My story

Why do we create business software?

Let’s be honest - We’re here to create change and make the life of our customers better: Not a bit better, 10-times-better.
We’re here to help them make a meaningful difference; to their customers, their employees; their business.

This is what gets me up every morning and I realize it’s the same for many of the tech-entrepreneurs I have come to work with. It’s what gives us the energy to go above and beyond and have the resilience to overcome the biggest obstacles.

It simply connects us: #10TimesBetter

Let me share a story that changed everything for me.

It was a cold and windy day in the middle of October 2005. I sat in my glass cubical on the fourth floor at our Dutch HQ near Rotterdam. The situation was tense; People were running around, stressed out, and I sat there with a knot in my stomach…

I’d just hung up on call with PJ, a US technology analyst that I trusted. I thought the call had gone well, but then he shocked me:

 “There’s something that truly differentiates your solution, Ton, you just have a very odd way of communicating it and that doesn’t help anybody,”

What he basically told me was that the story we were telling wasn’t clear. It was littered with words and details that mattered to us but didn’t have any meaning to him or to our customers.

I was taken aback. Was it that bad? No one had ever challenged me on this.

The conversation kept going through my head as I drove home that evening. I slept on it for a night and the longer I thought about it I began to realize he was right.

  • We were not well-known and this didn’t help to receive more invitations to participate in the right deals.
  • On those deals where we did participate, we were losing too many.
  • And we had to give away too much discount to win deals. And sales always gave me the impression this was ‘normal’ since we’re selling a commodity!

The dots started to connect

The following weeks the trickling of revelations became an ant’s nest of issues.

…Had we really fallen in love too much with our own ideas?

…Had we lost connection with whom we were actually doing it for?

Suddenly I realized we’d become complacent to a hidden, but sizeable problem and needed to have some difficult conversations. It was clear we needed help.

So, we connected to an expert – someone unbiased and emotionally detached – who could challenge the status quo and poke holes in all our believes.

What we learned was:

  • Even though many of the organizations we targeted looked alike from the outside, what they believed, cared about, wanted, and needed was radically different.
  • Our focus was far too wide: We’d achieve more by exceeding the expectations of ‘the few’ rather than trying to please ‘everyone’.
  • We had to cut the bullshit and home in on the difference we’d help our customers to make rather than what (we thought) differentiated us.

Then everything started to change...

Suddenly we had meaningful and energetic conversations with decision-makers about what else could be i.e. the potential. That built trust with customers and also took our confidence to new levels. Our demos transformed from meaningless ‘feature-function’ tours to meaningful showcases of value.

Sales teams started to win four out of five, rather than just one. Sales cycles visibly shortened. Deal size increased, often far above the second vendor on the shortlist. And the word ‘discount’ started to disappear – in fact, some competitors decided to back off when they realized we were ‘in’. We’d transformed from being undervalued to being ‘the one’ for the right customers.

The project taught me three essential lessons:

  1. Cut to the chase – To make a meaningful connection it’s about getting to the raw truth.
  2. Escape the echo-chamber – complacency kills performance – we need to surround ourselves with peers that that won’t let us hide.
  3. Purpose over profit – Relentless focus on helping your customers make a difference will return value in volumes that outperforms any budget.

The most important thing that stood out for me was that no matter how much I love building software businesses, what I love even more is fixing them.

That’s why I started my business in 2017, wrote ‘The Remarkable Effect’ in 2019, and started the Tech-entrepreneur-on-a-Mission tribe in 2020.

And you can experience what I experienced too. I’ll be your guide to get you through the challenging situations, so you come out as a software business your customers just keep talking about.

My bio in numbers and how it will help you make a difference

  • 2 words: Passion + Mystique (My Archetype: The Intrigue)
    This will help you stand out: My rare ability to switch between taking an analytical view and emotionally connecting will help to find the most effective method to persuade your audience.
  • 3 scores on the Game Changer Index
    This will create clarity and momentum for you: Game-Changer: 9 (Creates the future), Strategist: 8 (Maps the future), and Polisher: 8 (Creates a future to be proud of).
  • +30 years of experience B2B software
    This will help you prevent the critical mistakes I already made across: sales, product marketing, product strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions, and technology evangelism.
  • 100s of B2B Software entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed & worked with
    This will help you connect critical dots and spark many Aha! moments. I’ll connect you with the right peers to help you level up and take your business forward.
  • 1 typical Dutchman
    This will help you remove your blind-spots. Being an outsider, I look at your business with fresh eyes, without the emotions, without complacency. Being Dutch I can and will be very direct (just as a warning!), I will challenge the status quo, I will turn every stone, and ask the questions nobody internally dares to ask.
LET'S TALK

International recognition

AI

#3 Global Thought Leader on AI

Marketing

#6 Global Thought Leader on Marketing

Innovation

#7 Global Thought Leader on Innovation

Talents

The GC People Leader Series meets…Game Changer Ton Dobbe