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This article was published on September 9, 2021

Play to your strengths and DON’T forget them

I've been doing this 15 years... but I still need a refresher every now and again

Play to your strengths and DON’T forget them
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ founder of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

Wow, this has been an exciting week! On Monday, I announced I would transition into a new role at TNW and introduced our new CEO. You can read all about it in the official announcement here.

Of course, I didn’t come to this decision overnight. I’ve been TNW’s CEO for 15 years and thought about this meticulously before acting on it. Big decisions mean spending ‘big’ time pondering them.

But what I didn’t expect was how much time I’d need to just decide how to break the news.

Myrthe (TNW’s amazing new CEO and former COO) and I had so many discussions on if, how, and when would be a perfect moment to make this announcement.

In the end, we got to a decent draft announcing the change… but it stayed a draft for quite a while.

There were just so many things we had to organize in terms of workflow, internal organization, et cetera, et cetera, that the announcement kept getting deprioritized. I mean, surely a simple announcement can’t be that important?

Then, last week, it was finally time. Everything was in place and now we only had to push out the announcement post. But as I read it, something didn’t feel right.

Then it dawned on me. I’d been trying so hard to write a ‘standard press release’ and doing things like you’re ‘supposed to do’ that I’d failed to use TNW’s greatest strength.

For the last 15 years, one of the things we’ve always tried to do is NOT using the standard format for anything.

When we first started organizing events, we didn’t look at other events. We just organized a conference that we thought was interesting, and we ignored all the rules and what was generally accepted common practice. And I, who’s been CEO that whole time, forgot!

So when I realized this, I stopped laboring over a ‘press release’ and switched to writing a story — just as if it was this newsletter. That resulted in the fun little article you can now read on TNW.

Before we published it though, we also realized we didn’t have a good photo of me and Myrthe together.

So we checked our calendars to find a moment to get a photographer in for an official portrait and… starting to sound a bit like how things are ‘meant to be done,’ right?

Luckily, it didn’t work out. So we had to improvise.

I suggested taking a photo that looked like it was made in a photo booth at the train station. The advantage, I thought, would be that the images wouldn’t have to be high quality in themselves and could even be slightly blurry and black and white.

And since those photos always come in fours, we wouldn’t have to worry about finding the ‘perfect’ shot — we’d just combine four funny photos into one.

I found a room with a curtain, and then we asked the first person who walked by to take photos on my iPhone. All-in-all, the photoshoot took about 15 minutes, and we had a lot of fun thinking of different combinations; and had a nice symbolic last photo with Myrthe pushing me out of the picture.

I guess this announcement was one of the final ‘important things’ I did as a CEO, and it felt terrific to do it the TNW way. It also shows that you can achieve a lot with some creativity, defiance of the rules, and enthusiasm. And that you need to keep reminding yourself of it.

That’s certainly how I look back on the past 15 years as CEO of TNW.

P.S. Don’t worry about the title change, I’ll still write my newsletter! So until next week!

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for his newsletter here.

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