Follow your dreams is perhaps the best most clichéd career advice ever given. As a child, it is easy to imagine your dreams such as a fireman, teacher or to become a pilot. But when you have your first job after graduation, what is the next step, how do you find out what your dream is? No child dreams of becoming the best senior accountant!
My dream, since I was a teenager, was to successfully set up a business. Now I’m realising this dream with NearSt, a local e-commerce start-up that aims to bring shoppers back to the high street. However, I worked for others for the first seven years of my career. Gain experience first, I told myself. I had become who I never wanted to be, someone who follows the beaten path. So, time for change!
Cutting the ties of the comfortable situation in which I found myself was rather difficult. What comes next? What if it is not a success? What if I can no longer do the things I like to do such as going on holiday or driving around in a Porsche? But more importantly, do I have the right skills? This last question kept me particularly busy.
Do I have the right skills to start my own business and what do I really need? I believe it’s about three things – learning agility, creating relevance and ensuring that you strive to be the best and once you get where you want to be, stay there.
When I decided to make this major change in my career I realised the world around us is moving rapidly. Firstly, information will not come to you in streamlined channels anymore, you yourself have to find the information you need and want – perhaps the biggest change that has occurred over the last 50 years. Now all the information is available to be able to be successful. Therein learning agility has become more important. Secondly, extraversion is a quality that is more valued in today’s society, where the attention span of people is getting shorter, it is important to remain relevant. And finally, it pays out when you become excellent in what you do and continue to be excellent. Everybody is unique but, in life, you have to find out what makes you unique. What are your unique skills? Try to create a niche for yourself and ensure that what you create is something indispensable.
For example, everybody knows Nokia. But the interesting thing here is that Nokia started as a paper production company. Because of their ability to adapt to a changing society, they became one of the most successful mobile phone companies in the world. However, right now, nothing is left of their market share. What went wrong?
For me, creating success is a combination of your learning agility, your power to be relevant and an authentic drive to become the best. Being the best makes people lazy, but when you are number two you are pushed to work harder and to keep learning. It keeps you sharp and alert. My dream was never to work for a technology company, but here I am now in a changed world with the same dream. I continue to push myself to learn new things. My dream is still to build this company into a successful global business, a strong brand and connect with the needs of consumers. Technology creates new opportunities, but you have to search for the opportunity that suits you.
In my current role at NearSt I found the right opportunity and got the chance to do this. We started NearSt with one simple goal – to get people back into their local shops. We walked and biked over 250 miles to hundreds of shops across London, learning about the incredible value local businesses can provide to shoppers. Since then, together we’ve built an amazing community of shops and shoppers, connecting over 150,000 products available at shops nearby to people searching for them. We’re continuing to grow NearSt, adding new product categories and shops all the time. We have a fantastic team that day in day out work to achieve our mission of bringing people back to local shops. Everyday we learn and get better than yesterday. Everyday we challenge ourselves why we exist and that’s not just for ourselves but we exist for the whole society. And everyday we want to become the number one.
While I do not suggest to burn your bridges and become a goat herder in Mongolia, I strongly recommend you to act out of your comfort zone and start something new, something you haven’t mastered completely yet. I end this blog with the famous quote from Walt Disney: “Go and chase your dreams, you will not regret it!”
About the author
Mart Postma graduated from the University of Bradford School of Management with a Master of Marketing and Management in 2010. Mart started his career at HEINEKEN with various sales and marketing roles over the years both in London and in Amsterdam. Earlier this year he left HEINEKEN to join tech and retail start-up NearSt. NearSt is an ecommerce platform challenging Amazon by making it faster and easier to buy from a shop nearby than buying online. As Partner and Head of Growth, Mart is responsible for the sales and marketing activities of the company.