Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Courage To Change, The Chance To Win

Millions of people work in jobs that they neither love nor want. Their dreams remain outside and are cherished only as hobbies. But does it help them that they revive just in their leisure time while the job makes them sick? Here are two examples of people who have fulfilled their dreams—perhaps as a thought-provoking.

By Jens Kügler

Millions of people in Germany know Ingo Anderbrügge. The former professional soccer star played for top flights like Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, winning European championships. In 2001, his professional soccer career ended. First, he became team manager—and today he is entrepreneur. I came across his story through an interview that he recently gave for, a platform full of business ideas. As a child, Ingo had felt magically attracted by every sports sport. He always wanted to see and try out the latest equipment. Still during his soccer career, he fulfilled his childhood dream and opened a sports shop with a focus on soccer equipment. So he made his sporty hobby to profession a second time after starting his player’s career.

Ingo Anderbrügge sold the shirts, shoes and balls from his sports shop to many small soccer clubs in the area. The star liked to hand it all out to the clubs himself, accompanied by the local press. And as a “bonus” he gave the junior teams little training sessions to teach them professional tricks. Thus he discovered a third passion around soccer: he likes to work with children and youngsters. So he developed the idea of his new company called Fußballfabrik, football factory. With his football factory, he organizes several days’ camps and seminars at soccer clubs where he and his team teach the children not only professional tricks. In child-friendly workshops he also teaches subjects such as team spirit, motivation, conflict resolution or dealing with defeats. The football factory started successfully and is now seeking franchisees nationwide who want to implement the concept in their regions.

On the magazine Zeit Online, I recently came across a section called “Opportunities to Change”. Here professional are portrayed who took a radical break in the CV and made a complete new beginning. Be it because the previous job could not satisfy them or they needed years of hesitation to take the step to self-employment. I noticed the story of Mr. Niceguy aka Dennis Tjoeng. Today he is one of the most successful DJ’s in Germany. For a long time, however, he had thought: DJ can only be a hobby. Only few of them succeed in making a living, so how should I?

Dennis Tjoeng studied business administration and tormented himself through jobs—from a more or less unsuccessful and underpaid advertising copywriter with madly many overtime up to the marketing assistant in a personnel agency with suit and neckties … almost to burnout with just over 30 years. After a coaching with a renowned professional consultant, he decided: I must try it as a professional DJ. Being a DJ is “what my heart says”, so the magazine quotes him.

He had all the equipment, because he had already spent years in his spare time DJ-ing in small clubs and parties. So the investment sum was limited. He recorded mixes, sent them to friends and published them via internet. He also disposed CDs with his music in bars. Gradually he received assignments, though at first very little lucrative. But he became known. Like almost every self-employed, he had to bridge a hard start time. Today Mr. Niceguy—his artistic name—receives bookings from all over Germany and abroad and is one of the stars of the scene.

What would have happened if he had not fulfilled his dream? Maybe he would have become an office worker ending up with burnout as so many do.

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More women’s power please!

To the author as a man, it could be unimportant that there are by far not enough women in leadership positions. However—to not exploit their potential makes our entire economy weaker.

By Jens Kügler

Everyone talks about the skills shortage and the threat of economic damage. But as it seems, hardly anyone raises the potential of hundred thousands or even millions of possible female executives. By the way, the women themselves don’t help to improve their gender’s position, too.

The problem is not only the fact that women often fall behind in their career due to child-rearing and education. Rather, an elbow mentality (as we call it in German) still prevails in the boardrooms of our companies. And most women simply do not want to work with an extended elbow or challenge a dog-eat-dog-society. This is not their mentality. By psychologists, the classical career attributes like aggressiveness and assertiveness are clearly regarded as typical male.

What can women do better? The evolutionary biologist Axel Meyer has summarized studies on this topic in 2015. His conclusion: Women have more linguistic eloquence and a more comprehensive vocabulary. They are more empathic and more sensitive to the emotions of their counterparts. As a practical advantage over men, women have better fine motor skills, faster perception and better imagination. Yet, all this is not enough to burst the glass dome to the men’s domains.

How can the treasure of female executives be lifted? Many airlines offer a good example. They regularly practice the so-called Crew Resource Management trainings. In these workshops everyone speaks absolutely openly and without any blame about all problems and mistakes. The flight captain must not be dominant and command. He rather moderates. Women significantly tend more to this this kind of openness. Unlike men, they do not act politically and hierarchically, which is beneficial to error management.

