Cooperation is preferable but is challenged by the pressures of competition
By Nika Jazaee
Inge Mous is an award winning serial entrepreneur and politician. She owns nine businesses and brands in the Netherlands as well as abroad. She is an international speaker on topics such as communication and performance. Inge interviewed the British multi-millionaire Michelle Mone about this subject and is eager to elaborate on working with women in 2017 under the name: “Women of Power and Change”. As a result of her career as a successful mediator, advisor and coach, in which she is always looking for ways to help and inspire other people, she felt that she could actually serve people better in a politically engaged position, as she discovered in her role as chairman of a committee in a large Dutch bank. Besides her political activities she is now the leader of an international business club, helping fellow entrepreneurs in finding their way up.
Tell me about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in Zeeland, a rural area along the sea in the south west of the Netherlands. As a real Dutchy every day I had to bike for two hours to high school. To describe who I was then and who I am today, I stick to the assumption that one third of the person you are is defined by your genes, one third is formed by socialisation through the family and the environment you grew up in and one third you can influence yourself. So in my genes I am a happy, optimistic person with a positive self-image. Outgoing, interested in music, acting and writing, with a caring nature to assure that everybody is happy. What I didn’t know was that my mother divorced my biological dad officially on the very day that I was born. A few years later she married my stepfather and I grew up in the belief he was my biological dad. I adored him and from him I learned that in life, you can climb as high as you want if you take action. As he was studying hard in the evenings, he made a career up to director in banking.
In my genes I am a happy, optimistic person with a positive self-image. Outgoing, interested in music, acting and writing, with a caring nature to assure that everybody is happy.
Furthermore the environment in which I grew up as a child was not very supportive for a healthy mental development. I was bullied at school, my elder sisters criticised the way I looked, as well as my way of walking and cycling and for my mother it was difficult to hand over tasks because she thought she did it best herself. In my teenage years her second marriage with my stepfather also went wrong and that period was filled with fights between my parents or periods of deafening silence. I’ll spare you the details but many times I suffered from stomach aches and I never felt really at home. Until we moved to another village and my beloved grandma came to live with us. She has always been my angel, my life vest, my example of unconditional love. I believe in God. I believe that the power of God works through people and that by this intervention my sanity was saved. I have seen miracles big and small all through my life and have received so many blessings through the people that I’ve met. I am thankful and humble for that and learned to be slow in judging other people.
You were only 26 when you started your first company as certified pregnancy counsellor for couples, tell me more about this journey?
People always say that you have to live your passion. For me, I have developed many skills in life, because I am always curious about the things I don’t know yet. And when I choose a big life goal, I sent all the energy in my life congruently in that direction. Whatever I do, read, say, think, it doesn’t matter. That’s the way you’ll achieve your goals. When I was young I did this unconsciously. Now, I am aware of my life strategy but I still do this by nature. My first company as a certified pregnancy counsellor is a good example. After high school I wanted to study midwifery but I was too young of age. So everything I chose next was in preparation to that goal. I studied nursery, my graduation project was about different courses on birth preparation and one of my best friends was a midwife. I applied for an extra internship on the specialised ward for gynaecology and obstetrics that normally is not allowed, but in my case it was granted.
I was always humble but so intensely motivated, enthusiastic and open about my goal, that there was no way anybody could ignore me. Then I saw so many people getting into labour totally unprepared, getting overwhelmed by the process. I wanted to do something about it. That is the heart of entrepreneurship. You discover a need or a problem that you can solve from your ability and interest, just start solving it! I did this for eight years next to my job as an obstetric nurse and my groups were always fully booked. In the end I consciously decided not to aspire to midwifery anymore and turned my life in another direction, following the same strategy in any topic over and over again.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in starting a company as a young woman, and the challenges you are still facing as a female entrepreneur?
For twenty years I felt comfortable in part-time entrepreneurship. In 2008 I started a new company in welfare together with a friend, but it didn’t work out. There was no actual business. When the opportunity arose to get an awesome job as a manager at a large welfare organisation, I decided it was now or never. I pulled back from the application process and ended the partnership with my friend. I made a fresh start on my own as a mediator, trainer and advisor. I did well, but it took me a while before I had enough clients to get a reasonable income out of it. I never felt uncertain before because I always experienced the comfort of money coming in out of my paid employment. Now, however, there were moments I was happy nobody could see me, this confident lady almost crying behind her computer browsing job sites. But giving up is not in my vocabulary. I understood there are many more aspects to entrepreneurship than merely helping people with my skills. So I started to use my life strategy again. I studied everything I could about entrepreneurship, organisations and mediation.
As money started to come in, I invested in coaching, and followed many entrepreneurial classes at the weekends, enthusing my husband to come along. I surrounded myself with a team of people specialising in issues such as tax payment. I set up connections with other mediators and joined them for practical training. I joined a peer group, a professional networking group and a mediator association. I went through every single exam and assessment and achieved any licence that I could or should have. All of that resulted in a smoothly running business, me being certified and qualified as an independent mediator, also working for the court of Rotterdam. So in my opinion, the biggest challenge for every human being is to keep going towards your goals and never give up.
You are also politically active, tell me more about the reason why it was important for you to get involved in politics?
