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Wednesday
Sep032014

European Congress keynote talks about diversity, social media and more

CBI magazine’s First Person feature is Annemarie van Gaal. The founder of van Gaal & Company, she is an author, investor and media consultant in Amerstam, The Netherlands.  And, she is one of the keynote speakers at next month’s 14th Annual IHRSA European Congress.

She answers questions about the subject of her talk, her businesses diversity, her opinion on social media and more.

Next month, you’ll be speaking at IHRSA’s 14th Annual European Congress. What will your main message be?

Many entrepreneurs and managers still believe that their experience, skills, and methods will determine how the market reacts to the product or service that they offer. Not true! The market is constantly changing, and the market always knows best. So why continue to utilize old methods?

Let go of your experience, and let the market define your business. Experience, and education, for that matter, are both based on the past. You need to accept that it’s not wise to plug notions based on experience into the challenges that lie ahead.

As an investor, what’s your best advice for club companies in search of capital?

You’ll engage an investor’s interest only if you have an idea that’s scalable and, ideally, exportable. An investor won’t be tempted to invest in a single club. However, they will invest in a unique concept or service which has worked well in your club, that you’d like to a roll out to the world.

You’ve been involved in a variety of businesses. Why diversify in this way?

It all goes back to what I said about experience, which keeps us from discovering new ways to do things. I love to invest in businesses I’m not familiar with, and in countries I’ve never visited. It provides me with fresh insight, and doesn’t tempt me to step back onto the path of experience.

You’re also a media expert, so tell us: What’s the key benefit of using social media to attract and retain members?

Social media is so powerful. I once read that a domino is able to trip another domino twice its size. The first domino requires only a small push, but the cumulative effect, after the 10th or 20th domino, is enormous. I see the same sort of thing happening with social media. If I tweet something, and 100 of my followers retweet the message, then we’ve covered the whole of The Netherlands - for free.

What’s the best piece of advice you can offer to growing companies from your book, Ambition?

You need to differentiate between the types of problems you face. At least half of them are ones you can’t solve or do anything about; those problems are facts. Why waste time on or lose any sleep over them? The other half are problems that you can do something about - these are the real challenges. If you focus only on the challenges, you’ll cut the number of “problems” you have by 50%.

Finally, from Exit, your book about divorce, what’s your best advice for club operators in their personal lives?

Keep your personal life and your firm’s finances separate at all times; you have to protect your private life from any risks you take professionally. Also, entrepreneurs have a very strong focus: their business. But, in many cases, their friends, parents, or partner don’t approve of that. They try to persuade them that they should strive for a better balance between their work and private lives. But the truth is - there is no balance. An entrepreneur has that business running through their veins. They should try to surround themselves with people who understand and support them - especially in the case of their personal partner!

 

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