Interview with Boudewijn Dekker, VP of Sales at Workwize
How is it to work for a startup? What place does remote working hold in the future? What is the biggest challenge as VP of Sales? What advice would you give to someone willing to start in Sales? Boudewijn Dekker, VP Sales at Workwize shares his answers!
Hi Boudewijn, welcome to the SaaS Newsletter Deep Dive. Could you please introduce yourself?
Sure, well my name is Boudewijn. I am the Commercial VP at Workwize, 33 years old. I live in Amsterdam with my girlfriend. I am fond of doing high intensity sport classes and Padel.
What did you study and how did you get into Sales?
I studied law, so that is quite a general background, I guess. I was the type of student who did now know what he was going to be when he grew up. In my opinion, it would take too long to build your career and you are always a small part of something big. I was looking for something where you could measure your input, output and successes faster and more transparent.
Besides the above, you really have to love small details and law in general to be successful as an attorney. And I did not see myself doing that. So, I was looking for a more commercial role, and that is how I ended up at Heineken and I had the privilege to do all their festivals for the whole summer back in I think 2014. I really liked it. It was refreshing to work with your own budgets, work with sales data, volumes and to have a role where I could combine my first introduction into data driven Sales and hands-on work.
Because you were working cross-department and with third parties towards your goals, I felt I was part of a likeminded group of people. I liked that a lot. Also, the transparency of your work and seeing results directly was something I liked: after each festival I could see direct results in the increase of sales at Heineken. I could see the output, the impact of my actions. After my internship I ran the New York Marathon for Human Rights Watch and met a girl who was working for Meltwater. I never heard of the company but she thought I would be a good fit for their international management trainee program. I had a cup of coffee with a couple of people there and felt a good connection with the people there. I did not know much about Sales, and even less about SaaS so it would be a jump in the deep. The hiring process was short and snappy, I got an offer that I discussed with my dad, who told me that you cannot go wrong with starting in Sales.
I therefore started at Meltwater as a Sales Consultant, became Manager then Senior Manager, and within two years got promoted to Managing Director, responsible for all the new business within the Amsterdam office. I got to travel quite a bit, met many great people, and learnt all about SaaS Sales, management and leadership. The office grew from 12 to 65 people during my time there. After that, I left during the Corona times.
Through a good friend I get the opportunity to invest in start-ups, meaning I see many pitch decks of small start-ups usually at a very early stage. When I came across the pitch of Workwize, I thought they had an excellent business idea, since everyone was working from home during these times. I had no idea that I would end up there eventually. I met the founders and what stood out was that they were young, had diverse backgrounds and had a brilliant idea on how to impact and manage hybrid working models. We got into a conversation where they said that they were looking for someone to set up a Sales strategy and a go to market strategy. They already had a couple of paying customers for proof of concept but were not yet capable of stepping up their game. During my time at Meltwater, I learnt to enjoy building a full team, hiring people, making sure they become excellent Sales people, and taking ownership over building a certain culture. At Workwize, they could offer me these responsibilities, as well as setting up international offices and overseeing the whole international Sales org. in the long run. That is why I decided to eventually join Workwize.
”When I came across the pitch of Workwize, I thought they had an excellent business idea!”
Can you explain what Workwize does exactly?
Workwize created a SaaS platform that enables companies, and more specifically for people working in HR, IT and Finance to manage a hybrid or remote working model, meaning that they can easily on/offboard people with home office equipment (IT equipment, furniture, company swag). For IT, Workwize can help with the facilitating and automating the reception of IT equipment through our collaboration with many suppliers. To give you an example, let us say a company has their HQ in Amsterdam but hires someone based in Argentina. The new hire in Argentina will receive a fully set up and ready to go laptop, a desk, chair, and company swag to their doorstep.
Additionally, we offer asset management. When employees leave a company, it’s always a struggle for the company to receive back all the IT equipment (and furniture) from the employee that left. If a company is hiring 30 people a month and at the same time 15 employees are leaving the company, it becomes a logistical mess to handle sending out and collecting all this IT equipment and furniture. In that sense, we offer a asset management lifecycle, so you can not only track the value of this equipment over its lifetime but can also easily decide what to offboard.
