the moment? And then after this, let’s see how we need to have more business innovation.



Well, so quick question. Do you guys have a machine that can make any chocolates ever?






 So, ok.



Ever we have three types of chocolate. So you have white chocolate, you have milk chocolate, you have dark chocolate. You can then choose… But have a look at it on the website as well. You can then choose what layer of chocolate you want beneath and how you can choose three ingredients and create your bar.



And so a consumer can just buy this machine or not



No, the machine is a big investment, you know, by the machine you buy the bar that the machine makes. So have a look at our website in the chocolate shop. You have designed it yourself and then you have the Tony’s Unlimited on the right side and the unlimited bars, you can design your own bar of chocolate, your own ingredients, your own wrapper, and then it’s sent to your home.



So why have you never thought about making it available, like making a consumer version of that? I can imagine that would create a new revenue …



Because I don’t think…



What do you mean with the consumer version? of the machine?



Yeah of the machine, something like for like 50 …



Because of where do you source your…  People at home can’t make their own chocolate, right. They can’t buy their cocoa beans and turn that into chocolate. It’s a process to make your own chocolate. We’d rather make the box for them because we’re sure we can make the best chocolate for them.



But don’t you have those? I know that in big warehouses, you can buy, like bags of chocolate and then you put them into a machine that melts it. And then you have like your…



But have a look. I don’t think you understand what I mean. Have a look at our Choco shop and how Tony’s unlimited works.



No worries. I’ll check it out.



This is not about just making a mold and putting your chocolate in there, making your own bar. It’s really what kind of ingredients you want in there. What kind of wrapper do you want around it, print your own wrapper, etc.?



Make sense. So I have two more questions that I wanted to ask now I did have you on the call. So, when you got into the company, I can imagine you either saw somebody who went to Ghana or went there yourself or something that made it all real for you? Do you have a story like this you can share?



I think this is also essential. I think once you’ve been there on the farms and spoken to the farmers that that grow the cocoa beans, that is life-changing, I think because that makes that relationship with those farmers so real. So I indeed, I was in Ivory Coast, I haven’t been to our corporations in Ghana yet, but I’ve been to cooperatives in Ivory Coast. And that is good to see what is happening on the ground.



And it’s also put things in perspective. And we have people on the ground there constantly. We have an impact team at Tony’s that is constantly in these building these relationships with these cooperatives. But many and I would say almost every Tony’s has always been to our cooperatives in Ghana and Ivory Coast.



Can you share a story that changed that for your immediate real?



Well, I was in Ivory Coast, it’s good to see even just the distances that you travel in a country like Ivory Coast, the condition of the roads you see, that it’s not as easy as things sound, just get cocoa beans from one place to the other. And then you see the cooperatives that you see the farms and you see the situation that these people live in.



And you should expect lovely white cottages with flowers around it from the farmers that we work with. It is a lengthy process to change that system and to make sure that the poverty diminishes for everybody over there. So it is a different level of poverty that you see there. And whatever I’ve seen in the rest of the world.



Can give an example? What did you see? And like…



Well, I mean, I think if you take what I had seen up till then in my life anywhere, whether it’s in Asia or South America, what I had seen, where I traveled, you always still have stores selling, for example, Oreos and Pringles chips. Right. And what you see in Ivory Coast, once you leave Abidjan, there are no brick and mortar buildings that you see anymore, almost. These are huts by the road, motorcycle repair stores, roads that are torn apart until the next election moment again, dirt roads that when it has rained, it takes you a full day to travel 50 kilometers.



And these are farmers that grow cocoa beans on tiny plots of land that have very little means for themselves.



So just increasing their revenue and helping them increase their own productivity is essential to get them to where we want them to get. It’s a different level of poverty that you see over there.



But so what? What does Tony’s do exactly? They just give them more money or do you build roads or do you go…



So we pay… the first and most important thing is to build this long term and direct relationship with these farmers. So we buy these cocoa beans from them where you pay a higher price for the cocoa beans. On top of the fair trade premium that I mean, all our beans are fair trade certified. So you pay about at the moment about a 20 percent fair trade premium to those farmers. But on top of that, we pay an additional Tony’s premium.



That is bridging the gap between the fair trade price and the market price and the living income reference price that we set up with the Fair Trade Organization that we think every chocolate producer should be paying. We pay on average, I would say about a 50 percent premium on top of that market price that the farmer would normally get.



We also help them increase their profit, their productivity by giving them schooling, education programs, awards for the best farmers to inspire them to increase their productivity, showing them different farming techniques that they could use, helping them use inputs for their farms. But also, for example, a bit of the premium goes to empowering the female farmers there and the wives of the male farmers to start up their businesses.



Part of it goes to improving their health insurance. How do you call that the health situation?



When we tell a farmer, listen, you need to send your kids to school and they tell us, you know, but the nearest school is 30 kilometers down the road. We help them build schools locally, we help them build canteens in their schools, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s up to the cooperatives and the farmers what to do with the premium that we pay to them. So they get to decide, I mean, this is an entrepreneurial relationship.



They can decide what they want to do with that money. Part goes to the farmer in cash, part goes to the farmer in goods.



So materials that they can work with, inputs, fertilizer, machetes, wellies, whatever they need.



And so what have you guys done so far then? Practical examples of how many schools have you built? and do you have those numbers?



Top of my head, I don’t know that. You need to look at our annual report that’s on our website. That states all of these things. What we do mostly, for example, is installing a system that we call our child labor monitoring and remediation system that is now all the cooperatives and all the farmers they work with have those systems in place where you can see whether you run into incidents.



There’s in our annual report, you can read exactly the amount of remediation that we’ve done up to also on our website by the way.






You can see what we’ve done very specifically on each on each situation that we run into. You can see exactly the amount of euros that we paid in premiums to our farmers at the beginning of the revelation. Let me see what I can have a quick look at what I would just recommend you read up on our website when you want to dive into these exact figures.



I have it in front of me right now.



Go for it.



It’s very nice. I see here, so Tony’s has 18.8 Percent achieved market share. And you bought fifteen hundred tons of cocoa. The one that interests me here.



No, we bought a lot more tons. We’ve bought fifteen hundred tons of open-chain cocoa. That’s the platform that we’ve launched with Albert Hejin, for example, and where we invite other companies to also join. I think last year we bought five and a half thousand metric tons of beans.



 I would just recommend reading up on our website.



Great. And then, small question, because we actually get a lot of these companies that… What do you think of companies that they start as a startup and they sell shoes or something? A lot of these shoe companies do that as well. And then what they do is they donate for every pair you buy, you get, you know, a pair get sent to Africa or something that.



What do you think of those companies? Or that business model specifically because a lot of startups are jumping on that wagon and I’m never sure if it’s good or bad.



Me neither, and I don’t think it’s up to me to have an opinion about this, I think you need to always see and keep reevaluating that business model specifically because indeed there are good sides and bad sides to that business model. I think you’re referring to a company that indeed donates a pair of shoes for every pair of shoes that’s sold in Western society.



You need to make sure that you don’t take away business locally from the person that would be making shoes there, for example. I think that is what you’re referring to. And I think you need to constantly …I don’t think it’s up to me to have an opinion whether that’s good or bad. I think every business needs to constantly recalibrate that business model and make sure they don’t have negative impacts there because we might judge this company.



But at the same time, there’s also a Dutch lottery that spreads bicycles to villages. And then that bicycle guy in that village doesn’t sell any bicycle for that year. So this is we shouldn’t judge these startups. I think we need to look at the positive impact that they’re making as well at the same time.



But let’s make sure that any business model needs to be constantly, I think, reevaluated, then it needs to be able to have the guts to pivot when they realize that there’s a negative impact or undo the negative impact.



So you suggest that if that business model is in place, that they need to look at the metrics of everything that is happening on the ground and whether it’s good or bad and then…



Exactly. And then be able to pivot. I mean, let’s face it, 10 years ago, we thought biofuels were the solution to fossil fuels. And what you saw happening is that the first generation biofuels were made from corn and that directly beat into the food chain in South America, for example. And then you need to recalibrate and see what is the best solution. And for example, we can now make biofuels out of algae. We can make biofuels out of the grass.



So it also leads to innovations. And we should embrace those innovations, but realize that we need to and we can only embrace those innovations if we start realizing and are open that we need to be able to pivot and steer and change our business models.



Yeah, I agree. So again, almost five questions. So what interests me a lot is which you mentioned in the earlier conversation about serious friends. Now we have also something called ambassadors. These are the people that without them we wouldn’t have grown that much. But how do you get those ambassadors, serious friends? How do you keep them engaged and how do you make sure that they are as effective as possible towards your goals?



Well, first and foremost, this is still a work in progress for us, what we saw is that we want to …



 I thought you have fifty-five thousand serious friends in your mission report?



No, I think we’re at 35000 at the moment, and I think we’re at 35000 at the top of my head.



It says here, fifty-five thousand serious friends, that’s thirty-five thousand more than we currently have. Oh, that’s our goal.



So you’re looking at other goals for this year?



Yeah, exactly. And I think we started with 15000 this year or something or 20, and we are now at thirty-five thousand. Anyway, long story short, we’re still really working on what works best. What works best for them, what works best for us. But for example, two years ago we launched a petition in the Netherlands and called “wet Zorgplicht Kinderarbeid”.



So this has to do with due diligence within your company to make sure that there’s no child labor in your area of the value chain. And this was a law that was passed in Holland. And we needed our serious friends to sign a petition to up the pressure on the government to make sure that they realize that there are consumers that want this.



So that was what we did two years ago that inspired us to set up this serious friend program. And what we do, for example, you have this login that you have, you can then join up, but we’re still seeing what works best for them.



Now, for example, we launched a petition at where we want to get a million signatures in total to really up the pressure on governments of the U.S. and also the European Union states to make sure that there are laws in place all around the world.



Right, where we make sure that there’s enough pressure on organizations all around the world to make sure there’s no human rights violation in their value chain. But it’s still a work in progress. How we’re actually doing this, these serious friends of what we can give back to them. Up to now, what we do is we keep them informed on these things that we’re doing, but we also inform them on the fun stuff.



So there’s a bit of a new newsletter involved. There’s also allowing them to come to our annual party before other people, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s a constant and dynamic playing field.



And how do you …



First and foremost, it’s people signing up.



So, Yeah. How do you get them to sign up? Because there’s a lot of donations out there.



Yeah. So it’s we speak about this on our wrappers. I have a QR code in my presentation where people sign up.



It’s when we do talk all around the world where we ask people to sign up.



It’s we have a truck gone around through the U.S. where people can sign up.



If we have any events, we ask people to sign up. It’s any trade shows that we are, we ask people to sign up. So it’s everywhere we have… in our stores, both our stores, we have this wall for serious friends where they can sign up as a serious friend, etc..



Ok, so pretty much wherever possible QR codes and ask people?



Yeah, and I used to be adamantly against QR codes a couple of years ago. I thought they were outdated and now I think they were useful again for this forum, for this part…



Why did you change your mind?



I thought QR codes at a certain point were everywhere useless, and now I can put them in a presentation and because smartphones now don’t need an app anymore to directly from the QR code get to where you want them to, that you can just point your camera and you have a direct link to the QR code that helps.



So you pretty much have thirty-five thousand serious friends just from word of mouth technically from speeches and a wrapper?



We have 70 million euros in sales just from word of mouth.



So what would you recommend? Like a business that wants to grow and use word of mouth? Would you say do more speeches, apply for more awards?



I would say. I would, first of all, have a story that’s authentic and real. So it’s not about just telling the story. I mean, obviously, for us, telling the story is essential and we hope to do it nicely. But if your story isn’t right, then it’s useless to tell that story anyhow.



How do you know the story is right?



So if… Well, we have to go back to the very first moment we started speaking, I mean, we’re a business that’s there to change things in the world, right? So if you have a very clear purpose and you have a very authentic purpose, that means something for the society and a planet around you. I think that is the story that’s great to spread. Right. If you’re just making hand grenades and cluster bombs, I don’t think your story is very fitting in society.



Yeah. Get that. So pretty much something that contributes to the world that we can all agree on that is beneficial to the world.



 And I think as an entrepreneurial activist, I would say any business from now on or maybe already and definitely in the future needs to have a purpose that has to do with creating a better world.



Yeah, ok, so then you have your story. What do you think would be the next steps that you would recommend?



 Tell it …



So speeches at conferences or …



anywhere, tell it.



I mean, we started on any stage. People would give us we would tell our story and anybody would tell our story, everybody in Tony’s and I would say never in a company that wants to tell a story needs to be able to tell that story. And that is by being fully transparent, by having a story that has no hidden features behind it.



And then perhaps at a certain point, you could decide to have a guy like me, an evangelist, running around the world telling that story as a full-time job to be able to spread those values. But I would say grab any opportunity you have, whether it’s business or private, to tell that story. I think some Tony’s might not be as fun to stand by at the bar because they would just constantly tell you about how the world of chocolate looks like.



And, ok, what would you say about in the early stages, do you think especially young CEOs are just starting, is it worth it to tell the story at the beginning or should they focus on actually building the business? Or how do you have the balance? because I can imagine …



I would focus on building a business that has a benefit to the society around them. That would be my focus. Once you have that business that adds something to the world and society around them, telling that story will become an automatic part of your being. And whether that’s through paid media. Right. I mean, we do it without paid media, but you could still put in ads for the good of the world, right?



I mean, there’s no shame in using ads. We don’t do it because we think our story needs a longer time frame because we have a very complex story. But if you have a very simple story that adds anything to the world, feel free to use a paid media if that’s your way. For us, it’s telling the story and as an independent adviser, ages ago when I was an independent entrepreneur, I would also and afterward as a professor to students of new companies and of entrepreneurship, I always tell them, go to any Chamber of Commerce meeting, go to any entrepreneurial platform, go to any conferences or whatever you can find.



Just go there and soak up information but also spread your story to the people around you. If you have the time, go to anyone you can walk up to.



 Ok. And then maybe a tip that you have, especially from your position, get to speak a lot at conferences. How do these young entrepreneurs then get all these opportunities?



Do you just email …



No, by going everywhere and starting to tell your story to two persons, then you get an audience of five, then you get a living room audience of ten, then you get a classroom of twenty. And in the end, perhaps you might be on stage with a thousand people around you. It’s something you build up gradually. People need to see you and people need to run into you. People need to be inspired by your story.



And when your story is inspirational, people will be inspired. They will ask you to tell that story at the next stage and the next stage.



So how long in years did it take you to go from two people to like a lot of people?



We went from two people to 160 people now in 15…



 No, I mean, in stages as in you started.



Uh… Stages, that differs.



It’s not about just the amount of people that are in your audience. Right. I mean, it’s also talking to the right people in an audience and that’s something you gradually build up. And some big stages come by on day one and some take ages. But you can’t put a very specific timeline on.



So, your advice is not …



grabbing every opportunity you have.



Your advice is then not to focus specifically on big stages but on industry-specific stages.



Look at quantity and quality at the same time.



I mean, you need to it’s no use talking to a thousand people that that have no that don’t care and that you are not interested in and they are not interested in you. At the same time, you could find 10 people that might become your biggest brand ambassadors and that might be the best audience you will have in your lifetime.



Ok, so yeah. So pretty much quality and quantity need to be balanced and then tell you to make sure that your story actually helps people and then you tell your story everywhere. And in the meantime, just make sure that the foundation of your business is actually running and showing examples of that story.






Cool, now, I think that is actually really interesting, Do you have anything that you would like to add specifically for social entrepreneurs or activist entrepreneurs like you called them?



 With the danger that I might open up a new one hour of conversation, I honestly in the last couple well, last year or two years have started to steer away from being called or at least calling myself and also being called a social entrepreneur, because that has the risk of ending up in or being seen as part of a niche.



And I honestly think that entrepreneurship as a whole needs to be recalibrated and is or will be social in its core anyhow. So this is what I mean with new 21st-century capitalism, where entrepreneurship will be or already is much more social in its core. And it’s not something you add on to entrepreneurship.



So by realizing that, then that puts you out of that thing that we talk about earlier in this podcast was where entrepreneurship and doing good for the world would be two extremes of one spectrum. Right. People often ask how can you combine being sustainable with making money? I think the moment you let go of that being a paradox, then you realize it can be one and the same thing, we’re the living example that it can be. Right, being financially successful.



So doing good financially can go hand in hand completely with doing good for the society around you. And once you start realizing that, I think I think it’s good to let go of the division between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, but realizing that entrepreneurship is or will be social in its core. And then I think that is the entrepreneurs of the future that will be successful. And you can see it around you with companies like Patagonia, Tony’s Chocolonely, Saiper, Dopra, et cetera, et cetera.



