Femke Hogema's fifth book Fundament of Success - from freelancer to multi-million dollar business (NL) is a manual for entrepreneurs who want to build a successful business. Flow spoke to Femke about strategy, developing yourself and successful entrepreneurs. “You have to keep developing as a person, or your business will never grow.”
In Fundament of Success you have brought together all kinds of knowledge and models into a new model. Does that make this book your most complete book?
“Yes, I definitely see it that way. My previous books always focused on a particular subject. In Profitable Plans it was profit and in Finance for Self-Employed People it was having your finances in order. But in Fundament of Success I've brought together everything I've learned over the past ten years about successfully building a business. There is a lot of knowledge, but it is fragmented. And there are tons of models, but they all cover a piece of the whole story. Some focus more on strategy, others on leadership. I was missing an all-embracing model that you as an entrepreneur can really use if you want to take your company to the next level. I created that model and because of that I think my book is really innovative. I am very proud of it. Your last book must also be your best book, I think. Because the more you work and write, the more you learn and grow.”
Your book shows what entrepreneurs need to think about as they move forward with their business. What part would you highlight?
“A very important point I think is that you can only grow if you take the time to work on your business. You need to schedule a day or half-day every quarter to define your strategy and to make it concrete. I think a lot of self-employed people don't do that enough. They work very hard and just keep going. But if all you do is work, you don't have time to take next steps. You have to stop every now and then and take a helicopter view: where do I want to go and how am I going to implement that practically? I do that myself: every quarter my business partner Sonja and I meet for half a day to determine our strategy for the coming period. And we are not the only ones: my book contains interviews with fifteen successful entrepreneurs and they are all doing the same thing.”
Why did you interview these 15 entrepreneurs, and what did those interviews bring you?
“I wanted to speak to a number of successful entrepreneurs so that my book would not lean solely on my own story. Surely sixteen people know more than one person. The entrepreneurs I spoke to, almost all have a million in sales or more and consist of a mix of men and women. I also looked at different sectors, such as services, commerce and manufacturing. For example, I spoke to YouTuber Dylan Haegens and Pieter Pot founder Jouri Schoemaker. I asked all 15 entrepreneurs: what makes some entrepreneurs succeed in creating multi-million dollar businesses while others do not? Their answers were varied, but had one important thing in common: they were all about the entrepreneur, not the business. What you think and do as an entrepreneur is the differentiator of success.”
Was that an eye-opener for you?
“I already knew it, but found it special to have it confirmed so unanimously. And if I may expand on it a little further: it means that your business can never grow beyond how far you grow as a person. The entrepreneur is leading, not the business. You can have knowledge about marketing, systems and how to build a team, but it's about how you use that knowledge and put it into daily practice. It's about how you make decisions and where you focus your attention. So you have to keep developing as a person, or your business will never grow. This can be done, for example, with the help of courses or by talking to a coach or psychologist to get to know yourself better. And developing yourself is only possible if, in between all the daily work, you schedule time for that.”
One of the entrepreneurs you interviewed was Daan van Klinken, ceo of Flow. Did you learn anything from him?
“According to Daan, advisors who have already made it are indispensable if you want to expand your business. Soon after they started their company, he and Niels came into contact with someone who had worked at Volksbank for twenty years and wanted to be their mentor. And it didn't stop with her; Flow apparently works with multiple advisors. I think that's a very good concrete tip for other entrepreneurs. I myself have had several coaches, especially at the beginning of my self-employed career. And I certainly couldn't have done without them. A coach sees your blind spots and gives you the push to keep taking the next step.”
Daan and you also talked about getting a business funded by investors.
“True, I didn't know much about that yet. I assumed, for example, that investors primarily look at profitability, but it turns out that's only one of the factors. You set, together with your investors, certain goals, and you have to achieve them. A goal does not have to be about money, but could be, for example, that you have built a team, or that you have a certain number of users.
I started my company as a sole proprietor and grew a little bit each year. The guys from Flow started pitching their idea to investors, and then immediately raised enough money to build a whole team. If I were to start another new company myself, I might take the same approach. You can simply grow much faster this way. And it's often more interesting to have a little piece of a big cake, rather than a small cake for just yourself.”
The recurring theme with you is profit. The subtitle of your book, "From freelancer to million-dollar business," suggests that it's all about profit in the end.
“Yes, I've always talked about profit, like with Profit First, but profit is more than just money. It's about freedom, about choices and about happiness. I think 'profit' is a wonderful word, representing the creation of something valuable. In my book, I describe eight elements that make up a business. In addition to "the entrepreneur" and "value," among others, these include "sustainability. By this I mean that you should not do business at the expense of society, but for the benefit of society. Also called: future-proof entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, I think it is important to take responsibility. An example: last year my team and I worked very hard. At one point I had the feeling that all we were doing was hustling, we were no longer having fun. That is of course not the intention, work should be fun. That's why I started this year with more focus and more space, for everyone in my company.”
Can you release a bit about your plans for the coming year?
“This year, growth is an important goal for me. I want to eventually grow to 100 Profit First Professionals with my team and hope to make much of that a reality already this year. We will also launch a new training course and create a podcast about profit and entrepreneurship. And I plan to write a children's book about money, but I don't expect to do that before 2024. There are so many important things to say about money that children don't learn in school at all. Children can open an account from the age of 12 and go into debt on their own from the age of 18. It is so important that we educate young people properly! But of course that has to be done in a fun way, otherwise it won't work. So that's what I'm going to try, and I'm really looking forward to it.”