Episode 38: Interview with Jürgen Ingels, Author and Entrepreneur

Ep 38: Dawn McGruer Interviews Jürgen Ingels, Author and Entrepreneur for Dawn of a New Era Podcast ‘Chronicles of a Serial Entrepreneur’ 

In this episode, we’re talking to Jürgen Ingels who is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur. His new book, ‘Start, Grow, Sell’ is all about 50 practical ways that entrepreneurs can maximise their businesses and take it to the next level.

We talk about Jürgen’s new book, ‘Start, Grow, Sell’ and the reasons he decided to write this new book, as well as some of his personal tips for up and coming entrepreneurs and company owners to take their company to the next level.

🔥 Jürgen was the founder and CFO of Clear2Pay, a leading payments technology company. Under his leadership, he grew the company to one of the world leaders in payment software with more than 1,200 employees in 20 locations. In 2014, Clear2Pay was sold to FIS (NYSE), one of the biggest fintech companies worldwide.

🔥 Today, Jürgen is managing director of SmartFin, the fund targets promising European technology companies.

🔥 Jürgen is also the initiator of SuperNova and The Big Score, two important Belgian technology and innovation events.

🔥 He recently wrote the book Start, Grow, Sell where Jürgen Ingels reveals the lessons he has learned as a top entrepreneur. He gives concrete, practical tips about how you can take your company to the next level.

🔥 Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast – I have some pretty epics guest lined up for the next 3 months (yep I have been a busy bee!) and I promise the stories and insights my guests are going to be sharing are out of this world in terms of inspiring!!!

Did you know that my podcast Dawn of a New Era has reached the top 10% most popular shows out of 1,992,247 podcasts globally, ranked by Listen Score?… Just 8 months and 38 episodes in – SUBSCRIBE NOW
Interview with Jürgen Ingels

Here are the highlights from this episode:

{1:22} How Jürgen became an entrepreneur

{3:51} How Jürgen wrote his book, Start, Grow, Sell.

{7:32} The challenges Jürgen has faced as an entrepreneur

{11:49} A day in the life now versus when Jürgen got started in business

{16:20} Why Jürgen wrote his book

{19:32} The biggest challenge when growing a business

{22:59} Jürgen’s biggest influences and mentors

{26:06} Key success factors in the first year in business

{33:05} Fitting in day to day learning

{35:29} Things that Jürgen would change about his business career

{38:47} Jürgen’s favourite quote

Connect with Jürgen Ingels at https://www.jurgeningels.com/en/

Check out all episodes here

Remember to join me and all my Podcast Guests on Facebook
Dawn McGruer’s Marketing * Motivation * Mindset Group    

Speaker. Author. Podcaster. Strategist.
Multi-award-winning speaker, strategist & best-selling author of Dynamic Digital MarketingHelping to inspire entrepreneurs to rise to meet today’s challenges and be powerfully present to shine online.
Connect with me and let’s Dream Big * Work Hard * Make it Happen
 Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube 

Ways to work with me
Read My Book| Speaking | Training | Strategy | Retreat

Who is Jürgen Ingels?


Dawn McGruer:

Another magical guest with us this week joining us on Dawn of a New Era Podcast, we have Jürgen Ingels. And the reason that we have invited this amazing guest to join us today is partly to do with your entrepreneurial experience but also your new book, and it caught my eye, this is why we got in touch with you, we’ve been connected on LinkedIn.

And it’s all about 50 practical ways that entrepreneurs can really maximize their business and take it to the next level. Now, Jürgen, you are a venture capitalist, you’re an entrepreneur, and now you are an author and your book is now available in English. It’s done very well in Belgium, I believe, so far, and only came out in October.

It is a pleasure to welcome you today. And yeah, we’re going to be talking to Jürgen about his entrepreneurial journey. And I think one of the things that fascinated me, Jürgen, was that when I was reading your bio and we were looking at the different businesses that you’re involved in.

Tell us a little bit about how you got into the career you’re in, because I think one of the things that people always see is we see someone on LinkedIn and we assume that they set out in this journey to become whatever they are now. Was it a natural progression into this world or where did you?


How Jürgen became an entrepreneur


Jürgen Ingels:

It’s actually my father who’s responsible for me becoming an entrepreneur. I think when I was 16 years old I wanted to go out and my father was quite strict, so he said to me, “Well, you can go out but you be home at 12:00.” And I’m like, “It only starts at 11:00.”

So I knew that if you want to get stuff done, you have to be creative. So I went back to my father and I said, “Listen, if I organize the party, can I then stay longer?” And he basically thought about it two seconds and he said, “Well, if you organize it, at least you’ll learn something, so you can stay longer then.”

And I started actually by organizing a party once a month in Belgium, but then the other weeks I was back at home in the weekend. And so I started doing two parties a month, three parties a month, four parties a month, different cities.