Do coaches and consultants not again and again say that managers can learn a lot from pilots? Trainings like these would only be one approach to attract more women to leadership engagements. Women do not want to fight but create. Men, on the other hand, are fighting for their crusted structures and hierarchies. Unfortunately, this is of no use to us. This is still 19th century.

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Not Without My Life Balance!

Do self-employed need the recreational compensation? A private life? A work-life balance—as employees do? Yes, of course!

By Jens Kügler

Anyone who is self-employed works in his dream job, as they say. Nobody supervises him. He is his own boss. So far, so good. Not being supervised is the anti-euphemistic formula for saying “the customer is always right”. And as the customer specifies the deadline, in a certain way he also sets the working hours. Thus it is more than clear that self-employment also imposes constraints—not just financially. It is not just about the mere existence—and not the activities only which no employee has to do, including acquisition and accounting.

At the beginning of self-employment there is often a certain euphoria. I know what I’m talking about. The first completed customer order. The very own work result in your hands for the very first time. If you are infected with it and have the dollar sign in your eyes, you easily work through whole nights and weekends. This may go well for some time. However, the private life suffers. The family, too. And not a few self-employed end up in a classical burn-out.

For myself as self-employed, there was only one solution: I needed a separate office outside the house where I live. A place where private and business life are completely separated from each other. Where I can fully concentrate on my work. A co-working solution turned out to be ideal: Here I am not disturbed but also alone with colleagues in the neighboring offices and desks. And here I also use the complete infrastructure of an office including telephone and IT.

Of course, everyone of us is different. A freelance independent graphic designer, friend of mine, loves her freedom to work all day from home in her living room or on her balcony. She doesn’t want to go out for taking some bus, subway, car or bike when there is rain or snow or burning sunshine—it’s all not necessary, she says. Everyone has to listen “into” himself.

Here at the co-working office, we take our breaks, and everyone needs this. People cannot focus on a task for more than 45 minutes at a time. This is why to school or driving lessons last only that long. When colleague L. walks towards the patio with his cigarette box in his hand, I as a non-smoker simply pick my coffee cup and go with him and the others to have a casual small talk. We also do some completely relaxed kind of networking.

What else I do or organize for me? E.g. clear slots for e-mails and calls, if possible. In the meantime, I can work on my jobs without getting disturbed and confused. I also like to counter-attack the “Monday morning blues” with initial favorite tasks. And my weekend is basically as sacred as that of an employee. That way I preserve my power for working on a Sunday if I have to—without being tired or frustrated. Or simply if I want to. Compulsory.

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Spring For Founders

Become self-employed? Nothing more difficult than that in a society that does not motivate people for entrepreneurship. But before a good business idea disappears to nirvana, it should be given a chance for an audience and a qualified judgement. The current start-up idea competitions in Germany offer such a chance.

Written by Jens Kügler

“Do not start to get self-employed”––this is what most parents tell their children and teachers to their students, see the study results in our last blog post. But also among working colleagues, almost everyone advises to not becoming a founder, no one gives a helping hand. And the credit counselor at the bank only sneers. What did a colleague say to me when I gave notice and announced to start as a freelancer? “I admire you for your courage”. She actually said: I would not dare to.

However, possible business founders do not get disadvised everywhere, as the initiative Startup Teens introduced in our last post proofs. And not only youngsters can get help to become a startup founders but, of course, adults as well. Anyway, the advancing digitization offers new opportunities and enables the implementation of entirely new business ideas.

Who starts, needs money and attention. Start-up competitions offer a podium for this. Here, business ideas are assessed, awarded and published. The application phase is currently underway for many startup contests over here. It is worth to submit one’s own idea. After all, whoever can enthuse the audience and the jury also has good opportunities to wow the market, too. The prize money ranges from under 10,000 to over 50,000 euros which is a first start-up financing for the winners. But what is much more important is that a good idea also convinces the lenders. The prerequisite is usually a comprehensive business plan.

Now—which start-up competitions actually take place, and where is the prospect of acceptance or price gain? In 2016, more than 160 competitions were held. 2017 it is expected to have about 190. The average number of participants last year was around 120 per bidding. And every 30th participant won a prize. In most cases, the winners also receive coaching seminars, management mentoring and direct access to banks and loans.

An unmanageable number of competitions? No, because most are only regional or sector-related. Examples: the Hamburg Innovation Awards, the founder’s prize DurchSTARTer of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Economic Affairs, or the StartUp Impulse of the Hannover region. The KfW Gründer Champions and start2grow are, for example, interregional and cross-sectoral. Anyone who is more informed about the start-up competitions will certainly make his “tight choice” and submit his documents. And, as I said: for most of the contests, the application phase is now running in spring. In Founding Spring 2017.

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