But don’t you think …



So, my tip would be to let go out of that paradox. And my second tip to starting entrepreneurs in your case would be to never think you’re too small to make a difference.



What do you mean with that?



Well, I think anybody can make a difference, whether it’s consumer-level or it’s an entrepreneur, if you think that you’re never big enough … in my slides, I use one slide, one saying by Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, the lady who died very too young, unfortunately.



She once said, if you think something small can make a difference, try sharing your room with a mosquito. Right. And that shows how a very small thing can make a very big difference. And I think anybody, whether it’s a consumer or an entrepreneur, can make a difference on any level, any decision you stand in front of. You can always decide will I make a more sustainable and more social decision or will I have a different driver behind it than being social and sustainable.



And why do you think, um, the shift is happening towards more social? Um…



Because we landed in a complete overshoot of capitalism.



What do you mean?



Because I think 21st.



Because I think there’s more wealth in the world, but it’s not distributed as socially as it can be. And I’m not I am not a social I’m an entrepreneur in heart and soul.



And I think anybody deserves the opportunity of thriving as an entrepreneur. But if you look at the division of wealth in the world, sometimes it makes me nauseous and very sad. Right. If you look at the wealth in certain parts of the world and the other poverty of other sides of the world where people don’t have clean drinking water, don’t have normal toilet facilities, can’t go to school. And at the same time, there are people living in ridiculous wealth.



I think that is just the wrong signal. I think people are starting to appreciate that. I think the human side of the economy has reached an overshoot in a couple of generations that we’re now seeing an underflow of new true leadership that has to do with empathy, sympathy, and hopefully, I would consider working it much more, working towards a love economy where much more have a human side to it.



Do you think it’s also regional specific? Because I luckily have been seeing the same thing, that it’s going more towards an economy and capitalism where you really help each other, which now the Coronavirus and everything is really starting to show. But do you think that some parts in the world just don’t like they pretend to care but don’t care or the circumstances don’t allow them to care? And so they just accumulate wealth without thinking.



Uh, yes and no, I think yes, I mean, if you really zoom out and look at the planet, you obviously see a higher level of wealth in Western Europe and North America and certain parts of Asia and a lesser amount of wealth in Africa, Asia or South America.



But at the same time, you also see the same kind of divisions if you zoom in again. Right. You also see that in levels in Brazil or in Africa or in Western Europe, there’s also poverty in Western Europe, which is unacceptable. I mean, just kids going to school in the U.K. without breakfast. The only hot meal they have once a day is in school. I think that’s ridiculous as well. So there’s a lot of stuff to fix it.



I don’t think you could really mark it down on certain regions that easily.



That actually brings me to a really interesting question that I always have when I’m dealing with especially. So when we started, there wasn’t a lot of social impact and entrepreneurship. So we decided to create this event where we would allow especially if an entrepreneur had an impact, a positive impact on someone, we would stimulate them and we’d give them pretty much everything they needed to become viable.



But what I also had I had weird conversations with people who said why do you focus on helping specific startups who don’t help, you know, here locally, but they help like people in Africa or Asia or Latin America? And my answer was always, well, the whole mission for us was so that we can facilitate and help somebody who can at least help one human life. But you have these diverse reactions.



Obviously we help startups that help locally, but also we want to help startups that, you know, are international or in Africa or in Latin America. So how do you answer people when you’re in that discussion, how do you answer people that say, oh, no, we have enough problems here? I guess the discussions everywhere. For instance, Elon Musk, who’s doing with SpaceX going to Mars and then everybody answering, we have enough problems here on Earth.



Why are we going to Mars? how…



Yeah, but at the same time, you know, we can always criticize everybody down to the ground. But I much more take a positive view there. Yes. You could criticize Elon Musk for wanted to go to Mars. At the same time, this guy is putting his balls on the block constantly as an entrepreneur to make sure that within five years time we started driving electric cars that were comfortable and had a long-range, et cetera, et cetera.



Right. So, yes, you could criticize social entrepreneurs that are doing something for people on the other side of the world.



At the same time, they are doing something for people, period. And yes, we need people to do more for people locally as well. But we need both. We shouldn’t be criticizing everybody constantly that they’re not doing what you want them to do if they are doing something right for the world as a whole. I mean, we need to take a bigger perspective. We are no longer, I mean, we are no longer separate ships on the ocean.



I mean, this whole world is intertwined and interconnected. Right. And you see that with the sustainability discussion. Uh, CO2 emissions don’t stick to your country. I mean, they go all over the world. And this is a global issue we need to face. And that has the same thing with global poverty. It’s a global issue. We need to fix, a yes at the local level as well.



So what have you been in those discussions, what do you tell people, do you just say we’re all interconnected?



Yes, that’s what I told you. I tell those people as well and I salute these initiatives. And, yes, we need to do it locally and we need to do it globally at the same time. It’s all intertwined.



It’s all one big system.



 Sure, now, I like that. I think that’s actually a really good closing. A very positive note as well on making sure, especially during this crisis, to understand that things are local but also international. And we wherever needed, need to help people. I’m extremely excited that you guys are offering your chocolates also online. You’re not promoting or anything, but I love your chocolates, obviously.



So I’ll be ordering some stuff online because everything’s sold out to … [Laughing]



[Laughing] Cool, go for it.



Cool,  anything else you have to add? If not, then we’re going to close here.



 Let’s close off, I think we covered everything this long…



Yeah. Thank you so much for coming by. If anybody’s interested in becoming a serious friend of Tony’s, I’ll make sure that the links are below. 






and, yeah, I’m going to sign up as a serious friend for sure. And I’m super excited …



sign up petition becomes a serious friend



 I will, I’m super excited that you are here with us. Yeah. Thank you so much.


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OK. Welcome to the new podcast. Today, we have Emilio with us, who is heading Asics V.P. Innovation. If I understand correctly, for Europe, Central Africa, Africa and Central… What was it…


Europe, Middle East and Africa.


I’ve seen that you were responsible for getting Asics  to 18 from 18 place to third place in Spain. A lot of background, a lot of experience and Asics  as well as innovation articles that I’ve read.


I don’t want to go too deep into it because I want to hear your story, of course. And I would like to start this way with asking what I always ask, which is how is your childhood like? Where did you start? How what led to the mindsets that you have today?


I think all in life will have a lot of things that bring you to that place. I think. Long time ago with my family, I was travelling abroad and that opened my mind.


But maybe one of the things studying journey or studying and based things can open your mind. But they think what really bring me to this is being in position, that let me be a startup inside the corporation sometimes.


What do you mean?


I’ve been in when I was joining Asics , it was the they hired me to take this distributor business that moves to the multinational means they buy the rights to the distributor and they went to Convertino Multinational and the company before I was doing the same.


Then in fact, this kind of position is you have to be startup inside the corporation. You have to follow the rules of the corporation. You have the guidelines. But you have to move like in a startup.


So you… What was a company before Asics. What did you work on.


Before Asics I was working life fitness. It’s a fitness of women, uh, company.


It was an American brand.


Yes. And before that, I was with my family creating our own business also.


You were in the family business?


Before that? Yes. I’ve been in all spectrum of ranges and sizes.


I would like to actually go deeper into the family business so… Can you maybe shape a little bit of the story of how you first entered it and then maybe the history of the family business.


I think long term of all, we it’s it’s the time that the steel was not a startup because the startup name is very thing. And we we create a company for recycling bottles of water. And from that, it came a second company that trades with a product of the recycling flooring systems. And we create flooring that we sell created with recycled material.


So you were sellingthe bottles and the flooring?


Was with bottles and with the covering of the cables then were several seconds with with these recycled materials we were producing.


And who came up with it?


I was a idea of my father then it was, uh, the guy on the back selling and doing the marketing.


So you joined at 18 years old or how did it go?


No, before I work in another, uh, corporation, but I was, uh, run twenty six or twenty five.


So to give context for the listener. So what year was this all happening.


Long time ago, let’s say. A long time. But I don’t remember. I think I saw the 90s


Could be or something like that. Yes.


So you’re working you because I think at that point you just graduated and then you worked at this corporation and then your dad just comes to you and says, hey, I need your help for what happened. Yeah.


He was creating that company. You help. And it was opportunity.


So usually my experiences with family business is again, that’s me. I spend three days and then I need a break. So what is your perception like?


I think that’s real. It’s I think it’s it’s nice to work with family. Sometimes it’s good to work with the family and you need to demonstrate yourself. One of the reasons that I was out is that because I need to think for myself that they can do things outside. But but it’s also important. And I think I could be more used there because we create two companies Each one was in one company and then let the space.


And how did the growth go once you joined? And


The growth was really good. I think the challenges you have when you create a company, it’s always the same. You have to have a good quality. You have to have a good finance. And this kind of things is what is tough when you create the company.


So let’s hdive a little bit deeper into that, because to me, that’s very broad. Yes, good finance has good quality. How did you know the quality was good? How did you make sure the finances were good?


I think the first thing you have to thing is that the years that we’re speaking doesn’t exist. That we seize on this kind of things is something that came much later. And I mean, finance wise, what you need is all business that you create almost. I cannot tell all but mean of the business that there’s a creation.They have some years that they need a cash flow negative to create the business. Then you have to cover that. And on the other side, quality wise is a thing. We all know what is an MBP, we all know what. But sometimes there’s a minimum that you need to be able to launch things properly. So sometimes you make mistakes.


Can you give an example?


For example, in in in the company will make some mistakes on the quality was a good product, but sometimes was not giving the right standards.And these make you learn.


How did you know?


When our customers are not happy? That’s the main indicator of any business, I think.


So how did you track that? Customers were not happy because nowadays there are reviews online. But back then, there were no reviews.


I think in marketing, in sales, nothing is invented. Always the same. If you go much two years before I was born, it was the shop in the small village. And that they know everybody knows everybody was happy or not knows all the gossips, knows everything. Then things that has changed with the time is the way and the and the rich. Nowadays anything is in a second. There is a review, but a long time ago also was the option to listen customers to speak with customers. There was much more complicated.


So you would call them up or you call them up. You follow up. If you really focus on customers. You do it. That’s in the Internet era or the before Internet era.


So. So let’s say now you look back at what you did back then to now. Do you still use some of the older methods?


I think their let’s say their bases, their bases are the same. The methods are different.


So did you?


I give you an example. In that time, instead of email newsletter, you you make Brinn newsletter. Instead of customize, you make blocks of customization that you bring different things. Then the things are the same. The way that you do it are much better, faster, whatever. I give you an example of one thing that you will see is the glasses were invented before Gutenberg in Venice. And the market was only the monks that they used in the market was not there. And suddenly it came to Gutenberg 200 years later. And then suddenly it was a big market of glasses. What I’m telling you is glasses were invented 200 years before, but there was no market then. Lot of ideas. All of the ideas are already invented. Is the way that the educated, the way that you do it, how it’s how it’s done.


I mean, that’s partially what the job is of innovation, you know, to make sure that you innovate in a way, but also communicated to the masses somehow because he said the glasses weren’t there, but they weren’t really suited for the market. Some type of innovation must have happened also in the mindsets of people to eventually want glasses right? and the example that comes up to me nowadays is Tazewell, like electric vehicles are really old. But then now it’s cool to have, like, electric vehicle. So using the example glasses, which, you know, we can eventually look into like mature business did, but. Considering your position innovation, how do you feel you do innovation, then that really creates products for fitting markets?


I think the first thing is you don’t know have to assume and assume, I think is the biggest problem of all companies. First thing is you are speaking about electric cars, electric cars. The biggest limitations before was the batteries. Still, there are the Chargers because the motor is older than the gasoline. But but things are changing. And I think one of the things that we have to have an innovation is do not assume because one thing that did not work two years ago today is the same thing. Every day is changing things. Technology is changing and things are different. For example, with the 5G model, things will completely change. The assumption is that we are doing and and these kind of things, I think is one of the roles of innovation is will have to match two things. One thing is, if customers are willing to buy it, the most important thing is the one that pay us. And second thing is technology is ready for that. And then you have to adapt both things.


I want to still keep for a second with the family business because to me, it always is intriguing, the family business. How… How long did you stay there?


If I’m not wrong, in two periods, it was two periods of three years, around five or six years.


How has the relationship with your dad evolved? Has it become better because of it or worse?


It has been always good. The key thing on this kind of thing is you have to be very clear. What is the barriers? The limits? Where you being work at home or not at home? This kind of things. But this is the same with a lot of the stuff that nowadays, some of the founders, they lived together because they are doing the business and they have to know the barriers. And if it’s not a barrier, it’s when people get burned out, when people has illness and a lot of things, then that’s the same thing.


So how did you do that with your dad? Was it your dad who decide these are the limitations?


i think it’s a mix of both. And I think that’s that’s, uh, depends on the personality of the people. If you know how to express yourself. And you know how to tell what is good or bad. Then you have an advantage.


So can you give an example of one barrier that you implemented that worked really well?


I think at the end, you have to think that, uh, in job, it’s really important that you feel that you can do your things, meet, and nobody likes to feel that they are obliged to do something or whatever. And sometimes when you have trust with the other, you forced to do something. But this is a place for multinationals, for starters, for everybody.


Then I think it’s good to understand the motivations of the others and to put barriers where the limits of what they say to what.


Uh, so you can give an example of what you did


I give an example. If I was in charge of sales and marketing and he was in charge of production and finance, it was good to share, was not good to blame, was good to decide what it is good to understand, what is the role of each one. And the same applies for any startup nowadays. You have a CEO, you have a CTO, you have. And sometimes the definitions are so tight that could be fights because it’s good to share, is good to make a joint position. But then somebody is taking the lead and is not good to have somebody in your neck that you’re doing a good job.


So clear role.




So OK then from my perspective, a little bit the question, what if you’re the CEO and let’s say I mean, I see quite a lot of space to our program. So you’re the CEO and you have a career CTO completely in charge of the app or platform, but you still seem like you want, you know, something different implemented than you want and you want  that and you want discussions around these things based based on what you just said, role allocation. The CTO would say to the CEO know, like that said,


I’m not telling exactly that. What I’m telling is there is a time to challenge, a time to agree and a time to execute. What is not good is that you see something as a team. You agree this is the direction and and then you challenge that position. Then always good to challenge. And I give an example when you create teams is people that like to surround it of people exactly the same that the same person. That’s very convenient in the way that nobody challenge you. It’s scum, whatever. But that’s not advanced anything. When you are around with teams that challenge you, that’s much more uncomfortable for you. But to make you evolve. But to control, this has to be an agreement, a moment to discuss, a moment to everybody, put their opinion and then as a team agree what is good for the company. Once you agree that and it is not another change that makes something that change on that position. You can not tell I was standing. I was telling. I was telling. No, we agree this we know this is what we agree. It’s any change. Let’s see. Discuss. We change this. But this was the agreement. What you can not do is try to win always in your opinion.


Yeah I agree with that. So then we move on from the family business. So what did you do after?


After that , I joined Life Fitness.  Life Fitness was like with Asics. They just bought the rights. They used to have a distributor in Spain in bought oil and they bought the rights of this to do to get back to the multinational.


What does that mean by the rights of the distributor?


When you are a distributor you have the right to sell the product in the country. Sometimes the headquarters want to keep control of that. Then they buy the company and tell me you are not anymore distributor. Now, as a multinational, you go.


Why would they give the rights in the first place if eventually they will buy them?


Because normally in the stage of a startup or a state of a corporation is that of any company, there are moments that it’s needed to have headquarter or subsidiary or in a country, and there are moments that is easy to have a distributor or an Asian or whatever. Then you make a contract. That contract last five years, six years, two years. If you want to finish it before that has a cost. But that’s any startup in the world has that challenge. They do not have money to put offices all around the world, but they want to be all around the world. And sometimes our business that with Internet is not enough and you need physical locations. And that’s one of the choices.


So… So pretty much if you’re scaling, you don’t have to have offices everywhere. You just make a contract with the distributor and then it looks as if you’re everywhere.


And they sell for you and they get one percentage of that.




That’s like an Asian if you go to US. In Europe. You decide a lot of times to have people employee as a salesperson. In US you have Asians and an Asian is somebody that you do not pay. You pay a percentage of the sales. But that percentage of a sale, they are protected with a contract. You cannot cancel that contract. If you can’t say you have to pay. This is the same when you go to countries, whatever. It’s impossible for startup nowadays to go to all the countries in the world. But could have sent in some countries that are a priority to have presence and growth.


