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Leon Winkes_Beyond 8 Figures_Culture-Driven Business Growth

Culture-Driven Business Growth with Leon Winkes, IWB

March 8, 2023

When you and your team love what you do, your clients can feel it. As a result, your business will thrive! Tune into this week’s episode to hear what culture-driven business growth looks like from Leon Winkes. Get to know his approach to creating value, building long-term relationships, and finding happiness! 

About Leon Winkes:

Leon Winkes is the founder and CEO of IWB Agency. He is an entrepreneur, investor, husband, and father of two. After three years of experience working at Google, he started IWB, which currently manages up to €30 million in Adspend for clients in the Netherlands.

Culture-drive business growth

The intentional cultivation and promotion of a positive and meaningful company culture to fuel sustainable growth is referred to as “culture-driven business growth.” It acknowledges that an organization’s values, beliefs, practices, and norms have a significant impact on its overall performance, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and success.

Starting with a compelling vision and core principles that direct the organization’s actions is the first step. A culture-driven approach promotes open communication, cooperation, and innovation by placing a high priority on employee involvement, empowerment, and development. Employees can adapt and flourish in a dynamic work environment by fostering a learning culture that values continual improvement and a growth mentality.

In order to effectively embrace opportunities and handle problems, companies need agility, adaptability, and a collaborative approach. Recognizing and appreciating employee achievements strengthens an excellence culture and inspires workers to go above and beyond.

Businesses build a solid basis for sustained growth and long-term success by purposefully fostering a culture that exemplifies these characteristics.

Episode highlights:

  • If your employees are happy and fulfilled, they will be able to provide the most value they possibly can to you and your business. So, focus on building a company culture that prioritizes the well-being of your employees, and you will go far. (09:11)
  • When hiring, look for people who are passionate and enthusiastic about the mission of your business. Teaching someone a skill is much easier than helping someone cultivate a growth mindset. (13:44)
  • If you don’t love what you do, change something! Life is short, and there is no point in wasting your time on a job you hate. (20:26)
  • Clearly define the type of clients you want to work with and the type of relationship that you want to develop with those clients. Don’t be afraid to get very specific about your niche! (25:26)
  • No entrepreneurial venture is going to run perfectly smoothly all the time, and the sooner you can let go of that expectation, the more enjoyable your journey will be. (37:24)
  • One of the main differences between being a leader and a manager is that leaders motivate and challenge their team members to move themselves and the company forward. On the other hand, managers often fixate on the nitty-gritty mistakes without thinking about the bigger picture. So, do you want to be a leader or a manager? (39:03)

Leon’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“In order to build something, you really need people to do it with you; people with the same kind of purpose.” (08:55)

Connect with Leon:

Follow Beyond 8 Figures:

Transcript

[00:01:23] A.J. Lawrence: And I was getting the results, even though I was paying a lot. Well, about a year and change ago, I found these women from Makethecut.fm, and my life has been so much better. They produce this podcast and they make my life so much easier. I get to focus on talking with these very cool entrepreneurs that you get to listen to every week. To me, that’s the best part of my life.

[00:01:48] These people, I get to focus just on the conversation. Make The Cut, they take care of everything in the background. They manage the interview process, they make sure that the guests are ready, they coordinate after, they promote the episodes, they do everything. And most importantly, they make the episodes sound so much better than if I was just doing this on my own. So if you have a podcast and you wanna take it up a notch, or if you’re thinking of starting a podcast, go check out Makethecut.fm and tell them A.J. sent you.

[00:02:24] Today, we’re gonna be talking with Leon Winkes. Leon is one of the co-founders of IWB Agency. I love what they’re doing. They are one of the more exciting growth agencies out there. Leon comes from a background where he was an actual intern at Google to then working for Google before co-founding IWB. And what I think is so interesting about IWB is they have this amazing client roster and yet they are sort of in between a productized service and a full service growth agency, kind of straddling it.

[00:03:04] So they bring some really intelligent thinking to their clients on something that a lot of times gets pushed down the value chain from some of these clients, and they deliver it in a very strategic positioned way. If you go to their site, read a little bit, and you look at the clients and you look at how they talk about it, you can see there’s some serious deep thinking that’s going on into what they’re doing.

[00:03:29] And what I think is gonna be a lot of fun for people to listen to is Leon’s gonna talk a little bit about his life lessons. He’s almost died in his thirties. He had a heart attack, he was in a coma. He talks about the importance of realizing life is short. He lost a close family member soon after. So you know, how to make sure that you’re always giving everything you can to achieve your goals because you never know when it’s gonna end.

[00:03:59] And then just the importance of having fun in doing it. And these are all things- yes if I had gone through those situations, I would say the same thing. Well, I think it’s a little bit more, because he’ll walk us through how he’s actually incorporating this into how he’s building his agency. He really is building this very cool, what feels like an employee-first type of situation to then provide outside value to his clients.