And I actually, between the age of 16 to 20, I organized all kinds of concerts, parties, and I learned a lot by doing so on the entrepreneurial side of things because you have to deal with budges, you have to find people to come to the place, you have to do communication, marketing, you have to work with a team and motivate people. So that’s the way I got rolled into entrepreneurship.

And then later when I was at university, I actually worked during my studies. I didn’t have time to go to the classes always. But I saw that there were these girls upfront who always had very good notes from the professor, and so, one day I made a deal with one of these girls to actually commercialize the notes that they had.

And again, at university I started very small with my faculty and then I went to other faculties. And by the end of my, let’s say my career at university, I had this two million, three million copy small business that I then later on sold, so that was my first small business.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

I think entrepreneurial things have always been inside myself and I’ve always done this crazy stuff, so I think it has to be a bit in your blood being an entrepreneur.

Dawn McGruer:

So you’ve always found a creative way into it. I think what’s interesting is that you’ve covered probably a lot of the operational dynamics of a business by doing the parties.

Jürgen Ingels:



How Jürgen wrote his book, Start, Grow, Sell.


Dawn McGruer:

And that probably has set you up amazing foundations for business, because it’s one of the hardest bits to learn, the end-to-end and to get experience.

So when you decided to write your book, does it share the journey of you as an entrepreneur and how you got into your current role or is it the highs and lows? What’s it about?

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. The title is 50 Lessons but it’s not really lessons, it’s more 50 experiences that I had in really setting up my own company from the start. So actually from a beer card, I started my company from a beer card.

And I actually started my career in private equity, so I was responsible for a Belgian bank in investing in private equity in the ’90s. But then in the beginning of the ’90s, nobody really knew what it was, so I went to the States to learn there. And I got the opportunity to really run the private equity arm of the bank.

And while we were investing in the U.S., from time to time we had to send money between Belgium and the U.S. And the money, when I was in the U.S., it always got stuck somewhere. It took a long time to get to the other side.

And then when I called the guys at the bank and said, “Well, where’s my money?” They said to me, “Well, it’s somewhere in the financial system.” And I said, “What do you mean it’s in the financial system?” And so they said to me, well, I still remember, “It’s like the financial system is like a big black box that you just do an entry of a payment and then you wait, you pray, and you hope it pops up on the other side.”

That’s funny. So I went to see the guys at payments and asked, “How does it work?” I came up with an idea, no rocket science, just to do it differently in ’99, and then I started my company Clear2Pay in trying to build this kind of back-office infrastructure for international payments.

And it was a lot of fun. Very naïve, I have to admit, because I didn’t know anything about payment systems as such. Obviously I knew a bit about software, but I didn’t have any references. And working in big banks with big finance institutions without references is very rough.

It was really fun. It started in ’99, built a company in 15 years into an international business. We had 23 offices all over the world. I think of the 50 largest banks in the world, roughly 40 used the technology and still are using the technology.

And then in 2014, I decided I wanted to do something else, go back into private equity on the one hand, and sold the company to FIS, which is an American fintech company still. So it was a good deal for the shareholders, for everybody involved.

While doing so, I actually went from nothing, from an idea to an international company, raising capital, raising equity. So it’s all of that experience. How do you do M&A? How do you deal with a team? How do you manage people? All of that stuff, but in a very practical way.

Because I read a lot of books and I always find some of these books interesting, but at the point in time when you say, “Now I’m going to learn something and now I would like to apply what they say,” the book actually stops. So I wanted to write a book that’s very practical, okay. You take the book and you can do something with it.

And I also had the idea, my children, I have a son of 19 and a daughter of 16, if they ever want to become an entrepreneur – which I don’t, I don’t think it’s in their blood, but that’s a different discussion – but if they ever want to become an entrepreneur, I’ll tell them, “You have to do in life what you want, but please read my book first.”

So that’s a bit the way why I wrote it, so it’s potentially giving something back to my children if they ever want to become an entrepreneur, but also entrepreneurs to say, okay, if I would have had this book before I started, I probably would not have made the mistakes I’ve made, so…


The challenges Jürgen has faced as an entrepreneur


Dawn McGruer:

Yeah. It sounds such an exciting journey, and you hear these stories so often from entrepreneurs about the successes. I mean, what you’ve achieved is pretty mammoth, and I think a lot of people will perceive it kind of unachievable.

What would you say, in terms of obviously highlighting some of these head-in-hand moments, these bumps along the way, what are the challenges that you faced that the people can kind of relate to as entrepreneurs themselves?

Jürgen Ingels:

I’ve done good stuff but I’ve also done really bad things in a way. And one of the things that I always found in an international context is the cultural aspect of things.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

And I have a good example of that. After I sold my company, I had a small shop in Belgium, a chocolate shop. Belgians, we are crazy about chocolates.