My political aspirations started unexpectedly with playing an introductory game. Every participant had to write down their dream job, serious or fictitious. I never gave it any thought before, but I wrote down: Mayor. This incident kept playing in my mind. After I decided to explore if being in politics would suit my goals, you can imagine then what happened. Using my proven strategy, after four years of being on the board of the Christian Democratic Party in Dordrecht, the 23rd largest city in the Netherlands, I was elected as a councilwoman with preference votes. Now I am involved in many topics and groups, also on a national level and I am the chairwoman of several committees. As a politician I make a difference by influencing political decisions and policies.
However, I see a dark side in politics that has an analogy to entrepreneurship. In both branches, there are people that act out of a baseless but instinctive internal fear of scarcity. It makes them craving for power, whereby cooperation comes under pressure due to the knowledge that sooner or later you have to compete. It makes no difference whether it is for votes, positions or market share. What you say today in confidence, striving for a common good, can be used against you in competition tomorrow.
The media and social media can also be a dangerous place. There are times you don’t recognise yourself in the publicised content and whether it is true or not, before you are aware of something being wrong, you get a whole diarrhoea of unsubstantiated opinions poured out over your head, ruining your good name and brand. As a result people get suspicious, less open to cooperation and start protecting themselves. In the Netherlands we use the expression: “Trust comes on foot and leaves on a horseback”. So cooperation is preferable as it increases the number of opportunities, but don’t be naïve and make proper arrangements.
Running a company and being politically active, you also have an ambition in teaching, Can you tell us more about what you teach and why you think that education is important?
Teacher, coach, trainer, mediator, public speaker, moderator, it is all in my portfolio. I use all these skills and techniques in my mentoring programmes on topics such as communication and performance, as well as on women empowerment. John. D. Rockefeller mentioned that he would pay more for the ability to deal with people than for any other ability under the sun. My vision on teaching is, like Bernard Shaw, that you can only learn by practice. “If you teach a man anything, he will never learn.” Bernard says. Dale Carnegie adds to that: “Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. Only knowledge that is used, sticks in your mind.”
I am sceptical of programmes where there is only teaching and no possibility for any follow up in practice. I want to see the results of my effort and that is also my goal for my coaching clients, so I developed a system for learning by practice. I love to invest in my own personal growth and the growth of my company. I believe any entrepreneur should be pragmatic and always weigh the time, money and effort that you have to put in against the return in time, money, new relationships and satisfaction. It has to be worth it.
Next to that, we all need our heroes, gurus and mentors as the real life examples who practice what they preach but also preach what they practice! We need successful entrepreneurial and political women that share their experience with other women and men. When I ask you to sum up the five most successful businesspeople you know, is there a woman on your list? What if I ask you about ten? I rest my case.
As the owner of the Dutch chapter of an international business network, I am always looking for international power women who own a successful business, and who dare and care to speak in front of the members of the network about their accomplishments and the way they did it. If you don’t care about sharing and giving back, this is not for you. If you think you are not a skilled speaker and if it’s fear that is holding you back, you might be our next speaker! All you need is a stage and people that encourage you to practice. It’s hard to do it all on your own, I have been there myself. Openness to work together is key.
You run nine businesses and brands today, how do you make it work in your everyday routines?
Here is my confession: Yes, sometimes it is hard for me to keep all the balls in the air simultaneously. My political schedule is demanding and not always compatible with my entrepreneurial activities. Some people tell me it’s a luxury problem when I ask their opinion about making choices on equally great and tempting opportunities. Luxury or not, the more opportunities that come up, the harder the choices. I found answers in posing this question: Which opportunity contributes most to my mission, vision and goals? So goal setting is not the thing you do every year in December and then forget about it. They MUST be visible in your daily system, keeping you focused.
For the year of 2017, next to my political activities, I categorise my process goals in three main subjects, which are my women empowerment business, my business network and my family. So everything I do in my productivity hours is dedicated to those subjects and results in growth. I also follow a system in which I keep track of my time per subject. Next to my business goals I have my goals on personal development in knowledge, skills and health. For example I like to run, so I train three times a week together with my dog, and my goal is to run 10 kilometres in Rotterdam in April and improve my personal record.
In the end, I could never have done this on my own. I’m so grateful for the people around me like my team, mentors and coaches that encourage me to pursue and grow my mission, to inspire women to face their challenges and use them in their advantage to grow, enlarge their territory and increase their impact.
Why do you want to share your knowledge with the world today?
I believe in values such as loyalty and commitment as well as unconditional love and abundance. You get whatever you give. The contextual theory says that only parents give vertically to their children. The children can never pay back what the parents invested in them but that’s okay because they again give to their children. Considering this theory in all other relationships there has to be a way of horizontal pay back. That for me is conditional love and I don’t believe in this linear way of thinking. There are so many people I gave abundantly to in my life that, as far as I know, gave back less or nothing at all. It wore me out so I had to learn to balance that, but the miracles in my life came from the people whom I wasn’t expecting. The energy is universal.
There are so many people I gave abundantly to in my life that, as far as I know, gave back less or nothing at all. It wore me out so I had to learn to balance that, but the miracles in my life came from the people whom I wasn’t expecting. The energy is universal.
So if there is one third of your personality that you can influence yourself, you better start making the right choices! You should take your responsibility for the task that you are entrusted with. There is abundance for everybody, if we are willing to cooperate and share our skills and recourses. Do that with loyalty and commitment; in your family, during your studies, in your unpaid activities, in your job or company, in your government, in the world and its environment. That is how we are meant to be and that is what drives me every day with every single person I connect with. Live every day of your life and be the best version of yourself. Every day be a little bit better than the day before, learning how to be a little bit better the next day. That is growth, which is an awesome, fulfilling life journey.