[00:04:32] He’ll talk about how he brings them in, what he looks for, the type of training he puts them through and for what reasons, and where they grow. He’ll talk a little bit about how he’s working on his own capability of stepping back, being more of a leader, what he works on. So, if you’re in that early 7-figure to mid 7-figure type of growth cycle, a lot of what Leon’s gonna talk about is gonna resonate because I’ve been through that process myself a few times.

[00:05:06] I get a little bit further along and then kinda bounce back down. But Leon will talk about this and I think it’s gonna resonate because he’s really approaching this with just such a warm, open, joyful approach. And I think that’s something more of us should take when we look at this. It’s fun doing what we do and especially for all the work we do, it’s worth it. So I think you’re really gonna enjoy today’s conversation. I did. Leon’s a great guy. So let’s go talk with Leon.

[00:05:39] Hello Leon. So nice to have you here today. How are you?

[00:05:43] Leon Winkes: Good, I’m very good. How are you?

[00:05:46] A.J. Lawrence: I’m good. I’m very jealous you’re in Amsterdam, which is one of my favorite cities on the planet. It is such a beautiful city. I miss wandering around there. Years ago, and we’re gonna talk a while ago, I went to graduate school in Copenhagen.

[00:06:05] Leon Winkes: Me too!

[00:06:06] A.J. Lawrence: Oh, Copenhagen Business School?

[00:06:08] Leon Winkes: Yeah, yeah, CBS. Yes, I did.

[00:06:10] A.J. Lawrence: Yes, me too! Okay. Yay!

[00:06:12] Alright, so yeah. I went to CBS and I was there in 93, so a while ago.

[00:06:20] Leon Winkes: I didn’t.

[00:06:21] A.J. Lawrence: Yes, I’m a bit old. But I used to every weekend take, there was a Thursday late night that left like 11 o’clock and got into Amsterdam just before six, and take the sleeper car. It was so cheap. So I used to spend all my weekends going to Amsterdam and wandering around. Ah, I love it. I missed that.

[00:06:43] Leon Winkes: Good old days.

[00:06:45] A.J. Lawrence: Like I said, thank you for coming on. As an ex agency, you know, having sold my last agency, I’ll probably buy my way. I’m looking to buy another agency so I may be back soon. But, I was going through what you’ve done with IWB as I was just telling the audience, and I find it really fascinating.

[00:07:07] I mean, you have this wonderful background going through Google to this, you have all these great life lessons that your team has shared with us. I really encapsulated them quickly for the audience a second ago, but I would love to start with where you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Because you have all these great investments, you have the agency, where do you see yourself now as an entrepreneur? And then let’s kind of dive into some of the things you’ve learned over the years.

[00:07:37] Leon Winkes: Yeah. So first, I’m an agency owner. I do that together with a partner, Akke, and of course with the whole team. That’s my main focus for now. So I’m not a passive investor, so to say.

[00:07:51] And I sometimes talk to startups and try to help them and coach them on a voluntary basis. But where I see myself now is basically, in the end, I would like to explore my skills more in terms of helping other smaller companies to grow or maybe even help agencies to grow. My main focus now of course is IWB because it takes most of my time. That is about it for now, right?

[00:08:15] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. Well over the years, coming out of Google and then starting this, how do you see your skills as an entrepreneur having changed? .

[00:08:27] Leon Winkes: Yeah. So I started it myself for the five years. At the first stage, I hired freelance experts who joined me to help businesses grow. But in the end, I realized that doing it by myself and hiring people wasn’t working for me. Wasn’t working for me in a sense that in order to build something, you really need people to build it with you. People with the same kind of purpose, purpose-driven marketeers. And I think also what I’ve learned over the last like four to five years is the value of building a culture.

[00:09:03] For us, that means people who are there at IWB, developing themselves for the first four to five years and get everything out of it and passionately help companies to grow. So that changed me from a one-person team into a 20-FCE team of like-minded people. So I kind of duplicated my own kind of passion in that way and it brought a lot of positivity.

[00:09:34] A.J. Lawrence: But I know this is a big thing for you, developing the culture. I love the benefits you talk that you offer your team, having looked and read a bit about that, but why don’t you talk a little bit about that, but then what do you see the value that you get by doing these for your employees. Why don’t you talk a little bit about these benefits because, you know, they’re very cool.

[00:10:01] Leon Winkes: Yeah. First about the why actually. The why is we at IWB think that if an employee is really happy- and is happy in the sense that he has a cultural fit with us, that he has colleagues that he likes but also like everything around him or her- it’s like perfectly organized in the sense that he has his own bike to take care of, he has a lot of free study days, free lunch, free everything. But that’s just the basics check that you can do.