So I have an idea how to hire agents and teams abroad. You can most certainly use recruiters like multinational recruiters to do that. How would you for physical products like assure something? How would you get a distributor? Because I’m assuming you don’t just go on like a recruiter website and just type I want a distributor. So how?


this is that much depending on the industry and the business that you are. I mean, each industry, they have their companies that they are selling and they are really good on that. Then that’s if you’re on the industries that so complicated to find it. And then research, which are the good ones. But there are easier ways to do this. What is true that these kind of decisions can not be done. This is like a marriage. Because they they they are the reputation of your brand.


So it’s pretty much you go to trade shows and/or Google and you search the leading distribution agencies in the country and then you talk with them and then you have to treat it almost like an investor relationship where you really


Something like that. And you have to think that there are two kind of business, the business that can be scale up a hundred percent online and that zero of these kind of things. And the business that there’s really still need the the hard base to be really close to the consumer. This kind of business always will need to have offices or to have somebody or persons. And then you you have to have this like imagine hiring a CEO in a country is the same importance because they can affect your image or they can or they can make you earn money with good image.


So you said something really interesting, said there’s two types of business that goes online and then the one that needs to be closer to the consumer. So why and that is maybe you’re skipping a little bit. But let’s go now to Asics. Why… I feel like that could be a business that is fully online. Why take the choice to create stores and closer to consumer? Why not maybe create like a hype online or something or get influencers?


You have to. Once again, you have to differentiate two things. Hundred percent digital means the day that we can bring in a 3-D printer issue in your home. What you’re telling us is going to be a hundred percent real. You will need no shops. But that’s very far away. But any business that you need, physical products, even Amazon now is putting some physical shops.




Amazon has opened some supermarkets, some political shop. They need showrooming because still people need to have an experience and touch and they give an example. If you are a runner, which is the right shoe that you like and you can be recommended. But at the end, it’s a it’s a feeling that you need to feel and know and and you have to test the product. Then you have to receive the product. You have to test it. You have to validate it. And you can do it. Shipping product up and down. Or you can go to shop tested and knowing which is the right one for


What is. I feel like Zalando really like figured that part out, which is the shipping part.


With a huge cost for them.


Is that actually the interesting question for me. Is that cheaper or more expensive than having a shop like Asics has?


Depends the business. They’ve been where you have the shop. Depend the product. If the product is very heavy or very volume, the transport is higher, then bleeds are higher. I think it’s can not be relying on everything. I think it’s very, very the good thing is I remember one Internet game they told Divvies when these appeared teams are still there on is moving to Internet. More radios are still there. It’s moving. What I’m telling is e-commerce is here forever, is not going to change. Everyday Is going to be more. But people still need experiences. People still need some touch some feel. Whatever. We’re persons and the mix of both things is we have to find where it is. It is not black and white TV. It is not the only under man. It’s a mix of things there. When you see a football game, it doesn’t matter if it’s on TV or online is the same. You see it at that moment, not when you want them. There are things that are going to happen in one place, the other. Then I think that we’ll have to put in context. I think in in this time, we feel it’s only one way. There are a lot of ways anybody can do everything. It’s how you do it in the… You do it. The result that you have. Yeah, I agree.


So, okay, back to Life Fitness. So you went from family business there. So tell what will happen.


It’s a completely different business. It’s a multinational American with a roof like  that was SOX. Sarbanes Oxley. That means that you have a stock exchange company. You have to control a lot of things, rules, procedures, whatever. But at the same time, you have a really small company because sales are really small because you just bought it and you have to grow it. And it’s interesting because you have the two sides. You have, let’s say, the knowledge of the big corporations, that they’re really good on procedurea maintaining resources, knowledge and on the side, they are managing a really small company…


That have to roll as well as a team.


We create the team from zero because we start from zero. We have two West two three persons. That was from the previous one. We have created from zero, then created from zero to make it the reasonable business.


So again, how long did it take you?


I was, uh, three years on something until I moved to Asics.


And what happened in those three years?


Growing in double digits every year, increasing on people on sales and profit and learning a lot.


So by the time you left, how big was it?


There amounts that, uh, you cannot tell because, you know, in this you have confidentiality agreements, but less so millions


No no no not the revenue I meant. The people


and people side, I think we finish with 20 something person.


So you built everything from zero in three years. And then. So what were the biggest learning lessons?


I think the biggest learning is first thing is first, it’s not the good or bad, the strategies, the strategies that you can apply play. Because what I mean is when you think big company, you are going to do things. But the reality is you’re a small company in a big company, then you have to adjust your strategy. Second thing is the importance of people. I mean, when I speak, suppose later, but when I see now a lot of startups, I think they feel for the people side and not because they are bad, but because they do not taking account two criteria that they put them. First thing is the role of the founder in each phase of the startup is complete, different, and sometimes they do not realize. Initially they really broke focus raising money in the second phase they agreed to create that team. They have some traction. And another phase they have to be leaders. And it’s completely different from  make a product, raise money but be a leader. Some of the stuff that’s fails for that because the founder is not evolving. And second, big failure on the people side in a startup is because they do not realize the importance of the people. They just receive the money and they start hiring. But people change the culture. If you don’t hire. Correct, change culture.


Change ways. Change the company.


So how do you how do you hire?


I think the first thing is you have to know very well. And we for example, in Asics, we hire  basing basing three criteria. The first criteria is does it mmatch with the culture of the company. And this is important. If you’re CV, your experience is really good.


But how do you know what the culture of the company is?


And can we use psychology for that? We use our long time interest. But the first thing you have to have very clear, what is your culture? If you do not know it, very clear, proven what it is you can not find or not.


And so how do you what are some basic steps? Some of our listeners,


I think the first thing is what do you want to be as a company? I give an example. Asics means Anima Sana In Corpore Sano. We are not about winning. We are not about… We want to make better people then in our culture we want to grow. Yes. Want to. Yes. But with rules, we in our corporate culture, following the rules, being good with your colleagues, learn from Ferrugia improve. It’s very important in other cultures. It’s only important to be the first to win whatever.


If you kill the others, you don’t mind is good or bad. Is your company culture. Each one will be… Will feel that their culture is better then the first thing is you have to define very well. What is your company culture, what do you want to be. You want to be a charity or do you want to be a company? If you’re a company, what is your aim? What is you propose? What? And with this, you have to hire people that met these values. I give you an example personally. If I change of Asics , I will not be able to go to the tobacco company. I was at the at the smoking at the tobacco


tobacco company.


Why? Because I don’t believe on unhealthy life. Then if they want to hire me, it will be not a matching culture. In others I will be hundred percent open. But this is an example. Then culture is the first thing. Second thing is how we’d match with a team. There is people that could match with the culture, but the way that they they interact with the others could damage the rest of the team. A clear example, if you have a football team, they are really good players. But there are some players that add more value to the other players. And there are some players that they played really well, but they killed the  other players. Then this is really important. And for that, you need really to understand what does the strength or weakness on your team and what this person complements.


So how do you spot people like that?


I think once again, you have to make a lot of analysis of your people’s strengths. Weakness. What? I’m starting for yourself. What are you good at with your battles?


You’re saying  analysis. Are these psychology tests like what are you doing?


We are doing psychology test. We’re doing a lot of working dynamics, a lot of team work where you can see how people work.


So like workshops,


I think there are a lot of nowadays, there’s a lot of ways to analyze. How is your personality. There are basic things from like the colors, the red, the blue way. That’s one example. But there are a lot of things. Is whatever you use, you have to use it in a way that you’re consistent all around. You can not compare with you with red and with the other with another system. Is use a system that you believe, check that is right. And then use it


to choose a personalities. And then, OK, I get that you you implement, which you find works. And then based on that, you look at complementary skills that fit the team. What happens if you do that recruitments and like a bad person slips, then


you have to make for the fairness of the company. You have to make a fast decision.


Can you give an example? Has that ever happened?


I think that I give you an example on Asics. Unfortunately, we make some mistakes. Yes. And it was one case, one guy that the first day was doing one illegal behavior. And we have to execute very fast because the company don’t allow illegal behaviors. Then. But all the rest of the people were reinforced because we were following our same mission vision and we were really thinking our culture we didn’t accept that. That reinforced the theme.


So, OK, so he did something bad. You say execute fast. Are we talking like hours or 10 days? Weeks.


I mean, if you see something that these really strong hours, if you see that something that he can improve, you have to give feedback immediately. You have to improve and give the choice to people to do it. What they’re telling is at the end is first thing is you have to have a strong process and all this compression to start because we were telling they make mistakes that way. They make mistakes because suddenly you have to hire hundred people. And when you make hundred people hired without processes, without role-play, a lot of things that you can make in a person and you hire all these series knight, I hire this person. The consequences can be really high. But what I’m telling is may not the grow the stage startups. They have to be prepared to be in growth. Means they have to decide how is their hiring process to avoid these mistakes. If there is a mistake. What is the process to solve this person, to make them on the right track? Or if it’s not possible, how to be out of the company. Then for me, this is crucial to think that is not having the money, is not hiring the people, is how you do it. It’s even more important that these two factors.


Do you advise founders to then do it themselves or hire someone experienced or external?


I think there are two things on this area. The external experience and unprocessed not the strongest side, it’s really, really highly needed. At the same time, it’s your company. In my two four roles in Asics, I had been in the last meeting getting the yes or no of each person because at the end that could change the culture of the company. That means that you have to be no processes, means that with the time your team is able to do all of this. Yes. But in a startup that at the beginning there are so many new persons, founders has to be involved. It’s part of the company on his part. That’s why their role is also changing. They have no so much time if they have to hire. They have less time.


So have you see… I can imagine as innovation, you’ve probably seen a lot of startups go through. Have you seen any really good stories and really bad stories that you could share?


I think that the bad stories always is, uh, Founders’, uh, battles within them that they they broken. They have to split the company. That’s the worse.


Why do you think it happened?


I think because this is like a marriage before marrying, you have to know who you’re going to work with and you have to see if they complement. You have to understand what is a strength on the weakness. And it is the same that I was telling for hiring a person even is the most important. If each one if they do not have let’s say they have personally these that cannot match. This is going to happen. And you have to think that in a startup, it’s extremely stress.By definition, startup equals stress. That’s right. Definition. You cannot change that even for because this standard is going well or because the stuff is going but is a stress. All of us, when we are put under stress, we our personality goes to the limit. Then we do not have to hide this. This is like people only making contracts or not. These are the same as you may contract for work, for where things go wrong, for part for or for founders the same. You have to analyze when things go wrong. How is going to have both and then it will happen. Then you have to be ready for that.


So you pretty much advise to do something. Team building activity maybe where people are put in the highest amounts of stress before you start the company.


That could be one choice. Another typical two professionals that they put on the table. When you’re under stress, what’s gonna happen? And don’t lie to yourself. Means are you willing to receive. Always. Always. There are things in life that you will not like. But if you know it and you don’t like yourself and you accept it when it comes, you have to tell. OK, I know that I accept it is not that they like it, but they have to accept it. Then I think the worst thing is feel that is when to be honeymoon. Every every time is going to be nice. We’re going to be in love. That’s not life. Then I think startups has to make first this first commitment. This is my weakness. I will try to solve it. This my weakness. I will try to solve it. But just engage you have to be patient on that side. Okay.


So, okay, back to you. You finish your three year stand. What happened? Did you finish it or did Asics  recruit you?


I was approach. It took me a while to make that change. Because it was not active looking then.


What do you mean you were approached like somebody on LinkedIn messages, you or…


A headhunter approached me and then, uh, um, for me was starting again from a scrap northwest scrap because it was a bigger company. But starting to creating was okay is like creating a new startup. But, uh. Okay. That that’s a little bit my role sometimes.


So weren’t you. I see this a lot and I have to be honest. For me it’s also a little bit harder because I’ve started my company six years ago now and then became the scale up. And then we started this event and it became really big, really fast as well. But after a while, it kind of gets tiring. Then after a while, you’ve had, you know, the family business and it is. Weren’t you tired of doing it again or how? What was your thought process?


I think he’s not tired. The word is that you learn and you know what you want to do and what you want you don’t want to do. I think there is in any job in the life, there’s good things and bad things. That’s not the perfect thing. But there are things that for you unbury as you know it and you try to avoid it. I think that’s what will give experience. I think one of the problem of the society nowadays is that all young guys has so much knowledge, even more, than older people. The only difference is experience. Experiences is like a machine learning. You have a lot of data or not that the older people has more sets of data.  and algorithm has evolved a little bit. But knowledge wise is not the issue. But data experience gave you knowledge what you have to do and you don’t have to do.


So you are more eager to use that new acquired knowledge to implement into Asics?


Yes. And I think the key thing on this kind of things is your mentality. And my mentality is always is if I like the project, I put all my skin on the game and and I do it. But that’s for me. It’s important to choose the right.


Right. Oh, is it about Asics that attracted you?


I think Asics  funny things and personal things is when I was really young, I have a T-shirt from Asics, but when I was in, in, in, in Spain people was calling all O-asics instead of Asics and I was thinking, oh these brands in Spain is not represented in the way that they deserve.Then I like this challenge, then I take the challenge and we were lot of years growing double digit and moving from the third rand to the third brand has been very interesting until I moved to the new position that even has been more amazing.


What were the steps you joined Asics  because you weren’t yet. What were the positions or were you doing to get promoted or to get it from 18 to third?


I mean, basically is in Asics  eight best four positions. The first was  managing only Spain. After managing a Spain, I took  Portugal. Portugal was a country that was losing money.


Was it Spain and Portugal or just


For Spain and Portugal? And then what we did is put in one year to make profit that that country.


So. But what’s your position then?


I was general manager of a Spain. Then I took general msanager  for Spain and Portugal. And then, uh, after, uh, several years, then four years ago, I think also France as part of the business, it was a country who has interesting and different culture, a much more bigger subsidiary than Spain and Portugal. But for me was very interesting again to learn things, learn different ways to the things learn how you. When, uh, their organization is much, much bigger. How you can, uh, maximize the knowledge around the people. How you can make use




using the senior people in the way that you can to maximize that. And that’s not easy. But I think that the first thing is understand different cultures. And that’s not the basic assumption. It’s not the same working with Japanese, that working with French, that working with Portuguese or with the Spanish is very different. And I give you a personal example. When I arrive France, I was perceived  to be a bit aggressive with their spend and not as perceived as aggressive. And the reason is because they are a culture that when you start meeting, you start making an informal five, 10 minute. How’s the day? How was work? And I was out of my home three days and I want to go very efficient. And I was perceived as aggressive. Then I started to realize these make meetings much more efficient because that five, 10 minutes make them connect. And then they were more more active to work. Then I think he’s not good or but he’s understanding what is the others. Understand how do people go and then tried to use all resources and what was all these games. Because what we are telling,  how you make more efficient this. And I think the good thing on having three countries is that you have really good people in each country. How you can use the brain of the people on the other country on what and how you do it without losing the local knowledge. And I think that was the key thing.


How is it personally managing three countries? Because you start with Spain, which is already a pretty big task. And then you add Portugal. You just you pretty much say the challenge is I just added Portugal to that and then just added France for them. Your schedule must have been crazy.


I think the first thing is you need to have a good team without a team. That’s impossible, isn’t it? One person is one team and then that makes a difference. Second thing is this is like making a sport. You can run 5k, then 10k, half marathon and a marathon. The more you train, you can more save the first day you take that size. Maybe you can do it. But for me, team is the most important. And with a good team, you can do whatever it is in life. Second thing is training help you to to be more ready. And what you’re telling me is I do not agree with The thing I think, is  a mentality thing easier if what is your role to do everything or your role is to lead people, to help people support people and to make a good distressingly to help them. Well. That’s the red. The change in the role of the leader. I mean, if you want to do everything like you were doing before. Check every ad, check every offer a check. That’s not possible. You have to trust new people. That’s why you have to have good people. And you have to make them direction. You have to help them. Then your role is different then. I think if I hear what you tell me, I can perceive that it’s a person that do not make their change on what is their role.


So what do you look for in your team? Personality wise or skills?


I think it’s silly. The first thing is I look that they’re good persons. Because there is one thing that goes bit of trust. If you don’t trust somebody you are protecting yourself, then you’re not speedy. Then I need to trust my team. That’s the most important because that gives you speed. And that led me a lot of free time. The second thing is the skills, of course. And on personality, both things are important because complementary of personality. There is people that is very detail oriented people that is visionary people that like repetitive task. You need all of these join. Of the knowledge that they have.


