Thinkers50 in collaboration with Deloitte presents:
ABOUT THIS EPISODE
Tom van der Lubbe: Inside Viisi’s Management Style
Tom van der Lubbe is the visionary and inspirational co-founder of Viisi, a Dutch financial services company that offers customized mortgage solutions. Founded in 2010 at the height of the financial crisis, Viisi is a remarkable company. Its purpose is to change the world of finance, to make the industry better, more sustainable and more focused on the long term. Its open and transparent organization is part of Tom’s mission to leave the world a better place. Radical and disruptive, Viisi’s management and organization challenge the basics of how companies are traditionally run.
In a captivating and challenging conversation with Stuart Crainer (Thinkers50) and Geoff Tuff (Deloitte Consulting), Tom van der Lubbe recounts his entrepreneurial adventure and his drive to re-think why things are done the way they are done in organizations.
Tom van der Lubbe
About Our Guest
Co-founder of Viisi NV, a Dutch mortgage advice company voted #1 Great Place to Work in The Netherlands in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and #1 in Europe in 2021.
Principal, Deloitte Consulting
Inspired by the book Provoke: How Leaders Shape the Future by Overcoming Fatal Human Flaws; Wiley, 2021.
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Hello, I’m Stuart Crainer. I’m the co-founder of Thinkers50, and I would like to welcome you to the monthly podcast series, Provocateurs, in which we explore the experiences, insights, and perspectives of inspiring leaders. Our aim is to provoke you to think and act differently through conversations with some fantastic people.
This is a collaboration between Thinkers50 and Deloitte. So my co-host today is Geoff Tuff. Geoff is a principal with Deloitte [Consulting], and a leader in its sustainability, strategy, and innovation practices. With Steve Goldbach, Geoff is the author of two bestselling books, Detonate, which came out in 2018, and Provoke, which is subtitled, “How Leaders Shape the Future by Overcoming Fatal Human Flaws.” Geoff, welcome.
Thanks, Stuart. Great to be here once again. And we have a super interesting guest. As you know, you’ve known Tom for a little bit, but we have Dutch entrepreneur, Tom van der Lubbe with us. And Tom has done a variety of different things. I think we will probably primarily talk about his co-founding of the company Viisi, a financial services company that offers customized mortgage solutions, but probably most interestingly is founded upon an interesting and provocative management style that we’ll be digging into with Tom today.
Prior to founding Viisi in 2010, Tom worked for MLP where he was responsible for its Dutch and Swiss subsidiaries. And before that, he started his professional career as a consultant at McKinsey. So Viisi is a remarkable company. Its purpose is no less than to change the world of finance, to make the industry better, to make it more sustainable and more focused on the long term. And perhaps most interestingly, maybe where we can start our conversation today, Tom, is that Viisi started its life in the middle of the global financial meltdown. Can you tell us a little bit about what gave you the confidence to make that leap of faith, Tom, and to found this company at this time?
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yeah, thanks for being in your nice, let’s say, format. I like also the title, Provocateur. I think I really have to put this on my LinkedIn profile as well. I really like it a lot. To answer your question actually, it was more or less a coincidence. So there was a change of management in the company we used to work for, and the foreign subsidiaries were closed down. And then we had to decide, do we just apply for a job somewhere else or shall we just try it on our own? And it didn’t have to do a lot with the financial crisis, it was just a classical change of let’s say, leadership. And then often a new CEO has a new opinion about, let’s say, growth strategy. And in this strategy, they decided just to concentrate or to focus on Germany.
And so, even though that’s the case, and maybe your hand was forced a little bit, something gave you the confidence to go and take the action to found this company. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was, what you saw in the financial industry that required Viisi to be founded at that time?
Tom van der Lubbe:
To be honest, I think a lot of people who just work in a corporate, let’s say, environment, often would just ask themselves the question, “How would I act?” Or, “How would I do”? Or, “How would I build this company if I would be the owner of the company, or if I would’ve founded the company?” But also there it was, let’s say, not a long evaluation of shall we do this or that. We just saw in general, and I think that’s a more topic of society, that there was enough space to reinvent a lot of financial companies.
