Ulf Arnetz, tell us about yourself?
I’m a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies and grew them to multi-million enterprises in different countries and regions. I have done four strategic exits to NASDAQ-listed companies in USA and sold my latest company to NASDAQ-listed OpenText 2004.
Today, I’m the founder, CEO, and Chairman of Howwe Technologies. I’m also an author of three books, Entrepreneur of the year in Sweden 1994, and one of few Swedes to get the International Global Fast-500 prize 2002. Written over 20 published articles.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
People don’t understand how hard it is. 99% of what you read in magazines is the success stories where the timing was perfect and cash flow steady.
That’s far from the real world of entrepreneurs. 99% of all companies struggle and fight to overcome different barriers each and every day.
If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?
Never give up. It’s a hassle but you have to keep on grinding, through every obstacle and setback.
What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?
I title myself a trend entrepreneur. I’ve made it my super power to predict a new need at the right time. When it comes to the success of a business idea it’s all about that – the right trend at the right time. Timing is everything.
In my previous companies, my predictions was on point. With a rapidly growing trend for proactive software, I’m confident the timing for Howwe will be too. Also, I’ve never founded a company based on a business idea that already exist.
What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?
I start every morning at the gym. I’ve made working out an integral part of my working routine.
Apart from that, I always make sure to have talented managers and employees. To enable them to succeed they need the tools to break down the strategy and goals and make them actionable for each and everyone.
Everyone’s activities and priorities should be connected to the top and bottom line. Our software Howwe helps us to do that. As an entrepreneur it’s incredibly important not to interfere too much internally. It can be a hard balance.
I maintain that balance by making sure there’s clarity around what’s most important and by creating a culture of commitment.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
For years, companies have tackled strategy management as the field has grown and evolved, but many have fallen short of their achievements due to a lack of strategic execution.
This is something I’ve seen first-hand at my previous companies where we sold to C-level at medium- and large business.
The CEO lacks an application to achieve the strategic goals, typically increased revenue and profit, and to make the strategy actionable for everyone in the organization.
My vision with Howwe was to find a way that technology can change how large organizations reach their goals. What’s really unique is that it’s for the entire company to use.
The CEO can use this application to focus the whole company on what they and the management team are trying to do with the strategic plan.
Then they can measure if the execution is on time, connect that to the financial improvement statistics, and make sure the execution is on time.
Where do you see your business in five years?
This type of product will have a massive market. Every CEO who is focused on growth will use a proactive application to ensure that execution occurs on time. In ten years, Howwe will be a new Salesforce in its niche.
Consider a sales manager who does not use a CRM application such as Salesforce today. Howwe is on track to become one of the top three global providers of enterprise execution software in the next five years.
We have the opportunity to become Salesforce for enterprise execution, or SAP for enterprise resource planning. In light of the developing trend, we may expect to see more and more global competitors with radically different economic forces.
Despite this, we’re hard to beat because of our product advantage and all of the built-in business assistance we provide. As a result, we are certain that we can continue to hold one of the top spots in the industry for the foreseeable future.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?
While the market’s demands are evident, it’s not necessarily mature enough for novel business models like Howwe. However, the current trend is already here.
This is a huge and growing industry that we’re poised to take advantage of, according to Gartner, a global leader in IT research and consulting. I believe the use of an application tailored to strategic execution is essential to an organization.
Our biggest challenge is that CEOs today typically steer their businesses with analogue tools such as Excel and Powerpoint. If you are a Chief Financial Officer, you will – of course – have a financial application.
It would be weird if the CFO would use basic tools – like Excel – instead of a proper financial application. If you translate that to a CEO working on strategic management, the CEO must use an application in order to make execution happen.
Howwe is a tailor-based application only for strategy management and accelerates exactly what the CEO is measured on.
Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?
The first company I founded in Sweden was sold to a large Nasdaq-listed US company. It was one of the largest financial transaction in Sweden at that time.
My second company was acknowledged as a Global Fast 500, one of the world’s fastest growing companies during a five year period according to Deloitte.
How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?
Currently, we’re using a direct sales approach, but in a few select markets, we’ve also begun using a partner sales approach.
We only engage with partners who have a direct impact on the CEO or other senior executives – those who implement and are judged on their ability to support Howwe. I’m based in New York where I’m building our international presence.
We get a lot of help from our existing customers who gladly testify the results they achieve using Howwe – of a minimum of 30% acceleration and increased revenue. We have clients in industries including insurance, industrial manufacturing, bank, consulting, real estate, and investing.
With a proven sales technique and a proven product, all of our customers have achieved a return-on-investment (ROI) of between 10 and 25 times within a year of signing up with us.
What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?
Ensure that your business idea is unique and within an area that’s about to trend. That’s my best tip.
And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?
Looking ahead I hope we’ll maintain our market-leading position within strategy execution, that the trend will increase according to the pace analysts such as Gartner predicts and that there will be MONEY.
As an entrepreneur my main goal is to succeed with my business idea and the valuation of the company is a testimony to that.
Interview originally published in Bugy.