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Friday Five #1 – Marcel Timmer

Posted on June 6, 2024

“Success starts with great leadership and a great team. Put the right people in the right positions.” 

In our Friday Five, we ask five questions to our special guest. The red thread? There isn’t one. We range from a look behind the business scenes to insights into our guest’s personality. From MobieTrain employees to beloved customers or inspiring topic experts, anything goes. Sometimes sweet as pie, sometimes razor-sharp, always with the aim of learning from each other.

Today’s Guest: Marcel Timmer

Marcel Timmer is Chief Financial Officer at MobieTrain. Being there from the very beginning, you can call him one of the company’s founding fathers.

As the first guest of our Friday Five series, the Dutch CFO told us more about what makes him proud and ticks him as a businessman. Marcel shines a light on the ambition of MobieTrain and the role of AI in achieving those goals. And as a cherry on the cake, Marcel shares his top 3 crucial elements to becoming successful.

1. What makes you tick as a businessman? 

As MobieTrain’s Chief Financial Officer, Marcel has been managing different responsibilities recently, always driven by a strong passion. “I always like to be involved in something where I can have a real impact. That’s also my personal motivation: having an impact somehow. My role as CFO of MobieTrain has changed over the past two years, so I’ve got the possibility to make impact in different ways. ”

Two years ago, my role as a CFO was more operational, setting up structures and getting MobieTrain organised from a financial, legal and fiscal point of view. Now, I try to work slightly more from a distance and from a more strategic point of view, connecting the dots in making MobieTrain perform. But that’s what ticks me, that each year is different.” 

Connecting the dots, how do you see that? 

We absolutely need to get everyone and everything aligned. I don’t want to overestimate my role, and maybe it’s not even typical for a CFO, but that’s what I try to do and how I try to help our CEO, Guy. As a team, we depend on each other, and we must do it all together.” 

“Compared with two years ago, I try to create more time to consider how we’re moving as a company and thus how we can connect those dots.” 

Can you illustrate this with an example? 

“We should be aware that both the quality of our product and the way our account executives sell MobieTrain to a customer, impact how successful we are, both in making our customers happy and in retaining them. This awareness creates references that help sales to sell more.”

“And as a financial person, I’m, of course, a big fan of data. Data-driven arguments are the elements that I can add to the discussion with our management and team. MobieTrain has more than 150 customers, so we’re dealing with more financial and non-financial data and the role of those data gets bigger and becomes even more interesting. It means that we can more deeply examine correlations between onboarding time, user activity, customer health scores … but also where and how we can take action to retain or expand customers.”

“I always like to be involved in something where I can have an impact.”

2. What are you currently most proud of as the MobieTrain CFO? 

To recalibrate the balance between growth and investment, MobieTrain’s business plans needed to be adjusted on very short notice in 2023. Significant decisions had to be taken to amend MobieTrain’s pace.

Marcel explains: “You don’t make important decisions like that overnight. Although it wasn’t easy, I’m proud that we, as a management team, came to this conclusion and tied the knot without someone having to tell us. It proves that we’re realistic and on the same page and that we’re strategically and carefully examining the potential risks, dangers and opportunities to give MobieTrain and its employees a bright future.”  

“Besides that, the way the company and the team have been able to deal with the changed situation made me extremely proud as well. It was impressive to see how fast our team adapted, how they almost immediately picked up the ball again and continued to pursue our mission.” 

3. Where do you see MobieTrain in five years?

MobieTrain has grown 3 to 5 times and is now an indisputable leader in the industry. Marcel makes clear what’s on the horizon for the company in the near future. “Within five years, I trust that MobieTrain will still be one of Western Europe’s industry leaders, but we aim to become one of them in the whole of Europe and even globally as well.”

“We can only achieve that when we are a relevant company, meaning we have a relevant product for our customers and are very helpful in making it even more relevant to them.”  

Being relevant, what does that mean in MobieTrain’s case?

We try to make others, in our case the employees of our customers, successful in their roles. The more applicable functionalities we can offer on our platform, the more helpful we are, and the more people will use our platform more frequently. That’s what we’re analysing more in-depth: which MobieTrain functionalities do employees use, for how long, how often …”

“I believe that – in line with what we’re doing as a company – we can create a platform that can be more accommodating to employees on a much more frequent basis than we’re already doing now.”  

