Don’t miss the second edition of the conference “How startup CEOs can benefit from mentor’s experience” on May 16 in Luxembourg, co-organized by BusinessMentoring association and Silicon Luxembourg. We reached out a mentor, Christophe Baehr, CEO of Flexcom to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.
How did you get started?
I started my career at Siemens Luxembourg in August 1996. I was engaged as a Telecom engineer on the team responsible for programming, commissioning and maintenance of PBX Siemens communications networks to the major Luxembourg companies. At the time, Siemens was the undisputed leader in telephony in Luxembourg. This very enriching experience allowed me to create my first links with the actors and decision makers in this field. The international dimension of the Siemens group quickly led to my traveling to Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland, mainly for training.
After five years at Siemens, I had the opportunity to change my career to a position of responsibility at CTTL Ericsson, which was the exclusive reseller of Ericsson’s corporate communications solutions in Luxembourg. As a head of IT and applications, I saw the lack of solutions available at the time from the leaders of the telecom market at the level of the applications of management of telephony. The frustration of not being able to respond completely to customer requests with the software available convinced me that I may be able to fill a void and satisfy customers’ needs by working on some new project ideas. So, in 2003, I surrounded myself with a few people to develop my ideas. My employer became my first customer and we started placing our solutions into the Ericsson CTTL network. My knowledge of the various telecom integrators allowed me to publicize our products and led to early growth. I resigned from my position at Ericsson in January 2004 to dedicate 100% of my time to my company.
What was the most significant experience for you?
Human relationships with my associates, partners, customers and employees are at the center of the experiences that have most impacted me. It is difficult to take a single example or experience as I have many anecdotes to share. In any case, I can say that entrepreneurship has brought me a lot of gratification and great relationships that will always follow me and are part of me today.
The most significant experience, if I had to share just one, is perhaps the first major international contract we won. We were just a team of two at the time (me plus one developer) and we were chosen by a large Canton in Switzerland after a test period where we were competing with large leading companies in the market. We worked night and day to be ready on the day of the test and we answered the 20 points worth of questions successfully, while the second place competitor (there were four in total) only made it to eight points!
Winning this first major contract really helped us to secure others down the road, reinforced my ideas of development and motivated us enormously by allowing us to grow our team.
What lessons have you learned from your entrepreneurial journey? Could you give us one or two?
The first is to be well surrounded and the second is to delegate.
It is impossible to advance your business if you want to take care of everything. You have to find people you trust who, if possible, are smarter than you and bring real added value to your business. If you think being a leader means explaining to others how to work, you’re wrong. An entrepreneur must anticipate risks, find new ideas, innovate, find solutions and set his teams up for achieving their own success.
Finding the right people is not easy, it can take a lot of time and sometimes you make wrong decisions. I think that an entrepreneur should think about these values and those of his company to help guide the recruitment process.
What are the 3 keys to success for you?
First, you must love working. Unfortunately, even if you are well surrounded and your teams are performing, the CEO is always on 24/7. Of course you have to take time for yourself and your family – find balance – but personally I always have something about my business at the back of my mind.
Second, knowing how to make decisions. If you are procrastinating on making key decisions you will never move forward. It is sometimes difficult — you have to be able to fire, hire, sign contracts, mortgage your home to get a loan, take risks…
Third, innovating with passion. Many companies survive by copying others, but to succeed I think that innovation is critical. Innovation just for the sake of innovating doesn’t work either. It is about finding an innovative product that also has business potential and can make financial returns for your business while remaining exciting for you and your team to work on. The perfect product lies at the intersection of your passions, business potential, and the field where you can become the best.
Register for the conference “How startup CEOs can benefit from mentor’s experience” on May 16 in Luxembourg.
This article was first published in the Spring 2017 issue of SILICON magazine. Be the first to read SILICON articles on paper before they’re posted online, plus read exclusive features and interviews that only appear in the print edition, by subscribing online.