Marco Aarnink about productivity: ‘Your employees are your best coaches’

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Through smart business your small webshop grows to national fame in no time, tens of millions in revenue and a workforce of 175 people. How do you take care that the right priorities are set every single day: for customers, staff, family and yourself? Marco Aarnink is the founder of Drukwerkdeal.com and more recently Print.com and knows what this is like. So we asked him: “How do you monitor your productivity?”

Marco was only 19 when he founded Drukwerkdeal.com together with a friend. Drukwerkdeal.com is an online shop where you could easily order prints. By excelling in online techniques and customer relation management, he achieved to attract a huge market. This was followed by a very impressive growth trajectory in the following years. Within 10 years after it founding, he sold the business to a company trading at the New York Stock Exchange. A deal that made him, just 28 year young, a man of wealth.

Brief history of Drukwerkdeal.com
Click on the bulbs to get an impression of the impressive growth trajectory of Drukwerkdeal.com:

Oktober: Drukwerkdeal was founded

New challenges: Print.com and fatherhood
After a few years Marco decided to take on a new challenge: Print.com, which makes it even easier to order prints. This time he is not only targeting the national market, but the entire world. In addition to his business activities, he has also become a father. Clearly, he is a busy man.

Edon and I therefore decided to ask Marco a number of questions to discover how he guards his productivity and what he has learned in recent years.

Marco Aanrink interview met beGuru

How did you keep your balance and focus during that growth?

Marco Aarnink: “It all starts with passion. Passion gives you energy and that reflects on the people around you. With passion you can face bigger challenges than you might think that are possible.”

“If you look at productivity, the issue is that your agenda fills up quickly and we have dealt with it by hiring the right people, especially people who recognize work and then pick it up, and thus take things away from me. So the art is not that you learn to delegate, no, the art is to recognize people who see and take up the work itself.”

“For example, it starts with working in a supermarket: you’ll notice ‘Hey, that package is not positioned correctly’ and you correct it instead of going past it because it is not your section. Searching the right people is the art of doing business: finding good people and making sure that they will take items of my list.”

Some say: ‘Why are you bothered by these details’, but that is exactly what it is all about.

Edon: “Did you find it difficult to hand over tasks?”

Marco: “Yes, I certainly found it difficult, but is part of the job. If you have a passion for something, then you are involved for 100%, and you want to see everything that happens. So if I visit our own website and there is a capital letter incorrect or an image isn’t sharp, then I get annoyed. Some say: ‘Why are you bothered with these details’, but that’s what it’s really all about. ”

“Entrepreneurship is about both the big picture and details, for everything in between you should have people. I have to stay sharp and keep my people sharp. That is how you make something very special.”

Have you read a lot of books or had many coaches?

Marco: “No, certainly not, my best coach is my employee: he is in touch with the customer every day. If you listen carefully to your employee, he will tell you exactly what you need to do and you will receive countless signals that you can use. Even if your head is too full, you will hear that. ”

“Most coaches tell the same over and over, and you hear things that you knew already. I give my employees the space and trust such that they dare to be clear: “Marco, you have to improve on this and the business needs to improve on this.”

“We have had many sessions in which we listened to our employees. They know exactly what our customers want: they are the filter between the customer and you. They know more than you as an entrepreneur, which is worth much more than 1,000 coaches together. I just let a lot of things come to me. If I know that I have something exciting that week, then I’ll only be looking at my calendar that morning, because otherwise I’ll be nervous the night before.You should not be restricted by your calendar. ”

“Ultimately, the personal balance is the most important thing to be successful, and if you are well rested and have strength, you can get people going.”

Were you always good at dealing with feedback?

Marco: “No, I was not good at it and forced myself to improve. I was not good at criticism and so then I had to do something about it. So I confronted myself to criticism and then learned to accept it every time.”

“A lot of criticism is generally dismissed with: “Yeah but it is only one person who says that.” But that one person is already 1 too many and so we have to do something about that. You have to be very keen on that. You have to become excellent to take those signals to heart.”