And I also worked in Sweden, where I was on the board of a company and I saw that Swedish people ate chocolates, bar chocolates, but not pralines like they eat in Belgium. And I thought, “Well, maybe there’s an opportunity here.”

And Sweden, the price of a praline was twice as high and the cost of the personnel was only 25% higher, so your margin in Sweden was far better. And so we said, “This is probably a golden nugget here. Let’s do market research.” And we’ve done a complete market research of everything you can even imagine.

We had people taste it, we had looked at packaging, is the color right for Sweden? We asked everything you can imagine. We did a lot of price-setting examinations. And so it was all very, very positive. And we said, “Well, this is great. We’re going to open three shops in Sweden.”

So in Stockholm we opened three shops at the same time, which is, looking back at it, completely crazy, but that’s what we did. And in the morning of the opening of the shop, there was a line of like 50 people standing outside of the shop, wanting to come in to buy the chocolate. So I thought, “This is magnificent.”

And so the first person in Sweden comes in, he looks at the chocolates, and he orders one chocolate, one. And I’m like, “One chocolate?” And the second one comes in and orders two chocolates. And so for like half an hour it went: one chocolate, two chocolates, two chocolates, one chocolate.

Now, I can tell you, in Belgium, if you ever go into a Belgian Chocoline praline shop and you ask, “One praline,” they basically kill you. I mean, it’s not done. We buy half a kilo or a kilo of these things and then we put them on the table and we all jump on it and we eat it.

And so the mistake here was that I looked at it from a cultural perspective from my Belgian cultural perspective and haven’t even bothered to ask the question, “Would you buy half a kilo or a kilo?” It was so obvious for me that I didn’t really…

For instance, some mistakes that I found that I had on the cultural aspects, there’s a couple of examples, there may be another example, it’s called a turkey syndrome, it’s also a chapter in the book.

Again, my son, I was with my wife on the weekend and on Saturday I called my son and I said to him, “Listen, we’re coming back on Sunday. Would you mind going to the butcher and buy 1.5 kilo of turkey?” And so my son, “Okay, I’m going to do that.”

So on Sunday I come home with my wife and I want to prepare pasta, and so I prepare the sauce and all of that and the tomatoes and so on. And so at a certain point in time I grab and go to the fridge, I open the door of the fridge and what do I see? A stack of this, with all slices of turkey, but obviously I couldn’t do anything with that in my pasta.

And that had me thinking about, in a company, it’s really very, very much the same. It’s the turkey syndrome when you have people, as an entrepreneur, you don’t have time, you have your collaborators, you need to explain something quickly. And you explain it and you presume that people actually know what you want to say because it’s in your head, but not necessarily in their head.

And so making sure that your communication inside a company and the way that you communicate, but also taking time to communicate, is really essential. And that’s, for instance, another thing. So cultural, communication, there’s heaps of examples of that.


A day in the life now versus when Jürgen got started in business


Dawn McGruer:

It’s so true. I think one of the things, and you’ll have found this probably when you write your book; as an entrepreneur, there’s so many challenges and pitfalls that you’ve probably experienced along the way that you kind of want to front-load them and make sure that others don’t obviously, to them.

But in all honesty, entrepreneurial is, it’s the highs, the lows, and there’s so many. I think one of the things that I see a lot and I’ve experienced myself is about time. What does your perfect day look like?

I remember when I first started my business, I was very hands-on, I was doing everything until obviously I could employ a team. But then it changes, doesn’t it? It morphs as you delegate and you grow. What does your day look like now versus your day when you first started?

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. Well, time is an interesting aspect, in the sense that people sometimes ask me what are the ingredients for a successful company. And if you read magazines and stuff like that or books on it, you always see, okay, what do you need?

You need a great team, which is obvious, you need a product, you need a market, and you need money. So those four always come back. And for me, time is the fifth element in being successful, in the sense that I found in the digital way or world that companies who actually can squeeze time, who can reduce time, are much more effective.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

And squeezing time is something strange, but it basically comes down to the fact that you don’t have to go through a learning curve on one hand. So you use people who have that experience, and on the other hand you use technology.

And so just to maybe come now to your question, I always work in a way where I always try to, how can I squeeze time in this thing or how can I squeeze time and doing it more effective? In other words, anything I do that I don’t necessarily are very good at, I try to actually give to other people because they’re more efficient at it. And so in that way I squeeze time and I’m able to actually free up time to do other stuff that’s more interesting.

If you look into my agenda, it’s very much packed in all different directions. That’s also one thing that I describe in the book, it’s the principle about parallel working. If you look at people, there’s a lot of people who actually when they start their career, I call it a kind of serial career.