It’s more about what you just said, about purpose of the company. And that could be in a lot of different fields. It’s about sustainable investing, or whatsoever, or neobanks, et cetera. There are a lot of opportunities, and we just continued with, let’s say, the stuff we knew. We were independent financial advisors. Started from there, actually covering all the topics. And then a little bit later, there was a change of regulation in the Netherlands where – and debt is an aspect which has to do with the financial crisis – the Dutch regulator decided not to allow kickbacks anymore. And then we thought, “Okay, this field will change. What’s the most interesting part of this whole advising topic?”
And then we said, “Okay, let’s concentrate and specialize in advising only mortgages.” And then it also took us two years then to get rid of all the other topics. And then, this whole industry changed pretty rapidly because in the past, the client couldn’t see what the advisor would get for the advice. And then it’s changed by putting, let’s say, the fee for your advice on your internet website. And then we said, let’s focus on young, first time buyers. And then we came into the market. And by specializing on this and being a little bit faster in a lot of… Because we also didn’t have legacy, we just had a chance to build up our business.
What’s interesting about Viisi is not only what you’re trying to do in a business sense, but the way the company is managed and organized. I think, Tom, one of your core beliefs is that we should leave the world in a better shape than it was when we were born. And presumably, you had that before you created Viisi. How did it fit in from the very start with that mission?
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yeah, if you talk about, let’s say, narratives or different narratives in comparison to, let’s say, what the average company does, there are quite some differences. And one is, let’s say, the hierarchy of the stakeholders. So we believed that you have to put your own people first. And that was from the beginning. On our website, people first, client second, shareholder last, which is for a company which is B2C. We have the clients directly coming to our website could have seen us a little bit risky, because we just say, “Dear clients, we are B2C, but you are second and our own people are first.”
Very practical example was because they always say, “Yeah, what does it mean in practice?” We just said, “Okay, we don’t advise in the evening, and we don’t advise you during the weekends. No matter if you, as a client, would like this, we don’t care because it’s people first and not clients first.” And then the other aspect of putting your shareholders last is something which, let’s say, from our narrative of, let’s say, stock listed companies where shareholders in the end are being put first seems to be different. But I would just argue that in most small and medium-sized enterprises, shareholders always come last, and they always care about the long term. So I don’t know if this is a real narrative. There’s one aspect.
The other thing is that if you would take the purpose of the company, we always say the purpose is the CEO of the company just to build a bridge to our organizational model. What is seen as a new narrative, but that could be questioned, is that we implemented pretty early self-organizational structures. So decentralized decision-making, to be more precise holacracy, but not only holacracy. Holacracy is just a part of it. Because we said and believed if we believe that we are much better than other ones, and we will think or, at least, hope that we’re able to build a very big company.
Because mortgage is an enormous market, probably the biggest market in the world. Then let’s try to think about how we have to structure this to be able to scale this, I wouldn’t say endlessly, but at least there is an enormous opportunity to build a huge company. So we started very early with decentralized decision-making in all different fields and aspects.
So Tom, while I wouldn’t say that some of the notions or the ideas behind Viisi are fully adopted at this point across all parts of business, they have become more popular over the last, call it 12 years or so that Viisi has been in business. So whether you’re talking about people first or decentralized decision-making, they’re more popular now than they were then, back in 2010. One of the premises, as you know, that we have about what makes a great provocateur such as yourself, is that they can, not necessarily look into the future, but recognize uncertainty around themselves and take action sooner than others, as they see that uncertainty resolve.
Can you talk a little bit about some of the uncertain aspects of the choices you were making for Viisi, or some of the uncertainty in the financial services market that you thought you had a handle on sooner than others, and what gave you the confidence to make the moves you did, to structure Viisi, and to have the vision for Viisi as a company the way you did?
