In the Hamburg 1 Expert Podcast, Felix Tschopp is interviewed by Selina Hare. As a passionate entrepreneur and investor, he talks about successful entrepreneurship and what a good entrepreneur should learn from a successful entrepreneur. He answers questions like: What distinguishes a good entrepreneur from a successful one? How do entrepreneurs achieve financial freedom? How does a company ensure a successful generational transition?
Hamburg 1: Felix, you are an entrepreneur, an investor and a business mentor. What are the most important topics for you to discuss with your clients?
Felix Tschopp: At the moment, many companies are dealing with the question of what to do next. The pandemic in particular has put many of them to the test. Digitalisation challenges entrepreneurs to rethink their business after many years of building it up. They are also challenges that many no longer want to or can take on. And then the question arises, is a company ready to be passed on to the next generation? Did the entrepreneur work far-sightedly? Or was he simply the patron who made sure that he was the most important person in the company? To accompany this generational change, to motivate and inspire entrepreneurs to build up a new, visionary entrepreneurship, that is my great concern. Just think: two-thirds of all medium-sized companies cannot find a successor. Often it is not only the entrepreneurial life's work that is lost - traditional companies can no longer be continued and many jobs are lost.
... but it's really about the inner mindset of accepting that life is change and you're building something to pass on when the time comes.
And how would you assess that? Is it mostly due to the leaders who hold the sceptre in their hands and don't want to give anything away, or is it due to the lack of young talent?
I think it's mainly the owner himself in the owner-managed companies. You have to be ready to let go - that's a catchy word, everyone talks about it. But it's really about the inner mindset, accepting that life is change and you are building something to pass on when the time comes. And good discipleship is possible. Good succession requires preparation, and it takes time. So you have to put that into your mindset early on. I always say you should always run a business in such a way that you could sell it at any time. Then nothing can go wrong.
... the view from the outside is focused on the long-term perspective, the right strategy, on the fact that the company can survive even in difficult times.
You also often talk about visionary entrepreneurship. I think that describes it quite well.
Yes, I think an entrepreneur has a great responsibility. He often starts with very idealistic ideas. Many things around us came into being because a single person had an idea, a vision. And from that a company has grown - sometimes a larger one, sometimes a smaller one. But they are always companies with ideas, with a culture that connects people. And he also has a responsibility for that, in the long term. You can't always just talk about product development, innovation, services and products. You also have to see the company as a whole with foresight. And I often supplement the companies with the external view, because the view from the inside is very focussed on customer satisfaction, good products, a lot of turnover, profit. But the view from the outside focuses on the long-term perspective, the right strategy, on the fact that the company can survive even in difficult times. We know: there are good times, bad times, and if things go well in good times, they also go better in bad times. I bring such thoughts into the companies, because the daily operational routine is often too absorbing for them. The entrepreneurs and the managers already say that we should do it again and that we should ... But then we often don't get around to it.
....the successful entrepreneur ensures that his company is not dependent on him.
You said that they were very absorbed. Entrepreneurs who work in their own company as if they were their own employees. Should they break away from that?
Exactly. I always ask the question: What is a good company and what is a successful company? - There are many good companies. They make good turnover, have good products, make a profit. But the entrepreneur is in the company every day. He talks to the employees, knows the customers personally, is closely involved. But the successful entrepreneur, let me put it a bit bluntly, can be found on the golf course, posting photos of the sandy beach. He is more likely to be in the company only when board meetings are taking place. The successful entrepreneur makes sure that his company is not dependent on him, that it can market its services or products successfully even without him being present in everyday life. This is what I understand by far-sighted, visionary entrepreneurship: making oneself superfluous. Then the company can flourish.
But also enjoy your financial freedom. This is also something that you try to initiate a little bit in the companies.
Yes, of course. An entrepreneur often brings his whole life into the company. A lot of energy, passion, also fears, sleepless nights when things don't go so well. And with a successful succession plan, with a successful generation change, he can then also transfer his own prosperity into a good retirement. And enjoy it.
When you have that in mind, you're a bit more likely to let go, aren't you? Or can companies still badly hand over the sceptre, even if they have their retirement in prosperity in mind?
Yes, that is indeed the case. Many dream of it, of course, of this enjoyable retirement with the house in Tuscany where they drive to dinner in the convertible. But I think it remains a mindset to let go and accept it. When you're a bit older, it's easier to accept that there's your own transience, that one period of time expires and then another period comes. But people often shy away from looking at these transitions.
Is that so ingrained in the entrepreneurial DNA that you somehow have this urge to keep going and keep working.
Yes, I think as an entrepreneur you never retire, you never stop. The question is rather, what do you do with your time? That's also nice: after the handover, you can consider other activities. There are so many opportunities to pass on your knowledge in a supportive way. Successful entrepreneurs often help start-ups and thus close the circle where they started. There are many possibilities.
You also show one. You are an entrepreneur and investor, but also a business mentor. You have stepped out of the hamster wheel in which you felt trapped. Maybe you can take us into your personal story a little bit. What was it like for you? How did you manage to get out?
Yes, I was a 'good' entrepreneur myself. I worked a lot, day after day. The company was running well. But at some point it started to ferment. And one day I came home and told my wife, "I'm quitting now. It can't go on like this. We do a lot of further training in the area of personal development, we also deal with spiritual issues in life, and so at some point you ask yourself, what am I doing all this for? And one day I was at a training and the speaker asked us: "What did you start out for in life? That was a shocking question for me. After all, I had worked successfully for many years! But it gave me no peace and I went into myself: what am I doing here, and what do I really want to do? And so I changed sides, so to speak. From the entrepreneur who is in the company every day to the entrepreneur who accompanies the company from the outside. Today I see myself more as a business developer who can inspire others to get off this hamster wheel. In my history there was also a time-out due to burn-out. That is not nice.
So you know the depths and the consequences that also come with such a hamster wheel.
You said: You have to know when it's time. How do entrepreneurs recognise that it is time to pass on the sceptre?
I think there are two categories. One is forced by life, I call it a wake-up call: a burn-out, a family event. It can be a divorce, some illness, a crisis like Covid, or whole branches of business disappear due to digitalisation. They are forced out. And then there are the far-sighted ones who have it in them. They know they want to build the business over a period of time and then pass it on. I think these are also the curious people who don't want to stick to the status quo, but who enjoy building something and then building something else and continuing like that.
Felix how can we get in touch with you? Do you have a website or social media presence? How can we get in touch with Felix Tschoppp to maybe get some advice?
Yes, the most direct way is always via our homepage - www.felixtschopp.com and there you can find all contact details and also initial information about how we work, how we think and how you can work with us.
That sounds very, very good. Felix Tschopp says that financial freedom should be the primary goal of every entrepreneur. And anyone who needs support can simply turn to him. Thank you Felix for being my interview partner today.
Thank you very much, Selina.
If you are interested in this topic, I would be happy to talk to you about it in an initial, non-binding conversation. Just leave me a message under the following link and I will get in touch with you.
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