And they improve in their job, but they always stay within the same sector. And I don’t think it’s bad, but I’ve always tried to do other stuff also in other sectors. Because things that you apply and learn in other sectors, you can sometimes apply in your own sector by using creativity, also speed up things.

And so this notion of parallel working actually helps you to improve a lot in the way that you are. And if you then compare people at the start of their career, one who works serial, the other one work parallel, after a while, after 3-4 years, the guy who worked parallel will be perceived as much more brighter. People will look at him and say, “Hey, that’s a smart guy.” But you’re not necessarily smart, you have more experience.

Dawn McGruer:

Yeah. Or diverse.

Jürgen Ingels:

Fortunately, yes, today people mix sometimes or they mix up experience and intelligence. And so, for me, parallel working allows you to have more experience, more experience helps you to reduce time, reducing time helps you to be more successful. So there’s a kind of logic in that way.

And so, for me, if you look at my agenda, it’s all over the place. I do stuff in technology, but at the same time on the board of a construction company, and I help a friend who’s doing HR stuff. And I really like it because actually mentally it helps me to be more creative.

And for me, creativity is very much the ground of an entrepreneur. It’s not just about the practical part of things, it’s much more about the creativity part of things.

Dawn McGruer:

I’m with you so much on the delegation side of things. So for far too long, I think it’s very tempting as an entrepreneur to hold onto things because you have this belief that you can do it better. But then you suddenly realize that empowering the people who are passionate about doing something that you’ve been procrastinating over, it is a far better option to go for.

And I love the aspect when you think about the time, the tactics and tools, it’s something I’m very passionate about and believe fully that when we address things like profit and you look at businesses and the structure, it’s often just the knowledge and having these efficient and effective ways or automation within a business, but then that also empowers an individual because we don’t like repetitive.

So when you talk about your day, variety is the spice of life, I think a lot of entrepreneurs crave that freedom and we like working on different things. The parallel learning I think is… Or parallel working is really interesting, because we’re probably, a lot of us are working on parallel projects that we don’t maybe truly understand the influence on other things that we’re doing.

I know that when I started my podcast, it was actually like a parallel learning because a lot of the things I was talking about, I was then seeing more in my day-to-day life and highlighting and performing and taking some of that through.


Why Jürgen wrote his book


Dawn Mcgruer

When you wrote your book, what was the main trigger? What was the compelling event that you just suddenly thought, “Do you know what? I need to impart this knowledge.”

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. It was more based on a bit what I said there. I’ve read a lot of books and I really wanted to have something practical, but I also wanted to share some of the experience, because I think if somebody comes to you and says, “Don’t do it like this. I’ve done that and it doesn’t work. Just don’t lose time.” I think it’s all about, again, squeezing that time principal.

And I see that all over the place in companies. Here, I’ll give you an example, some companies when they want to have an ERP system, so enterprise resource planning, typically they say, “Okay, we need to do that.” And then they get people together from different divisions and then they figure out what they need, and then they make a report to the board, and then the board frees up the budget.

And then they say, “Okay, now we need to see seven vendors.” And they see seven vendors, blah blah blah. And then six months or nine months later they say, “Okay, we decide and we take that vendor.”

Now, in most cases, that vendor for a technology company is, for instance, the same. There are only one or two that do the job. If somebody would have told them in the beginning, “Don’t go through this whole hassle and this whole process. Just take this vendor, use this system and implement it and focus on your core and never mind,” then they would have squeezed time.

And it’s all about squeezing time in that perspective because, the same with raising capital, if you want to raise capital and you go to London to meet a VC, the first guy you see is the junior guy. And then if you’re lucky, you can see the boss of the boss and then the boss of the boss of the boss, and so on.

And before you see the partner who actually decides on the investment, you may be 3-4 months later. Now, if somebody that you know knows this partner and knows that your company is good and can put you in front of the partner, you again squeeze time.

And so the squeezing time aspect is, for me, very important. And with the book, I also wanted to help people in a very practical way like, “These are the things that you can do in a very practical way.” Not necessarily theoretical.

Again, an example, a lot of companies raise capital, but for me, raising capital is like a kind of language you need to learn to speak. Because if you just go to a VC, you might say things or you might give impressions or you might do things that give a completely wrong impression towards the VC.

So what do you do? How do you do this? If you raise capital, how do your slides need to look like? I mean, there’s all kind of little, small tips that are really practical, can help you to achieve better, faster the results.

Dawn McGruer:

Yeah, exactly. There’s a lot of books out there, isn’t there? That tells you the what, but not the level of the how. And I think the thing is if we’re learning all day long but we’re not doing anything with that knowledge, then we’re missing the opportunity.

So you’re very focused on the implementation and obviously sound very pragmatic in the way that you approach things. As a business scales, obviously when a business is in its infancy it’s a manageable animal, but when it scales and it becomes out of your control, there’s obviously politics, length of decision-making.