Tom van der Lubbe:
Very good question. Two answers. Sometimes you look in the future, and if you want to understand the future, it’s very good to look back into the past. I say this as somebody who also has studied history. So officially, I’m a historian. And to my point of view, the more you zoom out, the more you have eternal questions, which don’t only have to do something with, let’s say, companies. They have to do something with society. So this whole aspect of sustainability, I picked just three examples out of it. Circularity is not new. So most cultures, if you just go into history, they all thought in a circular way. We are the big exception in the West since the end of the 19th century, that we have a linear way of thinking which started in the enlightenment, so to say. So circular is not new. Now you should perhaps look into the past.
Decentralized decision-making is a little bit the same. You also can dive into the past. I just did a book review last week on The Dawn of Everything. I don’t know if you have already read about this book of David Graeber, the person who also wrote a book about Bullshit Jobs, and one of the thinkers of Occupy Wall Street. And there’s a lot of evidence of pre-historian, let’s say, cities and societies that they were very complex, but they were all very decentralized organized. So that’s one thing. Perhaps look in the past and zoom out much more than, let’s say, current your way of business thinking. And then the other aspect is that in the end, we all don’t know what the future will bring. So we can have a kind of understanding, we can read about innovation cycles, Innovator’s Dilemma, just to mention another book, but in the end, we don’t know.
So the only thing… What we often do is we think in scenarios. Also, very interesting topic, especially professionalized by the Dutch oil company, Shell. And the example is that they were the only ones who reacted adequately in the ’70s when there was an oil crisis, not because they foresaw this, or thought, “Okay, yes, there will be an oil crisis.” Now, one of their 50 scenarios was there is an oil crisis and OPEC will rise, let’s say, the price of a barrel of oil. So we try to think in scenarios. And the other aspect is try to understand your own biases, which is also written a lot about.
But the problem is, let’s say if you talk about management and zoom into this, the more successful you are as a company, or as a leader, or as a manager, you really believe that this correlation is a causality. And that’s not the case. So you have to be very keen… The more successful you are, the keener and the more you have to dive into your own biases and say, “Am I so smart? No, I’m not. Let’s really dive into this, and let’s try to analyze it.”
I’m smiling here, Tom, and I know Stuart is probably going to jump in with a question, but I’m smiling because you’re hitting on some of the core themes that we write about in Provoke. So I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you.
It’s interesting you’re talking about… The language you’re using, Tom, about zooming in and zooming out. And I think there’s been some… It was Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and I know other people have talked about the really good business leaders are adept to zooming out, knowing the big picture, but then they can pick out the crucial detail and zoom in. So it’s very interesting language, I think.
Tom van der Lubbe:
What is also interesting is that… I mean, I do a lot of interviews, et cetera, and people just tell me that people who have self-organizing structures, they always have time, which I find very interesting. And you have a lot of entrepreneurs or managers, the more successful they are, the less time they have. Which also means the less time you have, the less you are able to reflect on, so to zoom out. And also then to zoom in again. So on the one hand, to my point of view, just to put it very practical, your agenda should be empty at the beginning of the week.
I have two meetings a week, that doesn’t mean that I don’t do anything during the day. But then I walk into the office and say, “Okay, what is really decisive today for the company?” And then every day is another topic, let’s put it very practical. And then I try to zoom in again, and I discuss or call internally or externally on a certain topic. At the moment, it is… For instance, just a very practical example, we had a town hall today, and we said, “What are we going to do with inflation?”
And I was reading about inflation in the ’70s, what kind of scenarios do we have? So we first addressed it and said, “Okay, it is a topic, we have to solve it. We’ve survived COVID. We even grew enormously during COVID times. We’re also able to solve this, but we have to tackle the problem.” And then you dive into inflation. What does it mean for the people? Are there people who are really having problems with the energy bills, et cetera. So there’s something very practical a lot of people will think about at the moment. But it can also be something, let’s say, more strategic.
