Career advice: switching to a scale-up – Jorrit Pijlman

Gepubliceerd op: 07 jan 2024

As CCO of FitForMe, Jorrit Pijlman is responsible for all global commercial, digital, customer service, and business development activities of the Rotterdam-based health and lifestyle scale-up. In this interview, he shares his career journey with us, along with lessons he has learned when transitioning from a corporate company to a scale-up. 

Rotterdam-based scale-up FitForMe is a global leader in vitamin preparations for people who’ve had weight loss surgery, with the goal and proven results that vastly improve their quality of life. Backed by private equity, the purpose-driven company is gearing up for a new product development phase, international expansion, and growth, along with a renewed brand that will play a key strategic role.

What kinds of meaningful and valuable learning experiences has Jorrit gained from working in this kind of environment?

“My career journey took me from corporate to scale-up.”

Jorrit first gained significant experience early on at Essent, part of E.ON, by participating in the company’s traineeship program. Over ten years, he had the opportunity to witness various aspects of the business, beginning in production, and then working in Germany and Eastern Europe, where he gained sales and marketing experience. At a relatively young age, Jorrit was invited to lead

Why did he decide to leave a corporate environment and switch to the world of startups and scale-ups?

Jorrit: “While working in a corporate environment offers great exposure to diverse roles in a relatively short period of time, I gradually noticed a pattern of similarity. The corporate way of working, the flow of processes, and the inherent limitations to growth became increasingly repetitive. I consciously chose to step away and decided to transition into private equity.”

Jorrit Pijlman

2020-present: Chief Commercial Officer, FitForMe
2019-2020: Chief Commercial Officer, Olympus Investment BV
2015-2019: Director Marketing and Digital,
2014-2015: Head of Sales and Digital,
2011-2014: Sr. Sales Manager and Strategic Project Lead, Essent
2009-2011: Corporate Management Trainee, Essent
2008-2009: Strategic Consultant, Squarewise

Tip 1: Choose fast growth, giant leaps, and constant reinvention.
“What I now see here at FitForMe, is true double-digit growth, if you will. And it requires constant reinvention, both as a company and on a personal level. What works great today may not be as effective next year. That’s why it’s an ongoing process of reinvention to ensure future resilience. You have to enjoy this kind of environment.

You can take giant leaps here, both internally and externally —whether achieving business results or organizational strategies. This environment best suits someone who enjoys change, as it’s not made for everybody. If you prefer well-organized and predictable processes, this may not be the ideal place for you.”

“FitForMe offers a unique, scale-up experience.”

Why choose Rotterdam-based FitForMe, with its highly-specific, health and lifestyle niche that the global company fills?

“What I saw here was a company with eighteen years of consistent,  month-over-month growth along with the potential to grow even faster. And it offers a compelling purpose: to genuinely enhance the quality of life for a specific audience. Plus, FitForMe’s culture is down-to-earth, professional, and ambitious. It hits all the ‘right notes’ in those aspects.”

Tip 2: Find purpose and growth potential.
“I believe this is a global issue. Obesity is a significant worldwide challenge that increasingly affects us all. FitForMe is a global market leader that assists people who’ve undergone weight-loss surgery for a better life. We offer them purpose, backed by proven results – unlike many vitamin companies whose products are not rooted in rigorous scientific evidence – combined with an inspiring atmosphere. It’s truly a company I want to be a part of.

You can sense its empowering atmosphere the moment you step in the door. You’re met with friendly greetings, helpfulness, a young and informal vibe, and genuinely talented individuals. Whether they are strategy consultants or professionals from places like Coolblue or Unilever — A-level players attract A-level players.”

Tip 3: Be prepared to take on autonomy and step up your responsibility.
What makes working at a scale-up so appealing to Jorrit, is the autonomy and responsibility it inherently brings – and the great people it attracts. In addition, Ilhe also really appreciates its flat organizational structure.

“Additionally, we embody the Rotterdam spirit: people are intrinsically motivated to achieve results. We’re truly a Rotterdam-based scale-up: action-oriented and hands-on, focusing on getting things done.”

Tip 4: Acknowledge the benefits of private equity: financial strength and network access.
Jorrit describes the benefits of working at a scale-up that is backed by private equity.

“What adds excitement is the financial strength it provides, enabling acquisitions like Baricol, the market leader in Scandinavia, as well as access to vast networks through our investors and advisory board members — it keeps you truly sharp.”

“My focus shifted to lifestyle products and a consumer-centric approach.”

Tip 5: Learn from being at the forefront of strategic shifts.
Having historically grown along the axis of the advice of healthcare professionals, FitForMe is currently in the experiencing a strategic shift, moving from a healthcare-focused approach to a more lifestyle-oriented business model. This includes recognizing the changing landscape of consumers behaviors, and adapting accordingly.

Jorrit: “We’re observing patients that are becoming more self-informed throughout the process. It really is a profound journey – physically, socially, and mentally. We believe in aligning more closely with that journey, and adapting to their entire lifestyle change. There’s a genuine need, evidenced in patients’ search behavior.”

“Now our aim is to become a true partner to consumers throughout their journey, and increase our significance and potential for growth. The new Head of Brand will play a crucial role in establishing the brand – crafting the brand story, personality, and image, and defining FitForMe’s identity, including all content and activation strategies.” In other words: a new role for a new brand.

Tip 6: Embrace the international experience and complexity that comes with a global scale-up perspective.
Finally, the international aspect of working at a globally operating scale-up is something Jorrit thoroughly enjoys.

“During my time at Essent and, my focus was mainly on The Netherlands. In this role, the new elements were the most compelling along with its purpose and the international aspect. We operate in twenty-nine countries with eleven country organizations and teams located worldwide. Combining working from Rotterdam and traveling to visit our teams adds a fantastic global dimension to my experience.

This international role involves diverse cultures, work practices, distances, and markets. As an Advisory Board Member once said: ‘You’re essentially a multinational but with a scale-up mindset.’”