The Most Powerful Lessons I've Learned This Year

December 19, 2018 - 5 minute read

Set time aside to reflect

What a year! What amazing velocity! We hardly ever stop at Speakap, but the end of 2018 is the right moment to look back at what we’ve achieved, the lessons we’ve learned this year, and what plans and hopes we have for 2019.

I don’t say “velocity” lightly. In fact, speed seems to be the common thread between all the things the Speakap team has accomplished this year:

  • Securing a $12.5 million Series A round
  • International expansion: successfully launching in the UK, US, and Spain with local sales and marketing teams
  • Our customer base grew by 70%, with some impressive names under our belt, like ING, McDonald’s, Bosch, Domino’s and many more
  • An almost 100% growth in MRR
  • Growing from 25 to 70+ people, and keeping a pulse on our culture, with a dedicated Culture Team to check in on our expanding international workforce
  • Receiving ISO 27001 certification
  • Earning second place in the Fast50
fast 50 IG

Lead the change

The list goes on and the changes have also been personal. Last June, I packed my suitcase, left the country I grew up in, and moved to New York to begin the next chapter of Speakap’s rapid growth: The American Frontier. I’ve since learned just how enormous the US market is and how much competition we have here, and how different it is to what we’ve experienced in Europe.

Sure, the retail and hospitality industry pain points are the same everywhere in the world: the communication challenges of reaching the deskless workforce, the onboarding that spans across locations, the increased numbers of turnover and absenteeism, and the growing number of disengaged employees are all real issues companies face regardless of their location.

But what is different here in the US market, is, once again, the velocity. One discovery I made is the fact that our product sells itself. I will never forget signing our first US customer, and how fast the process was: only three days from demoing the product to signing the contract!

Speakap USA

Prioritize your company culture

While assembling a local team, I learned how important it is to transplant our HQ culture to the NY office. This is also why we recognized the weight of one of the founders moving across the pond. Our company culture and values - to work smart, to trust each other, and to have fun - have been crucial in our success in Europe and it was important to keep the same spirit present in our new location vs. building a lonely, disconnected satellite to HQ.

We work together, despite the distances and time differences, and we stay in touch daily, through Speakap, which has been invaluable in keeping us closely aligned. Our US colleagues will be travelling to Amsterdam at the beginning of 2019, for some a first trip to my city, and I’m excited that they will get to experience it like I experienced New York six months ago.

Embrace the unknown

I wholeheartedly appreciate how open Americans have been to me and how easy they’ve been to connect with. New York is always on. I’ve been able to find whatever I’m in the mood for at any given time. Everything seems possible. I experienced my first NY Marathon, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I will celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the Big Apple. I love the incredible display of festive window decorations and the showrooms on 5th Avenue that look out of this world. The NY retailers really know how to take it to the next level. All of the above are valuable insights into the culture of my new home town.

Resolutions for the year ahead

I’ve hired a team but I also had to make some difficult decisions, and I learned the importance of a 30-60-90 plan for any sales team. Company-wide, we’re incorporating the OKR framework to align the entire team to the ambitious company goals we have ahead of us. We want to build a strong brand, attract hundreds more customers, and create a loyal customer base. When I look at what we’ve accomplished in 2018, I’m confident we can get there with the strong team we’ve assembled and with the clear objectives and key results ahead.

Personally, I’d like to grow as a leader, experience and embrace the new culture I’m immersed in, continue to get out of my comfort zone, and keep building my professional and personal network from the ground up. I’ll just have to get there without a supply of my favorite stroopwafels, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

Many thanks to all the incredible people I’ve met, talked to, showed Speakap to, learned from, hired and said goodbye to, and heard feedback from in 2018. Here’s to an amazing 2019 for all of us… desk and deskless employees alike!

Screenshot 2018-12-19 at 13.49.46

 

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Erwin van der Vlist

Written by Erwin van der Vlist

Erwin is the founder of Speakap, helping organizations improve their front-line employee engagement.