The biggest challenge when growing a business


Dawn Mcgruer

What’s been the most challenging side of things as you’ve grown your business in terms of seeing that pivotal moment where it wasn’t just kind of an entity that you were controlling but it became other people’s problem and decision as well?

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. I think, well, maybe I would say entrepreneurs versus manager. And people, again, sometimes confuse, they say in the newspaper, “Oh, this is a great entrepreneur.” But in fact, it’s a manager. Or they it’s a great manager but in fact, it’s an entrepreneur.

And I do think in the beginning of your company, in the first, let’s say, 50 people, you need really an entrepreneur.

Dawn McGruer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jürgen Ingels:

And I’m much more an entrepreneur than a manager. An entrepreneur is also somebody who tries in chaos. And you need the chaos because the chaos leads to creativity and to figure out issues and to overcome these issues.

But at a certain point in time, the chaos is not good enough anymore. You need somebody who comes in and structures the whole thing. And so you need the kind of manager who says, “Okay, these are the rules, regulations and stuff like that.”

And so in the book I also describe that as, under the chapter, “Change a winning team,” which is a bit strange. Why would you change a winning team?

But in fact, there’s like four or five phases between… You go to a 5-10,000 people company, there’s four or five phases that you need to go through. And every single phase has a different kind of person, personality, on the top or at the top.

And typically, entrepreneurs always think that they are the right guy to go from zero to the IPO or even after the IPO, while in fact it’s different people, it’s different skills that you need, so that’s one angle.

And the second angle which I also played around with or learned a lot through by doing is the whole notion; if you grow, do you grow centralized or do you grow decentralized? In other words, where do you put the power?

Do you put the power at the center where you say, “Okay, these are the rules,” and then everybody obeys the rules? Or do you put the rules in the companies or the things that you acquired or whatever decentralized?

And I’ve done both ways; I’ve done the centralized way and I’ve done the decentralized way. And my conclusion is the best way to do this, which I call the decentralized centralization. What do I mean by that?

Centralized, you put kind of rules. It’s like the playing field in soccer, you say, “Okay, this is the playing field and these are the rules. There’s a yellow card, red card, and so on.” And you can play the game as an entrepreneur. You can be the trainer of your own team and you can do it whatever you want, but you have to obey by the rules.

So centralized, you give them freedom to play the game as they want, but you set the rules. Centralized, you set the rules. And decentralized, you let them play the game that they want. So that’s also something I describe in the book; how do you practically tackle that?

Because that’s also, in growing companies, it’s something that always almost goes from left to right, that they start decentralized, they go back centralized.

And it’s the same with the matrix, there’s also a chapter on the matrix doesn’t work, the matrix structure. Because the matrix, if I have a matrix structure as a guy and I need to report it to this boss and to that boss, it’s the perfect excuse for somebody to say, “Well, if I have to do work for this boss, I have a perfect excuse for that boss to say I didn’t reach it, and the other way around.”

So you open doors to allow people to, well, not being responsible for their behavior and all these kind of things basically.


Jürgen’s biggest influences and mentors


Dawn McGruer:

So it looks at obviously all areas of operations and performance. You’ve obviously learnt a lot along the way, but who would you credit for being sort of an influence or an inspiring mentor that’s helped you in that journey? Did you have someone in particular that you could say that helped you through?

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. There’s one guy that I really like but nobody’s probably going to know this guy, it’s a gentleman called Brian Acton. And so he was one of the… It’s a very interesting story. He’s one of the first guys, members, employees of Yahoo, so he worked there.

Got a lot of stock options, perfect. He sold his stock options, got a lot of money, and then he invested all of his money before the dot-com bubble into technology companies before the year 2000.

He basically lost everything, he lost literally everything. And he said, “Okay, I need to rethink.” And then he went on to play Frisbee, he just played Frisbee, traveled for a year. And then he thought, “Well, I need to find a job.” And then he applied with Facebook and with Twitter, and both said, “Well, fine, but you’re just not good enough,” which is kind of funny.

And then he wrote a letter back to Facebook saying, “Well, it might be good that you didn’t take me on because I had to sit in the traffic jam every day, back and forth two hours a day. So maybe it’s good that you didn’t take me.” But then he’s the guy, he’s one of the co-founders of WhatsApp.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook. And so I thought it’s a very fascinating story because this is a guy who actually got money and who reinvested, which also I think proves a true entrepreneur, like myself when I got money but then I reinvested that money into other technology.

So a true entrepreneur is somebody who reinvests, but also somebody who doesn’t… I mean, there’s always opportunity. It’s not because you failed or because it wasn’t good or you’re not good enough or perceived not good enough, that you don’t have a chance to become somebody or to do crazy cool stuff.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

He’s not very well-known, the guy, but I think it’s an inspiring guy. And if you have a chance to read about the story online-

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

You should check it out, check it out.

