FOCUS. The nature of being an entrepreneur is that you constantly feed yourself and your surroundings with ideas.
Tobi Andersson has spent his entire career in two fields: marketing research and the agriculture business.
While working at the largest field house in the Nordics, he pioneered developing online data presentation systems to visualize market research data. He founded Dapresy in 2003 and has dedicated his professional career to data visualization. He is a recognized expert in the field and has helped hundreds of companies with innovative visualization processes.
In 2005, he founded an agriculture company in Sweden that supports farmers with modern software technology in order to support future precision farming trends. In this company, he develops software that is being tested in real conditions at the farms he owns.
He holds a master’s degree in agriculture and has studied at the Ahrens University with a focus on understanding the mechanics behind fast-growing companies.
Tobi has presented at many marketing and marketing research shows over the years, including Research and Results and Insight Show. He also enjoys helping young entrepreneurs and future leaders by giving talks at MBA/leadership programs and formal lunches to help share his advice and best business practices
Where did the idea for Dapresy providing a Software as a Service platform that visualizes data come from?
I was working in a company delivering data from market research studies in Excel files to their customers. The number of columns and rows were huge and filled with numbers. I saw the pain the reader had each time they were going to understand and act on the data that was living in the Excel file. I decided I wanted to make everyone’s life easier and created a platform that visualizes data in a way that everyone can understand and act on. I must say it was more challenging than I ever could think about. During the first 3 years I tried and tried to create something that was going to create commercial use, but every time I demonstrated to my potential customers they told me, this is good, but not good enough, we can’t pay for this, you need to redo and do better. The last year I was ready several times to give up, but I did put a yellow note on my computer “Never give up” and this made me pass the eye of the needle and finally I cracked the holy grail understanding what and how to do.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m a morning person, my grandfather father had an expression where he said, what you accomplish during a day you accomplish before 11 AM. For me this is very much true, I normally start the day between 4 or 5 in the morning. I really enjoy mornings you have the whole world for yourself, everyone is sleeping and you can focus on the most challenging tasks without being disturbed or lose focus. Having said that I use the afternoons to interact with customers, employees and the network around my companies. I’m a true believer in being close to the everyone I work with, the older I get the more time I want to spend with my team being a supporting hand helping them succeed and giving good advice, many times it is just being there, cheering everyone up and tell some jokes that gets everyone to laugh and feeling they work for a great company. I’m always available to the people that reports to me and the magic you see when answering a call helps closing a deal or make someone happy is unbeatable. If I can make one person feel they had a great day, I’m also happy.
How do you bring ideas to life?
To bring ideas to life you need to have a clear objective with life. You need to understand what you want to achieve and what kind of life you want to live in 10-15 years from now. If you know where to go you understand you need to create ideas that help you walk the road to your goal. I have a very clear goal where I want to be in 10 years from now, every day when I wake up my brain starts to run thru the lists of existing ideas and new ideas that I need to digest. Once I have decided what idea to bring to life and why that will help me to reach my goal I normally start the process by doing a piece of the idea real, then I tell my team about the idea and I show my prototype for them. I have learned that the best way to get everyone on the same page and buy-in on your idea is to show and not only tell. I probably work a few more hours than other people since the idea prototyping takes time, but the good thing doing this is that you constantly develop your skills in e.g. marketing, programming etc. and the effect once the idea shall be alive was worth all-time spend doing the prototype.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Technology that allows precise execution of a business. I have two Top of Mind trends that really acts as catalysts for my brain activities. The first one is a trend called Customer Experience Management and this means the ability for an enterprise to deploy unique activities and actions for a specific customer in order to get the customer returning to your business and buying more. The other trend is precision farming allowing each inch of a field to get customized amount of fertilizers and caring based on data from drones, satellite data and Internet of things connectors. Two very different trends but the common denominator is they transform intellectual knowledge sitting inside experienced people into process driven data platforms that will help the world to act more efficient and avoid wasting resources that gives no effects.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My ability to combine running a full-scale farm and running a global IT company. When I run out of ideas and inspiration being IT CEO I take on my farmer boots and work as a farmer for a day or two. It is amazing how doing something different, working with your body releases inspiration and brain power. I would say that more or less all my ideas and decisions related to my IT company has been born on the wheat fields. Doing something different is a good habit, but important is that it must be more than a hobby in order to be really productive. In my case the farm is a company with employees, revenue streams, and costs, I need to make sure it works without failures and this is the key – you need to something different and be “all-in” to that not giving you the opportunity to fail.