Innovation and Resilience: Navigating the Shifting Tides of Business
Pim Schoonenberg: An Example of Change and Success
In the last decade of the last century, I came across Pim Schoonenberg. By then, he had achieved considerable success with his brand Sitecom, which sold modems, routers, and cables across Europe. Especially in the Netherlands and Germany, he had managed to capture a large market share. This was remarkable, considering that he and his partner had been behind the counter of an electronics shop only a few years before.
Some entrepreneurs need some luck to be successful, while others simply start at the right time. In Pim’s case, there was no luck involved. He is from Rotterdam the Netherlands, and its people are known for their hard work and no-nonsense approach. “Don’t bullshit but polish” is a typical Rotterdam saying.
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The Power of Perfection
At that time, the Internet was still in its infancy, and setting up modems and routers required technical knowledge. Sitecom had these devices manufactured in Asia, which was easier said than done. Anyone with experience of this knows that the first few batches are always far from perfect. Ordered white enclosures suddenly turn out to be cream-coloured and specific connection ports are placed in the wrong place. Even printing and color usage can be problematic. After all, blue looks a bit like green too, right?
Pim was a true techie and still is a true perfectionist. It is hard to imagine how he managed to get dozens of self-designed products manufactured. Even the software and interface were developed especially for his customers because the standard solution simply did not meet his high standards. This craving for perfection made Sitecom known as one of the best brands, and success smiled on Pim.
A Changing Market and the Challenges
With advances in technology, everything around the internet became simpler. In addition, some big US brands entered the European market, so Pim faced a drastic drop in sales and margins around 2010. Demand decreased, while competition increased. So what do you do?
Pim had now acquired the necessary marketing knowledge and understood that he could no longer focus on the specifications of his products. He realized that design and storytelling around a brand were essential. Although the story around modems, routers, and cables was not easy, he understood that even if it succeeded, it would have little impact on sales. It was a painful realization, but a different direction had to be taken.
A New Direction: Fresh ‘n Rebel
Pim looked at his options and realized he had a number of valuable assets at his disposal. First, he could still have products manufactured. Second, he had an extensive retail network. Third, he had a passionate sales and marketing team. And finally, he was adept at creating attractive shop displays. With the rise of portable speakers and headsets, he saw an opportunity and came up with the Fresh ‘n Rebel brand: a range of among others, beautifully designed portable speakers and headphones in trendy colors. Products that not only sound great but look good too, all at an affordable price. Pim knew he had something unique on his hands.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, Pim dared to completely change course and leave behind the brand he had built with hard work, Sitecom. This shows courage, vision, and the ability to adapt to change. This an inspiring example for other entrepreneurs who stick to old patterns in difficult times, even if it means their downfall. Pim proved that change and success can go hand in hand.
The Five-Fold Visor of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is a journey full of challenges and opportunities. Pim experienced this on the line with regularity. It requires a wide range of skills and a certain way of thinking to make this journey successful. The Five-Fold Visor of Entrepreneurship is about the five core mindsets that are crucial for navigating the unpredictable waters of entrepreneurship like Pim did.
This Five-Fold Visor consists of the Growth Mindset, the Risk-taking Mindset, the Innovation Mindset, the Resilience Mindset, and the Visionary Mindset. Each of these mindsets plays a unique and essential role in every entrepreneur’s journey, as together they form a unit that puts the chance of success within reach.
The Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, has done extensive research on the concept of mindset. Her conclusion is that you have two types of people who have developed a specific mindset based on their own beliefs. These are, as she calls them, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
The fixed mindset: People who have a fixed mindset believe that talents, intelligence, and skills are a given. You are the way you are and you will always be that way. In terms of behavior, these types of people tend to avoid challenges, give up quickly when things get tough, and are reluctant to seek feedback.
The growth mindset: People who have a growth mindset believe you can learn talents and skills and even increase their intelligence. They seek challenges to learn from and often ask for feedback because it can give them new insights. When times are tough, they still try to find ways to keep going and realize that effort leads to improving your skills.