[00:10:35] The reasoning behind it is if people really feel at ease and are in their perfect zone, I think they are the most valuable employee. So what’s in it for me is that if I facilitate that in the most perfect way, then people don’t, I hope, don’t wanna leave me that soon or don’t wanna leave the company that soon and already happy but also are willing to tell how cool the company is.

[00:11:02] And I think for a lot of clients of us, it also helps them. They see us as their inspiration for growth. But also what I realized later is that they see us as an inspiration on how to run a company. So if we wouldn’t grow, if we wouldn’t treat our employees nicely or the way that we do, they also see us as an example for them running their business.

[00:11:26] So they don’t just hire us managing their Google ads, they hire us to be on top of an innovation wave. And to be on top of how an organization is run. So bringing these guys, cuz they inspire us in a lot of different ways.

[00:11:41] A.J. Lawrence: Well, okay. Having these benefits is really cool, but having the type of people who can bring innovation and understand how innovation can impact a client’s environment, not just where they’re working but then also be able to go, oh, okay, this is what the client’s dealing with. This is the environment, all that stuff. That’s a pretty hard earned skillset. From an agency point, or what I would always joke, that’s a very expensive skillset to hire.

[00:12:19] Leon Winkes: Just to also clarify, a lot of people that we hire have like two years of work experience or even less. So some of them come straight from university and just start with us, and they’re good at data and they’re good at communicating. But learning them to communicate at C-level, of learning to communicate how to run a strategy meeting, or how to define a roadmap for a client to grow, that takes some other skills.

[00:12:43] And of course we don’t have like these strategic consultants yet, but that’s one of the main skills that we hire them, in a so to say like a pressure cooker in the first months on how to write compelling C-level strategy emails, how to write compelling and concise presentations cuz a lot of presentations, all [inaudible]

[00:13:06] A.J. Lawrence: They’re bad.

[00:13:09] Leon Winkes: You can’t imagine how many ugly presentations I’ve seen over the years. And some of them are from like strategy consultants So I think we actually-

[00:13:18] A.J. Lawrence: Usually worse, yeah.

[00:13:20] Leon Winkes: Maybe. They’re some slides, so much text on it and no visuals. And ideally we say like slides, ideally the main message is already in the title and explains itself. Ideally, we don’t have to show anything with one slide, so it comes with great slides.

[00:13:36] And if people come in, also some not so senior people come in, and with their enthusiasm, with their growth mindset, so that’s where we focus on our hiring. It’s enthusiasm, passion for the job that they wanna do, they think different. So they don’t come from those big companies that you have to go in and out in a meeting just to arrange something. Or they don’t see like those glass ceilings, they don’t see them yet. So maybe for us, that’s an advantage.

[00:14:12] A.J. Lawrence: I kind of wanna get into your life lessons, but before we do that, with your team, bringing in young people or people earlier in their career when they have some tactical understanding of the work, but they don’t have that as you talk about that sort of client facing thing, do you have a formal training program?

[00:14:39] How do you do this? Because I always found like it would usually be six months before someone came in, before they were like, okay, you are now worth doing the work that you’re gonna do. Then you would see about a year, year and a half, like the people would start curving up in their deliverable capability and then at three years you would start seeing people who would really be, you know, skyrocket.

[00:15:05] I would love to know about your training program and if you think this helps accelerate that type of process.

[00:15:12] Leon Winkes: Ideally we would cut those time periods in half, as you mentioned then just there. So a year and a half, we would ideally see someone bringing a C-level presentation, also hitting the C-level kind of style and inspiring a client.

[00:15:25] But how we get there? So first of all, we have a knowledge center in which everything we do, it comes from like really nerdy kind of detailed things that we go in on a product basis, we record it. So there’s a big like resource center where everything is recorded. And then we have our – and that’s I think is also somehow unique cuz even at Google we were just making our own presentations and of course you could go into a training where you will learn to make presentations- but for us, that’s part of our onboarding.

[00:15:56] So one of the first lessons that people get is how to write effective emails, C-level communication. We get to drill them in it. And people love it because the way they can communicate, they can take every, whether it’s somehow a complaint or a challenge from a client, and turn that into something positive, turn it into a challenge. Also with slides, so that soft skill kind of development is the core, the product itself. They’ll get to a certain level, but that’s just checking boxes.

[00:16:27] A.J. Lawrence: This is really kinda cool because there are different ways, and I’ve seen that. Like as you were just talking about in Google, I know there’s just online ongoing educational opportunities,and all the way down to smaller companies that would offer things.

[00:16:45] We would offer all sorts of training opportunities, but what I think we’re talking about is do you have a formal, so when someone comes in, do you have not only a formal like you are going to learn these things, but almost a outcome that you want from them? Because you’ve said this, we want them to be able to talk to a CEO.

[00:17:09] Not talk, but present, sorry. Pitch. Maybe I’m a little too much in the agency thought process, but so you have an outcome and you’re training them towards that outcome. Is that how it works?

