WIBA IT – FOUNDER | WIBA IT is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, but working hard, Anne Willeboordse had almost forgotten all about it: ‘I never stop when I have achieved a goal or a milestone. I always want to help the next customer right away and move on to the next challenge’.
Anne works roughly seventy hours a week. A few days from home and a few days from the WIBA IT office which is located in the heart of Rotterdam. Time flies fast when you’re having fun. So much so, that today is a 10-year anniversary of his company.
“Yes, this is a moment of pride for me, one I never dared to dream of. I wasn’t looking this far ahead! At the time, I was working for my last employer, where I worked long hours. The company was viewed as a veritable cash cow, a vision and philosophy I did not agree with at the time. Together with my colleagues, I knew that crisis was about to hit. We tried to make it through the crisis the best we could. Or course, we hoped it would all be over quickly but, as everyone knows now, it took longer than previously anticipated.”
We asked Anne about what kind of person he was 10 years ago (something that, according to the WIBA IT staff, is difficult to pinpoint). Smilingly Anne said:
“Haha, I was still a young man of about 24. Ignorant, pretty naïve and with loads to learn. Those traits have left their mark: I was doing things first and thinking about my decision afterwards… This behaviour ensured that I dared to take risks where others did not or did so not as quickly. This has allowed me to always be a step ahead of others, over the past decade. I’d like to believe that others saw me as a stubborn and hardworking person. A company, where I was working at the time, was a hardcore tech company and I and my colleagues were seen as the ‘fast guys’. The technicians there were often glued to their screens. Together with my companion, I ensured joy in the office. It was very much appreciated because it broke the glass ceiling.”
With the questions about how that work experience helped him establish WIBA IT, Anne looks back. Are there, for instance, any similarities with the company he first worked for?
“Well, no… It is the complete opposite. My employer had people on the payroll who he needed to be placed; that was his capital. As a salesman, I wanted to help the client as well as possible, preferably for the long-term. That was, however, not possible because rather than finding the perfect match, we had to sell those people on the payroll, which affected the quality and led to missed opportunities. Having to push people like that, was one of the main reasons for starting my own company. I noticed that quality is almost always decisive. That’s why WIBA IT has an external network, allowing us to find the perfect match for our clients and not worry about the in-house specialists being placed.”
“I have to say, during the initial phase, we focuses more on bringing the best people with us, people with the same vision. They were lining up to join me. But as you can probably guess, my former employer wasn’t pleased with that… We had a serious discussion which scared some people off. Still, I wanted to work with the best people, which is one of the reasons I work with interim specialists. However, at some point, we said: “Enough with this! We will be completely independent!”
“That’s when I felt I was standing on my own two feet”
WIBA IT stands for independence and quality. But now that we are talking about the start-up phase, what is actually the first real milestone that you have achieved with your company?
“Wow, that is a really difficult question! The main reason being that I never think that I have achieved a goal or a milestone, but concentrate on going forward. I always want to help the next customer right away and move on to the next milestone or target. But now that I am really thinking about this, the first employee is, perhaps, an important milestone. The biggest step that I made, however, and what I am most proud of, is buying out my partner. I learned a lot from this whole experience because it did not go as smoothly. When it was finalised, I really felt that I was standing on my own feet and it was really up to me to make it happen. My partner was already an entrepreneur at the time. From the outside, the idea was often that I was carrying on his knowledge of his entrepreneurship. Because of this, I think I did show that I really succeeded and here we are now 10 years later!”
We are now talking about buying out your partner, what was the trigger? And why did you decide to continue without a partner?
“It is indeed great to have a partner, but they need to be fully committed. And as I said before, my former partner was already an entrepreneur before we started WIBA IT, which meant he had other interests and commitments that took him further and further away from WIBA IT. At some point, I realised he no longer added value to the company and so I decided to buy him out. I believe that if he had been fully committed, we could still have been partners. When I bought him out, we were still in the middle of the crisis and we were still dealing with the discussion I mentioned earlier. At that time, I wasn’t thinking about finding another partner and I couldn’t imagine running the company with anyone other than myself.”