For entrepreneurs like Pim, it was crucial to have a growth mindset because it is inevitable that setbacks will come. Since market conditions are constantly changing, the entrepreneur must also adapt in terms of knowledge and skills. Pim learned the importance of good marketing and storytelling and transformed himself from a techie to a visionary marketer.
The Risk-taking Mindset
There is actually no such thing as entrepreneurship without risk. Besides, daring to take risks is part of innovation and creation. Due to changing market conditions, competition, or unexpected circumstances, entrepreneurs must be able to continuously innovate. Since the future cannot be predicted, this always involves an uncertainty factor. Although successful entrepreneurs are willing to take risks, they always weigh up what kind of risks are involved.
You can classify risks into three categories. Preventable, strategic, and external risks.
Preventable risks: These are internal risks and should and can often be avoided. Pim covered these, among other things, by producing everything in-house and working with external parties as little as possible. He made his own designs, software, and manuals to minimize the chances of errors.
Strategy Risks: These are the risks that come from the choices an entrepreneur makes in areas such as product range and partnerships. Pim always made sure to make prudent choices when it came to who he partnered with and usually opted for simplicity. He could easily have doubled the number of items in his range, but keeping an overview was one of the keys to his previous and current success.
External risks: These are inevitable risks but can be mitigated by considering different scenarios. Even before Pim saw his sales decline, several scenarios were going through his mind. He knew the market would change and competition was lurking. Fresh ‘n Rebel may therefore have seemed spontaneously born, but subconsciously the concept was already maturing.
The Innovation Mindset:
Innovation is about being willing and able to continuously improve things. Even at times when there is no reason to improve something. Entrepreneurs with an innovation mindset are extremely curious and like to try things out. Even when there is a chance of failure, they still want to try to improve a process, product, or way of working. Good is rarely good enough for them.
While Pim dared to let go of the Sitecom brand – the brand still exists, by the way – he did not let go of his talent for perfection. He took everything that was useful from Sitecom into his new Fresh ‘n Rebel adventure and decided to innovate until a perfect speaker and headset were created. This may have involved thousands of sketches and prototypes, but good was simply not good enough for Pim.
The Resilience Mindset:
As an entrepreneur, all sorts of things come your way, including setbacks. For instance, employees falling ill during the high season, customers not paying or paying far too late, and products not catching on. Entrepreneurs with a resilient mindset are able to rebound quickly after having a setback and see that moment as a learning moment. In addition to a resilient mindset, successful entrepreneurs also provide a support network and often use a coach or mentor.
Watching your child what you built with blood, sweat, and tears slowly crumble is not easy for anyone. Not even for Pim. With support from his business partner, a large network of business friends and a great team, a resilience mindset allows you to learn from the past and build a new shiny future.
The Visionary Mindset
Having or creating a vision is about the ability to imagine something that is not yet there. Vision literally means to see and visionaries can see beyond the horizon, so to speak. This enables them to see opportunities, trends, and innovations that others do not. A visionary mindset enables entrepreneurs to set meaningful long-term goals and work towards them.
When Pim started his new adventure, nobody knew whether there would be and remain a demand for beautifully designed fashionable speakers and headsets. But Pim had a dream that people would want to express themselves through what they carry with them. According to him, the previously technical peripherals would become an extension of your personality.
In addition, he believed that there is a lot of Chinese junk on the market that does not have the customer’s best interests at heart, as well as the environment, and the few big A-brands charge prices that do not fit within most consumers’ budgets. By putting his quality products exactly in between in terms of price, he manages to serve a market that previously no one could reach.
Pim Schoonenberg is a textbook example of an entrepreneur who has managed to adapt himself to changing circumstances through the fivefold vision of entrepreneurship. From a technical perfectionist who focused on technical modems and routers to a visionary who understood the importance of design and storytelling. With his brand Fresh ‘n Rebel, he conquered a new market and proved that change can be the key to success.
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