[00:17:21] Leon Winkes: Yeah. So when someone comes in, we have like a buddy system. I think a lot of companies have that when new people come in. But it’s really important for people to just have one single person that they can go to with questions. And that’s a person that sometimes also works on the same kind of clients, so it helps them.

[00:17:41] Then we have someone dedicated for onboarding. So that means this person plans one-on-ones on the first week, every single week with a new person starting. And then we have like a whole training schedule for the first two or three weeks, and a lot of it of course, product skills and certifications. So that’s the basics, I think. That what a lot of agencies do.

[00:18:05] But our secret sauce comes at the soft scale side. That in that onboarding process are also soft skill trainings that we’ve built over the years. And a lot of people are really, so we have for example, one of my colleagues, is brilliant at making presentations. So one of her trainings is how to make three, four killer slides instead of 20 boring slides, and how to make that presentation an hour long. And when they get those guidelines, they know how to do it.

[00:18:34] Another training for example, I haven’t seen any of these type of trainings in another companies, first, filtering your email. So people get like an hour on okay, you get a lot of emails cause every client is in it. Just learn how to filter your email and work with a clean inbox. We’re gonna drill you at it. Cause if you don’t get that, well, you’re not gonna work efficiently and you’re not gonna be able to prioritize on the right emails. So those are some examples.

[00:18:59] A.J. Lawrence: I like that. You know, we haven’t really talked much about sort of the outcome, just the type of work you guys are doing. But it is, just as I was briefly telling the audience, very intense work in what you’re doing, but you have this sort of very robust culture for type of deliverable that I think some other people are sort of, I would jokingly call it, the churn and burn direction. You know, the minimal type of deliverable at the lowest level of quality. Rinse and repeat and build the business model on just trying to get as much as you can quickly.

[00:19:45] You’re taking the opposite approach. Now, I’ve read some of your life lessons. You’ve had these situations where you had a heart attack, you were in a coma, father died. You know, recently you’ve had these situations that have led to sort of things. Do you bring these into why and how you’re building this? Because you talk about always giving your 100%, life is short.

[00:20:16] Leon Winkes: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So before we hire, the first thing we wanna see is people that enjoy life, but enjoy the work they do. Cuz if you hate the job you do, why would you work?

[00:20:31] So I realized, like you mentioned, was the time that I got a heart attack and I went into coma and life was almost gone for me literally. Then you have to step back, one step, and see, okay, what is important in life in general is enjoying life. Better enjoy it.

[00:20:54] So if I don’t see that from my own employee that they enjoy life, then we could go what is it in the job that you don’t like? Cause we can either like change your job in the sense that you have like a role that you really like. But if people don’t like internally what they do, then they can’t tell that story to a client. Cause the client, again, the client hires us because we’re enthusiastic about quite boring stuff in their view. They see 1s and 0s, and we see growth data.

[00:21:29] We try to see growth lines or challenges instead of problems. That’s why they hire us, in order to go into the dust and try to make up a roadmap for them to reach their goal and talk revenue instead of digits.

[00:21:41] So that’s why if we are able to, for them, make raw or boring stuff really interesting and really nice to work on, then they get more fun doing that with a party that enjoys working. But also, a thing that I really wanted to emphasize is that what I encountered working with a lot of like really large companies, really large agencies, and I mean like a 100+ people working there, is that the saying that the one who pays is the one that can demand.

[00:22:15] They can demand service. I hate that. I really hate it. In Dutch, there’s a saying (Speaks Dutch) . You’re asking, we’ll just turn whatever you want.

[00:22:26] A.J. Lawrence: Agency life, yeah.

[00:22:28] Leon Winkes: That is not an agency. In my view, it’s we work with clients. But honestly we work with clients we really like. I have clients that like you go on a coffee and see what you can do for them. Can you grow them or not.

[00:22:47] If this would be a client that I would be hating to work for, I don’t wanna put them in front of my employees cuz they won’t have fun doing that and we won’t be at our best. We’re also like demanding what we see as our ideal clients. Cause most of our clients are already a client for seven- we have clients, a lot of them are with us since the beginning. That’s crazy.

[00:23:14] So they haven’t changed, or some of them, if they’ve changed an agency, there was an obvious reason. But a lot of them are like almost friends. And I think that’s unique cuz we don’t see them as customers. We see them as our partners in growth.

[00:23:29] A.J. Lawrence: Well, all right. This kind of brings not the core of sort of the agency equation is that especially when you are delivering such a tactical product but you tie it into such a strategic insight with the data and sort of the value you’re taking it, but you’re executing very tactically. Everyone, they do much more. But the core is the Google, Google AdWords algorithm, focusing on Google. Sorry, I’m dating myself.

[00:23:59] Google Ads. Believe me, I was calling something and I was like, it has been that for 15 years. And I was like, oh yeah.

[00:24:07] Leon Winkes: Yeah, yeah.