What do we do about big data? What do we do about privacy? And then I would say, “Okay, on the one hand, try to discuss this with a lot of people with technical skills.” But for instance, immediately, I would also read George Orwell, 1984. So just to broaden the scope, and try also to get on an intellectual level which, for instance, would see with Taleb, if you read Antifragile, et cetera. And that’s something. If you are totally full, if your agenda is full, and if you have a secretary who is planning all your calls and then you enter the office, and you’re just from one call to the other, then you can’t, to my point of view… I couldn’t just think about, let’s read George Orwell, 1984 again because I have to… Let’s say privacy and data will be one of the core topics of the next decades.
How many employees do you have now, Tom, out of interest, at Viisi?
Tom van der Lubbe:
Okay. So it must take a very certain type of individual to fit into that environment. And by the way, I loved some of the aspects of what you’re talking about, and imagining what it’s like to work in a place where you can actually come to your work week without it already being jammed full. But can you tell us a little bit about how you go about attracting the right people, and how you know if someone’s going to be a good fit with your philosophy and with the environment that you’ve created at Viisi. And maybe tell us a story or two about times where it just hasn’t worked out. Where it’s turned out that someone might like the vision of Viisi, but their work style just hasn’t worked.
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yeah, okay. I will mention just three things about it. In the end, the strategy is hire for culture, not for skills. There’s nothing new. That’s one. Sounds simple, but the problem is always how consequent are you along the road, especially if you, for instance, need a lot of people. That’s one. The second thing is that we always analyze very profoundly before we do anything, what there is around, so on a theoretical way. So what kind of literature is there, but also what kind of practical examples are there. So if you want to just say, “Okay, how do you recruit people?” Or, “How do you build a company?”
Our recruiting is actually a copy of McKinsey, but also what big investments banks do, or the big law firms, because it’s a decentralized way of hiring. The team themselves decides if somebody is able to join. And everybody has veto, which is also perhaps a little bit counterintuitive, but it also works in investment banking very well. Sometimes it’s frustrating because let’s say sometimes your situations, you would be in favor of yourself and then somebody else says no. And the main thing to do, and that’s a very practical aspect, just the third point is when…
This is very difficult because this is theory, and everybody would agree on that, but it’s difficult then… For instance, I had a situation I wanted to hire somebody and somebody else said no. And I said, “Okay, fuck, what I am going to do now?” Because I really liked the person. And I had to reflect on this. I said, “Thank you very much. You saw something I didn’t see.” So it’s not becoming angry. I mean, I was just reflecting. Say, okay… I can’t become angry because that’s the structure we have, and this kind of bias topic. And the other practical example was that, let’s say, I stopped doing interviews myself because of the fact that I am the person who is used to telling the big story, and telling the big picture, and chasing the world of finance.
We had a certain phase where we also got a lot of awards. So a great place to work, number one. We won number one in Europe last year. We don’t know where we will end now. People wanted to work for us because they liked this story and they like self-organization, autonomy, and radical transparency, et cetera. And then half a year later they said, “But I don’t have anything with mortgages.” And I was the one then who told this excellent story, and then they proved. They said, “Okay, this must be true because I see all those awards.”
And then we said, “No, I have to stop this, because it’s even counterproductive.” Because we just had higher fluctuation, so it’s also very, in a way, funny, but it was expensive. That because of we were successful, and the fact that we got those awards, people were attracted by that and they said, “It must be a brilliant company. I have to work for this company. But they didn’t realize that the daily work is just about advising clients for their mortgage.”
Do you have any stories of candidates who everyone loved, and they came in, and they were at Viisi for some period of time, but it became very clear that they just didn’t fit with the company?
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yeah, yeah. And it’s also not a problem at all. So let’s say if you just see research on that, then you have the opposite analysis. In small and medium sized enterprises, you have fluctuation, but very early. Because those people say, “Sorry, Geoff, I really don’t know. We had brilliant conversations. The hiring process was…” “But you don’t like it here or why doesn’t it really work?” I mean, I just put it a little bit bluntly. And you don’t have fluctuation afterwards. So we don’t have that much fluctuation, but that has to do with the fact that 50% of the people who started at our company, they already know somebody. So this filter, in two directions, is very, very strict because you never would get anybody into the company where you’re not 100% sure, because you also don’t want to disturb this relation with this external person.
