At a Glance
Ton Dobbe, Chief Inspiration Officer, Value Inspiration
Focus Areas: Strategic Product Marketing, Product Strategy, Leadership, AI/Intelligence Augmentation, Business Strategy.
Thinkers360 In-Depth Profile & Portfolio: Ton Dobbe
Latest Book: “The 10 Traits of a Remarkable Software Business” (expected launch time August/September 2019)
Overall Thought Leader Ranking on Thinkers360: #60 (as of 5/27/19) | AI Thought Leadership Leaderboard Ranking: #2 (as of 5/27/19) | Check Availability for Speaking
Thought Leader Interview
Thinkers360 Interviews profile prominent members of the Thinkers360 community who embody the power of ideas in their work. In this edition, we speak with Ton Dobbe, Chief Inspiration Officer, Value Inspiration.
Thinkers360: Tell us a bit about your background
TD: I grew up at a tulip farm in the Netherlands, so if it was up to my father, I was going to end up taking over his life-work. However, it turned out different. Right after achieving my bachelor in 1991, I could start in sales managing a part of Unit4’s VAR channel. Unit4 was, at that time, a relatively small back-office/ERP solution company in the south of the Netherlands. From there, my career shifted to marketing, and from there to product marketing/product management. It’s that combination where I happened to develop a strong passion for – the intersection of product innovation and influencing the market to establish a desire for it.
Fast forward, I always stayed close to the forefront of where the business was going. Unit4 IPO’ed in 1998, and that’s where things took off through multiple acquisitions and accelerated growth. In August 2000, Unit4 entered into its international journey with the acquisition of Agresso, which caused my career to take a global spin as well. I had the honor to run product strategy and product marketing for Unit4’s international product suite, from where, later on, I evolved into their Chief Evangelist. Our paths split in the middle of 2017, which was the opportunity for me to (finally) start my own company: Value Inspiration.
Coming from the business software space, the things that triggered me was that so many business software companies today are challenged to stand out in their market. Somehow, somewhere they’ve lost their edge or never established one in the first place. The result of this is they end up competing on price, lose more than they win, and end up with financial stress. Given my background, I decided that was going to be my destiny – solving precisely that problem. So, the purpose behind my business is to help business software companies reimagine what can be, to deliver remarkable impact (again).
Thinkers360: What are your current responsibilities and what’s a typical day look like?
TD: Given this focus on creativity, my typical day looks pretty structured. The first two hours, I typically spend writing content on growing my brand in the market. This can be my weekly blog, the key take-away from my weekly podcast, writing my weekly musing ‘Value Inspiration on Fridays’ with exclusive thoughts and ideas for my followers/tribe, or, not to forget, making progress with my first book about “The 10 traits of a remarkable software business.”
The next big chunk of the day I spend on the strategic projects I execute for my customers around the world. This ranges from establishing their value foundation/value proposition, shaking up their product strategy and roadmap, and helping Chief Sales Officers to transform their sales performance by coaching their sales team how to sell value.
Depending on the availability of my podcast guests, I also typically record 1 or 2 interviews with pioneers in the business software industry. I started this podcast in early 2018 with the purpose to share compelling stories about the value we can create when technology and people blend in the right way. I deliberately choose this angle because I am a firm believer in Intelligence Augmentation where the focus is on making people better, not automate them out of a job.
Last but not least, I spend a good hour every day on business development and increasing the value of my network.
Thinkers360: What’s the favorite part of your current role?
TD: Full stop: The creative freedom and diversity of my work. Everyone has elements in their job that you typically don’t like. However, things have to be done, and someone has to do it. I always thought I was blessed with the perfect job at Unit4, but now that I have started my own business, I realize there was still a level uncovered. Due to the fact I have carved my perfect niche – the smallest viable audience as Seth Godin typically calls this – I can focus on doing precisely the projects I add the most value, and love doing most. That’s magic.
To create scale and do as much of this as possible, I rely on my AI friends, of which in the meantime, I have nine in total. That frees up hours and hours of limited time to focus on adding value. To run a business in this time and age is so easy due to all the tools and services available – however, you have to organize it in the right way.
Thinkers360: How do you utilize Thinkers360?
TD: I typically use it in two ways: 1) to connect with other thought leaders and learn myself on topics that are key to my business, and 2) a platform to share my views and learnings on what it takes to become a remarkable software business. This, both through my blogs, as well as by sharing the lessons learned from my weekly podcast interviews with technology pioneers.
Thinkers360: How do you like to work with brands who wish to engage you as a thought leader?
TD: There are two streams – business-wise, it’s about working with brands to help them stand out in their category in the ways I’ve described above. The second stream is by helping them inspire their audiences via keynotes, panel moderation, or workshops around the areas I’ve become an expert in.
Thinkers360: What’s your main advice for upcoming thought leaders?
TD: Always ensure you keep learning and develop your own POV about what’s happening in your space. Besides that, go narrow and deep, rather than broad and shallow on the topics you cover. That requires commitment and perseverance.
I must say that since I started my own business, I’ve never learned so much, so fast. Most of all, because it was a turn-around in my life and you realize is that suddenly you don’t have the luxury of a big brand around you that gives you the credibility. As a sole-entrepreneur, you have to create your brand and continue to build trust. It’s been an eye-opener for me to see how easily you get complacent and “think” you know it all. So read a lot, talk to as many experts as you can, and share the surprising and valuable insights. You don’t have to please everyone. That’s impossible. Instead make it highly specific, so it helps someone a lot.
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