Your exit was really your average quarterlife crisis?
"I had been working for Bain for 6 years - with a short sidestep at Heineken - and the big three-o was looming. I started asking myself: am I doing something I’m good at? Have I made my dreams come true? Having my own business has always been my dream. And I knew: I don’t have any children now, I have some savings, so if I want to start my own business I should do it now. I resigned and gave myself a year off to reshape my life. I bought a boat, a few plane tickets and I took time out to watch Ted Talks and visit museums. I wanted to use it to figure out what it was I really found important."
And what did you manage to find out?
"That making a lot of money wasn’t at the top of my list of priorities, nor was my shiny BMW. It was spending time with friends, sleeping and eating healthily. The social impact of my job on people and the environment. Luckily I never fully immersed myself in the luxury lifestyle of a consultant, so the transition to life as a non-profit entrepreneur wasn’t that big. Although I do still miss the way I used to hail a cab at the drop of a hat in my former days."
How did you come up with the idea of ONEforONE?
"I knew upon my resignation that I wanted to start my own business, but I hadn’t decided yet what kind of business it was going to be. I had so many wonderful ideas, but the key is working them out. During my time travelling I encountered the ‘buy one, give one’ principle. A beautiful concept to help developing countries, in which there is no need for subsidies, your aid is being generated by the market itself. I learned that when picking the good alternative as a consumer, you essentially seem to be punished for making the right choice. Organic products are more expensive than non-organic ones. Through ONEforONE I wanted to find a way around that by negotiating a better price as a collective, like in our system of health insurance. I succeeded. I founded a competitive insurance, which is appealing to the Dutch consumer. And this year in Tanzania I was holding a little baby who was able to visit a doctor because of this same insurance. That is a wonderful thing."
Do you ever miss your time at Bain?
"I will honestly never miss working for a boss, but I do miss working together with smart colleagues. The external pressure of a team is stimulating, your work pace becomes much more rapid due to all the different input. I do something I am very passionate about and that is a unique intrinsic motivation, but I do need to put pressure on myself to keep up the good work. That is hard sometimes, or somewhat impossible even. And lonely as well."
What is your ambition?
"ONEforONE was off to a great start and I have held my own TedX Talk by now. I formed a solid basis, with great partnerships. Last year we sold 500 health care insurances, but we aren’t there yet, because it should be tens of thousands. And that is the practical side to my job: making our brand more well known. Without any budget. Thinking up campaigns, approving a logo. Actually my job is the direct opposite of consultancy, when it comes to pragmatics and the extent to which I have the authority to be making decisions."
What is your advice for consultants wanting to start their own business?
"I talk to a lot of consultants who want to have their own business someday. Do it, before you’ll regret it. Don’t overestimate the risks, because you won’t have burned all your bridges behind you. If you fail, there is still the option of returning to consultancy. And you really don’t have to wait until you have a readymade money cow on your hands. If you resign, great ideas will come up all by themselves. If you leave behind the small - sometimes limited - world of consulting, a new one will present itself to you. A world with different people, different talent and a lot of other opportunities."