“Without her, WIBA IT wouldn’t have been the company that it is today and I wouldn’t have been the person I am today.”
It is going really well with the company, but you surely also have to deal with low moments. Can you mention a moment where you get less enthusiastic and even dreadful?
“I am a positive person. To me, the glass is always half full, because I see opportunities even in lower moments. And if it really goes downhill, I see that as a challenge to get back on top. Yet, it is worth mentioning things that give me less energy, and that is the entire legal and regulation debacle. For example, with the DBA Act, it was just a real downer. Many times, money and effort had to be continuously put in and, in the end, it was all for nothing… This act meant that several things had to change within the operational management. After all necessary arrangements, it turned out that the introduction of the law did not take place in its entirety. That, together with the passing on of these constant changes to the freelancers and customers, are things I do not like.”
But what is really a setback that you went through with the company? And how did you overcome that personally?
“A real low point was the whole discussion that ended up in court with my employer at the time. Which I didn’t win on my own, but together with my girlfriend. She was in the thick of it all, including the disappointments. We had just bought a house and, because of the court case, they froze our bank account. And that’s never easy on a relationship. But, to this day, she continued to believe in me. Without her, WIBA IT wouldn’t have been the company that it is today and I wouldn’t have been the person I am today.”
From the sensitive side back to the business side. We are going a few years further in time and WIBA IT has grown incredibly hard in the last 10 years. What do you think is really the biggest change the company has seen?
“Actually, major changes take place every year, in particular professionalisation. We have walked around here for a long time with 3 to 4 people. Then you sit close together and you know everything and what they are doing. Now the company is growing so that I do not know anything about it anymore. I am no longer in the office every day, I do not hear all the discussions and even have my own room in the office. But this is only possible because the growth of the company is made possible by competent people whom I trust. This growth entails all kinds of changes. From moving from the head office of Goes to Rotterdam to the automation of our business processes. The move from the office to Rotterdam is the biggest physical change. With the growth of the company, I naturally naturally also became busier. I was a person who wanted to keep the reins and wanted to know everything. Because of the growth I have been able to let go of things and entrust them to the people who work with me. I have also learned that my path is not always the right one and that the opinions, skills and views of others on matters are essential for the growth of myself and the company. I think this is a very nice process to see and learn from. “
We already mentioned the milestones at the start of the company. But what results have been achieved lately that made you become really happy and proud?
“There are a lot of moments that I am very proud of. For instance, the 100 placements we reached not long ago. We were getting close to that point as a team, and we finally managed to do it. In addition, we set a growth target each year, and so far have always been able to exceed our targets. And I can go on, but to summarize it, you can say I am very proud of what the team has been able to achieve. For instance landing clients that I haven’t personally met, or coming up with ideas and innovations that I myself would never think of.”
“My girlfriend says: you are a workaholic.”
It is still a bit far away, but how do you see WIBA IT in ten years?
“I think, or at least that I hope, that WIBA IT is still more independent of me. And maybe an extra branch elsewhere in the country. In addition, I hope and hope that the growth that we experience can keep communication at the same level as it is now. With this growth, I hope to open other business units in other markets than the IT market and let go of the WIBA concept here. Maybe we can better serve our clients by doing cross selling.”
Besides the fact that the company itself undergoes a transformation, the person behind the company also must have changed in ten years. How do you see yourself in ten years? Are you planning to take a step back and, maybe, take some time free?
“My girlfriend always says: you are a workaholic, and it is what you like doing. So, I am afraid it will be difficult to take a step back… Perhaps, I will take more time off during school holidays, to spend more time with my children. Other than that, I wouldn’t change as a person. I am who I am and I don’t expect I will suddenly be a different person 10 years from now. I learn through trial and error, that’s what I have always done.”