Inez Willeboordse: “Do not do things because they are meant to be, others might expect you to, or crossed your path and seemed easy to tag on to.”
Inez on making your own choices.
Inez Willeboordse was born and raised in ‘Zeeland’, a province in the Netherlands that obviously has a lot of sea. When she was young, she was the kind of girl that clinged onto her parents trousers and would panic every time they were out of sight. Slowly but surely Inez defrosted and by the age of 17 she moved out to study Logistics and Transport in a city called Breda. Awesome times! By 21 Inez graduated and worked her way around Europe for a year on campsites and ski slopes. At 27 she met her current partner, Michel (who is now also her colleague and her best anti stress medicine). She told me that they decided to move abroad. Where? No clue as long as there was sun. Inez’s parents still cannot believe she is the same person that was holding on to their trousers like crazy.
Over the last one and a half years, Inez and Michael have been travelling and working abroad. They run a digital company called JobnetAfrica and worked from Thailand, Indonesia, Mauritius, Spain and South Africa. They are living their dream, travelling the world, and growing the company as they go. Inez told me she is proud of what they achieved over the last years and is amazed by how you can create your own life if only you go out and do it!
1. Humble Beginnings
Q: How did you get started and what or who inspired and empowered you to?
It turned out my partner and myself both found a job with IBM in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is where our Africa adventure started and we are still in the middle of it! We had the opportunity to travel the country during the weekends and holidays and absolutely loved it. After one year we got the opportunity to work and live in Malawi, running a safari company, hotel and lodge. During this time we were asked so many times if we knew of people like ourselves that would be interested to work and live in Africa too. As well as people that started asking us how to find a great job in Africa.
There was no real recruiter or head hunter that specialised in Africa; the idea of JobnetAfrica was born. We moved back to the Netherlands in 2011 with the idea of starting a location independent company. That would give us the opportunity to travel our whole lives! We gave ourselves 5 years before moving back to Johannesburg, a city we love! I started JobnetAfrica besides having a full time job for the first 2 years. I could sense most people thought it was one of those plans doomed to fail. Parents were warning, friends were supportive but I could feel they had doubts. I, on the contrary, was never more persistent. I felt like a bulldozer, nothing was scary or too much, everything was an adventure. I was on a high, adrenaline pumping, felt super energetic and confident. Michel was there all along, supporting me when I was working 16 hour days, when I dealt with disappointments. He never doubted the idea. Michel joined the company 4 years later.
Q: What unique and creative strategies if any did you use when you were first getting started?
I could not believe nobody had thought of this idea before. We had met so many people during our time in Africa that ran into the same issues when finding and applying for jobs in Africa. How do you tap into a network that is spread in over 54 countries? Yes, there is internet (although not always reliable), sure, we have LinkedIn, but where to start? What is real, what is reliable, what can I expect? I started asking around the expat community we had been in in Malawi and Zambia. Spent hours and hours on LinkedIn linking with interesting people, googling companies in Africa, getting to know the market. Visited every Africa related event around the Netherlands and Belgium. Anybody that was slightly interested in Africa could expect the whole story. Mind you, I had never done any recruitment work before. I just figured that a lot of common sense and the right network would go a long way.
Q: What mindset distinguished you from others who were doing the same thing? How did you develop it?
There were not many others doing recruitment and head hunting just for Africa. So there was not much competition. I just needed to get the name and brand out at low cost, and make sure we delivered good quality. Targeting is not easy, how do you target international people on a whole continent? I am convinced international people living and working in Africa are a special breed of people. It is not for everyone. Imagine you investing in a company in Senegal and looking for this specific person that wants to work on your cashew processing plant miles away, where do you start? By now we have over 10.000 of these people in our database. We have a very strong and personal brand. Have any Africa related question? Go and ask Inez, she will help out. That is what I want people to say. Our network is warm and very involved. They are all in the same boat.
3. What is your definition of success?
Success is when you can pay your bills, up to you how high they are, and have peace of mind. This could work out in many ways. Want to work 10 hours a week and spend all your time on your children? Perfect. Want to become a millionaire and buy a yacht? Go for it, push yourself. As long as you are at peace with the choices you make. Do not do things because they are meant to be, others might expect you to, or crossed your path and seemed easy to tag on to. Wrong. Make your own choices. You can make new choices, every day.
Oke, I am still learning.
Q: What do you think is the main reason why some people face failure when going after their vision?
First of all, people seem to start at the end and then try to work their way to the front. Does not work. You need to make sure what your product is and maybe even more specific, who is going to buy it. Without a vision you are freewheeling. It might be nice for a while as you feel entrepreneurial but it will not get your business rolling. Secondly, be persistent, confident. Yes, it will be fun and adventurous. But you have to put in a stupid amount of work. And you do it all by yourself. Friday afternoon, people meeting up at the bar? Not you, you have to finish this one inquiry. Sunny outside? Pity for you, you have 5 more interview reports to write. I think a lot of people underestimate this aspect.
5. What is the best piece of advice you have received or came across and would like to share with everyone?
When we were working from Indonesia last year we met a man who had been very successful in business. He learned the hard way and advised us to, besides all business plans, have one or two personal goals added. To not forget to live whilst building up business. We decided we wanted to remain location independent and are now building our business model based on this principle. We refrained from setting up a physical office filled with people and started working with associates located worldwide.
To have an insight into Inez’s amazing journey, visit her website www.jobnetafrica.com
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