Today I’m thrilled to kick-off a new series called the game-changers exchange. The idea: visit fellow lifestyle entrepreneurs and great companies to dive into their day-to-day work. Other game-changers inspire me (and others) because of what they do and why and how they do it. It could be anything. From pursuing something great, to having this one amazing skill. From working extremely productive, to having found a way to create a business around the thing they love most.
Success leaves clues
Whichever game-changer I visit, I go all-in. Fully prepared, but with an open mind. I aim to learn something specific, and at the same time I expect to be surprised with remarkable stuff. The main purpose: borrow some of their brilliance. Tony Robbins often says: ‘Success leaves clues. People who succeed consistently are not lucky; they’re doing something different than anyone else. They have a strategy that works, and if you follow their strategy and you sow the same seeds, then you’ll reap the same rewards.’ In return, I aim to inspire them and make suggestions on how they can become even greater.
Friends x business
The first game-changer in this serie is Springest, a young company that offers a smart marketplace for all types of education. I was introduced to Springest by my good friend and director of corporate partnerships Ewout Meijer. We know each other from secondary school, and we always kept in touch. Business wise, we relate to each other because we both read a heck of a lot and we share a passion for companies that have audacious goals. Ewout told me all about Springest, and I met some of his team mates at his birthday party. His social media activity got me even more curious about this standing-out organization. Let’s go!
Real world vs conceptual model
As Ewout suggested, I traveled by public transport, since Springest’ office is in the center of the busy Amsterdam. From the moment I entered the companies’ office at Bierfabriek last Friday, it felt like stepping into a different world. In the train back to The Hague, I immediately elaborate on my notes. There I stepped on my bike to head to Delft to join my team at the salad bar we recently opened. Riding the bike gives me the opportunity to structure my thoughts. I’m happy to share some thoughts with you about my (short) experience at Springest. I’ll do this by administering the building blocks of our 6P model. In short, the 6P model states that to succeed in business, you should take care of 6 P’s: purpose, people, power, passion, present, profit. Let’s take a look how that works out for Springest.
Springest now exists for more than 6 years, which it used to charge its purpose. Everything they do evolves one thing: education. It’s not only the product it offers; the whole organization is built on learning, learning everyday. This manifests itself in how the work processes are set up (litterally everything is shared, discussed and documented in their project tool), how new staff is selected (giving the candidate a few days to independently work on an ambitious number of tasks and see if he/she is able to utilize the available resources and complete the list in time), and how new tools and methods are adapted (not talking about it, but testing it). As Springest practises what it preaches, the people don’t have to put up a show when selling their product; they are one with their product. It’s in their DNA, it’s what they believe in.
Yes, education is what they believe in. With they, I mean the people that work for this playful organization, illustrated by the ping-pong table in the middle of the office. People that don’t want to work like this leave, or never enter in the first place. When thinking of playful, some might suggest that this affects the level of professionalism. On the contrary. Springest is as professional as it is playful. The small amount of rules it has are very clear to everybody. For example, whenever someone is late for a session, he is not aloud to join. The message is simple: ‘we make a lot of fun, but we are involved in serious business.’ Just like Lionel Messi makes fun on the pitch while aiming to win the Champions League again.
A thing I never saw in practice was a non-hierarchical business structure, deployed by Springest has. Co-workers are empowered and motivated, and they help and criticize each other. Ewout told me about how he got selected to be the chairman: he called up a meeting in which he elaborated on his thoughts on employing this function. He answered questions like: Why do I want to be the chairman? And: how am I going to make things happen? Then, his co-workers made some suggestions and agreed it should be him. A year later, someone else thought it was time for some new energy. On her turn, she presented her plans and a new direction was chosen. The open, constructive way of working is one of the success factors of Springest. This has been recognized by indepenendent organizations as well, as Springest recently won a TINYpulse award.
Springest puts the money where the mouth is. A big part of its assets (i.e. power) is in technology. And that’s where they develop themselves and each other continuously. Learning by doing is the key here. As they are all about educating, they are eager to learn themselves, too. By organizing events, like hackatons. And by inviting people like me. Being a learning company implies there is (always) room for growth and improvement.
While talking to a few people over lunch, I was delighted to see how happy the people are at Springest. The founder Ruben has succesfully created a culture in which people feel at home. The team members are energetic, and highly enjoy the work they do. Team spirit is high, and fellow workers even meet each other after work (remember the birhtday I was talking about?).
I recall Ewout as being the first at school to have a phone with touchscreen (back in 1998) and more recently spending hours and hours behind his laptop reading the latest about tech, and pre-ordering gadgets (like the Leap Motion). When you enjoy your job so much that it actually doesn’t really feel like ‘work’, people are at their best, and the company gets the best results.
Springest present is the infrastructure it has created to help teachers teach and students learn. What, how, where — is all up to the end user. Now that the platform is gaining influence, more doors are being presented and openend. Their growth will not only be directed at quantitity (generating more traffic), but also in serving people in the best possible way (supporting them in their search for new knowledge in various collateral ways).
Among giants as Airbnb (#2), Uber (#3), and Google (#5), Springest got a 45th position on the ‘Top 100 Exponential Organization‘ list. To underline the value of this mention I’ll cite a few lines that I read on the website promoting the bestseller ‘Exponential Organization’: ‘Now it is time to introduce the Exponential Organization leveraging openness, transparency and abundance in a new way. This is a new organizational model that is condusive to an exponential age. It closes the gap between the linear organization and its exponential environment. It is at least 10x more effective, efficient and/or faster relative to its linear peers in the same market.’ I can imagine Springest being profitable, right?
IAccording to my analysis it’s got all factors of the 6P model covered, which is quite unique. On top of that: Springest gives it’s employees freedom and autonomy to work how they want to work and develop themselves continuously. Zig Ziglar once said: regardless of who signs your paycheck, you are self-employed. If you are entrepreneurial in nature, but you don’t want to sign your own paycheck, a company like Springest is an exemplary employer.
Everywhere I go, everyone I speak to, everything I see, it all influences my creative mind. After hitting the publish button I will write an email to Ewout with my findings. Hopefully the opportunities that I point out are fruitful and will bring Springest even more joy.
Thanks for the warm welcome, transparency, and openness, Springest. See you soon!