And then how do you keep those type of high profile people interested in working with you for a longer period? Because I can imagine for them, because this is now a trend that is happening every year or two. The new generation, my generation is trying to find the next thing, the next thing. So I noticed that job hopping is a common trend to experience the same. How do you keep the your people engaged? I you will see I always try to put in three because it’s my secret thing. But the three boxes, the first thing is you need to have an interesting job and what it means is no money or we follow a process that the first year we learn. Second year we think on third year we start to be boring. Then this cycle, I think it’s in life and you have to think how you’re going to give more motivation to these people. Second thing is the company itself. If it’s a company that they really appreciate people inside must be good excitement you make. It keeps also. I give you an example. In Asics, we have gym, we have psychology, we have yoga. We have thousand of small things that make their life more comfortable. But this is a double site first. They are blessing because they are less stressed. But they want to keep because they feel happy to come to work. When these you… When you do not have this far of let’s say normally if you analyze the hours that you have in your life, you are… More hours in the work that you hope. Because when you are in your home, you are sleeping. And rest of the hours. I had so many and you have the weekend. Then if that hours are really bad for you, that’s not good. Then having a job that is compelling. Having a place where you can feel comfortable, feel like home. And knowing that it’s not a charity that is a company means that you have to be a company. And third is make challenging an ambition and direction. All of us. I was telling myself, I motivate myself because I have a clear target. I have a clear direction. People has to have an ambition to do something. And I think with these new young generation, if it’s no sense, if it’s a company that it’s only for money they will not do, it has to be a sense on the back. In our case, that is anima sana in corpore sano, very… We want society to be better for sport. That’s a good thing.


So then how do you. So now we’re obviously in Asics. So how do you implement that in Asics where you really I mean, that’s a bold statement. And if you look at the other companies that are the other big brands, I can’t imagine all of them are trying to do something similar. But for me, Asics , I remember my first memory of Asics  is my uncle who was like a big brother to me, said if you’re buying running shoes, drop all the rest, you gotta get Asics . So that’s my earliest memory. No less than ten years old. So my mind is like Asics  is always a good running shoes. But you’re saying like you’re implementing all of this for your employees. This new generation isn’t just about the running shoes. Are you doing charities or like? I can assume only the yoga isn’t enough for them to come. Everybody’s doing yoga. No


Reply. Yes. We’ll have some actions that we give shoes and we’ll have some shows in the UK that we’re doing. But I think what is important is that’s for me, that’s a personal opinion, not a company, a personal opinion. I hate when companies does things for marketing purpose. I think if you really do things because you’re really doing with good sense, it doesn’t matter if you do it in a charity, you do it internally, whatever. I give you an example. If you really want to be perceived as the best company in running, you have two ways to do it. One ways to make a big marketing. make me feel that you are the Coca-Cola because you have a brand here or really make a good product. I believe if  you have really good proof that you believe even you do a bad marketing sometimes, you have more.  more aligned with what I think. For all the rest is the same. If you do things you do not have to the things because it’s a marketing or a bluff, you have to believe it. And sometimes there are some companies that make clean washing and they do a lot of charities or lot of things. And after they would make things that are not legal, then I think you have to align everything and do things that are authentic and real, because with the  society, everybody will find the reality.


Yeah, especially now with the whole PR disasters are happening every year


Is better not to the things that do the things to cover what you are doing wrong.But that that’s my personal opinion.


So let’s go deeper into then your ASIC experience. You started you started growing. What happened after friends joined?


We were growing and then Europe was making a changing. The former Italy want to organize and they were proposing me several positions. But I was very clear that they want this new position. I think Asics , as you said, has been amazing. Developing the best shoes in the market, no doubt. But the reality of the market is different. The reality is that even Google says that they have more good engineers outside Google, inside Google, because the wall is so big that you have to look outside. Then my vision was, I want to look outside. We’ll have a good department inside. That is the best use. But we’ll have to look outside of what is going to bring us consumer preference in the future for the sound mind. Somebody and I was lucky that we have a CEO that believe that and we create this department. So it’s basically what we are doing is one of the things that we’re doing is we’re collaborating with the startups. We didn’t know we finished just the second batch of taxation burden costing and then containing Japanese mean the tipping point. And we want to be the tipping point of the startups that they’re on and they want to have a growth face.


See, you started pretty much an acceleration program within Asics and you attract sports startups.


What weattrat is everything that is inside our name. Anima sana in corpore sano means everything that is inside the  mind,  we are not so focused on shoes or whatever, but we focused anything that it’s a sport and health and wellness.


And then they go through an acceleration program and then they can roll out internally through your employee.


Yes, basically what we make is three areas of working. One idea working is the stand the one of social. We work with our business for that. We have entrepreneurs in residence that used to be successful. Is that the founders that help all of us to do? Plus mentors plus on the business side. Second parties, we focus on the people side to our experience in growing business. We really focus on them, on the founders, how they have to evolve, understand the face and what they need to be prepared to scale. Hiring methods, blah, blah, blah, blah. They are not… We do not tell ours. We make them think what they need to do to make it happen. And the third, not least, is working with Asics  and working with Asics could be using the knowledge of Asics, could be using the distribution of Asics , could be that Asics  is a it is a customer of them. Could be that Asics  sales their brother. Could be that depends.


So both question why would you do that if… Why not just create challenges where startups can just sign up and work with Asics  or something. Or why not just have a venture fund that invests in startups. Why create an acceleration program.


OK, good question. And it’s not a perfect answer for this. But I will tell you, my, my, my, my logic behind first thing is as a corporation, you have to understand what you can help on what you can help. I will put three areas and then I will develop. Second thing is you have to make a collaboration with a corporation is extremely difficult. And third, is there so much data that they have a good product but they finance on the back or the business model is not ready and they can fail? If I mix all of this, what I mean is imagine for a corporation that they put you money. Okay, I can lose the money. That’s a problem. But I put my reputation, my image and your startup close, broken and in the middle of… That’s a problem. And the first thing is, as a corporation, we are highly interesting that the startup belongs as much years as we can. Not for buying the startup. But if we make a collaboration. If the startup is successful, we’re going to have a long term collaboration. Then that’s number one of the acceleration thinking. Second thing is, and making a project with a corporation is not easy. I always tell the same, but there are two. Theoretically to make successful a project with a startup, a corporation, you have to make two things. You have to reduce the speed of the startup. You have to increase the speed of the corporation. Because if you try corporation toward the speed of the startup or start with the speed of the corporation, these are going to be a disaster. Because start corporations by essence cannot go at the speed of other startups. If they go at the speed of the corporation, they will not be a startup anymore then doing this it’s a lot of psychology, a lot of… And you can do that during a session working within four months. You can make like the Google translator of the corporation and understand that. And you can speak both languages and you can tell this side and this side and try to connect. If you make a challenge, they can one day they see every one week and they speak different languages.


So the accelerator program is actually that’s thing where you slow down startups and speed up to the core. That’s one part. And the last but not least is you have to think on what you can help. In our case, what we saw is we can we don’t one or we try not to help too much on the problem. We want to start ups with product market fit that they have. But we have contacts, we have network, we have experience in the sector and we have reach. And then these in that challenge, you cannot do it normally when you make a challenge. It’s a very early stage thing. And if you want to do marketing, it’s incredible. Would you make a lot of noise. You make a lot of marketing, and that’s really good. But from until it happens, it does not match. In our case, what we thought is where we can help. Okay, you’re almost ready to scale. We can help you. That’s not the challenge that because a challenge normally is an early stage. Second thing is this process is very consuming, time consuming for both sides. Then let’s make it work. And third on the list is we want discolouration to last a lot of years. Then it will help you to have the right finance, will help you to have the right business model, will help you to be ready for growth with people. That’s welcome to the logic of this.


That’s why so many corporates are rolling on accelerator program.


That’s that’s assuming they assume. I don’t think they’d make these analogies, I think each one may go on as this is our analysis. This is my point of view. I don’t think so, because if you see taxation program a lot of companies, what it does is they hire to a third party and they use it as marketing. In our case, what we did is we do a team that has knowledge of both parts and then we hire people external that help us with the start the ball.


Then I saw a lot of programs. If you analyze, they are not so many successful on the wall. But the main reason is because as as I was saying very well in the beginning, you have to make the strategy that is good for you. And in our case, we saw, OK. It’s very difficult to make a collaboration. We don’t want to make it as marketing bluff, because if not, that’s very easy. You bring  but that’s not the proposal.We really want to find the long term view.


So what is the most exciting startup there with, uh, that came through the program?


I think we have to understand how we did it. Is the logic on the on the acceleration program, because they are where…


Do you equity invest as well?


We have a small small business, but we’re really a startup friendly.


So. So you take a small equity do you also give money or no.


And we are able to make full up. But this is not the most important for them. And we have to be careful because sometimes we can be a barrier. But if we take the logic of a normalization,  is what they need is to have a lot of startups, because by this, this takes five will die. La, la, la, la. We try not to be in that statistic. And now our ideas, which is five to six per batch until now we make five. But we have a limit of six. And we really customize it. And we put a lot of effort. But it’s like hiring. Yeah. We make the same concept is the business of hiring is really, really demanding. We check the people side. We check the business side. We check the product, Croatian side. And we take the ones that for us as more probabilities to succeed. Sometimes you have the fascination. We have really no motive. But it’s more difficult to make a project. Sometimes it’s more up to market. You don’t see it’s so innovative because they’re in the growth estates and AirBandB, be 10 years old, does not exist in the mind of the people here. And now it’s common. Then… But you can’t help more an AirBandB than that 10 years ago. Then what is important is to understand corporations. They have to understand why they want it. It’s a marketing would proposed. Composition for young people that are innovative. That’s good. But if you really want to innovate, you have to think which tools you have and how you use it to make it happen.


Okay, see that now we are getting into the story. So that’s your current position, right. And you do that in all the regions that you mentioned in the beginning?


Yes, we have the office here in Barcelona. Now is the second year. And we are like in a startup means that we can be here or tomorrow we can stop and do another thing and and change because that is the role that we decide. Startup is one of the things that we are doing. And second thing is we make to test for the corporation. The first test is we are testing business models that in a normal corporation you can test, for example, subscription and things like that because they are using we create external internal team and we put it estimates that in the program to test with work. That is one of the things that we were doing. And the last test that we did is even more different is normal in corporation we have divisions with a one small division. We take it from the normal business and we put it looks right there. That why we did that, because when you are as more division in a big corporation, nobody cares about you. But sometimes they do not have the flexi that. Then what we are trying to make that mentality of making things happen in things, then they are test and we know which way to work. We don’t know. We don’t know if we’re going to live for a lot of time or we are a startup and maybe tomorrow with a group in the boardroom or maybe tomorrow we decide to change of job. That’s life. And we’re on the roll and we accept it.


So we’re almost coming to the end. And then what is your biggest lesson out of all this?


I think you can learn from every side. I learn a lot from my startup and a lot of things that can be applied in corporations. And they learn a lot of things that from corporations that the startups can can leverage and take. But what I realize is main of the problems that people is not taking the time to analyze and is neglecting. They’re like no no. I cannot work as a corporation. No, no, I cannot work as a startup. I think willing, is willing to change is the first step to doing it. Then I think these two years with the Statham’s, I see that companies with one zero zero zero one percent of our resources are able to do things. And on the other side, they see that as a corporation, we can give a value that we have to rent it. Our brand is rented and we do not realize how much value it has. I have a brand value of working in Asics . I will have another brand value out of Asics. And that’s a reality whena startup collaborate with a brand. They really can. It’s more important than the money that the project be able to use that credibility. That’s the most important thing that could have a startup from a corporation.


I agree. And I think that’s actually a really good closing statement to give. Any last words towards founders or startups in the factory?


I think they they they. I’ve been now two years dealing with them. I admire the energy they have. I admire what they do. I think they have to take if from what they learn. Three big things. The first thing is keep pushing. It was one guy that was telling how many times you have to try one thing to make it happen. And he was telling until you achieve it. The second thing is, listen, a lot. Don’t think that you know everything and then make your own decision. That’s the third thing, is it will come a lot of people that will tell you that the clue, whatever, but they’re not doing their consultants for you. You have to decide. But first, listen. Then if you persist, you listen and then you make your own decisions. I think that will succeed.


Thank you. Thank you so much.


You’re welcome.


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Welcome to the to the podcast. So these podcasts go quite yeah, pretty flexible. So not really a topic, but obviously I am super interested in what you do. So thereby here. So first obviously introduction about yourself. Please let me know what you do. And also because I read a lot on your background, except Chanel, except KLM.  I saw obviously Vueling. How would I pronounce Vueling? With a B or with a V?


That’s the one million dollar question, I think.I think when they founded Vueling, I think they, it is a Spanish company, but they wanted to have like a tourism between English and Spanish.They never thought about becoming maybe so big or so international. And now all the foreigners are starting with the name. So since I’m also not a Spanish native, it’s also difficult for me to pronounce. But I pronounce it like ‘Bueling’, sort of like a B, ‘Bueling’. But it’s it’s a combination of vuelo and flying. So that’s why it’s ‘Bueling’… ‘Bueling’. Yeah.


Yeah. Yeah. So currently working their but… But you ask me about who I am. I own my background, but it’s a long story. And that started at the time. Yeah. So currently working in Barcelona.


But I. In a different kind of construction than I think most people. So I founded my own company and now I, I am hired for my company. And then people tell me, oh so you’re a consultant. But I actually don’t like the word consultant and I’m more like a freelancer or other interim or that kind of.


And so what do you do in Vueling right now. Innovation manager, right?


Yeah. So I’m head of innovation there. So I lead the innovation team that I also built.


What do you mean you built it?


I there was no team before. No there were… There was a little team and it consisted of Spanish guys with an I.T. background. So when I arrived, my mission was or is to level up innovation and to come up with new business models using new tech, but also drive a culture of innovation within the company. So with the small team I had, I knew I had to also grow the team with different kind of backgrounds, gender, perspective, age nationality.


Did you have like a job description when you entered or was it just like figure it out?


Yeah, it was sort of like figure it out. Yeah. So it was it was funny because I said I am Dutch. So I’m sort of kind of used to structure and then entering a as not having a permanent contract anymore my from my own company because I quit my job after a long corporate career. So the big first big change was I had my own company now. Then the second one is as a dutchie going to Spain. The third big change was I was used to legacy companies or a legacy airline, which is me, which means KLM was around for 100 years. So it is is a this is an airline that at that time was 13 years old.


And then it’s also a low cost carrier, which is different, different kind of business model than KLM.


So quite, quite a lot of changes. So was there a structure? No, because it’s sort of like a startup. It’s sort of a scale up. And then in a Spanish way. So for me, that was and that is still sometimes difficult. But the past two years, one of the things that I really learned was to become resilient.


What do you mean? What would happen?


Not so… becoming more relaxed. Things will work out and the system in Spain is just a little bit different.


And what is funny is my friends here in Holland, they all like Spanish. Now, manana, manana. You just have to understand that there is the the way they work is different. So you’re in Holland.


Everything is really planned. And that means that in the end there’s less flexibility. In Spain, there is less plan. But at the end, the last minutes, everything can be done. So then everybody is like, okay. It needs to be. It needs to be done. It needs to get fixed.


So let’s let’s, uh. Let’s get it. Let’s get it on.


It’s like chill, chill, chill. But then last minute it’s. Yeah.


And then you get everything done. But sometimes you get even done much more than in Holland where things are more plans. And then the end maybe the result is less so. But you just have to understand that things work a little bit like that. So I’m being resilient. Learn learning is OK. Don’t get stressed when sort of the deadline arrives and then. Yeah. Just take it easy and then push for it at the end.


Isn’t that hard? Yeah, because obviously how. What was the moment and when you really realized. Okay. Like now I get it. And now I’m more chill because whenever I reflect back on some of our additions of Startup Funding Event, we’ve had like a lot of stress at some of the big ones. And then I remember we had one in June, like one of the biggest that we organized. And then a lot of stress. January, February, March, I was starting to switch.


But then in April, like a click came it suddenly it was like calm. Yeah. Did you have something similar?


So I’m with my team. Uh, I push my team along to show ourselves to the outside world. So I tried to go to events and then I tried to manage that. That we actual space to present our work. So I do that both externally, but also internally. Um, and that means that we need to get organized to get ready to show something cool. And in the beginning, there were so reluctant to do that, even if it was a pop up demo in the canteen.


So sometimes we had a canteen at Vueling just to for two hours and to show a word. But then we need to bring staff and everything. And I in the beginning, I was trying to prepare days in advance and I and my team was like, yeah. And then the day arrived and they just managed. So for me it was also OK, let go and they can handle. I also hired really, really good people. So that is also why I can let go, because I trust that they will do a job.


So that helps a lot. And also, it’s I think it was interesting when you are leading innovation, innovation is all about learning, making mistakes. Don’t blame people when when they fuck up. So I’m also very relaxed when things don’t go as they should go or as planned and then I make a joke about it. Yeah. This is how we how we learn this, how we work. And so it’s a maybe a funny story.