[00:24:07] A.J. Lawrence: All right. I’ve been doing this too long. But you know, you are trying to move into that strategic position, which is creating value, having a relationship versus a deliverable. That’s moving up the agency life cycle.

[00:24:27] The more strategic you are, theoretically, the more you’re embedded within your client’s business, the longer term your relationships, the more you can do. That’s the growth model, over time.

[00:24:40] Leon Winkes: Yeah.

[00:24:41] A.J. Lawrence: Have you found in building this team the way you have, it seems like you’re building this team because it allows you to do that. Have you found that maybe compared to early on, the clients who engaged with that type of environment, do you find it bringing more value to you? And how are you looking at that?

[00:25:07] You’re doing these things, is it creating more value or is it just you’re doing this because this is what you think should be done? It’s a hard question.

[00:25:17] Leon Winkes: No, but you think it from different angles. So at first, let’s go like eight or nine years ago, they brought in like the Google S guy, right? So the guy that worked for Google worked there as an S specialist and who’s doing the trick for himself now. But later on we expanded beyond that.

[00:25:34] Of course, we went into growth marketing, we went to CRO, we went into audience mapping, et cetera, and we went to growth consultants. And with that, there comes also like a change into like literally what you just explained. It’s a brilliant explanation. But you also gotta be lucky with the type of clients that you already have in your portfolio that they are open to not see you as that click there Google S minion in the most negative way into their new growth consultant who’s gonna tell them how to grow their agency.

[00:26:02] But if you have a really, really good relationship with them, you can just be cheeky and bring in a slide that really inspires them and go and say like, guys, did you know that we’ve did it with client A and B, but as you know that you can also grow with this and this. And if your relationship is really good, then they’re open and their mindset would be way more open than like a strict agency-client relationship, like a traditional one.

[00:26:28] A.J. Lawrence: All right. I used to joke sort of in the growth cycle of my agency, especially when we were around our first couple of million to about 3 million, that our ideal client were the ones that got curious.

[00:26:40] Leon Winkes: Yeah.

[00:26:40] A.J. Lawrence: Because we would talk forever and ever and we would data dive. I was spending money on data scientists way before we could even charge for that. And then later on what I realized was, okay, that’s a good inbound, thats a good sort of networking sort of relationship capability, but for us to develop our outbound client and sort of grow and become more predictable in our client, we had to go deeper into our definition of what that type of client was.

[00:27:22] And just saying they’re curious, it’s like, okay, how do you target curiosity? So we had to go further and further and we built it more around the type of content we would push the positioning so that people would engage with us. And we were still reaching out to our niche and the type of clientele size and all that, but we engaged them.

[00:27:49] You’re talking about a very specific type of client that is either A, and I can say this cause I don’t have an agency, you’ve either trained the client to be set to you guys or you found them. How do you go about getting this type of client up?

[00:28:04] Because you guys are, you’re past that sort of good word of mouth. Yes, you probably still get a lot of business from word of mouth and all that, but you are large enough now that you have to go beyond just hoping people are gonna say nice stuff about you.

[00:28:20] Leon Winkes: Yeah. So first of all, we’re very different to mainstream agencies in the sense that, for example, we’ve never, I repeat, we never took part in an award, like a search award, like a big marketing kind of award where you pay for. A lot of them do that.

[00:28:38] A.J. Lawrence: They’re so fake. I’ve bought. I did some.

[00:28:44] Leon Winkes: I mean, I tend to get pretty jealous and then I look at it realistically, it’s like, well, we’ve never done it.

[00:28:51] A.J. Lawrence: That was a thousand bucks.

[00:28:51] Leon Winkes: At least we didn’t depend on it cause they cost money of course. But the thing is like you mentioned that there’s a certain extent of clients that we acquire that come from word of mouth. Well, you’d be surprised 90+ percent is literally referral. And I think that is also odd in the sense that normally it’s of course some kind of acquisition.

[00:29:14] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

[00:29:15] Leon Winkes: And you’d also be surprised that I, some people don’t believe it, but I’ve never ever called someone with the purpose of, not knowing them, you wanna be my client? Well, I’ve had some coffees with people that I found interesting. Ah, well let’s see if we can do something for you, but I’ve never reached out. So maybe that’s the next phase for me. Like a personal get out of your comfort zone kind of thing.

[00:29:38] But for me it doesn’t work. We’re not an acquisition company, we don’t have that train running. So people come in and they say, well, I’ve heard about you and you did this interesting stuff at client A or B, and I know them and they talked about you. And 90% comes in like that. And that’s, I realize that is pretty remarkable in the sense that not a lot of clients have that. So we’re quite happy with that happening.

[00:30:07] So from the acquisition kind of, we bring out a lot of like in-depth articles about really nerdy stuff that we do at our clients where the real clients who know us think, well, this is remarkable. And they can still translate it to like a big overall strategy picture. We do defer with the bigger traditional agencies in that sense.

