Innovation and creativity. That's what matters most to inepro founder Ritske Clewits. He started his career as a buyer at his father's company which – not surprising at all – wasn't exciting enough. He was – and is – an inventor, and took it upon himself to expand his job to the development of smart cards, as he was sure this was the future. However, spending money and time without immediate business as a result? That didn't fit his father's philosophy. And so, Clewits took matters into his own hands, bought out his part of the company, and started inepro at the young age of only 22.
Striking products from inepro
With inepro – a combination of the words Innovatieve Nederlandse Producten (translated: Innovative Dutch Products) – he aimed for high quality, outstanding service, and striking products. His innovations focused on automation could not have been better received in the market. inepro's first customer was none other than the then state-owned company, the PTT. In no time this concern was using inepro's chip card systems, smart cards for telephones and televisions for the patients of the 20 largest hospitals in the Netherlands. In addition all facilities of the postal offices that involved authentication and payment were also handled by Clewits’ company. Therefore, even in the first year of existence, inepro's bank balance existed out of only green numbers. According to Clewits, this was the result of simply not having any funding - they just had to create business themselves.
Ajax football stadium
Throughout the years, the small team of three that started out in ’93 grew to approximately 100 employees, the markets from one to four, and the company expanded to over 8 countries. The most memorable project of inepro in Clewits eyes is the development, production, and delivery of the payment system in the Arena – home of the Amsterdam-based football club Ajax. Ritske managed to organize an unasked-for meeting and after telling them all they needed could be done, he and his team managed to realize everything within four months' time, after which also the Gelredome knocked on inepro’s doors. According to Clewits, it’s all about playing the game. By observing others, gaining insight into their feelings, and thereby understanding how their brain works, Clewits manages to get nine out of ten people to follow his lead and get behind his ideas and vision.
Aim for big, bigger, biggest
When asking Clewits how he made this growth happen, he says his ‘can-do mentality’ is to blame. As do many starting entrepreneurs he aimed for big, bigger, biggest. Eagerly, he always took five steps forward, followed by a forced two steps back. But as he states: you need to keep moving, and three steps of growth are also improvement.
Work ethic mixed with humor and fun
However, this does count as one of his lessons learned. He now knows it's better to create a stable well-put-together platform than doing – and wanting – too much at once and start thinking about the next big thing before the previous one has been executed. He also experienced that a ‘can do mentality’ also takes its toll when all ideas are realized. In the beginning, the company's strategy could be changed after just one short conversation between a few people but now there are lots of different opinions, visions, and processes that need to be included. As a result, speed is lost, as is the personal and emotional connection with all employees, and compromising is inevitable. In addition, teamwork and work ethic mixed with humor and fun is an essential condition for inepro's success. When this is realized, everyone has an internal motivation to work hard and reach the bigger goal. In the end, it's all about the game.
This is reflected in his leadership style. Everyone at inepro has the opportunity to discover their talents and Ritske likes to offer them a safe haven to do so. Logically, this is a give-and-take situation, but does the employee keep the work ethic and the fun? Then he or she will have a job for life!