The first time I, uh, I did a talk, a public talk, I was in Barcelona and I was invited by one of the business schools over there. Yeah. And I said, do we have a yearly event? Do you wanna come over and talk and give a talk? And I said, Yeah, yeah, sure. Somehow I always say yes. And and afterwards I think, like, why the fuck did I say yes?


So that was the first time an audience was like five hundred people.


So it was not even a small event.


And I was also the first there were like four speakers. I was the first. So I was on stage. I was there also obviously nervous. And after one minutes, the whole might you have to know what my talks. I always use a lot of pictures and because that makes my story, funny pictures and everything. So after the first minute, uh, you see the videos, they all have proved down. Yeah. So I was in technical difficulty.




And it was like, oh, shit, what am I doing now? So I made a big joke about it. Hey guys, I run an innovation lab and this is what happens all the time. So now let’s impro… improvise. And so the whole audience laughed. Laughs And then somehow, uh, the tech problems were over. And the video we started… the screens were alive again. And then that was for me also like, oh, yeah, just make a joke.


This is it.


Those are like the moments realizing that the team and go onstage realizing sometimes things don’t go your way. Yeah. That’s what it build your resilience then. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s okay to make mistakes. Right. Because that is part of innovation. And I mean sometimes if you make mistakes the whole thing can go down. Yeah. Well how would you guess how how would you say. I guess because for me, like that’s maybe an important question I have just out of


interest. When you’re like in a startup for a scale or any business, sometimes you can you have to take risks. Yeah. But sometimes if they become big mistakes, that can make ruin everything. Yeah.


So I think two things about that. The first one is always you learn from mistakes. So if you make a mistake or failure or always learn from it. The second one, you’re absolutely right that you shouldn’t make really big mistakes. This is also why I try with my team to, uh, date. Sometimes have the tendency to make things really big and say, no, let’s make it small and then do it step by step, because if you make things smaller and then you feel and the feeling was also small.


And especially when I work in airlines and airlines are by definition risk averse because we don’t want planes to go down. Yeah. So, you see, the whole industry is pretty risk averse. So it’s already difficult to experiment, laws and to make failures. And we also have to have to take this safety into account. It’s not that I have a lot of innovations in the aircraft or in the way we fly or operate. But it’s it’s something we we need to realize within.


So what do you do? Imagine I’m an entrepreneur. I want to start and innovate something in airlines. The first thing that pops up in my mind, electric flying or something like that. Yeah. Like how realistic is it to introduce something in such a risk averse industry?


easyJet is really into a electric plane. So they’re investing heavily in that. But if I look at electrical played over like to play there. For me, that’s real horizon three kind of innovation. What is horizon three? Yeah, maybe it’s one of the things I introduced in the way we work in my team as we work in three horizones at the same time. So Horizon one is, is what happens today from today until two years. So it’s it’s more like the incremental kind of things.


Um. This is where we keep our feet on the ground. And then you have horizon two, which is what happens in five years from now. So in my team we work on, we envision how the future airport experience will be. When you go to an airport in five years, how will that look like?


But you’re Vueling. So how can you change the airport?


Well, the airports and the airline have like similar customers, right? So we have the same customers. And I’m… I’m a strong believer in that, that innovation is all about collaboration. Oh, did you guys collaborate with airports? We want to collaborate a lot. Yes. Glad… we try. But what you see here in Holland, for instance, you have Schiphol Airport and  Schiphol and KLM work are working much closer together. In Spain, it’s more difficult, uh, because you have Aena and Aena is the airport authorities and they have like 40 airports in Spain and they are more hierarchical.


They’re more like a this is their this is what we do and we don’t care so much. So that means extra work to make bureaucracy. But but then horizon one and two and then you also have horizon three, which is like the crazy stuff. So what happens in 10 years or or further in the future? And that is where I think electrical planes are, but also by a few. And I think for especially for an airline, like Vueling, the biggest competition will be transportation by land like Hyperloop or something, Hyperloop, train, maybe even electrical cars.


If I go from Barcelona to Madrid, it’s today it’s like three hours by train and maybe it’s even convenient to take a car at that time.


And with a car, you just sit there, do nothing and do nothing or work or maybe there come up in the future that it’s like a bar or a cinema. Who knows? Right. I have seen concepts already competed with that. Well, I’m not sure if that is a good question.


And that this is also a question that I asked the board, is I’m not sure if we need to compete or we need to collaborate. Why? Why are we not funding? All right. Why don’t we collaborate with startups in this field and why are we not going to make it a next business? This is for me, a new business model.


So like Vueling autonomous cars or… who knows that you say, hey, we’re going to offer we are not offering transport by air from airports A to airport B. But we are are your I would say that we’d be door to door solution like the public transport here NS in the Netherland has… for instance, they do by car taxi, for instance.


I already work with a startup in Barcelona who integrates all kinds of ways of transport in the city. So if you if you come to Barcelona and you see steps which you don’t see in Holland yet, but a lot of rental steps, then you have scooters, then you have the bus, you have the metro. You have cars. You have bikes. And they have. But if you want to use that, they all have their own separate app.


So if that means that you have to have 16, 17 or 18 apps to work around, but this startup integrates everything. So that is pretty cool, actually. And my vision is that we that we make sure that you take whatever transport you have from the city and to the airport and then you fly away. But the  further to to further future is that maybe you don’t go to the airport but in another way. You get to your destination.


How how is your position then as innovation manager? Are you like reporting directly to the CEO? Are there steps in between, like how realistic? Yes. Can your plans go into. So I report to the CFO. Ok so you go straight to the CFO. Yeah. But which is which is interesting because I don’t see many companies innovation and finance going well together. But this CFO always kind the kind of visionary about technology and innovation. So then it becomes uh then it becomes handy because if I need money.


I you need to give um but I do have discussions about, hey, I don’t know what’s going to, uh, what the added value will be. Sometimes you just have to test these big topic. We’re just discussing. It’s very difficult to get feet on the runs at board level because it’s way too daunting. Yeah. So but I still think that I am the one, the crazy one in the company who needs to say these kind of things because no one else is.


Is that where you got the position? I don’t know. So what happened is I find that my company here, which is called Cabala. Yeah. And so it has rebel in it. So I know that people need to be a little bit aware of what they hire. So I am rebellious. But actually, this construction is quite interesting, is not being well short. Sort is still being an outsider. Um, I don’t, uh, I am not around to make friends and I don’t want to make friends because of my next career step.


I don’t care because this is my first and my last step in this company. So I can also push and if you don’t make friends, that is that’s part of it. But if and if that is hurting my career, that is not a problem to have. Has it ever hurt your career? You think? In my experience when you push usually nothing bad happens just in your mind. You think something bad might happen?


I don’t know. The more hierarchical a company gets, the more difficult it is. When you when you push, uh. Well, I think at KLM I was like this and some people really struggle with this. I said, do you want to know. Work for innovator of KLM. Yeah. What was that then. And it was funnier. Um, that was, uh, because I like the concept that KLM that they have a yearly innovation celebration.


And they they have awards and different kind of categories. And what I like about the concept is that every So colleagues can, uh. How do you say can recommend it or.


I can recommend. Hey, this project is is it was really cool the other part of the past year. So then there is a timeframe when people can recommend projects and people and then it closes and then there’s a voting time where employees also vote for what they like the best. So that means high employee involvement. And that also means that it’s not like secretive decided by by managers or whatever, but it’s what was most inspiring for people. So I think and I won 2 awards the first one was for a project.


I did. And, um, what happens within KLM? I managed to to build my own or to create my own job four times or something like that, which is interesting because in a hierarchical world is pretty difficult. But I always got get I’ve got a normal job and then I got a little bit bored and then I started to do things on the side. So in one of my jobs, I was building a laundry at Schiphol because I was responsible for the whole laundry of blankets.


Uniforms, that kind of stuff, like laundry for the workers, or. No, no, no, no. Laundry for the blankets on the on the planes. So when you fly, you have blankets and pillow. Well, that kind of stuff. It’s like high volume. It’s like millions and millions of per year. So high volume. And I saw that the logistic chain was crappy. There was so much waste in there. So I started to work on making that much more efficient.


And one of the things was to build a laundry at Schiphol. Schiphol. The northern part of it. So while I was doing that, uh, we the the the V.P. of the division changed. So we got a new guy and he wanted to meet just to get an interaction. And then I took him to this to this building place. And I explained what I was doing. And I if I can be quite passionate. So I think he was.


He really liked the story. I told it. And then two weeks after he called me and he said, well, when I accepted his new position, a, uh, a, uh, also said yes to an assignment. And I have no clue how to do it. But maybe you can help me. And that was the turnaround of an aircraft. And which means that when an aircraft arrives, it has to be prepared for takeoff again.


And that is called a turnaround. So the turnaround of the smallest fleet of KLM was 50 minutes, five zero. And it needed to be shortened. And this was on the table of the board of directors for two or three years. Shorten it with ten minutes.


But then on that on the memo, it said. But it’s the investment will take millions. So and that’s why the board of directors said we don’t have the money for these investment, but we need to do it. And that was sort of like a deadlock situation.


So this guy said, hey, this is going on and maybe you can help us. Oh, yeah, I can do it. But on my way. And he had no clue. And he said, yeah, for sure. And so what I said, I want to have a team of people who work in this process. No managers allowed, but a pilot, a cabin attendant, uh, the catering, the guy who changed the catering the cleaner, everyone.


So I had a team of 20. And those 20 people, I said I need them for a whole week. And we put them in in a room. And for a whole week we worked on. How can you be sure to disturb the time? And is it possible? It’s a it’s a very long story. So I’d make it I tell it very briefly. But a lot of things happened during that process and also on leadership. And but what happened in the end?


Uh, this team was confident enough to say we can bring it back to thirty five minutes. So 50 minutes off without no investment. And we can implement it in like four months, which was like. What is what is the fastest turnaround in all the airlines.




If you look at Ryanair for instance, they do it in 25 minutes.


For go from 50 to 35. That’s closer to Ryanair. Yeah. And so what happened is so this team was convinced we I invited for the report of the CEO of KLM and this guy didn’t know me, but he heard from me. And he said, yeah, at school. So I want to be there. So when he arrived, I didn’t tell the team and that he would come because they normally work at the ramp and now they had to present to these these kind of guys.


And because the CEO came, a lot of auto managers were like, yeah, I want to be there, too. So it was actually quite busy.


Uh, quite a lot of… how many people? I think 40 or 50 managers. Oh. And then my my team there and I in the morning I told oh by the way, you are going to do the presentation, not me. And then like oh so they were quite scared but they were, we built a really good team so. So they were really confident that we we made a rehearsal and that went really good. So well. So.


So this CEO came and I took them apart before he entered the room and I said, I don’t know what you’re going to do and whatever. You can ask questions, but please be constructive. Because these guys are a little bit scared that you are here. And so he looked at me like, who are you? And that and I said, I manage a little bit here. And so so we started. And then they presented this results, which meant in the end also.


Free of a whole plane. It’s a plane of 30 million. So we freed that up, which was a major breakthrough and they CEO. Oh, guy, what do you mean with free up a plane so we could sell it because we didn’t need anymore. So why not? Because if you fly if you are in the air shorter. We had I think back then 40 of these planes. Oh.


Because you saved so much time. Yeah. I make the schedule. That could be much more efficient. Yeah. So it was a huge, huge impact.


So that in the end we didn’t sell this plane, but we started to fly to more destinations, more flights, so more income and more revenue.


So you presented and the CEO says, OK, let’s do it. And four months later, you just have an extra plane or.


Well, actually, at CEO, it was he showed real good leadership there because all the managers and all the layers in, uh, from from the CEO until four layers down they were there. So they started to become really scared, like, oh, shit, we need it. We need to do this. And this CEO took the word idea. And he said, so everybody in this room heard, but this team has set and present it. And so we’re going to do it exactly as they do, as they told us.


Hey, team, if you need my help for any roadblocks, you can always call me and I will help you. So that meant that all the layers in between were like, OK. Now there’s no way out. So why were they like that? To me, it seems like weird. Obviously, I don’t have thousands of people working for me, but it seems weird like these people are there to improve the company. Why are they in the first place?


Have you ever worked in a corporate.


Well, I have, but it’s partly why I became an entrepreneur is because it frustrated me, because I don’t understand why the inefficiency is even allowed.


I am. I am with you. But I also know that it’s not how it would work in many places. And it’s I think a lot of people are risk averse or loss averse.


But if all the work is done and laid out and everything’s clearly your team did, why?


Well, so because there are still a lot of stuff needed to be done. Right. I had one pilot, but there not one pilot. So the other pilots also needed to be explained why we’re doing it. And so although it really helps to have one pilot there, because pilots, when a pilot tells, hey, I was there and this is a this is a very good plan. It’s not like a manager tells. We think we can do it.


But still, it was not like, hey, uh, we can switch tomorrow. Quite a work.


Can we maybe talk, like about what happened during the weeks that we maybe have more context, like. Yeah. So.


So you get these people. Twenty people. Right. Yeah. About 20 people. Yeah. Like you go on a retreat to Mallorca or something. No, no, no.


It wasn’t not a retreat. And a lot of things happened before that. Because you also touched and leadership. Yeah. So I’m not gonna start on the day that we started. I’m going to start a little bit before because I said, uh, I’m going to do it. And then I was like, oh, why did I say what did I say now? Like, oh my God, how am I going to do it? So I called one of my old buddies working at KLM as well.


We had worked together some time ago and we have a real good connection. So I said, Hey, man. I said, yes, it is. I have no clue. But are you in? And he said, Yeah, I’m in. So that was OK. So now we were the two of us. And and then we started to prepare. So I had two VPs who needed to support me. The guy who asked me to do this, he was responsible at that time for the whole ground operations of Schiphol


So he had part of all the processes that were part of this. And then we had another leader who was leading KLM City Ortberg, which is like it’s it’s like a separate entity within KLM. We have. So and he was responsible for the pilots. And again, it was kind of. So I had these two guys who. Well, he need they. They needed to sort of support me, whatever I did. So I had a conversation with them about.


About how about the context. So I said to them, uh, they said to me, Simone needs to go for 50 to 40 minutes. And I said, if you give me a call like that, I’m not gonna do it. So they were like, what? Yeah, you have to let go. So because two things can happen. One is it goes for it. We make it better or if we don’t make the 40 minutes, we have an extremely good story.


Why we’re not able to do it to make it. So they were like, okay. It was hard for them because it’s not how to how things normally go. So. So. And then I said, I need to know what my what the context is that I can act in. So I always called it my guard and what our defenses. And they said, no, no, no, no fences because that kills creativity. And I said, no, no, no.


Because then we are have very creative ideas. And in the end you’re going to say, no, we’re not going to do that. So I said, OUTFRONT, I want to know where my boundaries are. So we said, Kevin, can we invest money? No, no investment. OK, perfect. So safety needs to be a safe or safer. Customer. Customer. Uh, specs. Can I change them? And so what’s what’s the customers specs.


Yeah. An example is KLM. Back at the time. Because I know they changed a little bit.


But back back at the time, passengers can only board a deboard via the front of the plane, not at the back, but you have a stair at the back. If you board and deboard  at the front end, the end there was only with KLM.


No, it is. No, no, no. It’s it’s worse. Was one of the specifications of KLM has. OK. So for instance why is Ryanair so fast? Because they board and deboard it from both sides. Yeah. But KLM didn’t want that at that time. They didn’t want that. I asked too. Why not. No, it was not possible. OK. It’s not possible. Okay. But this is exactly why I wanted to know upfront, because this is a quite obvious solution to  win time.


But if we would have come up with it and they didn’t tell us, then they would have said, no, we’re not going to implement these solutions. So I created the context upfront. And then I said, it’s okay. You two did the deal. Those two VPs, I need you guys on Monday morning because you are going to kick it off and you’re going to inspire this group and you’re going to explain these boundaries. You’re not going to tell what a specific goal is that we need to tweak.


And then at the end of the week, and it was actually four days at the end of Thursday evening, you come and then you will listen to what whatever this team says and use it will say yes to everything they say.


But I said no worries because we have our boundaries. So trust me that I will facilitate that. We are not going outside, debark the boundaries. And by the way, you’re going to explain the boundaries on Monday morning so they know. So they also know when they come up with a solution that’s outside these boundaries. They might get to know at the end. So it’s it’s all about sort of transparency managing expectations.


So we prepared. So it was not a retreat somewhere in Ibiza, but it was at Schiphol Rijk, which is like where the all the fuel is. So, yeah, it’s. So it was far away. We managed to find a place with them.


