Ellen Sano: on putting people first and disrupting an accounting market
Ellen Sano is not the type of person to settle for less. As an entrepreneur and Managing Director of Yuki, an innovative accounting software, she knows what it takes to break into a conservative market, and get buy-in from its key players. She joined Yuki right after it launched in Belgium, where she grew the business more than 100% year on year.
Taking over from a scaleup founder
Ellen’s journey to taking the lead of Yuki is different from that of your usual scaleup founder. Starting out as Sales Manager for the Belgian market and working in the company for several years, Ellen had fully immersed herself in the culture of Yuki before taking over from CEO Lucas Brentjes.
“Yuki was founded in 2007 by three cloud experts, [alongside Lucas, Arco van Nieuwland and Sebastian Toet] and it was very inspiring to work with them before I took over,” she says. “That made it easier to understand how they think and that is also how Yuki became part of my blood.”
In other words, this period made it possible for Ellen to define for herself what the company stands for and the ambitions it has for the future.
“By taking over after years in the company, it was important for me to bring my own knowledge and touch,” she believes. “I take the good things and inspiration from the founders while implementing my experience.”
What Ellen brings to the table – next to her knowledge and expertise, is a refreshing dose of positivity. “I believe that we can do better every day,” she says firmly. “I have experienced our growth in Belgium from 0. We’ve been on a very successful road, but we keep challenging ourselves on how to become even better. If we improve by 1% every day, we can go far.”
Sticking with your vision and building a strong team
What makes Yuki unique is that it alleviates the pains of two different groups of people at the same time – accountants, on the one hand, and entrepreneurs, on the other. The latter is, in fact, what makes the platform so special.
“Whether you are alone or a company of 100 people, we believe that a real entrepreneur doesn’t like bookkeeping,” Ellen says. “You should run their company with having the numbers and the results in real-time, without having to do the work.”
This has been Yuki’s vision since the beginning and sticking with it has proven key over the years. Especially when going into a conservative market like accountancy, it has been crucial to keep telling their story and to take people along.
“As you start out, you have to keep shouting your vision,” Ellen says. “That is what brought us growth from the beginning. People believed we were a big company because we were everywhere. You have to be bold in marketing if you want to do something in a conservative market.” And that approach has paid off.
In 2020, Yuki was acquired by Norwegian software company Visma and has since been operating as part of their group. While it was quite a big step to take, Ellen believes it was the right one for the business.
“At first, we were a bit reluctant to jump in, because we were very proud of our vision and growth. But within the first few weeks, we were already agreeing that this was a good step. The key to the success of Visma is that they let you keep your organization and style, but they bring you a bigger backbone.”
In other words, Ellen and her team continue to run their business the way they think is best while benefiting from the network and expertise of their colleagues at Visma.
Today, Yuki counts over 200 dedicated employees and offices in three countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain.
Speaking of dedication, having a strong and motivated team is exactly what has been propelling Yuki forward all this time.
“People first – that’s what made us a success,” Ellen says.
“To me, the combination of love for the product and having engaged people are the key to growth.Ellen Sano, CEO of Visma|Yuki
I want to build pride within the company. That’s my biggest goal.”
Listen to the Up!Rotterdam podcast with Ellen below, or check all the episodes of the Up!Rotterdam podcast here: https://podcast.uprotterdam.com/