[00:30:34] A.J. Lawrence: Okay.

[00:30:34] Leon Winkes: Maybe we gotta go into another phase, I don’t know. Just to be open with you. Maybe we should engage more in that sense. But for now it’s working. And I really feel comfortable with being, well, I sometimes joke on it. Well, if you know the A team from back in the 80s and 90s.

[00:30:54] A.J. Lawrence: Yep.

[00:30:55] Leon Winkes: They don’t reach out to you to work for you. You have to be really lucky to find them. I wanna be the A-TTeam. Then be Hannibal.

[00:31:04] A.J. Lawrence: I love it when a plan comes together.

[00:31:08] Leon Winkes: Yes, sure. We present the roadmap telling that.

[00:31:11] A.J. Lawrence: Well, alright. Then that is an interesting place to be because that in a sense, you are putting your biz dev cycles into your culture.

[00:31:23] Leon Winkes: Mm-hmm.

[00:31:26] A.J. Lawrence: Because it feels like, what I’ve seen from my experiences, there is always that like inbound is great and early on, it definitely gives you this opportunity if you are able to harness it, nurture it, and survive long enough for it to actually happen.

[00:31:42] Because most inbound very rarely isn’t tomorrow. Usually it’s like, oh, we’re curious, and then 18 months later they’re ready. So it’s all that about being there. But then to harness it to grow, it is usually those things.

[00:31:59] You’re almost, from your descriptions, talking about building like a product-led growth. Instead, you’re talking about a culture-led growth of having these types of capability and this positioning around your capability and your value offering.

[00:32:19] Is this even something where you guys look at the more effort you put there, the more it translates into the type of engagement, decreased cycles, higher inbound, stuff like that?

[00:32:32] Leon Winkes: So still on the client acquisition side, if clients come at our office and for example, they join lunch or we will have a joint session with them and with our clients, sharing our knowledge, those moments are brilliant cuz then the clients actually see us.

[00:32:50] They encounter with us, they interact with us, and they see our enthusiasm. They see that we share with all the other clients that they can learn from. So the way that we try to get that culture, that employee culture out also means bringing the clients in and having them encounter with the culture we’ve built.

[00:33:08] So as soon as they see, well, this is a company. We’re not only the people that work there, I love working there, but also they love doing what they do. And our clients love what they do. And I think they have a lot of enthusiasm doing that and a lot of energy doing that. So as soon as they come in and they encounter this culture, it works for us.

[00:33:29] It works in a lot of different ways. They try and get us similar kind of people that they know, new clients, new leads. It also works on extending our relationship and intensifying our relationship cuz they know how we are, how our DNA works, and where we stand for in terms of values.

[00:33:47] A.J. Lawrence: Alright. Well, building that type of culture and building that type of deliverable set, as someone who bounced around in this area, is not a very simple process. Definitely keeping the type of open and engaged culture, that alone, like I jokingly said, that’s expensive.

[00:34:07] That is intensive type of training, that’s intensive type of support, feedback, mentor growth. There’s a lot of things that kind of happen behind to see. You just say, oh yeah, we grow with people. It’s like, yeah. But to really grow, there’s like 50,000 things underneath. And then to have that type of engaged client relationship where you are delivering X, but you’re doing it in such a strategic, that once again also requires 50,000 micro things.

[00:34:36] Leon Winkes: Exactly. It requires work really structured. And so for example, on the employee side, it’s not only like the benefit you mentioned, like free bike, free lunch, free location and stuff. That is just a check. But it requires like iterating on your processes over and over again. So after two or three hires, we have the feedback from their side. We have the feedback from the onboarding person’s encounter with the onboarding process, with the hiring process.

[00:35:05] And each time, we go over it again and say, okay, do we somehow miss a checklist? And now we have our knowledge base. So, all right, we have to extend this in this section cause people didn’t realize this new kind of information before they, for example, did this analysis. So they have to know, for example, what are the KPIs of a company before I can actually make a cross analysis.

[00:35:29] Just a really small diesel, right? But if you don’t iterate, if you don’t renew that process once in a while or improve the process, you don’t get there. And I think the iteration process is something we tell to our client in terms of managing expectations. We get better along the way and our relationship gets better along the way, but it also counts for our own processes.

[00:35:53] And so I think we’re now at a stage where the processes are really into place. And now we’re growing so we have to define the mid-senior kind of level rules so people are now, there’s persons dedicated to coaching other persons, for example. And if you’re a team with five or six, you have individual contributors and experts and no one needs to coach anyone because there’s like a really healthy senior-medior kind of relationship, and that goes along.

[00:36:27] But if your company grows like we are now, we need a middle structure. We need people to coach, we need people to onboar, we need people to encounter with one-on-ones with new people that join. So we need to put all those practice into place and reevaluate and iterate on them over and over again. So that’s hard. It takes time. That’s just it.