I don’t know how you say that in English. It’s wooden floors. Yeah. So it, it, it looked nice but there was nothing in the room. So we need to bring the screens and everything ourselves. But it was, you know, it was sort of like a startup feeling. And also a little bit away from everything. So this team was like, okay, let’s let’s do it.


So we were about to start. And the Friday before actually later on, I noticed that it was Friday the 13th. I got a call. Uh, I think around one o’clock. And it was the secretary of one of those two guys. And she said, well, I have some bad news. This guy cannot come on for a report out of Thursday evening. But no worries. He will send his card how do you say that  his, uh, representative.


Yeah. And that was, uh, a person reporting to him. And then I said, well, actually, I don’t work like that. So it’s fine to bring in a representative, but only if it’s a level up. So send his boss or otherwise. Let’s just postpone this session. And the secretary was like, what? Because this is not normal KLM behavior. And she said, okay, let’s let’s talk to him. And I will call you back.


And I said, okay, well, do it in time, because otherwise I need to tell all the people that they don’t have to come on Monday. Okay, so we I hung up and I was like, oh, what did I do now? So I. Called thother VP. And I said, this is this is what’s happening. And I mean it. And he said, no, no worries. I will support you.


By the way, I will call you back in a couple of minutes. OK. So he called me back after a couple of minutes and he said, I talked to my boss the COO. Which was also the boss of the other guy. And he actually likes this. So he frees up his agenda. He will be there on Thursday or so. That’s how you got to CFO. That’s how I got the CEO there. And.


And then the other guy who canceled heard that his boss was coming. So he was there in the end. He was there too. Yeah. Because that’s how things work. Right. And corporate. So very. If something doesn’t work, you go one level above and then it works.


No, but I know not not necessarily. But I know for sure when you when you do a lot level down, it’s not going to work.


So if you’re like a company, you want to work with a corporate. You’re better off aiming for the COO or the CEO and then working your way down instead of the other way.


It depends. Or you need to find crazy people like me who will help you push forward, because normally. It depends really on the personality as well.


Um, that’s like.


So it’s it helps a lot when you have a CEO or COO pushing with you. Yeah. But not everybody is really open minded or open or understands the world of startups. Yeah. (inaudible) continues. Yeah.


So back to that.


So, uh, so we started on Monday morning and, uh, this team came together and they were like, okay, what are we going to do? And so the first day we spend a lot on inspiration. So we asked two inspirational speakers in the morning and they talked about completely different things. And, uh, and everybody’s like, what are we doing here for the turnaround? So why are we talking about social media or whatever? We’re like, relax, relax.


It will work out. So but we wanted them to become a little bit more open minded. Let go of your normal worries. And then in the afternoon, what we also did is we let people explain their jobs to each other. And then it’s like, well, what are you actually doing all day? Because although they work together, they don’t know what they do because a guy who brings the luggage and brings in the luggage and then you leave.


He has no clue what the fuel operator does or what the captain needs to do in the cockpit. So that was the first four days later at the second day. It was the toughest day of the whole week. So what we did was every process we did dived into very, very detail. So and there were there were like 13 processes to do the turnaround. Three zero thirty. No one three thirteen. but every process in very detail.


And every minute. So 50 minutes. Okay. What do you do and where is that a problem. Can you give an example of the process? Yeah. So when, uh, playing arrives, there is a team who needs to welcome the plane. So when welcoming the plane means, uh, when the plane is at the stand. Someone needs to plug in electricity and then they have to put in the, uh, the put the pilots before the wingtips.


And so and then when they are ready, then, uh, they give a signal so the rest can start.


So you cannot put the bridge, uh, to the aircraft if those guys are not ready. So it’s a whole big puzzle to do this kind of thing. And it’s (inaudible). So that’s why there was so much slack in it with the 50 minutes, because everybody wanted to have a little bit of margin. And then so and that is what we took out. You took out the margin, you know, took out a lot of slack. And we started to work in parallel so that some processes start to work in parallel instead of, sequential, small


Why didn’t anybody before that group figured those things out?


You know, a lot of people did that, but they never put those people together. That’s one. And bringing it together gave the context because within 400 years.


Never 400 years. How long is… How old is KLM not 400 years… Okay. Yeah. KLM ghundred years. Yeah, 100 years. But now, of course, they, they have the shortend (inaudible) times. But mostly it was five minutes and it was always a negotiation between operators and commercial and. Always fights. And then sometimes five, five minutes were added again because a lot of political discussion started discussion as well. It was like the first time were really.


It was like a real integral approac. Is integral a good English word or not?


And I know that you studied math, and I’m not sue.


It’s more like a holistic approach, more like transversal. Transparent approach. Yeah.


But what happened is some of the people said but I’ve been saying this idea for a long time and I said, well, thank you.


Because now we have the landing spot that we created. Also the context to let   all those ideas land. So that is what happens. And this is and the reason why it was also successful is because those people who had some ideas already for a long time finally could make it happen. So they were about started to become ambassadors and they told their colleagues. Well, this is really good. So they normally what you see is that management things comes up when the new solution and they push forward and then all the employees are like, oh, my God, who has figured this out?


And now at work, the employees themselves have started to push me. So, yeah. So on day that was day two. On day three.


It was funny because every we had everything planned and I always bike. So I buy it home from Schiphol to my house in Amsterdam.


And then in the morning I called Menno on the bike. I said, oh yeah, we had a schedule like this, we’re going to do it completely different. And then he was like, oh, my God. Yeah, for sure. Let’s go for it.


And then we did completely different. So on the third day, what happened is in the morning we had the whole current state (inaudle) across the 50 minutes, all the process. We knew where the biggest problems were. And everybody knew of each process. So they were also like, hey, maybe we can start help each other. So on the third day we needed to have to get them out of the problem, thinking to a ideation thinking.


So we started with the question, what will what is needed to turn this thing around in 20 minutes and forget about all the limitations you got in the beginning?


Openminded and everybody was no no 20 minutes not possible.


Yeah. And anything goes, just write it down. So people started to write like, oh, no wheelchair passengers, no suitcases.


That kind of crazy stuff. But also just like very good ideas, very applicable. So we had a whole bunch of ideas and then we started to cluster and we started to come up with, I think, 14 areas to improve. On the fourth day, we made concrete action plans from that started to say, how are we going to do this? And by the end, we presented.


How long was a day?  Like eight hours. Nine to five.


Yes. But on the second day, I think we pushed it to 6.30 at night. And I remember six 6.30 evening or AM? No no evening.


No, these people normally work on the rampin a very active job. And then they had to be in a sort of like well. Office environment. Yeah. So it was already for that night. I get that know. And the second day everybody was dead at the end. So I was like, oh, maybe we pushed too far. Okay. And then the day, the day after everybody was I think already. And at eight. Yeah.


Go for it. They’re really, really going for it.


And it was so nice to see how you can build a team over time in just a short time. But it was so intense. Yeah. And then we had we had this report of where I asked the CEO guy who came with the two VPs. I said, come over and ask. Please ask constructive questions. And I think never. Nobody ever said something like that to him. So that was you. Who the fuck are you? And I made my rule really small.


So he was like, oh, okay. And then during the whole session, you started to realize that what my rule had been. He had also a meeting afterwards. And I knew. So I halfway I said to him, do I need to speed up? He said, no, this is this is perfect. Let’s let’s let it go. I will just be late at my next appointment. I don’t care. I want to see this.


I want to hear this he was really enthusiastic. So at the end he took the word and he said, you open the  supportive to this, which I think was brilliant. And then the morning after Friday morning, I said, who’s this? I sent him this e-mail when I resigned. He sent me an e-mail. That’s before 7:00 a.m. in the morning. This was so great. This is the way we need to work at KLM


I am so impressed. So I was also like. And then what happened is whenever there was a difficult situation, again, he called me that case. Can you help me again? But this project was one of the projects why I got the Reward Innovation Award. This is with this project. We won.


Can you imagine? Yeah. But what we did.


What we did was really funny. We you had the award. And within five minutes we took the car. We brought it to the guys on the ramp who were doing the the hard work and they were loading the suitcases. They had a crucial part in this whole whole project. So we brought it to them. And and we have pictures that they were so proud like. So so we really also made sure that the team got all the credits for this, because it was not me, was the team who did this.


Yeah. So that was one of the awards. Yeah. Yeah.


Cool okay. We went very far but we were actually still at the question of what do you do. What’s your background.


Yeah. Yeah. So but it’s uh. So no I, I uh. I am in the field of innovation, um fully because head of innovation and Vueling. I support Chanelin Paris with their innovation strategy. How did I end up here. I have no clue actually because in my career in KLM.


Because you studied math. Yeah. Exactly how. Yeah.


How do you end up… I know it’s funny because I was really in whether to start to study Dutch language, psychology, or mathematics. And I chose mathematics. I’m super happy with that choice. But I also do have some kind of passion for people, which comes in extremely handy. And it’s also if I look at my career. This is also did this also there are two red threats. My career is…  the people side and the tech or the hard side.


Um, and I’m a strong believer that’s the combination is it’s very strong. So you see that also how I approach innovation right now is where I combine tech and human. But so I studied mathematics. It’s because my mother was extremely good in mathematics. And, uh, yeah, she, uh, she gave me dad’s gift. And when my first job, official job, I was I finished in a time where it was pretty cool to work in a corporate I think I was just born 20 years too early because I’m very entrepreneurial that back then it was not cool to build your own start over.


So it was the plan for people who couldn’t graduate or. Exactly. Yeah. And then hard. Yeah. But it’s it’s it’s interesting. So, uh, my first I did my internship at (inaudible) in it ain’t over. What do they do. They build trucks. They’re big trucks. Um and then I, I, my first real corporate job was at the Royal Dutch mail. Uh very…I was there… Oh… POST NL. Yeah. Okay.


Yeah. And it wasn’t, but it was a really cool team because it was a team of uh mathematicians and it kind of econometricians and we got like simple questions from the business. But we solved, uh, we were solving them with, uh, hard core mathematical models. For instance is one of one of the questions I worked on was back in those days, they were sorting, uh, all the mail that was sent abroad by hand, everything.


So they said, is that efficient or should we do it with machines? Easy question. But it’s not easy to get the answers. So I build a mathematical model to figure out that the most optimal solution back then was to, uh, do the four destinations, uh, with the highest volume by machine and do it by hand. But it was finding the optimum.


And it was funny because what I do what I like to do is I worked, uh, with the people who did the actual work. So you do theoretical framework and then  you would have somebody plug that into a computer. Yeah, I know. So what I first always did is research. So then I went through the place where it actually happened and talk to people who are doing the sorting. So and that happens at nights. And that was still in Amsterdam at Central Station.


So I went back at it at night, Central Station, and then I started to help and I talked to people because I  hear a lot and already that gives you information. And then back to the office. Build your models, start to play around with all the data you have and then come up with some scenarios. And then this scenario was the best. I didn’t help to implement it, like to, but then we gave it to the business.


So back then, you were very much on the theoretical part. And now like later in your career, did you start implementing to actually implementpart or?


Yeah, because at Post was not combined, that was not, uh, that you also started to really implement. No, but I did I. This is what I like the most. So I was advising people because when you implement you well you iterate sometimes. So I was still a little bit involved. Yeah. Was less hands on then right now. And then from this job I had exactly the same job, but then at KLM. And that’s where I, my KLM uh career started.


And within KLM, I had many different jobs. So I also was responsible for like a group of  250 mechanics. Well, guys, that was a very tough job. It was, I think, my first leadership role, managerial.


How old were you when you started becoming a leader? I think that I had this job. Late 20s, early 30s. OK. So how was that switch? Because from my experience, early leaders make a ton of mistakes and people suffer.


It was like drinking from a fire hose. It felt like that, but also because it was extremely tough environment. So I had a my manager over there and he was an alcoholic. And he was also a little bit crazy. So crazy good or crazy bad. No. Crazy bad. Okay. Yeah. And, uh. So when I worked at engineering and maintenance, which means that, um, and we we were repairing components, aircraft components.


People who work on repairing this component, they have to stamp it. And it’s a stand with their personal name. When an aircraft comes down and, uh, it’s because this part was not it was it was fading. Then you are a personal liable. Really? Yeah. So those people make sure that they do the work well. And yeah. So it’s it’s like a safety measure.


Like a Boeing max though was crashing down. All those parts are still like, uh. Yeah.


But the Boeing max is a whole different story. I think when you talk about companies and toxic corporate cultures, well, maybe Boeing is one. I don’t know.


But but but what happened? This is so my manager sometimes when there was stress about not enough components. Now, because pit planes need to fly. And then you put people under pressure to to stamp. Well, they might not be completely okay with it. And I found that’s so, so wrong. Couldn’t you report him? Yeah, I did several times. But, um, I, I, I’m not sure there was like a official thing to report, like, uh.


But I report it to the managers up there, uh, that like, hey, this is going on. And because he was also not a capable manager, I, I saw how we let people and that was just not healthy. So how do you manage a non capable manager? Can you manage one thing to make them quit?


I know what I happened is that what I did was I, uh, I we I gave signals and everybody said, yeah, we know, but nothing happened. And then I said one day I was so fed up that I said, I’m gonna stop. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it’s over here. So everybody’s like, what? She’s really she really doing that? Yeah. It’s over. So then, uh, I think that was a real hit in the face for some people.


And they said, well, but she’s really good. And we don’t think it would be wrong if we just let her down. So somehow a guy, uh, the boss of my manager said, hey, come here and work for me for some time and we’ll figure it out. And then three weeks lead later, he asked me, he said, can you can you come over to my office? And he said, do you want to go back?


And I said, No way. And I said, But what if this guy is taken out of his position? And we we we’re going to bring in someone else who was a close friend of mine. And I said, well, okay, okay, then I will come back. So the ends I went back. But it was a tough one. It’s tough to say, hey, guys, this is it. And I didn’t know, uh.


But I also somehow because you ask about where you lead first time, somehow I have a quite a strong inner moral code. Yeah. And also not afraid to do. To say or to to take action upon what you say.


So what is your leadership philosophy in life. How do you eat. I’ll maybe I’ll give you an example to give you context. So one of our sayings is we serve those who serve others, which is why we put, impact startups on our stage cause then through their actions  we serve more people because we serve those who serve others. Yeah. So as a leader. That means to me that I read this book once by Donovan Campbell called Leader’s Code. I don’t know if you know it


You know, it’s a very good book. He was a Navy SEAL, all that stuff. And. But what I liked about the book was that it was very much about what Simon Sinek now made Pogemiller. This book was before that even leaders eat last. Yeah, if you have employees, that means you serve them, not the other way around. We actually have more work when you have employees. Yeah. So that’s kind of how we work he.


And that is that aligns with how I try to lead. Uh, I know strong believer in growth mindset. You know, Carol Dweck, which. Yeah. It’s very interesting to see. It’s called growth mindset. So she talks about fixed mindset and growth mindset. And she says, I believe that that during your life you can learn a lot. So you were not born with the baggage. And that’s it. But you can continue to grow as long as you are open minded.


So I. For instance these past two years, I really pushed my team to learn this process. And I also did a workshop in it. And I really, uh, try to help that. That the team is adapt is it’s able to adapt to any kind of change. I, uh, I also say that, um, corporates are, uh. I run the wrong way because I also say I’m there for the team and the team is not there for me, but I’m there for the team.


And in the beginning, my team was in Barcelona, was really, really there were like, this is strange, isn’t this is now this has never happened to me before, but I really tried to help them. And, uh, you said I hope people in condition. So not only, uh, my team, so I don’t expect anything back. Uh, it’s it’s small. If you can do small things for someone and I do that for a lot of people in my environment.


If I can connect them or if I can get them something and know why shouldn’t I do it? So that is how I. But it’s something also, I think by all the experience I had, because in that time I was also threatened by an employee, uh, in the time that I was leaving those 250 guys. I learned a lot about how far do I how how far do I want to go, what are my values, my drivers, and when do I get fed up with that?


And do I dare? Where are you leaving or did you have a mentors from.


No, I was alone and looking back, I had some people who were who I could fall back to work, but not like a someone really mentoring me. And if I look back at actually I think I should have asked for it or they should have provided them. Yeah. Because it’s not normal to have a first. Leadership role and then immediately lead 250 people. But you see me, I’m pretty small. I look young. So, um.


And then those 250 guys, they were like, what? She’s going to lead here? No way. So I had… that was too tough. They told me afterwards when I left. They said we didn’t like it. A woman here leading this. But now we wouldn’t want it  different. We wouldn’t want it otherwise, why did they even say that in the first place?