I hate job titles and people who think they can boss others around.

What is the internal working method at Print.com?

Marco: “We do not have job titles, we think in terms of roles and responsibilities. The team takes on a certain responsibility. The team presents a plan and together we coordinate the desired outcome.”

“If the team does not achieve this outcome, then it means that something went wrong somewhere. This can mean that someone has not taken responsibility or that a certain role is missing in that team. Only if you know that, you can take further action.”

At Print.com do you use methods like Agile, Scrum, GTD?

Marco: “Yes, but in a rather organic way. We use certain elements of those methods that we can use. I hate job titles and people who think they can boss others around. We don’t have any assigned product owners and those roles should be adopted by the team”.

“Especially new employees who are used to using Agile, Scrum and that kind of methods very strictly, find this difficult. They often say: “We really need a product owner here.” No we don’t: we work with self-managing teams and that means that you fulfill that role with each other. ”

“It sometimes takes years before some people really understand that, and that they really take responsibility themselves and no longer point to others.”

You give your people a lot of responsibility and freedom. Does that effect attracting and retaining your employees?

Marco: “Nothing feels better than freedom at work. So if you can get that self-control in your organization, you give your people a lot of freedom.”

“That trust is actually key, and if people notice that you trust them, they will do everything for you. Then they draw everything to themselves”

Which tip would you give the 10 years younger Marco?

Marco: “To let people free. When I was young, I thought that I, as an entrepreneur, really had to be a boss, just like many people think. Many family businesses are managed in this traditional way and are extremly successful.”

“It also might fit very well with many industrusties. How we do it fits in well with the fast internet industry: switching every day and seeing what is going on and being able to respond quickly. With very large companies, but also for example production companies, I understand that you need management and clear frameworks. It has a lot to do with size and employees.”

We have heard several times ‘You are never going to succeed a second time’

What do we need to know about Print.com?

Marco: “We work with Print.com in a very different way. We started to create a business model together with the customer. We have heard several times ‘You are never going to succeed a second time’. Exactly those people we asked to join us in our process.”

“We presented these ideas to a lot of customers during two nice evenings, validated them and – where necessary – changed them. In this way the customer became part of the business model. The customers who were present during these events were so loyal, because they feel that they have become a part of Print.com.”

“With those things, we also show how resilient we are. We do not think from our own abilities and really have put the customer’s wishes first. We did this from the start and that’s what I think it’s all about today.”

“It is no longer relevant how things have always been and you should not think ‘I know it better than the customer’. In fact, there is a generation that is passing us by in flexibility, speed, social media, etc. You have go along with those trends .”

Which apps do you use during your work?

Marco: “WhatsApp. Parkmobile because I am on the road a lot and social media apps to keep a finger on the pulse. I like that.”

“Internally, we use all sorts of tools to map the work and monitor progress, but apart from Trello, I do not know exactly which, to be honest. Mostly because that is not relevant to me either: the teams choose the tools that suit them.”

What does your calendar look like?

Marco: “I use the standard calendar on my phone, I do not do anything with it, my personal assistant Ingrid does it all for me.”

Ingrid: “We use colors so that we have a quick overview of a day: blue for phone calls, red for private affairs, etc. These are the basic colors we work with, and we do not write everything down: quick items mostly get done right away.”

Marco: “When I feel that I do not have time it makes me feel stressed and I’m going to radiate that feeling to my people. This way you can loose valuable people. Thanks to the way we organize I stay relaxed and keep my focus. “

Do you want to improve your productivity?

This is the first interview from a series of interviews with successful entrepreneurs. Do you want to know how they have become productive? Follow us on beGuru.nl/en/blog.

We thank both Marco Aarnink and JONG! Valkenswaard so this interview could take place.

Keep an eye on this site for more background stories. We regularly publish similar interviews, self-produced background articles and tips about productivity.

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