[quote style=”boxed”]Understand what motivates your customers by talking to them.[/quote]
Sune Diernaes and Jesper Jarmann are both passionate bikers and where both annoyed with carrying around their helmets when not riding their bikes. At the time in management consulting positions and with waaaay to little real “dirt” on their hands, they decided that this “helmet hassle” was theirs to eliminate – and the HELMMATE resulted.
Before becoming entrepreneurs, Sune held various positions within strategy, finance and it, holds a a master in political science and a CBA and has lived and worked on three continents so far; Jesper has worked with strategy and Lean Management in many industries, holds a Master in Business and Finance and regards himself a serial entrepreneur.
Where did the idea for the HELMMATE come from?
We were sitting at a restaurant talking about the nuisance of being a bike helmet user and how you end up not using it consistently (in Denmark, it is not mandatory), because you have to carry it with you. As it were, we had both decided not to bring it that day to the restaurant, and we just started talking about all the situations where people have this nuisance, and we decided to see if we could find a solution to it.
What does your typical day look like?
HELMMATE is not our only product, but with HELMMATE, everything is right now about getting contracts with the large bike distributors in countries where bike helmets are common.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Systematically. With HELMMATE, we first identified the size of the market (current and potential helmet users by country), looked at the features we wanted the HELMMATE to have and then made 6 different prototypes fixed at various places on the bike. Then we evaluated all of them against each other using user feedback, talking to bike professionals etc, got the IP, found a suitable manufacturer and then got a good contract with a distributor.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Sustainability – we have to become much wiser in exploring resources than we are today, and this will have an immense impact on so many things – not least biking.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Prioritizing all initiatives against cash contribution. Cash is always critical as an entrepreneur, so that helps us focus among the 100 things we could spent our time on every day.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Sune: I have been a paper boy, dish washer, customer service rep, waiter, store manager – and think that I have learned from doing all these things! So though they weren’t my idea of lifelong occupation, it let me appreciate the value also of these job.
Jesper: Dish washer at a hospital with 12.000 people and “bottle boy” i.e collecting and organizing empty beer bottles in a large supermarket with slops of beer Sunday morning from 06.00 with hangover… I learned that being proud of what you do not only stems from stars on your shoulders but how you add value to the larger picture. I was proud to be the Bottle Boy because I understood what value I added to the customers, the company and the environment.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Investigate how the industry works with regards to product introductions. The bike industry is – at least in Europe –very reactive with regards to sales and as our product is in itself a new product category, it has to be explained and demonstrated for customers to get it. We spent a lot of time understanding this and hence, we had fewer sales than expected in the shops the first season.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Understand what motivates your customers by talking to them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
We are not there yet – we still have many countries to capture
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Not pushing potential distribution agreements for the same geography simultaneously. We have been negotiating a very large deal for the German market for 4 months, only to see it implode and we had stalled negotiations with other potential distributors while doing this, so we have lost valuable time and risk losing a full bike season in this country.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
We are not that interesting.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Sune: I have no tips for the gadget savvy, unfortunately, but business-wise, big fans of simple products that save time and hassle – dropbox, doodle, e-conomic (cloud-based accounting system), Mobile Pay, and – especially since it started sorting away non-essential emails: good old Gmail.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Guy Kawasaki’s the Art of the Start (though we should have read it sooner).
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Danish serial entrepreneur Martin Thorborg, who wrote a book called “Entrepreneur till I die” (only in Danish, unfortunately) and who gave us the guts to leave secure jobs and go out and do it!
HELMMATE on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HELMMATE
Sune Diernaes on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/sunediernaes
Jesper Jarmann on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jesper-jarmann/0/116/576