The dos and don’ts of starting your own business

His information technology and software company Kabisa won the NRC Carrière Helden award 2016/2017, which is a Dutch award for being an outstanding employer by, for example, offering the best possible talent development and working conditions for employees.  While being your own boss and starting a company is one thing, hiring staff and being an employer is quite another story.

“You don’t need a plan but you do need a client!”

With a big smile, Harm de Laat glanced over the collective group of MBA students. Not too long ago, he actually was one of them, a MaastrichtMBA student participating in an educational week. In his introduction talk he mentioned MBA director Boris Blumberg approaching him to host a presentation and share his experience, as a fresh graduate and seasoned entrepreneur. It is a perfect fit for this particular week, featuring Entrepreneurship and New Business Development. After a brief summary of his career so far, he explained what he aims to do in this plenary session. “We’re going to talk about building your own business,” he addressed the room. “What do you need to do?” As if in one breath, multiple voices said “quit your job!” while others were a step ahead by saying “you need a plan.” Harm started Kabisa with a business partner and the both of them went to a bank for help in designing a business plan. “They gave us a template on a CD-ROM,” he said. “What is a CD-ROM?” someone asked, which prompted an outburst of laughter in the group. Whether it was serious or just a light-hearted remark, it illustrated the positive mood of this session in bright and eager colours. It also showed how fast things change, and how fast technology can become outdated and redundant. “You don’t need a plan,” Harm then challenged the group. “But you do need a client.”

The “wantrepreneur”

“Who wants to be an entrepreneur?” Harm asked to get an idea of the ambitions in the group. He coined a few profiles to differentiate between various types of people everyone encounters one way or another. “There’s the intrapreneur,” Harm explained, “someone who has an entrepreneurial role within a company.” Lots of laughter again when he pointed towards the word “wantrepreneur” in his presentation, “someone who has a new idea every month but never acts upon any of them.” Have you taken the Marshmallow Challenge yet?” he then wondered. Most of the group were already familiar with the challenge, so Harm moved on to pointing out its lessons. “People have to collaborate instantaneously. There’s no time to go over and over and over ideas or propositions. You have to orient, plan and build.”

Timing is everything

Timing is a powerful element to someone’s or something’s success. As Harm de Laat shared his knowledge and insights about success as well as failure in entrepreneurship, the questions from students were met with equal enthusiasm and willingness to share.