[00:36:47] A.J. Lawrence: Well, what do you then do for yourself? Because you’re talking about having an increasing complex environment. As you grow, you have more people and you have a very hands-on approach to your people.

[00:37:03] So the time, the effort, that growth, that mentoring, and that process of how to make sure that you’re getting the feedback and how you’re learning from the feedback and at the same for your client, what do you do to help you improve your capabilities as an entrepreneur here?

[00:37:20] Leon Winkes: Yeah, good question.

[00:37:21] Well, one of my main challenges is to let go basically, and to make sure that if we delegate ownership in some aspects of the company, that people have a good framework of what that ownership means. So my challenge is basically to let go of multiple aspects and to pinpoint the areas where I need to look with them and need to challenge them.

[00:37:46] That sounds rather abstract, but for me it’s just about letting go and seeing if it works. And if someone fails, just make sure that we get the process right the next time. Otherwise, we’ll do it again. So if for example, a wrong invoice is sent out to a client that upgraded or downgraded somehow, then we have to see what went wrong in that process in order for them to make it better and for me to let go of that aspect of the company. Right?

[00:38:14] Another good example is letting it go, like three, four years ago, I thought that approving holidays was something that the manager should do. That’s just BS cause that’s the first thing that you can let go as soon as you have the right KPIs on it. Just make sure that there’s not three, four people in the same team on holiday at the same time.

[00:38:36] They have like 28, 30 days a year, that’s a lot. That’s a lot to handle and to mix with holidays, make sure that a person knows what the KPIs are, but that’s just occupation of the client in terms of resources.

[00:38:50] You can let go a lot. I can let go way more of the stuff I’m currently doing, but that’s my main challenge. And also, my other big challenge is motivate instead of manage too much. Do you know what I mean?

[00:39:08] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

[00:39:09] Leon Winkes: Do you wanna be a leader or a manager? Right?

[00:39:13] A.J. Lawrence: Hey, let’s go here. And everyone, this is a podcast and I’m pointing off screen.

[00:39:18] Leon Winkes: Yeah, I know what you mean. But I realized I gotta be realistic as well. We’re now with 20 fd, I’m still a manager. But I wanna be a leader as well. Difference between a manager and a leader I think it’s Covey who had this metaphor and he said, well, a manager guides his troops through the jungle, a leader climbs up the highest street in the jungle and says, wrong jungle. So I try to be that leader.

[00:39:42] And the leader motivates and challenges you and asks the right questions. And a manager sometimes tells stuff that you do wrong instead of challenges you and change the process.

[00:39:54] A.J. Lawrence: Focused on the directions and the means of transportation versus the leader who should be looking out at like, where are we going and how are we getting there?

[00:40:03] Leon Winkes: To be honest, I’m really picky at processes and stuff, so I have a lot of difficulties letting go and also not focusing too much on the process. And that’s a personal process.

[00:40:14] A.J. Lawrence: Other than just doing it and getting the experience, cuz you’ve talked now about you’ve done this, what do you think you can do to make more smoother and more valuable for yourself to do?

[00:40:29] Leon Winkes: Well, I think one of the main things is that, like I’ve talked about being a happy employee and us doing a lot around that, I think it also counts for myself. If I’m a happy person, and I’ve spent a couple of days with, I have two children, two and four, maybe it works as well for me if I enjoy life in general, which I do. Then it has this good vibes also for the company.

[00:40:55] So it starts with myself. If I enjoy what I do and I enjoy my new role that I try to take, then I think people see that. People see that, for example, family is important.

[00:41:06] I think to a lot of us, but for me especially, if that is so important to me- in next week we have our office warming and the main invites were sent to the girlfriends and boyfriends and wives and children and fathers and mothers who are proud. So if that is important to me, just make sure that it also radiated towards the employees that work for you.

[00:41:31] So I try to bring it in and I try to get this spark back. If you know what I mean.

[00:41:37] A.J. Lawrence: I do. That is good. Well, since you are trying to guide rather than direct, you know, sort of-

[00:41:46] Leon Winkes: trying

[00:41:47] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, trying. But you know, you are building a very simple deliverable, high value type of company in that strategic connection because that takes extra. Before we even got on, before we started the podcast, whenmyou talked about developing OKRs and getting your team to understand and utilize them, how are you defining your own success separate from the agency?

[00:42:23] Cause you are talking about this. A lot of growth, working on your own personal happiness to then guide how you’re growing the team, how do you go about defining what is going to be success for you before you even talk about the agency?

[00:42:39] Leon Winkes: In relation to IWB?

[00:42:42] A.J. Lawrence: Just for yourself. What is success as an entrepreneur for you?