I thought. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think they thought I was just not capable. But I think this is something that is very deep in society that there and it’s still here in 2020. It’s still here that people have thoughts or about others. Do you still feel it? Oh, yeah. Do you have the other recent example? Is fairly stupid example. I fly a lot. Right. So last year I flew over one hundred thirty times.


So I have Privium as Schiphol because I just hate those cues.


So I think it was Monday morning and then I don’t fly a lot on Monday morning. So it was pretty crowded. It was even quite a queue at Privium and there were all guys in, in suits. And, uh, I always wear sneakers and I’m always chill. I don’t care where with whom. My meeting I. I was meeting to see the president of Chanel Europe last week. And I was on my sneakers and I was in the queue.


And then this woman came up to me and she said to me, hey, do you know that this is Privium, really?


And I looked at her and I said out loud, hey, I know I don’t look like all those guys over here. So all those guys were like, oh, felt also a little bit embarrassed. I said, but I fly over 100 time a year. So what? And she was Oh shit. Yeah.


But small things. The atittude. Yeah. Seriously she walked up to. Yes. But I have, I have this and sometimes I’m not even aware of it. And also because I am quite strong. So when sometimes when I say, hey, I think I am capable of doing this or I’m good at that. Yeah. And people are like you cannot say that. So. So I think they’re not used to that. A woman says, hey, I’m just good at that and I can do it.


Anyway, so back to that. So then you obviously convince them. What did you do? I mean, 250 guys who have preconceived notions that women can’t lead. Yes. And how long did you lead them?


Uh, two years.


And then there was what happened in those two years to make them be convinced?


I think, uh, very simple things. I was, uh, um, I read sometimes you work with them to learn what the hell are you actually doing? They really appreciated that. I had small talk with them. Hey, how are you? And then they told me, hey, my wife is ill, whatever.


And you knew all 250, not by name, but by face. But sometimes when they told me a personal story and then I came back to that a month later, like, hey, I was your wife and small things. Also, I had a guy in my team who had been who had not been at the office for quite a long time because he reported himself ill or. But all my predecessors, predecessors. They, um, they never took action.


So this guy was already like sort of like ten years at home. Wait, so he’s getting paid for. He’s getting paid. And sometimes then he needed to go, but then he gave a big mouth and then he got away with that. I know. So and then I was like, hey, who is this guy? Okay, well, let’s bring into to the office.


Let’s have a chat. I am your new new boss. So I just want to get to know you. So in the beginning, he was sort of like, oh, I get I get the attention. But then he started to become aware that I said, well, you cannot do the job you are hired for. You’re gonna find something else. But you come bac. And then he didn’t you really didn’t like that. So he started to threaten me.


And, uh, and I didn’t get support from security KLM/. so they didn’t want to. Yeah. Why?


They said, well, yeah him sending you text and that kind. So it’s not, uh, enough evidence from that. Okay. I said just get this guy out. Even if you pay him, it is still so toxic. Exactly. So I had a lot of conversations with this guy. Always with my H.R. manager in between because he also had a black belt in karate or, Judo, one of the two, like a strong guy.


You need to be there. Because if this guy gets nuts then and worked and worked and work, made a file, got him out. So the rest of the rest of  those 250 guys, like finally someone is taking action because everybody  sees this, because they’re so toxic that somebody is just taking advantage of the system


But it’s also unfair. Yeah. Because it’s unfair. And everybody sees even the things that don’t happen.


And that’s so coming back. So as a leader, I am a very I think I’m a very cool leader. But if you fuck with me, I’m not. And so I also think that is you have to be you have to be straight and clear. And you. And you have to be. You have to have guts So to take these kind of actions. In Spain, I had one guy who had such a fixed mindsets and he was so holding the orders down that I and he pulled a trick and I had to fire him.


It was the first time I ever I fired someone like in. How do you say? Very short notice. I said, okay, you have a talk there is your back OK? No, that’s good. And then the day after I saw that I was relieved and the rest of the team. So it’s also very good warning sign for people who are like also playing a little bit. Let go. Mm hmm. Better watch out. You know what I think?


So these kind of things, that is what I did. And I was open and transparent. I introduced simple thing. I introduced a weekly, uh, communication e-mail. So every week or Friday, I communicated like, hey, guys, this is what happened last week. This is what’s going to happen next week. And my manager said, you can I’ll do that. And I was like, Yeah. Oh, I know. I don’t know.


But I just started to do it and I still did it. I did it. That’s the rebellious. So you you  you asked me, how do you deal with a leader like that? Well, I don’t know. I just I. But I know what it’s good to do. It is. Right. Yeah. Even if that might harm my own career or whatever. As long as it helps the team. Yeah. Team.


But also as long as I can look in the mirror, you know, think like this is how I also want to be lead. Yeah. Okay. So then after that KLM, you went to your own company. Yeah. So. So I think I had something and grab some water and take a drin as well.


You know, so I think yeah.


For me after the uh after that projects, the turnaround. So the CEO started to get to know me. Uh. He was then appointed as the CEO of KLM. He’s still currently the CEO. I’d say I love KLM’s culture because we had the CEO of Transavia. Okay. Yeah. At our (inaudible) event in June.


And I met him through the director of innovation at KLM (inaudible). Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I told him we had such a good click. He’s such a cool guy. I said blike I honestly don’t care who would speak from KLM. If you have such a culture, I can imagine others as well. So my impression of KLM was a really cool culture although I hear also other stuff apparently not. No


I think, uh, KLM, uh. So what I really appreciate is that somehow I have gotten the opportunity to create my own job several times. That’s that’s almost unheard of in a corporate. Yeah. It happens sometimes, but yeah. No, no, it happens when you do cool stuff. Right. And then they say, oh, let’s make it a job out of that.


Of the fact that the COO. Oh. Like back (inaudible).


Yeah. So. So, uh. And you started to do that much more. So what happened is after this project helped him with some more stuff. Um, I think he also likes my energy and, uh, and I am I, I think a little bit different. So sometimes you bring new perspectives and it’s good to change. So he he became CEO and, um. Long story short, I sent him an email and I said, hey, free me up, I’m going to do cool stuff for you.


And he was like, well, I’ve seen that in the past, so. Yeah, why not. So so then I was wasn’t a very free role reporting, uh, to him.


Um, and actually I was helping him with, uh, realizing ideas of. So all kind of ideas, small things, big things like what. So so he had an e-mail address, which is Yeah. And that but he said, hey, if you have ever I have an idea to everyone, if you have an idea, it just mail me. But obviously he was not behind this email address. But I was so I was managing that.


But he wanted to read everything that came in. So I had to to make overview so he could read all the ideas that came in. And then what happened is I said I responded. So people were first shocked. I sent an email and someone responds. Wow. And then the second thing, what happened is I said, hey, let’s have coffee. So someone comes over. And then I said, OK, how are we going to do this together?


So people were a little bit surprised, like, OK, we’re going to actually do this. And because of my my career in many different places, I had also feelings about some kind of ideas like, oh, it is easy to do here is just being held back by a manager for five years. But we can do it. Oh, yeah. So from all kinds of things. So, uh. One is the uh in an aircraft you in the in the kitchen, the galleys, you have all kind of panels that they used to put up stuff.


Apparently there was one panel that they never used. So a purser send an email like, hey, can we can we take this out a couple of kilos? So why not? So I had some friends who were able from engineering side who were able to to to judge with me this idea that we can do it. So they took it out. And in two weeks for the whole fleet, how many airplanes? Those were bigger. So a 50 air aircraft, I think.


And but because they fly so much, this was a saving of fifty thousand euros because it was a couple of kilos. And then the fuel saving was… exactly. Small thing. And then still this time of saving. So then I report back to this person, hey, thank you very much. This is what you have saved. And so this person was like, wow, it’s my idea. And I can tell a lot of people like what I’ve done.


And then what I also did is I organized breakfast sessions with the CEO. And then I invited, like, different kind of people from the company who had ideas. And then for the CEO was just one hour investments. And he really liked to hear stories. And I always said, don’t only tell the pretty stories would also tell  the ugly stuff, because he also wants to hear what’s really happening in the company. And for those people, it was like super recog.. recognition because they would have an hour talk with the CEO.


And there also met five or six other people from other kinds of places because people from a engineering maintenance, they don’t know what happens in cargo. They don’t know what happens with cabin crew or pilots. So it was also a very nice way for people to. And it was for the company. Very interesting because they saw that this kind of behavior was recognized. So it was a real stimulation for this is the kind of culture we want and that is what we’ve done.


Maybe that’s the culture I felt we have got in touch.


Yeah. So but this role for me was also a career ending move because the board loved this. The employees loved this. But I think all the managers in between there were a little bit uncomfortable because I started to implement ideas that they held back for a long time. Yeah. So there was really tough. So it was, I think, one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had, but also one of the toughest jobs here. And then I was recruited by Vueling to become head of innovation.


But then. How  does somebody recruit, you know, like LinkedIn and they’re like come to work with us or something like that.


I got a call and then they said, Do you want to talk? And I was like, oh, no. And not I had to answer no. And then somehow I was like, OK, maybe I should listen little bit more.


But like, what do you mean head hunter? Does your reputation grow so hard? I don’t know. Oh, just random. I think so. OK, cool. Yeah. Yeah. I’m strong believer in serendipity. So. So this happened. And then I started to talk with them and it was actually pretty, pretty nice offering. And then and I was ready for something new. Yeah. But then I set one condition. I’m going to find my own company and you can hire me from that.


No more corporate contracts.


Oh. And that’s how you ended up at your own company.


And then they said, no, we’re not going to do it. I said, OK. Then the deal is off and (inaudible) shit. No, we really want her. really. So that’s how it happens. And I think for me, it was the best thing ever. So now you do Vuelling and Chanel. Yeah. So I went to China last year on a trip. Uh, innovation trip. And there I met te CIO of Chanel.


What’s the CIO? The chief, uh, innovation, you know, information officer. So from Europe. And we were on the same trip. And, um, we had some nice conversations. And then he said, have you ever thought about the luxury fashion or the luxury industry? And I was like, no. By the way, I have a full time job, so. And I wear sneakers all time. And I looked like…


You actually look great. Actually, I said it.


I said this. Well, I had a more serious interview when we when we were both back in Europe. He texted me and said, I really want to talk to you now. Okay. Yes, I will come by because somehow I always say yes. Does it get too much when you say yes, all the time for me it gets a lot. After a while. Yeah. No, no. It’s still okay. Okay. Yeah.


But um. Still works out somehow but. So. So I visited him in, in a Chanel boutique in Brussels because, uh we met there was also the first time for me ever to be in Chanel boutique.


And then I said, hey guy, I look like this all the time. Please stay like that. And you said, I actually love your company name Rubella. That’s actually what we need. So then. And then I said, I have a full time job in Barcelona. So let’s see how we can make it happen. Yeah. And you said, yeah. Make a proposal. So. So I made a proposal and I support them for five, six days a month.


Not always on sides. So Paris is in between Amsterdam in Barcelona. So sometimes, um. And in Spain, you have a lot of holidays. So sometimes I use the holidays to get to Paris. Yeah. So


And I don’t have children, for instance. So that’s why I also have a lot of time that I can spend on this kind of stuff. So and for me it was actually I have some I have a mentor here in Holland and he really pushes me to think about optionality. How did you find (inaudible)? I did


A leadership program is called Think. It’s Creative Leadership Program. It’s in Amsterdam. And there I met him. He was assigned to me as my mentor, which is also serendipity because we had a really great connection immediately. He’s also a little bit nerdy.


So but he he really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’m very thankful for that. And we still have a lot of contact. But he he he always pushes me for optionality. And and that is, uh, being in KLM in a corporate environment for so long, you get a little bit narrow minded. And so think lured me to open up. And then his mentor pushed me at the time. So then I said yes to Chanel.


And I read it so for half a year. So I was like, I have no idea how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it anyway. I don’t care. And then they asked me now if I could stay a bit longer, so. Yes. And then Chanel sounds like a really cool company. Like, would you do there like. Yeah, I love luxury brands because of what they’ve created. Even though tech changes luxury somehow just keep selling.


Even when the markets crash. Luxury brands like maintain the Apple Watch came out. The Rolex is still relevant. Yes. Yeah. So I. I completely admired the luxury brands for that reason. Yeah. So it must be like fascinating working at Chanel and seeing like how is it.


Yeah. So what for me is very interesting to have these two worlds next to each other. So Vueling Chanel. If you look at Chanel is privately owned. Oh really. Yeah. So much more a long term vision. Well, in Vueling  everything is much more short term driven and low cost means not always a lot of money here. Uh, Chanel, there’s a lot of money. Doesn’t mean that everything goes at all. But it’s, uh, it’s a different kind of vibe.


And luxury means they have a really nice product. Really, really nice. And they invest a lot of it in that. Uh, if you look at the locals, the Aradigm, the product by itself is not that nice. Right. Actually, quite shit to fly because… You have all the waiting in a boarding and then the plane seats are not that comfortable. So it’s a completely two different worlds. On the other hand, some technology you can leverage.


So in Vueling we are testing. How can you track your luggage with RFID? And that technology you can also use to track fashion right if there’s a whole logistic chain before fashion gets into the boutique and in the boutique. It can also be interesting to use some technology so you can leverage technology. And actually, I think it’s even  more interesting to be outside of the industry to look at things completely different. So what I do is in Chanel is not not so much on the product itself because you have artist artistic directors and they do all the product innovation.


But I more help into how do you start innovation? How do you set up. How do you organize? I challenge you a little bit with these kind of solutions. And there is a lots to innovate. When you run an organization. Right. So you have how many employees are in Chanel? I think in total, about 20000, 18 or 20 thousand. And in in Vueling?  Uh, four or four and a half. Oh Vueling is smaller than Chanel?  Much smaller. Oh yeah. Yeah.


No, but Chanel is like world wide, right? Yeah, I know. But I assumed somehow airplanes would be big. No, no. Well if you look at KLM, for instance thirty four thousand or thirty three thousands. So that is, uh, that is the difference between locals and those older airlines because they have everything in-house. So engineering maintenance is part of KLM and we just buy that. We have a supplier for that. Yeah. No.


So. So for me, innovation is and this I, I decided two years ago also to to to prototype my career. What do you mean? Um, that I’m just experimenting. What do I want. What do I like. And trying stuff out. So. So Vueling this is also my last couple of weeks there. So I will stop my assignment there and jump into a new adventure. I have no clue what. You don’t have a clue yet.


What. Nothing. Preplanned ideas something. No. Yeah. So. But it doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. But it’s not like I want to do that. So that’s why I stop. No, it’s I stop and then I’m like, okay, let’s explore.


But so do you want to continue what you were doing? Because now you have a company. Yeah. And it’, somebody is offering you full time contract like the jump between KLM and Vueling so now you actually have a company. Yeah. Chanel is there f first six days a month. So yeah.  Technically you could just do something with your company.


Yeah. But I’m going to do that. Oh.


But I don’t know. So yeah. No. So but this is what I mean with that I’m going to experiment. Um because I’m not sure if I want to do a rule like this like a head of innovation rule. But in an interim or kind of because it’s quite it’s quite hectic and tough and it’s I already did that. So what can I learn more? So for me, it feels like my learning curve is like stabilizing is like a stagnant.


Yeah. So do you advise that job?


Though to somebody who’s like just graduating or wants to head into innovation, just graduating?


No, because if you are head of innovation in a corporate. You need to understand our corporate works a little bit. Okay.


So then how many years do you think they need experience before it’ll be worth it? That’s… that’s diff… different. It depends also a little bit on the person itself. So it’s different.


So once you understand corporate, it’s worth exploring that position.


And then it’s your last position in that corporate. Sorry, I’m very bold in that. .


No Okay


I get it cause you’re gonna  create some enemies, probably. if you are for me, innovation is to really drive the company forward. You ask provoking questions. Yeah. Uh, it’s, uh, it’s unsettling for people. Um, and I think that if you don’t do that as and when you drive innovation, I’m not sure if you’re doing your job well. But that’s my personal opinion,  because someone has to say, hey, guys, the world is changing, we need to wake up?


Yeah. Um, so and I see that many. I have a lot of people around me in similar jobs because you connect that easy and they all struggle with the same. Therefore, the construction doing this as an independent is actually quite interesting because I don’t care. Oh, you’re also the first person I’ve met from all of our partners that were the most of the partners are innovation managers. Yeah. You’re the only one that I know. Yes.


That has her own company.


It’s a disruptive model because I think as innovation manager, you also get to know every facet of the company. Yeah. So then it’s harder for a company to outsource. Like to have it outside.


Yes. But then if you know every asset of every little aspect of the company, the question is, can you come up with disruptive stuff? Are you sticking in horizon one in the here and now. Yeah. True. Yeah. And then so do you want to share some thoughts that you have of what you’re going to do? Or is that too soon? No, it’s I, I’m approached. It’s so it’s quite fresh news. So it’s I’ve told my team couple of weeks ago and that was tough.