However, frequency itself is not the main goal for MobieTrain. Marcel is clear: “The key thing is what our users do with the platform and the training possibilities they both have and use to optimise their performance. Whether it is a training track, our AI Chatbot Mobie, the internal news feed, the chat functionality or other things we can develop … it has to be spot on, because people only use it when it’s beneficial for them. When they use it more frequently, it is meaningful to them and it helps them be successful in their role.”  

 “Being relevant is our key mission. With that, all things come together. It means that we will grow, we will retain and attract customers, and we will have happy colleagues. If MobieTrain doesn’t create an impact, it’s not joyful for us either, and we won’t have the future I described. That’s why relevance is MobieTrain’s objective for the next five years: it starts with software, but in the end, it’s about making other people successful. We’ll find out where we’ll be in 2030.”  

“Being relevant is our key mission. With that, all things come together.”

4. What’s your opinion on the impact of AI in the EdTech industry?

As Marcel mentioned some of the great functionalities of the MobieTrain platform, including the AI-powered chatbot Mobie, we couldn’t help but ask him about his views on AI in the HR and training industry.   

“For MobieTrain, I only see advantages if we develop our platform well. You mentioned Mobie, so let’s take that as an example. Mobie is like a ChatGPT, specifically for your company’s information. Because it’s working with selected content and it’s basically a closed system, we don’t need to deal with the potential risks and dangers of AI on a bigger scale.”

“Maybe it’s my non-tech and kind of simplistic way of looking at things, but I can only see opportunities,” Marcel explains with a laugh.  

What role can Mobie fulfil? 

“If I just think about the customers and people we are working for and whom we are helping, there are fewer supervisors but there’s a bigger span of control. If we can create natural interactions with Mobie, there will be lots of questions where Mobie can help and at least people will get an answer, without the need to go to their supervisor or call anyone. I think that can be quite powerful to help our customers and their employees on a day-to-day basis.”  

5. What are your top 3 things that you would advise to companies, starting CEOs, or people who want to work on something but are afraid to take the first step? 

1. The Team

“The glue for everything. Success always starts with great leadership and a team, so ensure that you have the right people in the right positions. Look for motivated people and make it very clear what you expect from them. If they ‘feel’ it and agree with those ambitions, you are in a top position to achieve astonishing things.”

“Combining ambition with a sense of urgency while setting reachable targets helps your team be successful and organise themselves. Otherwise, your team will lose their motivation.”  

2. The Focus 

“Maintain focus as a company and as a person. Distinguish the must-haves from the nice-to-haves. There are so many things that are nice to do or have, but they do not help you be successful or achieve your goals. Everyone can do better there: MobieTrain does, I do, you do.”

“As mentioned in my first tip, creating and maintaining the right focus is only possible if you are well organised and motivated.”  

3. The Ambition 

Marcel’s final advice: “Be ambitious and know where you want to go. In my opinion, you must set the bar high. For me, it has always been important because I’m always striving for the best in whatever I’m doing.”

“I think you need that as a company as well, and you need people who are motivated by working in that way and curious to understand what makes your customers tick deeply. Furthermore, it’s also about what your stakeholders expect from you. You hit the jackpot if you get all these elements and the people aligned. But it’s easier said than done.” 

A big mistake is wanting to grow too fast: “You first need to ensure that you’re relevant before you can be successful. It’s not about growing and growing and growing. You need to have things in place before growing and scaling healthily and sustainably.”  

“Success always starts with great leadership and a great team. Put the right people in the right positions.”

Good things take time, and you need to do them step by step. But you’re ambitious, you want to set the bar high, and you want to move. What’s the right balance between being patient and not waiting too long?  

“That’s a tough question. I’m sure that many people would answer it differently. Some people would say: go as fast as possible, see what sticks and then take care of it. That’s more the American way. I prefer to have the building blocks in place: walk before you start to run. But it’s not sequential.”  

Marcel goes further: “Always start with a good foundation. Sometimes, you need to think deeply about how you want to do things. Sometimes, you need to run fast and try new things. One day, you’ll fail, and another day, you’ll be successful.”  

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