[00:42:47] Leon Winkes: For me, it’s enjoying what you do and if you enjoy what you do, you’re probably trying to be really good at it or trying to be the best at it. And I think, like personal success means to me is that I can honestly be proud of what I do and what I’ve accomplished.

[00:43:03] So that would be personal success. But also if people are proud to be working for IWB, that will make me proud. So pride comes also from the people you work. And I would be really proud if someday, I hope in a half a year or a year, the team should be like self-steering, should also be able to work without me. And I would be really proud if I could see this from an angle, working.

[00:43:33] And then it would be my personal success letting it go, and enjoying that process. Yeah, there’s a lot of like joy with it I think, with what makes me proud and what defines success for me.

[00:43:47] A.J. Lawrence: Very cool. So if that’s going to be what success is, what’s the BHAG for the agency? For IWB?

[00:44:03] Leon Winkes: Well, that is actually a really good question. Do we have? That’s the question. Do we have a BHAG? We’re now 20, right? Do we wanna be 100 fd? Do we wanna have like a turnover of 10 million or a 100 million? Well, there’s like a qualitative kind of BHAG and I just explained it like that’s happiness, employee retention, client retention, but those are like underlying metrics.

[00:44:32] And I’m not sure if we have one single digit, one BHAG that we can call it. But then I think we are, but we should definitely stay one of Europe’s leading growth agencies. And that’s our big goal. And we, being in the Netherlands, I think we’re on our way to continue and to improve and if people are proud working with us as clients and if people are proud working for us as an employee, that would be my overall goal.

[00:45:09] A.J. Lawrence: Very good. You’re positioning for the agency and from what I can see, is incredibly interesting and very, very smart. And the way you’re describing the processes you put into supporting that and why and where that emphasis, I really see I believe you’re gonna have some good success there.

[00:45:30] I think there’s gonna be some really interesting things that you guys end up doing. Love to, down the road, maybe continue this conversation because I think you’re onto something and I’d be very curious to see how that transition point you go as a growth agency into that next step. Because you’re right there. I mean, you are right there and that’s gonna be the fun. I’m seeing how that happens.

[00:45:56] If someone’s interested in learning more about the agency, learning more about what you’re doing, where should they go? Should they go check out the agency page?

[00:46:07] Leon Winkes: Of course. Everyone’s welcome for a coffee if you wanna talk about nerdy Google S stuff, I’m happy to talk about it cause that’s stuff I like. But if you wanna talk to me about growing an agency or growing a company, yeah. That is what we do as well. So they can contact me on LinkedIn, Leon Winkes, and just send me a message. I’m happy to talk and happy to have them over if you’re in Amsterdam.

[00:46:31] A.J. Lawrence: I’ll put that in the show notes.

[00:46:34] Leon Winkes: Everyone’s welcome in Amsterdam for a coffee, in the Netherlands in general.

[00:46:39] A.J. Lawrence: In the Netherlands?

[00:46:41] Leon Winkes: No, in general, but I mean, video calls are handy as well.

[00:46:45] A.J. Lawrence: Yes, video has made it a lot easier. But alright, cool.

[00:46:49] Leon, I really appreciate this. I’ll make sure everything’s in the show notes folks. If you’re listening right now, go check out Iwb.agency, check out Leon’s LinkedIn. I think you’ll see a lot of really cool things. And if you are interested in some of the growth services they’re talking about, just from my experience, I really like how they break it out. Now obviously you have to go kick the tire and check things out for yourself, but I think Leon is doing a really cool job.

[00:47:16] So thank you so much for coming on the show today, Leon.

[00:47:19] Leon Winkes: Thanks. Thanks a lot for having me.

[00:47:22] A.J. Lawrence: This has been a lot of fun. No, I always love, I’ve been trying not to geek out too much on agency specifics, but as you’re building this agency. This is so cool and so much fun.

[00:47:33] Leon Winkes: Yeah.

[00:47:34] A.J. Lawrence: Once you get into it, it is always, it’s a fun way of life.

[00:47:37] Leon Winkes: And, you know, once you’re in Amsterdam, just come and visit us. And I mean, your previous study periods from Copenhagen coming to Amsterdam, it kinda brings me, brings back good memories.

[00:47:53] A.J. Lawrence: Yep. I doubt some of the 24, the all night raves are still around, but I think probably some of the bars are still around. And definitely the canals. Walking around the canals is never to be beaten.

[00:48:07] Leon Winkes: Yeah. Cool.

[00:48:09] A.J. Lawrence: Thank you. Talk with you soon.

[00:48:11] Leon Winkes: Thank you. Alright, goodbye.

[00:48:13] A.J. Lawrence: Bye bye.

[00:48:19] This episode of Beyond 8 Figures is over, but your journey as an entrepreneur continues. So if we can help you with anything, please just let us know. And if you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might learn from it. Until next time, keep growing and find the joy in your journey. This is A.J., and I’ll be talking to you soon. Bye-bye.

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