There was some tears there. Um, no. And that is the hardest thing to do because I built a build a really cool cool  team and, uh, I worked for them. I would stay, but they. How do you you say like built a team and it gets close and everything. There’s so many books explaining that but like.


What do you do to create that? Yeah, there’s I mean, there’s the one theory you have to go through a lot of adversity together, but some others are just glitzy retreats. And I know that the people who write Avengers, they go in like a week long or two week long retreats and then they come up with ideas for the Avengers movie. So how do you bond the team?


Uh, yeah, that’s a good question. Um, well, I, I, I’m very clear about what kind of DNA I want in the team.


So, um, do you do the recruitment. That is like very specific to certain types of people. Yeah. I hire people who have a growth mindset and that can be, uh. How do you test them? Yeah, that’s a good question. And, uh. I have some people who have been intern in my team. So, then, for three months, you see a little bit of how they are then You know, it also I that is for me one of the the best things I can recommend.


Everybody just work a lot with interns. They bring fresh perspectives, but you get to know them. Um, sometimes. Yeah. You just have a good feeling. Sometimes you’re wrong. That’s why I had to fire someone as well. I didn’t hire him, but, um, I had him for quite some time around. So would you sometime. Yeah, you were wrong. You make a mistake to make it. That’s a failure. You learn from that.


What I would do to bond is also, uh, organized. Also cool things together. So, for instance, I started to to organize pop up demos. So we have a canteen and we show our stuff. The first time I had this idea or my team was like, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, wait. And now they’re like, yeah, we’re gonna go for it because it gives a lot of energy.


Now we have a sweater with, uh, avoiding innovation lab. And it looks it’s cool sweater. So everybody in the companies  we want one. Oh, I have to be a part of the team, of those kind of small things. They bond. It’s also, uh, when you have when you battle together, there’s also bonding. Sometimes we have we have very difficult battles with with the company because we are we want something, but that’s that bonds. But what I try to do is create a safe.


Haven. Yes. So that there’s trust amongst each other, so that whenever they got a punch in the face out there, they can come back. And now we are like, OK, here we are. How can we help? And how big is your team? And 14. And so do you also talk about personal stuff or is it only work?


No personal stuff as well. And everybody knows each other really well. I talk I have personal conversations one on one if they want to share it. So I have, uh, one girl in my team. She’s really, uh, powerful. She’s born in Venezuela. So she has had a rocky life. So the other day we had a team day and, uh, the team day was actually really cool because, uh, I hired… I brought one of my friends from Holland talking about adaptable mindset or a growth mindset.


And then at the end we went indoor skydiving really cool. But during the day was also emotional. So. So. So this girl, my younger, she she shared some something really personal about and explaining why she is like she is. So she chose to open up there. But also, she felt safe to do that. Yeah.


So you created like. That’s to me the most interesting when you were able to create a safe space for people to share. Because I think in those moments when people are vulnerable, they allow others also.


But I am also like that. So I share sometimes things. And I’m I’m also very transparent on things that happen in the company because then they start to understand a little bit more about the dynamics. And I’m also transparent also, if I fucked up something or I just tell them or if I don’t know, I, I start doing their help. Yeah. Sometimes also show her vulnerabilit. Yeah. But it’s that is I think who I am.


So I don’t want to do it differently. And I know that this well what you say is a new beginning when you when you sort sort of pay it forward. Right. I don’t expect people to do that with me. You know, I’m just like that. And when you are like that, people. Get that also that. If  you want something  give first. Yeah.


But it’s not because I want people to give back. It’s not that I expect so. Sometimes people give because they expect something back if without expectation. Yes. That’s a hard thing to learn for most people. I noticed that when we recruit people, we know that. I’ve noticed that we have to do a strict recruitment because you have to be almost raised that way. Yeah, it’s it’s hard to learn. You can learn it, but it’s hard.


I don’t know. What do you think? I’m not sure if I was specifically raised like that.


I actually wanted to. I know how deep you want to go with this, but I want it so fascinating. Which told me about your career. I wanted to know about your personal life then. So then how were you raised? Do you want to open up about that?


I can explain a little bit there. I come from the south of Holland and, uh, from a pretty small town, uh, 15000 to so one five inhabitants. Which one? It’s called Austin.


Austin, Texas. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.


But I think Austin, Texas, probably a little bigger, but maybe the mindset the same, I don’t know. Um, small very small town. My mother was born there and my father made the big move. So he moved from village 10 kilometres away to this and they were still together and they have never lived anywhere else. So it was not naturally that my brother and me, we are all over the world. So I lived in different continents and I don’t know where that came from.


But, um. So I was born there. My mother had a really tough childhood. She was pretty smart. She was a mathematician, uh, but she came from a, uh, farmer’s family. And in Brabant the  South of Holland, so large families, uh. But she was unlucky enough to be the third daughter and the fourth child. So they wanted to have boys for a farm and not girls. So she had a really tough childhood.


And then she was too smart to, uh, to stay at home, which she was not allowed to go to school. So. So it was really tough. And then my father, um, he started to work when he was 16. At how you say that, that’s the local town hall…  city hall.


And in the evening, I think he did some studies to to learn more. So he was also smart, but not as smart as my mother. So they they got married and they got my brother, who is older and then  me. And they raised me. My brother was also smart. And they raised me not knowing that I was also smart. So how do you not know? Like don’t test or?


I don’t know. So they do. But I think they were maybe they knew a little bit, but they were also like, oh, you were a girl and take it easy. No, really. Because when I went to and I was also more like a, uh, enjoy life a little bit more so. If I don’t have to study, I’m not studying. So I was not, like, making A’s all the time. But I.


But I could be. But I could have done that. I think so. So I was not like naturally stimulated to really go for it.


And, uh, but I somehow I wanted that. Well, what happened is they started to compare my brother and me with my… more with the grades… Yeah. And they said, yeah you see, he had better grades. And I was like, okay. So I think that also triggered something with me. I don’t know. And then I went to high school and my brother went to. I know how you call that in ENglish .


But he went to Gymnasium.


It’s like. And then I went to trade school or something. Yeah. I think it’s like the highest  when you have the high schools, you have different kind of degrees. Right. OK. Like the highest. I’m not sure. Yeah.


And then. And then you have one level below. It should be school to HAVO. So my parents said yeah  you go to the HAVO. Oh okay. Okay. I don’t. But I said I want to the same school. No, no, no, no. You go there. Okay. So and it was super easy for me. And then I went to not the same school but just after, after I graduated and then I went to to do two more extra years to make up for that.


So I could go to university. And then I said, okay, let’s do mathematics. And they were like, what? And and that sort of worked out. So I was almost like a rebel move and I think so. Yeah. And that sort of worked out. So my parents literally said so actually I think she’s smarter than me. So he admitted that later on. Yeah. So with me. So I don’t look back at my childhood with a grudge at all.


It’s for me. And I’ve learned a lot. Maybe you still have contacts with your parents. Yeah. Yeah. And they still live in the in the south. And my brother lives in the US right now. And he has lived in Sao Paolo and Mexico. And I’ve lived everywhere. So it’s quite interesting to see. So my parents never went to university and that we took a complete turn. Different. Yes. Yeah. That is so cool.




But maybe because my father comes from a butcher family and my mother from a farmer’s family, which is entrepreneurial. Right. So maybe I have the entrepreneurial DNA coming from that. I don’t know.


Maybe you’re going to innovate in the butcher in the farm… in agriculture right now. Yeah.


But you know, I don’t eat meat for over 20 years now. Vegetarian or Vegan? I do eat fish sometimes, but not too often. But farmers. Yeah. I think farmers are very innovative here in Holland. It’s just not my thing. What is like. Which way would you go. Airlines then o?  Yes, I did. Airlines for quite a while. Yeah.


So I am talking with some airlines. Uh. I’m not sure if I want to do it full time. It is I and I’m exploring, uh, it’s maybe also good to have to stay connected a little bit with some of your routes. But I also want to explore more. And when I was still working at KLM, uh, I almost launched a startup with, uh, with someone else. And we were pretty far, actually. So, um, so that is still something that is, uh, that is there we have a pretty large innovation thing happening here.


So, yeah, we can always get in touch with a couple of people. Yeah.


But but maybe with all my experience, it could also be interesting to help. A startup to scale. So maybe leading a scale up is I think I can do it with all my experiene.


How would you so. OK, so I’ll give you an example. So we actually have one department and is now spinning off into the education sector so that the one question that kept popping up in my mind was how do I hire like really experienced people? We’re mostly a millennial group very creative. Yes. You know, we do a lot of videos. And so it is always the question. I’ve met so many corporates through this journey. And it was always like, how would we use somebody with so much experience? How would they help a scale up? That doesn’t have that many processes to innovate.


But it’s interesting because I think we should launch something together. Because I have quite a lot of people around me who also, like I am fed up with the corporate stuff and I just want to lead a scale up.So I think there is a big market for that. I can meet a matchmaker.


But so. But what do they do? Because obviously my perception I don’t know. But my perception is if you’re in the corporate and you don’t have oh, we need to make money. We need to make money. But when you’re on this side, startup scale up, there is always no matter how fast you grow, you need more money. You need more money. And then it’s almost like my mentors used to say, when you hire, you need to see like a 10x return from somebody. But when it’s unclear where the 10x return could be like, what would your advice be? I’m looking for somebody as experience as you like. What should I as a scale up look at?


Yeah, no, I think you should go for people who are already a little bit entrepreneurial, because I fully agree that if you were born and raised in a corporate, uh, it’s a whole different ballgame if you are. There is always money. So that’s it’s funny because what I see is when you are a startup working on an idea and you spend 80 percent of money when you are in a corporate working on an idea. You spend 80 percent of your time on political political stuff, politics.


So, uh, so I think startups, if there’s obviously a lot of money coming from corporate. Right. So if your sources of money are you or your partner, you want to launch your product in corporate environments, then it helps that someone knows how to play the game, but also has a wide or broad network in that, uh. But I think you you need to find people who have that growth mindset, who are open, who are open minded and not in that tunnel that a lot of people in corporate are.


So they have to have some entrepreneurial background and as well, the corporates. And then it’s like. And then it’s worth it for scale up to help.


I think that every scale up needs to be led by someone who has a corporate background. But I think it’s, uh, some will definitely benefit from that, especially when you have to work closely together with corporate.


And then it may be super personal question, but then one of the questions that pops up in me is I have friends and I know their salaries in the corporates.




I cannot afford those salaries. And I know that most of the startups that became scale ups. I know how much investment they received. Hundred percent. They will not pay that much money. So how do you even negotiate somebody that had a six figure salary?




What would be a reasonable salary to offer someone?


So yeah, I know that. So I don’t know about other so I can only talk about myself. I would if I would get shares than I don’t one or I don’t need a big salary because that even drives me more to make it a big success. So I think that is I think.


And how many shares would that be then?


And depending on the situation, I think,


Let’s say a normal scale up in the airline industry. Right. They have something really innovative, and you see opportunity. They need someone like you. Obviously, you’re sitting on a table. You don’t know what to say. You think five. You think ten. You think twent… like you have no idea.




So but then at the same time, there’s also the what the average is for, like employees who get shares.


And I think that max. Two percent or something. So what would what is normal.


I don’t know. I have not enough experience with that. So I don’t know.


What do you think would. What would trigger you?


I think I’m the wrong person to ask because I’m not so money driven. So my have a very low cost base life. So I’ve never in my career been driven by I want to have a bigger salary. So you’re not taking decisions based on public? The shares are a big thing. It just has to be fair.


Yeah. And if I really believe in it, then I also want to go for it. And I. Some months ago I was talking to someone of well we were discussing a little bit about this and I said, well, I’m also willing to say, okay, let’s try for a year. And then after you re-evaluate, if it’s not gonna work, then I have learned a whole lot. And if we talk a little bit about shares, we didn’t come up with a percentage at that time.But I said I’m willing to do that because I also believe that sometimes you need to jump in to take this kind of razor.


It was only just shares. No salary.


No. I think you can also have (inaudible). I already I have I have my cost as well. Yeah. But for me, I don’t need a six figure salary or whatever.


Okay. So OK.


So maybe, maybe this is also the shifting of the people you want to lead, because if someone comes in and says, hey, I want already this kind of salary.


Yes. So we hire based on how people are like personality wise. And so the common threads, because your own curiosity is nobody really cares about money, including me.




So but people come from corporates. Usually the reason why people work is not always, of course, but usually they work in corporate because they know their career will grow. There’s gonna be a big salary. And then at the time when they leave their salaries pretty high.


Yeah. But nothing is certain, especially not these days. So I think if people working in a corporate assuming that their career is safe, they should wake up. Uh, so I wish everybody to to make this kind of jump sometimes, because then you learn to be adaptable. Whatever happens, you can survive. If people are in there for the money, I think they’re the wrong people. I think it’s Apple. I don’t know. In the early days, what they did is they hired people and when they went through the whole, they made it through the whole interview process.


They offered


Them thousands to leave or not. It was like the last that


we do something similar.


Yeah no buyt I think it’s very interesting. Right. Because then it’s the last shifting on how are people. Yeah. Also, (inaudible) could be. I had a guy in my team, (inaudible) in Barcelona who worked part time for me 50 percent and 50 percent of his time. He was working on his own startup. So he was growing and building his startup. He had he was in his 40s. He had his family. So he had like a income. And then so he was dividing risk. So it could also be for startups to say, hey, maybe it’s not a hundred percent of your time needed, but it’s it’s it’s less. And then someone can find some work on the side that gets paid into those constructions also possible. Okay.


So why don’t you become an investor or something like small angel thing?


Yeah, maybe I should.


I know somebody who heads Transavia Ventures though.




And he was an entrepreneur.




And now we just invest for transit.


Yeah. No, I think so. So Vueling is part of a larger airline group. So that’s called IIG. And there is a venture team in IIG. It’s interesting. Um,


Is that something you would do?


It’s something I would like to explore, maybe, but because it’s something I don’t know really well yet. So then I can learn again,


You know, innovation and tech.


So, yeah. And I know startups, but it’s still and I know to spot also interesting startups. I know what I can. One of the things that I can do really well is to see to identify business opportunities. So I see you starting like, hey, this could be very interesting for that. So I can make the problem solution.


You said you can spot interesting startups. We have obviously our way. But what is your way to spot interesting startups?


I don’t. I will. So I’m a lot at events and I talk to startups and they know about what you have.


What how… When do you know, like this is going to be the real thing? What do you like? What is it? Is it the founder? Is it a team? Is it the product?


Yeah, it’s it’s a combination. Right, so it’s so definitely the team, uh. But also the solution, I think, uh, I need I need to see the light and the solution. Uh, I’m not sure if I’m really well in in spotting the big thing yet because I have not spotted a unicorn yet. Well, maybe. Maybe in the making. Yeah. And by that. No. And I think this also needs some training that you need to be much more into the way to do this. Uh, investing scene. Because then you learn a lot. And I I’ve been in the investing scene a little bit on the side. So it could be an area to explore more.


Cool. Yeah,




Any last, uh, thing, you want to mention.


No, I’m looking forward to next, uh. Yeah


In a couple of weeks we have the Mobile World Congress four years from now addition, you know, do locate your key selling tickets. We need to discuss that.


Yeah. One, uh, one if I can get one for my team.


Yeah. We’ve got extra tickets. So


I know the location because I think I live, uh, four years from now. Right. So.


Yeah, but they have a new location that. Plaza Espana.


Yes, exactly. And I live 50 meters from there. Really. Yeah. So I can go come to the drinks. Nice. And stay until then.


Yeah. Nice. I think we’re gonna have a similar set up there with the cameras and everything and it’s going to be a round table set up and then we’re gonna have some start ups as well, join in and ask questions. So then it’s kind of podcast. Yeah. Cool. Any last things you would like to mention towards the people who would be watching you? Should we start to scale up both or just the general business people?


Yeah. No, go for it. I mean, I have a t shirt, uh, which is, uh, with the text on it. Hashtag (inaudible). So go for it. And, uh, don’t let yourself scare scare off if you believe in it. Keep on pushing. And even if it’s not working the first time and or if you bump into corporate resistance, probably it’s not you. It’s just like our corporate run. So don’t let yourself down.


And, uh, keep going. And then optionality. Yeah, optionality is the thing.


What do you mean?


Don’t bet on just one horse. Let’s make a portfolio and go for different kind of things.


Cool.  I think that’s a really good closing for the podcast. Thank you so much.


Yeah. Thank you.


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