Dawn McGruer:

See, one of the more obvious ones that we probably see is Reid Hoffman, he’s an interesting character. And I’ve always been really interested in investors as you say, because you’ll see that there’s similar people all across that sort of investment platforms, and you don’t realize necessarily the names or the faces.

And then you start delving into their background and then you look at their journey. So Reid Hoffman, he was a co-founder of LinkedIn and then he was also involved in WhatsApp. And then when you look at the different business models, I think it’s always interesting because tools like WhatsApp, they never needed some of the traditional marketing models because they grew that fast that really the whole sales and marketing and promotion aspect was irrelevant to them. It was all around the operations and getting the company out there.


Key success factors in the first year in business


Dawn McGruer

What would you say in terms of obviously… The pandemic has had a huge impact on entrepreneurs and I think there’s a certain amount of fatigue out there. One thing that’s inspired me is seeing so many businesses, because of redundancy, stop in 2021. What would you say are the key success factors in that first year?

I mean, we’ve talked about tools tactic, training to a degree, and obviously focusing on the money. But is there sort of a process or any advice you can give someone who is maybe in that infancy or is coming out the other end of the pandemic in maybe not as great positioning as they were when they went in?

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. I think, well, I’m very much a numbers guy, so I really truly believe in preparing your financial plan, but do it not in a static way but in a dynamic way, where almost every week, if you would say, you can see the ins and outs of the cash and adapt.

And I think the flexibility to adapt your mind but also your choices is very, very important as an entrepreneur in the beginning. If you see that something doesn’t work because your pricing is too high, because the product is not good, because it’s not really the best product, change it.

And what I see as a venture capitalist between when I get a plan on my desk and I read the plan, and then maybe five years later if you look at where the company stands five years later, almost in 90% of the cases, what they actually do five years later is completely different, not 100% but it’s different than what they initially started with.

And so the best entrepreneurs from that perspective are the ones who have the mental flexibility to adapt. And that’s not easy because some entrepreneurs sometimes are a bit ego, they have a bit of an ego and they say, well, they’re so much into their idea, that they’re so much fixed on their idea that they really don’t have any flexibility.

And I think it goes sometimes wrong because of the lack of that mental flexibility. And that’s why I think also corona has… It’s negative in terms but it will probably help, because if you look historically back into time, you always see that tough periods always have been the seed of a new Renaissance or a new.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

So there’s going to be something after this, it’s going to be a kind of Renaissance way, because people look at certain things in a much more broader or different way. And I would say, if you ask me today, what could that be?

I think purpose is going to be very important. I think people start realizing life is short, you can die actually.

You’re only 50 years. So the purpose at what you do stuff and the things that you do and the purpose for why you’re doing stuff is going to be much more important.

When I graduated, for instance, and we went to HR, the first question was, in Belgium, was what kind of car do I get? That was the most important thing. And I see recently now in the last six months, a year, the people that I try to engage for my companies, they ask me, “What is your company doing for the climate?”

It might be strange but it shows you that the timing and the way that people operate in entrepreneurship is completely changing, and the purpose part is very important. So if you start, think about adopting, but also think about your purpose; what’s your purpose in life? Not just making money, but what do you want to achieve with your company?

Dawn McGruer:

So we’re seeing a far more dynamic approach, aren’t we? And I’d say this, that in work-life balance, I think hopefully we will maintain and keep some of the positives. We don’t always have to be in offices, we don’t always have to be traveling, we can work from home and we can have virtual teams.

I think you’re right in the… if we don’t have our health, then we have no wealth. Because people have been through such turmoil, a lot of people have lost people who are close to them, but I think it has definitely centered where we see our future is going.

I think one of the things I’ve seen is that there’s a certain fatigue in business in terms of the pushing, because it’s very easy as an entrepreneur to get tired. And I think what you say about having the objectivity, whereby you’re so passionate about what you do, it’s sometimes hard to see where things are going wrong.

Who has been more objectivity or influences that have maybe stepped in that you’ve been challenged by? Good or bad.

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. It’s actually my wife, not to the extent my wife, but when I was 30 years I was working a lot, I didn’t sleep much; five hours and working hard 10 hours a day. And my wife had told me, “If you move on like this, you’re going to die from a heart attack if you’re 50.” And I thought, “Well, maybe she has a point.”

There’s this guy, I think Tom Rath I think is his name, he has this book, small book, it calls Eat Move Sleep, it’s very simple.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

Titled Eat Move Sleep. And the guy itself, he actually got cancer and then he didn’t have long to live, but then he turned his life upside down and he wrote his book where he actually ties, in a very pragmatic way, the explanation, the medical explanation towards the storytelling. So interesting book to read.

