Serial entrepreneur Hans Scheffer on building a company
“From the very first time I worked with people, I knew that everyone in a company is equal. Building a team is about working with the most driven people on a common goal regardless of their age, background or education. It’s about evaluating people on how extremely motivated and good they are.”
Hans Scheffer is convinced that a strong team is all an entrepreneur needs to build and scale a successful business. Born and raised in Rotterdam, he grew up in a city that is always changing and evolving into a better version of itself. It has largely shaped him to be the person he is today.
As the CEO and founder of Helloprint, a scale-up developing one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms for printing products, Hans knows what it’s like to start from scratch and grow exponentially.
Helloprint’s technology has been disrupting the printing industry for years now, but it is not the solution itself that he attributes its success to. It is the team behind it that earns all the credits. “We hire the most passionate and ambitious people out there and we trust them to be the experts,” he says proudly.
Embracing entrepreneurship from an early age
For someone who does not come from an entrepreneurial background, Hans certainly stands out with his knack for starting and scaling successful businesses.
At only 12 years old, he had already discovered his passion for building things and sharing his knowledge with others and was teaching other kids around him how to play the piano. A few years down the line, in his first year of university, he found out that academia was not the right path for him and he ventured out into business.
“I was never a good learner so when I was 19, I decided to start my own events company. Within a year, I had 15-20 people working for me.”
Something that Hans believed already back then – and that hasn’t changed over time – is the fact that being an entrepreneur and building a company is a way of living.
“My intrinsic motivation has always been to build something that doesn’t exist, something that challenges the status quo. I share that openly with the people I work with and make sure they are on the same level of drive and motivation as I am,” he explains. In the end, that’s what he believes keeps a strong team together.
Building a company that’s ready for the future
In 2013, Hans and three fellow entrepreneurs laid the foundation of Helloprint, a company that was going to disrupt not only the printing industry but also the way people are hired and teams are built.
Hans was convinced that labour contracts, as they were – and still mostly are – are way too lengthy, tedious to write and read, and often take away the excitement of starting a new job. “I read through close to 100 employment agreements and I realized there are pages and pages outlining how we are going ‘to marry’. It’s a lot about what you can’t do and should do, which essentially puts people in a box before they even start. It is my firm belief that you don’t need all that, as long you hire the most ambitious and passionate people out there.”
So, to the surprise (and even slight concern) of his lawyer, Hans said he wanted to have only a one-page contract for everyone who joins Helloprint. A contract that outlines how both sides would be working together towards a common goal, without any of the tough language and restrictive clauses of traditional agreements.
“We give our people the space and freedom to be in control of their professional life, and they appreciate it. We’re all equal.”
Helloprint has been growing fast over the past seven years and Hans cannot stress enough how crucial it’s been to have the strong team that they’ve had. He also acknowledges the importance of setting clear goals that everybody understands and fostering a culture that embraces change. “You need to have a clear vision, a big hairy goal at the end and always be open to change. You can only give freedom if what you expect from people is clear for everyone.”
Helloprint counts 90 people in its headquarters in Rotterdam and a customer service team of 70 based in Valencia. The company was built on the premise that it can be scaled, and having these two main locations has been the approach they’ve found to work best for them. The company also has another 10 people in local offices.
Going into 2021, Hans and the team are looking forward to setting and reaching new milestones and becoming even better at what they do. Rotterdam is set to remain their home base since it is fully in line with the values of Helloprint. “This is a city that is always changing and that helps you grow. It is always busy renewing things and looking for ways to do them better,” Hans says.
“This is exactly what Helloprint is about, too.”
Listen to the Up!Rotterdam podcast with Hans below, or check all the episodes of the Up!Rotterdam podcast here.