Perhaps somebody also used to work somewhere else, and you also don’t want to disqualify yourself in the company where you work. So that works pretty well. But in the end, we never had any problems. We had some people who said also… Let’s say, who had a more scientific background and liked our very analytical and scientific way, they just moved on. They said, “Okay, I want to search for a higher purpose.” One became a member of the staff of the Dutch ministry which has to do with the whole mortgage business for such a small company, just an exception. But it was a guy who had a PhD in molecular biology, which is also shows that these kinds of people we attract, but some are also moving further, which is totally fine. So even the people who left us, they still send referrals, “We started with our company.”
Transparency’s a really interesting thing at Viisi as well. And everyone’s salary is transparent internally.
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yeah. Also externally.
Externally as well. And what were the… Was that the case from the start, and what were the repercussions of that?
Tom van der Lubbe:
No, no, no. We are just doing this all gradually. So what we do is always asking… we call it Factor 100. So if we discuss a problem, would it also work or still work when the company is 100 times bigger than what we are now? And that gives you another focus, because you can’t say, “Okay, now I’ll just do this or…” So we try to abolish all the stuff and to avoid bureaucracy. And that was for instance, the starting point of, I think also the connection to Thinkers50 that we got this Zero Distance Award of Haier. Because the whole idea was how do we avoid bureaucracy from the beginning?
And radical transparency is one of those things, or standardized salaries. So salaries are standardized, and that means that if you apply at a job at Viisi, we tell you immediately or show you what your salary will be before the hiring process starts. So somebody can say, “I’m not going to apply at Viisi.” I mean, we never had any problems. But they just know in the beginning. So we don’t have all the red tape at the end of the process. “I would like to earn this.” “Now we can only offer this.” “Yeah, but I have another offer.” So this is enormous, time consuming. This is one aspect where radical transparency creates a lot of efficiency. But radical transparency is also not invented by us.
It’s something which comes from the parliamentary history where you just publish… Or as states, they publish all the stuff, so everybody knows how discussions went, and that makes it very clear to everybody. Would be also the case if it would be totally known immediately for, let’s say, everybody working in a government or in a parliament how they are funded, or what ties they have, or what kind of mandates they have. I mean, if this is very clear and open, then everybody knows, “Okay, if I vote on this person, I am going to… Let’s say I give a vote for this type of interest.” And it can be anything. It can be, let’s say, moving to circular economy. It can be fossil fuel. It doesn’t matter what it is, but radical transparency just helps to make the system also much more efficient.
Are there limits to the transparency, Tom? Have you found that there are some places where it just doesn’t make sense to have that transparency?
Tom van der Lubbe:
No. The only thing is client data. So it’s always, let’s say, doing exactly the opposite. So if somebody says, “Are we able to share this?” Then you would just say, “Okay, just turn it around.” What are the stuff we are not able to share? And the only thing is client data. So just take an example, if you have your numbers or your revenues, et cetera, if you aim for an IPO, then finally at the IPO, you also have to show what kind of revenues you have, or salaries of your board, or what kind of mandates they have. Why… So if one option or one of those scenarios would be an IPO, why wouldn’t we just start immediately by sharing those numbers or… I mean, we all have… All the shareholders have it on their LinkedIn profiles, all their mandates, all their stuff, et cetera. Why wouldn’t we share it?
It’s fascinating, Tom, to hear you talk about these ideas. And so much of what you’ve talked about so far, you’re saying the phrase what if, and you’re actually showing your natural bias towards scenario type thinking. Is that just unconscious at this point that you’re always leading the team through a question of, well, what if this happened, or what if that happened? And are there ways that you know where to draw the limits in terms of imagining what a future might be that are just so unlikely it’s not worth spending time on?