And he talks about what influence does good food have on you, what influence does sleep have on you, and what influence does moving have on you. And I read his book twice a year. I’ve given it away I think 300 times to collaborators, people that I see, well, they’re becoming a bit… They should be a bit more sporty or whatever or they have to.

Dawn McGruer:

In a polite manner.

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. But it’s funny because we all have these, “First of January I would like to do something about my body weight,” or whatever. And then we do it for two weeks and we forget about it. This book has the same effect but a longer effect on me, because it’s so pragmatic interesting.

So in other words, now I sleep eight hours. I really sleep eight hours. And I try to move a bit. I have this bicycle, statutory bicycle that I use and small things. But I’ve learned it the way that it also has an impact, and that’s something that you don’t learn at school, in Belgian schools it’s not given, the effect it has on you.

I don’t think children are really realizing it. And entrepreneurs, they don’t realize it; they work hard but they don’t necessarily take enough care of them. And I think there has to be some kind of equilibrium between working hard on one end but also at the same time trying to take care of yourself and enjoying also your life.

Dawn McGruer:

I’m hoping that the self-care, which has become a bit more centralized during the pandemic, is something that will sustain. And I think the fact that when we were only allowed one hour’s exercise, everyone was the most exercised person in the world.

But in all seriousness, I think it is… For me, I definitely traveled a lot, probably didn’t sleep as much, and you’re probably running more on adrenaline. You don’t realize when you’re in it until you step out.

And when the pandemic hit for me and I wasn’t traveling, I actually found myself thinking, “Oh, this is a very different pace.” And one that I definitely will be taking onboard.

Jürgen Ingels:

Fully agree.


Fitting in day to day learning


Dawn McGruer:

In terms of obviously reading, do you consume audio books or podcasts? How do you continue your day-to-day learning?

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. I follow this extra mile principle; on Saturday morning typically at 7:00 I wake up, because then in the house it’s very quiet, there’s no emails, no nothing. And if you do that for 50 weeks, five hours, that five hours is almost like 10 hours in the office, so we’d have 500 hours more that you can be productive.

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

And doing that, I try to read a lot of books. And I read a lot of history books because I’m interested in it, but also, I think if you understand this, definitely in my job, I’m a venture capitalist… You would say what has history to do with venture capitalist? But I found it interesting to know, if you read a lot and you know about history, you can also have a very good idea where the future goes.

And my job is actually to try to figure out where society is going, not just on a technological level, but also philosophical, sociological, how will people interact.

And I’ll give you an example, it is funny example, when I saw the first news about COVID in China on the Belgian television, the first thing I did, I bought the stock Zoom. So I bought the stock because I thought, “Well, historically, if you look into the plague,” it’s not obviously the plague but what happened in society and how it actually had an impact on people not being able to move around and so on.

I thought, “Well, technology is going to help. What kind of technology is going to help? It’s going to be Zoom like.” And that’s funny because technically at that point in time, everybody could have bought that stock and it went, obviously it went up, very, very high.

Dawn McGruer:

Same with things like..

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. But it shows you that-

Yeah. It shows you if you understand a bit what the future had brought, you could transport it to the future. So I read a lot about history, I find it very fascinating to read.


Things that Jürgen would change about his business career


Dawn McGruer:

I think it’s a really interesting approach. I think the whole thing that we’re going through this is being pragmatic and really implementing what you learn, but also, the focal point on performance, not just in a business but as a human being. Because clearly, if you’re not getting sleep and exercise and things, you’re not making good judgment, you’re not making good decisions.

Is there a time in your life that you think back to and you think that you were probably not operating at the best time or a decision that you regret that you maybe would like to go back and change?

Jürgen Ingels:

Well, there’s obviously a couple of things that I regret. I regret that maybe I should have sold maybe my company a bit earlier, which is why it’s funny because I could have done other stuff.

But on the other hand, I’ve always been very much, from when I was younger, I still remember that, I focused on my talents. Which is strange because I sometimes give the example; if you have a son or a daughter and she comes home with her school results and let’s say she has a 6/10, and a 9/10, and a 8/10, and a 10/10, typically a mother looks at it or a father and says, “Ah, the 6/10 is not good.”

And we actually are, in a way, raised like that. I’m raised like that. The mother says the 6 is not good, so what do you do? You put effort in the 6 and try to get the 6 to an 8. It might not work because you’re not very good at it, so the 6 goes to 7.

But while you’re doing that, your 9 and your 8 also go to 7. And so can become average, which, in past time, it was not bad to be average because you were competing with people around the church and some people from three churches further and that was fine, but today you’re competing with the rest of the world.

And so, technically being average is not good enough anymore. You have to really focus on what you’re good at. Put all your effort in trying to become the best at that talent and work with other people who also are very good at their talent and build the best talented pool of people to build the best talented company.