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I started to deliver newspapers when I was 11 and continue doing this during my whole school life. I hated this job in the beginning, but actually loved it so much in the end that I continued doing this early mornings even since I got my first job after school. I hated the job in the beginning because you needed to go up in the middle of the night, not having the opportunity to stay out with friends and where the job itself is very monotone. But I needed the money and I decided I have two ways to go here. Either I complain about the work conditions every day, or I make sure I do this in a way no one has done it before and show this is the best job in the world. I decided to do the later. I made the job a routine where I told myself you did this yesterday, today you can do it again, but little better. It went well, I got more and more responsibility and very young I ended up managing a group of people delivering newspapers. The human being is fantastic to adjust to conditions and in the end like them. The experience I have from this is that I as a leader shall be the person inspiring my teams to live thru the first days or weeks when they get new task that sometimes are both boring and impossible to do. But as long as I can hold their hand and tell them soon it gets better and today we are doing better than yesterday all of a sudden you have created a team the beats all competitions. There are no impossible tasks, some tasks just take some extra time before you appreciate them and feel they are fun. As funny as it sounds, but the learning from delivering newspapers has been an important experience building the Dapresy company with almost no external funding and in a tough market.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I have learned a lot from my failures and done many. But one thing I would have done differently is to listen closer to my own gut feeling in tough decisions then listening to people outside the company who on one hand have more experience than I have, but who on the other hand are not that close to the company and the reality you have to work with. It is so easy to be eaten up by different people’s opinions and best practices. Make more decisions based on what you feel but make sure they are well grounded with facts and make sure to be humble and quick admit if a decision you did was wrong and change something that did not work. By building a culture in the company where you allow failures and allow people to share and talk about them, the failures only live for a short time and they are corrected and the whole company sees failures as natural part of the evolution.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I never feel embarrassed over sharing a new idea or suggesting actions and decisions that may sound they are out of good protocol. The thing is that in more or less all cases when I have done successful moves in my companies it has been when people has told me that the way you are doing this is completely wrong or not according to good practice. The thing is that when you put yourself into situations that not follow common practice a whole new world opens up for you (and only for you). Just be open and have the faith to enter into a new land where no one has been before, maybe you will not find what you were looking for, but you will always find something, and that something is something that no one ever could imagine existed.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
FOCUS. The nature of being an entrepreneur is that you constantly feed yourself and your surroundings with ideas. I have a rigid way of looking at myself and having a high level of self-discipline only talking to others about ideas that support the focus the company has. The world is very simple. The majority of people creating companies want to be on the safe side and allow themselves and their companies to be good at a little of everything. The thing is that once you decide to throw away 95% of what your company does and only focus on the 5% you do best and different than others, you just have taken the first step to creating a profitable company that can grow organic year after year. Just be brave, smart and have the power to stay focused even when it is a toughest and do not confuse other talking about other things that not are in the agreed focus. I tell my employees we shall be as focused and sharp as a needle. Everyone in the world shall know what the local Swedish company does and how we in our country can benefit from them, this is only possible if you are a needle.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In my early years I did not have focus on cash flow. I was too opportunistic and thought that as long as I put all effort into selling everything else will sort out. But this is not the case. I was a few days from going bankruptcy due to not being on line item level when it comes to cash flow. I had to fire 50% of my employees, me and my wife did the cleaning of the office every week and I worked hard to be back on track. Even if I’m not the biggest fan of financial figures in Excel I always prioritizes the cash in the company as first thing, then I do the other fun things such as selling, engaging with employees and creating new products. I always preach to my employees and creates a culture where we save on all small costs, but we are always open to do well though thru investments that helps our company grow. The saying is “It is the small costs that kills good companies”.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I was 10 years old, and bought my first calve (bull) in the beginning of the summer for money I had earned on my own. I raised the calve well and then sold it later that year for $1000. This was the starting point that made me love doing business. I’m very keen to give my own children the same experience since this foster good business man ship and understanding the value of money and work and how it all belongs together.
13. What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I use tripit. It is a great service. I travel a lot and the easy way of just forward all travel schedules to my tripit account and then tripit tell you where to go and when is great. It takes away a great portion of work allowing me to to focus on things where I can make more use of my time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The book about how IKEA was founded. In the book, you will follow the founder Ingvar Kamprad on his way from selling pencils in a small Swedish town to becoming one of the largest worldwide companies selling furniture. Many of the behaviors you learn in this book, I practice in my day-to-day management being inspired by this book.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I follow Richard Branson on LinkedIn. He provides good valuable advice that inspires me.
In addition to having mentioned the book about IKEA and how Ingvar Kamprad has inspired me, I also received a lot of inspiration reading the book about how Tetra Pack became what it is today. I normally get the best inspiration from good books.
Dapresy website: www.dapresy.com
Tobi Andersson twitter:
Tobi Andersson LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tobi-andersson-54971a1
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.