Tom van der Lubbe:
The problem that you always have is… But let’s say, how do you put teams together? We are four co-founders and let’s say our management team is a little bit bigger, that you always have different, let’s say, types of people. And I am, let’s say, probably a little bit extreme forward thinking. So I said, for instance, when the Ukraine crisis started, there will be a huge inflation because 50% of the German industry relies on Russian gas. And the whole manufacturing industry in Germany is very focused on consuming a lot of gas. And then everybody says, “You are very pessimistic.” I said, let’s say, just take those different scenarios.
But I think, from a geopolitical perspective, that this will happen because I don’t see that there will be peace very soon. So that’s just one very practical example I think a lot of companies have to deal with. But if somebody now at the moment, half a year later says, “Energy prices have risen. We have a lot of inflation.” I really would say, “Okay, if you are a scenario thinker, then in January already, one of your scenarios would’ve been inflation is more than 10%.
Do you think, Tom, the Dutch culture is actually very, very helpful for you in your organization? I know we’ve also… Thinkers50 featured the Dutch company, Buurtzorg, which have built around self-organizing principles. It’s really interesting. Seems to me the Dutch culture, as an outsider, is based around honesty, and plain speaking, and openness, and the degree of argumentativeness. Which is very different from the English culture. So do you think the Dutch culture is… you are playing to your strengths?
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yes and no. So for the aspect where it is, yes, I would refer to Geert Hofstede, who was a professor and wrote about this power distance, that’s this aspect of, let’s say, speaking up. I mean if you’re not Dutch, you would call rude, and the Dutch are very unpolite. So as I am abroad for such a long time, since ’91, sometimes I really feel ashamed of the way the Dutch behave. But let’s say for speaking up and criticizing, especially if you have to move fast in the beginning, that’s very helpful. But problem is, for instance, if you have to skill these Dutch cultures. So the Dutch is a kind of anarchy.
So everybody thinks that no matter where they are in the organization, it’s their right to do differently because there’s this very strong individualism. So if you have to scale up company, it is, in a way, also a huge problem. So there are a lot of people complaining that if you have to scale Dutch companies… For instance, I speak to people working in the private equity field, they say, “The Dutch are very good on the first 100 meters, but if you really have to scale this globally, I get a German COO.” Because they’re much more into standardizing. You could also put it… Let’s say, take it away from this discussion about nationalities.
I think that the Dutch who are salespersons and merchants, they are very, very fast, very agile. But if you really have to scale, you need more people with technical background. So people who build airplanes or this kind of stuff because they say, “Sorry, you can’t just say let’s just try it, because when an airplane comes down, you have a real problem.” So there have to be quality controls and ISO standards, and this kind of stuff. So I would say yes for the first part. It’s very good that everybody is so agile and so “rude”. But if you really have to scale the company, you also have to take into account that you have to standardize stuff.
So Tom, let’s talk a little bit about that, and let’s talk about how some of your ideas or Viisi’s ideas can apply to the big-scaled established companies that have been around for decades and decades, or for hundreds of years. How do you know where to start? And do you have any advice for listeners who come from those scaled companies about which of these ideas to start to work with, and in what way?
Tom van der Lubbe:
I think the most powerful thing to start with, and which is also very easy, is just decentralized hiring. Because if you will do this with support, and you do this somewhere in a very decentralized way, in a big conglomerate or in a big multinational, you will just see that the commitment of the people in the team just will grow. And that’s very understandable because if you grow a team, and you ask the people themselves, “Who do you want to hire?” And you can still support from HR, then that will make a difference. So that’s just one example.
And then it really depends on the sector. So I often think that if you would just ask people what they find important, or what they want to change, then you could just…. Depending only what kind of environment you are, you can just decide, “Okay, shall we just try it?” I mean, in holacracy, you always say, “Is it safe enough to try?” Which is the opposite. It’s not, “Shall we vote on this?” And then everybody says, “No, I don’t think that it will work out, no.” Now you really would say, “Okay, let’s just try it.” Or is there a very severe aspect that it will harm the company or we’ll go bankrupt or whatsoever?