And I think, so focus on your talents, don’t waste time in something that you’re not so good at. I mean, if you’re not so good at, acknowledge it, fine, but try to find people who are far better at it so that they can do it for you, and focus on what you’re good at and try to really become the best in the world at that.

It’s a mentality that I found companies… Well, parents are not necessarily there yet, and they still are saying to children, “You have to do this and that average.” Companies are by far not very good at it either.

When I was working at the bank, a Belgian bank, so we speak Dutch, we speak French, we speak English, okay, fine. But French, I wasn’t really interested in French, I mean at all. Okay, fine, French I’ll have to read it. And I know it, but I don’t have to be a full 10 or something in French.

So I didn’t do any exercise anymore to improve in French because I didn’t want to spend time in it. And HR in the bank they said, “Oh, this is very, very bad because it shows you that you’re not willing to.” But I said, “I know that I’m bad at French and I don’t have any intention whatsoever to improve. I really would like to become better at what I’m good at and really become far better than that, I put all my energy in that.”

To be honest, they didn’t grasp that, they didn’t understand that. So I’ve always done thus this focus on my talent part and forget about the rest, and so far so good. And I think that’s probably, in the time in the future, people will be more focused on the talent part.


Jürgen’s favourite quote


Dawn McGruer:

Yeah. I think this is it. I’m a great believer in doing what you want, not what you need to or what you think you need to. Because there’s a huge perception out there, isn’t there? In terms of what is a good entrepreneur? What is a good businessperson? What is a good school kid’s grade?

It’s about focusing on what your passionate about. And I think this is the true dynamics of an entrepreneur, doing what you love and taking that and impacting other people’s lives. Is there a phrase or a quote that you would like to leave our listeners with that you feel is important to your life?

Jürgen Ingels:

I would say no regrets. Even if you do things as an entrepreneur or as a person and it doesn’t work out the way that you like it or it doesn’t really work out well, fine, but at least you have the experience.

And in life, for me, it’s much more about experience, because through the experience you learn and you can improve. And so if you don’t do anything, you’re not going to have experience, you’re not going to be able to improve either. So even if things go wrong-

Dawn McGruer:


Jürgen Ingels:

And even if now in this COVID time you have your company and it’s going wrong or whatever, your value for the market is actually improved because these days, large corporations they kind of look at entrepreneurial people.

So even if you’re entrepreneurial and you have not been successful as an entrepreneur, your value has increased into the company’s world, and I think that’s important. So focus on experience rather and just… And success, all the rest will come if you really enjoy what you’re doing. That’s the name of the game.

Dawn McGruer:

And that will shine through. I love that. I like that. I like the fact that you’ve got a very normalized, grounded approach to business in terms of a lot of the things that we see in here in the press is that you have to forge through and you have to be good at this, this, and this.

And I think a lot of us have been in business, what, like 20 years, I think there’s a fear sometimes that when you wake up and you’re doing something that you can’t change, I think what you’re basically saying is that, literally, wake up, assess where you’re at, and focus on the things that you know that you’re going to be good at and want to do, because it’s going to accelerate your success, yeah.

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah. Everybody has a talent. Everybody has a talent.

Dawn McGruer:

Yeah. And understand what drives you. If people want to find and connect with you Jürgen, what’s the best platform? LinkedIn or-

Jürgen Ingels:

Yeah, LinkedIn. I can be found on LinkedIn, so no worries. If you just drop me an email on LinkedIn or a message or something. Start, Grow, Sell if you’re interested, and please read it. And if you don’t agree with things in the book, drop me a mail, happy to adjust it for next iteration.

Dawn McGruer:

Oh, thank you. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure, Jürgen. I really enjoyed chatting with you today. And I think we share a lot of the same principles and values. It’s been a pleasure to have you on Dawn of a New Era Podcast. And I can’t wait to read more of your book and find out more about these 50 practical ways, so yeah.

If you want to connect with Jürgen guys, remember at LinkedIn, Jürgen Ingels, and he will gladly connect with you and answer any questions from his book.

Jürgen Ingels:


Dawn McGruer:

I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. And don’t forget, I’m going to be with you each and every week, so download and listen on dawnmcgruer.com or on iTunes, and come and join us in our Facebook community too. All the details are on the website and I’ll see you next week.

Remember to join me and all my Podcast Guests on Facebook
Dawn McGruer's Marketing * Motivation * Mindset Group

Speaker. Author. Podcaster. Strategist.

Multi-award-winning speaker, strategist & best-selling author of Dynamic Digital Marketing - Helping to inspire entrepreneurs to rise to meet today’s challenges and be powerfully present to shine online.

Connect with me and let’s Dream Big * Work Hard * Make it Happen
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

Ways to work with me
Read My Book | Speaking | Training | Strategy | Retreat

Posted in


Leave a Comment