”Workwize created a SaaS platform that enables companies to manage a hybrid or remote working model, by easily onboarding new employees with home office equipment”
That sounds like a cool solution! How is it for you to work at a startup?
Back at Meltwater, even with around 2000 employees, the vibe and culture was quite start-up like, same goes for how the office looked. People shouting, messy environment, I enjoyed that.
At Workwize, it is a similar vibe. It is not super structured; you have to figure out a lot by yourself. We do not have Sales Operations or a support department or something along those lines. The cool part is that you really are responsible from A to Z, but you do have to do a lot besides your core business. If you are in Sales, you are also doing Legal, Marketing, etc. It makes it quite interesting, but it is also a challenge to stay focused. At the same time, it’s a very nice place to work at and I like it a lot, but of course we hope that once we get our Series A funding, we can professionalize things a bit.
What place does remote working have in our futures? Maybe for a bit of context, during Corona everything was remote, then it became hybrid, then Elon Musk called back all his employees to the office. How do you and Workwize see the future of that?
If you now look at the employment market and highly skilled people, they want freedom to work wherever they want. They want to be managed based on output, rather than input. Freedom is the keyword. A recent example would be KLM, who adds the possibility of working remotely for a whole month in their vacancies, somewhere in the world, and it is getting paid by the employer, so it is incentivized.
Remote work is a front running topic because a lot of cool companies work fully remote, but most of the companies are adopting a hybrid working model, no matter if it is a startup, scale up or corporate it does not matter, everyone wants the flexibility of working from home, at least one or two days a week. Hybrid work is here to stay.
”People want freedom and flexibility in this day and age. Hybrid work is here to stay!”
Speaking about trends, which trends are you currently witnessing in the market?
In general, due to a lot of external macro economic factors, companies are a bit more hesitant to hire people, compared to earlier this year, right?
Our business model was first based on fast-growing companies or companies in hyper-growth that recently received Series B or C funding. With this funding, companies usually develop their product and service offering, and this requires more employees to do so. So usually, a lot of the funds go into a Sales department, the Dev team and HR. I feel like the industry moved away from that a bit, because companies now hire less aggressively, there is more turnover, but the focus is on reducing costs.
It used to be that companies such as Gorillas were burning so much money, and looking at current economic trends, it’s just not feasible to burn cash like that. They therefore lay off parts of their workforce. They want to show that they have cash positivity, a proven business model that stays afloat without burning that much money. With Workwize, we save companies the cost of one- or two-yearly salaries of someone that would work on retrieving the IT equipment, approve the expenses, arrange the shipping, get approval from managers etc. Automating these processes saves costs. With our tool, we give companies an overview, based on turnover and company size, how much money is saved by using Workwize.
”Automating these processes saves costs. With our tool, we give companies an overview, based on turnover and company size, how much money is saved by using Workwize”
Can you tell us more about your day-to-day role as VP Sales at Workwize?
That really depends. Every day looks quite different and is full of surprises. In general, I help the team in their Sales processes, I help close deals, I discuss the company strategy with the founders. We are looking to expand to interesting countries, for example Argentina and Brazil, which are big tech hubs for US-based and European companies. I am therefore also busy with collecting information out of all the sales stocks that we have implemented in the strategy, why we should open a country, we also need to arrange suppliers, a warehousing network. Those are the most important topics currently. To recap, I focus on strategy, daily business, Sales, recruitment and building culture at Workwize.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for you as VP Sales, either now or soon?
Adapting to the market. As said earlier, this is the first time that the market shifted a bit. During lockdown, it was quite easy to get people to understand what we were doing, and easy to sell our solution too. Nowadays, we have educate the market these days because not everyone knows about Workwize. We also have a few competitors, so we need to make sure we communicate what makes us different from our competitors, how we can provide more value. In other words, listen to the market, adapt to the needs, and then change and improve our product accordingly.
To close this off, what advice would you give to recent graduates who want to progress in their Sales career?
I would advise them to start in a small company to learn all the basics of Sales. Usually, the management has time to develop you, and career wise, you can make big steps in a short amount of time. Be humble, curious, proactive. Then based on skills and speed that you developed, you will be successful. Do not be afraid to pick up the phone, challenge yourself!