So when you say… That was going to be my follow up question. When you say safety, it is financial safety or presumably in some environment, in operating environments, it could be physical safety, as well, of people.
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yeah, just take for instance the example of the salaries. So when we started to publish this internally, externally, we also had those discussions. And we asked, “Okay, what do you think? Is it fair to share? What do you think?” And then it takes them. For instance, we opened it first internally and then we asked two questions; “What do you think about your own salary? Is this okay?” And, “What do you think about the salaries of your colleagues?” But we did it. We first asked one round, “What do you think about your own salary?” And then the second question, which is a little bit more brave.
And then the funny thing was that there was one big outcome of the second rounds, that let’s say, I don’t know, I think we were 20 people at that time. The only outcome there was that our colleague who started as a secretary, and had a lot of job enrichment down the road, everybody said Esme should earn much more. And everybody agreed on that. And then normally, you would’ve said, “This is such a salary increase. Is this not a little bit too much?” But everybody said it’s okay. And then everything was fine.
And then the third part was, “Shall just put those salary developments or graphs, shall we put them online? Shall we put them in presentations? And we did. And then the last thing was, and there are we now, is that if you meet somebody at Viisi, you have to do the math yourself at the moment. So you have to go into the salary model, then you have to see on LinkedIn, somebody has five years experience. And then you look in the curve of consultants say, okay, this person will earn this. And the next step is that we just put the whole Excel sheet on our website, but we didn’t just have time to do this.
So this is all really interesting, Tom, but what is your job? In your mind, what do you see your job as now?
Tom van der Lubbe:
That’s a very good question.
It’s obviously evolved over the last 10 years or so, and most people in your situation would say, “My job is to grow the company and increase profits, or give shareholders more money.” What do you see your job as?
Tom van der Lubbe:
No, I think it’s always a mix. So I like to really also have operational tasks. So it’s a combination. On the one hand, it’s about, let’s say, building together with other people with whom we build this organizational model to repeat all the time. It’s kind of a mantra, and it’s what people always say about culture. And the bigger the company becomes, the more you have to talk. Because if you’re only 10 people on one table, then you don’t have to explain the culture. So that’s one aspect. Everybody always repeats. But what I still like is, let’s say, to have not a lot of red tape, and still have very, very active specific roles and then dive into this.
So I have just, for instance, specific HR roles that we call ‘people first’. And I have just different hats. And then I’m as operative… This is a kind of operational job, which anybody else could have had. So I think it is a mix, but it’s a little bit, to come back to you, zoom in and zoom out. On the one hand, if I would describe it like this, is to zoom out in a very extreme way. And then in another way, to zoom in in another extreme way, and then dive into topics, and then perhaps just see, okay, is there a certain specific topic where I can add value to the company?
So Tom, this has been a fascinating conversation. Thank you for it. You are the very definition of a provocateur. One of the things we like to ask our guests sometimes at the close, and I’ll make this question a bit more expansive for you, is who else should we have on? Who else do you think of as being provocateurs? But for you, we will open the question as you’re a historian and say, if we could go back in time, are there certain historians that you think are particularly provocative, who, were we able to get them on the show, we should get them on the show?
Tom van der Lubbe:
That is a very good question. I would like to invite Pericles from Athens to tell about the rotation principle. That would be my historical guest. And present day guest, I would like to invite Nassim Taleb about his book, Antifragile.
All right. Well we’ll get on that. Tom, thank you so much for your time. This has been an awesome conversation. I know we think very similarly, so I look forward to seeing how all your ideas can be applied at all our listeners’ companies. And Stuart, it’s been fun like always.
Thanks very much Tom, and thanks very much Geoff, and look forward to seeing everyone very soon. Thank you, Tom.
Tom van der Lubbe:
Yeah, thank you for inviting me.