For nine years now, we have been doing business our own way. But because we are fervent believers in our stubborn insights, and in the notion that ‘to divide is to multiply’, we have gathered a number of insights to match our years of existence, and we’re throwing them into the ether in honor of our 9th anniversary!
- It’s not what you do, but the way you do it that makes you unique. When we started our journey nine years ago, we were one of the first agencies that fully focused on the transition to a circular economy. But that was never our only goal – we’ve always had two: (1) make an impact through our work, and (2) establish a new benchmark for consultancy companies. It’s easy to talk about new business models, but doing it and living it makes us unique.
- You make an impact together. To be honest, when Noor and I started out, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to create a whole company. I just wanted to do great things with Noor. But Noor immediately envisioned a team, and after nine years and various team compositions, I can confirm that I’m glad she was right. A team motivates you, brings creativity and also absorbs the disappointments you face from time to time when you work in sustainability.
- Sometimes ‘no’ is the best incentive for change. I often say “we’re a bit of a crazy agency” when I introduce us. We don’t take on every assignment that comes our way, but we consider the assignment and the client critically. It has to ‘feel good’ – we’re not entirely objective in our criteria for accepting an assignment. But we can see in the rear-view mirror that rejecting an assignment is sometimes the way to set an organization in motion!
- There are limits to growth, including for us. The earth has hard limits, and so does our business. As an impact-driven company, we have always said that we don’t want to grow to more than 15 consultants. That might seem very prohibitive to some, but in my experience it’s plenty – we have control without a dashboard, and we can be as agile as the next stage of the transition needs us to be. The creativity we need would be buried if we were to focus on billability.
- Entrepreneurship requires action. Although the basic values we started with still stand (particularly the principles of ‘how’ we work), we have evolved based on the insights, experiences and external stimuli we have experienced over the past nine years.
- Impact can’t be measured in euros. One of the developments we have made in recent years is that we use our profit margin for meaningful projects that can’t be financed in advance – these include our first study of Critical Metals, the first study of Load Shifting in Construction, and… pretty much all of our whitepapers. But these entrepreneurial studies are the projects that seem to have an impact – it might not be immediate, but they do lead to change, slowly but surely.
- The formula of feminine leadership. With two women at the helm, it might not come as a surprise that the impact we make and the wellbeing of our colleagues are more important than the profit we make… But the saying “you get what you give” is true in our case: the commitment we get back from our colleagues is indescribable. I want to grant every company at least one woman at the top – one that can show her true feminine leadership!
- Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Peter Drucker was right about that. Every year we set our strategy together, but in the end it’s the culture that determines the impact we can reflect on at the end of the year. It is a pleasure to work on impactful projects every day with a ‘group of sustainability fanatic friends that got out of hand’!
- Equality is the most important basis for entrepreneurship. In 2015, I did a postgraduate course with about 30 other entrepreneurs. Of those 30, two were companies that, like us, had a completely equal relationship between the shareholders. That appears to be a formula for success, because six years later the only companies that still exist are those that were built on equality. Secretly, I think something else much bigger is hidden in that choice of equality – namely the realization that together you have complementary skills that are all needed to make an impact. I couldn’t wish for better companions than Noor Huitema and now also Sybren Bosch… but on this International Women’s Day I’ll linger a little longer on the sweet weirdo who once said ‘yes’ to a wild plan.