GRONINGER KRANT – You can’t say that Rick Dreise likes to sit still. In addition to his work as co-founder of internet agency Convident from Groningen, he guides starting entrepreneurs and is involved in the business until the late hours.
Dreise inherited his entrepreneurial spirit from an early age, with the will to succeed as the main motivation. But his first years as an entrepreneur did not make Dreise very happy, because, in his own words, it was ‘foolishness in the margins’. He has now celebrated his 8th anniversary at Convident and his ambitions continue to grow. “Convident has to take the next step, the bar has to be raised!”
The 33-year-old Rick Dreise was born on June 19, 1988 in Roden, Drenthe. And whoever says Dreise also says Convident: the digital flagship that he has built up from scratch with partner Rutger van de Griendt. “That entrepreneurial drive runs deep inside,” says Dreise. “I started this company not to make it big, but to make it unique.”
Ten years ago, Dreise saw entrepreneurs fighting with the new concepts that were conquering the market in the internet business. “We create online concepts for our clients ourselves and let these companies excel online. uncompromisingly. Because if you say that you have the complete in-house knowledge from concept and design to development, you can’t stop halfway through that,” says Dreise.
“In this way we have established a company that is for the customer and for our employees. And not for the shareholders. That makes it simple, but also very unique.” “But,” says Dreise in an earlier interview at Founded in Groningen: “In the early years I was busy building my company day and night. As a result, I felt constantly hunted, I didn’t have time for anything anymore. Even an occasional pleasant trip was no longer an option.”
An overworking situation is always lurking with Dreise’s character traits. For example, he has sometimes considered putting the directorship in his own company on the back burner. “Entrepreneurship has given me a lot, but I also know the downside of entrepreneurship. The pressure, always being ‘on’ and constantly having to perform. A lot depends on the way in which you present your company and therefore your own role. We have deliberately taken a different route in recent years. It’s a cliché, but it’s an eternal struggle to find the right balance.”
The business life for Dreise started 10 years ago. After his position as a commercial specialist at Central Industry Group in Groningen, his career took a special turn. Together with a team, he took care of the commercial activities of the company and everything went well. Maybe too good. It made him restless and the employment contract also started to cause some friction. He was ready for a new challenge in a completely different environment. Sales in maritime technology were exchanged for entrepreneurship. And so stand on your own two feet.
“The ‘aha moment’ came while reading Timothy Ferris’ book The 4-Hour Work Week,” says Dreise. “I thought that was something! Not necessarily working 4 hours a day, but creating your own freedom. Being able to work wherever and whenever you want.” That is why Dreise started the internet agency Convident. And like so many great ideas, the concept of creating sites and shops was born out of frustration.
From the start of his internet agency, Dreise noticed that there was a lot of demand from the market for a party that was really good at websites and webshops. Most existing companies understood the game of advertising on Google, LinkedIn and Instagram. But on the side of design and web development, Dreise saw many opportunities. And not without success.
“How do you set up a user-friendly WordPress website? How do you build a relationship with your clients? What strategies do you use online? And perhaps most importantly: how do you properly manage the online expectations of your clients?” A broad customer base followed at breakneck speed, prompting Dreise to ask the following question: “Do I want to continue doing this alone?” A brainstorming session with his current business partner followed about how they could do things differently.
“I sometimes had the feeling that I had to fight against the image that comes to me. It may seem that way from the outside, but nothing could be further from the truth,” says Dreise. “People should know what you have to do to keep moving forward. My boundless ambition does not really help,” laughs the born Drent. “That also makes me the entrepreneur I am today.”
Convident is growing fast, and that sometimes comes at the expense of freedom. To regain that freedom, Dreise and his partner built a core team around him. With the same smile, Dreise thinks back to hiring the first employee. He said he made a classic mistake there. “Hiring the first person is always very complicated. We let ourselves be held hostage in our own business. We hired the first employee for 40 hours, in the ‘traditional’ way at our own location. You almost felt obliged to be on location for 40 hours. That not only went against my freedom, but you also create a role that does not suit you.”
Today there is a completely different idea within Convident about working on location or elsewhere. “Not everyone needs to be in the office or on location. In that regard, a lot has changed in recent years. From the ‘old-fashioned’ 9-to-5 mentality to distributed working and from Dutch colleagues to a remote team of employees abroad. Very cool to see all the steps happen. You don’t think much about it yourself and I know that I have to enjoy the route there more than achieving your goals. Because I know myself, when I have achieved a goal, I am already working on the next two goals.”
“An important lesson I learned is to surround yourself with entrepreneurs who are already one step further. That way I was able to skip a lot of steps,” explains Dreise. “I always think: what kind of company would I like to work for? I don’t want to be managed in a hierarchical way (which was one of the main reasons for leaving my last employer). That’s why we at Convident have listened carefully to our people from day one. I don’t want a volatile environment. It really hurts me when someone says after a few years of work that he or she has seen it here again. There is no lack of ambitions, so people can also grow in (other) roles in positions. We go in everything for the long term!”
“Everything revolves around data and starts with a strategy,” continues Dreise. He takes the sports world as an example. “I am a real sports fan and I learn a lot from it. I often compare entrepreneurship with top sport. For example, I was left with the fact that I would like to win. Everyone always thinks that you can win just about anything, but that’s not true. All conditions must be correct. Suppose you look at motorsport. Everyone thinks you can win the race with a good driver, but you won’t with a bad car. Even if you have a good car but a bad driver, you don’t win. It’s the same with our company. Suppose you have a digital agency with the lowest prices, but the service is bad: then I have a team that is definitely not going to win.”
The biggest challenge for Convident was developing a suitable business model, including all preparations, the working method, services, technical developments and the combination between development and online marketing. “We have been working for 8 years now. And the business model is still not set in stone and is subject to change. But this also has its advantages, because it means that you can respond quickly to changing markets.”
And the blood is creeping… exactly. And so Dreise will do even more in the future. “I think it’s cool to help starting entrepreneurs forward and to share my experiences. And of course we are going to make great strides with Convident, but who knows what will come my way!”