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100+ Days as Remote CEO: Interview with FACT-Finder’s Emile Bloemen

Get to know Emile as he gives us a look into what it’s like to manage a dynamic software company remotely.

We had planned to do this interview in person but current Covid-19 restrictions in England didn’t allow Emile to travel, which is actually right on-topic for our interview: being remote.

I think in general starting a new job, in a new company, with new colleagues, can be a little of a nerve-wracking experience. Emile’s experience is peculiar in that he did it in the middle of a global pandemic, from hundreds of kilometers away, not to mention in a high-stakes position.

Today, he joins us digitally to share how his role as remote CEO has been developing and what his first 100+ days at FACT-Finder have been like.

What has the experience of managing FACT-Finder from abroad been like?

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of being a remote CEO?

It’s not being able to meet the team in person; to have creative sessions in meetings, socialize and get to know people better. We all know that some of the best ideas and initiatives come after meetings when you’re socializing and I truly miss that. Another challenging part has been not meeting customers, not seeing how they work with FACT-Finder, how they grow their business with us, and how they use new ways to give their end customers a great digital experience.

We’ve made some changes there. Since we can’t meet in person, we’ve set up a remote customer advisory board where customers come together, we provide breakfast and we discuss in small groups of customers from different industries, both B2B and B2C, what is important to them, what changes they would like to see, and how our development team can work with them to realize their goals. So we are trying to create that interaction, it will never be the same as meeting in person but it is a step to overcome the most challenging of this pandemic as a business.

How do you build personal connections with colleagues while being remote?

What helps you maintain balance and recharge?

They say there are perks of working from home, for example, you don’t have the commute and can start working earlier, but conference calls are very tiring. Especially if you have 10, 12 of these calls a day. It’s also hard when working from home to walk away from your work and we need to acknowledge that, for everybody within the company, it’s a tiring aspect. It’s really hard to have a quiet moment because there are gaps to fill and you can’t really feel the interaction so it’s really tiring.

So I’m liking your question about how do you balance because everything is about balance. When you look at your work, family, friends, health, all these parts should be in balance. Yes, sometimes some parts get priority, however, it’s important to keep a healthy balance. I do believe all those parts (friends, family, health) help recharge one another.

For me, at the moment, it’s my family and sports that help me recharge. My two younger children and my wife give me a lot of energy every day and my sports, whether it’s long-distance swimming, cycling, or running, give me time to myself, to unwind, and to really charge for the other parts that are important to have in balance.

What has been your first impression?

In a nutshell, FACT-Finder is a true German gem. It’s the smartest way to the best products. I’ve known FACT-Finder since 2011 when I was setting up the hybris Cloud; FACT-Finder has always been the market leader and has a very strong B2B and B2C customer base with very loyal, long-time customers who are using FACT-Finder very successfully. Then, the FACT-Finder team and GENUI, the investors, are fantastic. We’re all working together to continue the success of FACT-Finder in Europe and expanding into the world.

What are some key learnings since your time with FACT-Finder?

What has been your biggest win in your first few months?

We have seen some great new customer wins, we’ve seen existing customers growing, and we have great product development which is a real game changer in search and personalization in B2C and B2B. But what stands out for me is that we have really come together as a team, working very closely, moving together in a focused way and that is really something that is great to see. In the beginning, there were ripples of change. I do believe that in every change there is great opportunity and we’re living that right now. It’s really great to see. Again, it’s the team that has done this and it’s a big win for all of us.

What is your one big, hairy, audacious goal?

If you look at the global market, it’s driven by the growing e-commerce space, outsource software, and technology progress. That’s the overall market. Then we expect the market to grow 18-20% per annum. We see a big increase in the number of online shops, a larger offering per shop, and customers have a much higher expectation. Looking at that, plus the growing cost of tech expertise, the lockdown, the growth of the online space, B2B digital commerce acceleration, and then the technology of FACT-Finder, my big, hairy, audacious goal is that all enterprise B2C and B2B commerce is powered by FACT-Finder technology. It really is the smartest way to the best products for our customers.

What excites you the most about where the company is heading?

Meeting the team

Our UK-based colleagues, Holly, Céline, and Stuart, had their first in-person meeting with Emile over a lovely lunch in Cambridge. As travel regulations ease, our colleagues in Germany look forward to welcoming Emile to our Pforzheim offices soon!

From left to right: Emile Bloemen, Céline Turner, Holly Murdoch, and Stuart Patterson.
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