‘It’s not work when you’re passionate about it’

In our ongoing feature series, we talk to Henrik Ørum Nissen, a serial entrepreneur whose latest project connects people interested in serious business networking over coffee.

'It's not work when you're passionate about it'
Henrik Ørum Nissen's new concept offers 'social networking in real life'. Photo: Submitted
Henrik Ørum 
Nissen has started over 25 companies, including PLUS Pension, Danish Network Academy (DNA), Goal Mind, Dream Dog Inc, Sweet Art Academy, Iværksætterriget (the centre of entrepreneurship in Denmark), and has sold 11 of them. He has been an advisor to nearly 100 other companies in both in Denmark and abroad. He was also the force behind Denmark's largest business enterprise awards at an entrepreneurs' fair earlier this year. A sales trainer across Europe, Nissen organizes workshops on topics like sales, networking and entrepreneurship.
 The Local caught up with Nissen to talk about his new project Meet Over Coffee (MOC), a subscription-based start-up that brings like-minded people together to 'social network in real life'. 
How did you come up with the latest business idea?
There is a big need among decision makers in the corporate world, lawyers and other senior professionals to have a confidential exchange of ideas and business challenges. That's what we try to help them with – a verified network where there are no salespersons and a chance to network with someone near their area. For example, if you are travelling and there is another person in the same area or nearby, we suggest them to our subscribers so that they can meet over coffee. We also send them invites to sports events as people love getting such invitations. And it's not one-sided, both persons are equally interesting in serious networking and knowing more about each other. Additionally, we match them with the other person's position, experience, geography, company, interests, etc. Each week, members get a new meet-up suggestion. The agenda: What can I do for you? 

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?
A lot of people thought this was dating [laughs]. So, we had to explain to them it wasn't. The biggest initial challenge for me was to let go of the micro-management and let people take it forward on their own. We had to educate the members that they didn't have to sell to each other but rather to each other's networks.
 Although I started up in August 2014, investors are ready to buy MOC. Even though I never would have needed to work if I had accepted the first offer and sold MOC, I turned down the buyer. I didn't want them to mistreat my baby. A friend then suggested: "Don't fall in love with the product, fall in love with the customers" and that has helped me. 
How has the journey been so far?
I started with 111 free testers and then MOC had its first 60 members. There are now 1,200 members on the LinkedIn group and I have organised more than 800 coffee meetings so far. People want us to expand this initiative to other countries. I don't spend any money on marketing – it's almost entirely through word-of-mouth and through the members' LinkedIn network. Initially, the website was not prepared for this heavy traffic. We soon upgraded it and now also have a new feature for instant meet-ups via our smartphone app. In this feature, the members can be anywhere in Denmark, Sweden or the UK and the app can find another person in their vicinity and suggest a meet-up.

How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?
I am happier and calmer than I ever was. I am smiling more, have more freedom and it no longer feels like work. I was in politics earlier and people think you are cheating them as a politician. If you drive an expensive car, you are questioned for your extravagant choices. 
In business, you have a lot more freedom and can see your idea grow. People want to join you and really don't care about your bank balance. You can help people and inspire them.
Any other personal reflections and/or message to budding entrepreneurs?
When you start a business, you need to have an arrangement with your spouse or family. An entrepreneur really needs to involve his family and take their support. Your better half needs to understand. Also, as there are no holidays, you need passion to work hard. It's not work when you are passionate about your idea.
If you can, you should do both – your day job and your business. Leave your job only when the business is fully ready to support you.
 Although difficult at times, one must also be prepared for a reality check. Be open enough to rip apart your idea and yet stubborn enough to stick to the desired outcome. My new girlfriend ripped apart my idea but it helped me see things more clearly.
 You need to start small and find free tools, taking the time to do things yourself. Find the target audience and ask the question: 'Why should the customers buy your service/ product?' If you cannot answer this question yourself, your customers won't be able to either. But if you can answer it, selling will be easy and fun.
So go for it, but be realistic: Nobody is going to leave money on the street. Also, you cannot work only 20 hours a week and expect to be successful.
Nissen plans to hold Denmark's biggest coffee meeting in Hillerød on November 27 where he will be joined by Hillerød Mayor Dorte Meldgaard, Liberal Alliance party leader Anders Samuelsen, Gert Rune from the bone cancer foundation Ironman and other guest speakers. If you are interested in networkig with entrepreneurs in Denmark at this event, you can register for free here.

Sparsh SharmaSparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in the top Indian media companies, he decided to come to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local Denmark and blogging about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s

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Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

Job searching in Denmark can be a daunting and lengthy process with many hurdles to overcome. The Local spoke to Kay Xander Mellish, author of 'How to Work in Denmark', for her tips on submitting a successful CV and application.

Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

CVs in Denmark often have certain aspects of layout, presentation and content in common. By writing a CV that sticks to some of these recognisable customs, you may improve your chances of catching the eye of a potential employer.

1. Length

“Keep it to one excellent page, or two if you’re more senior. I’d say if you’re aged 30 and under, one page will be enough. Only add the jobs that are relevant. Employers don’t want to hear about that restaurant server or babysitting job if it’s not relevant to the role,” Mellish said.

2. Format

At the top of your CV, a paragraph describing your experience, skills, education and character is a common way to lead into a CV. This text can be adapted depending on the job you’re applying for and how you want to present your skills.

“Add three adjectives about yourself that you can support with an example, rather than ten adjectives with no story. For example, say you are innovative for this reason. People don’t like hot air in Denmark,” Mellish said.

Aside from the profile text, chronological lists of qualifications, relevant employment history and other relevant experience should be kept brief enough to fit the one to two pages.

3. Show your personal side and a photo

It is expected that applicants include a section about their hobbies, even family situation on their CV in Denmark, as well as a photo, to give a sense of who they are as a person.

“Danish employers are interested in you as a human, more so than employers in other countries so include information about yourself, including your age and your hobbies.

“Choose a good quality photo that is not too serious but shows you looking friendly and approachable,” Mellish said.

4. Story telling

“Think in terms of story telling”, Mellish advised. “Pure letters and numbers don’t mean a lot to employers in Denmark, they need to know what projects you’ve done, what role you played and what kind of person you are through your CV.

“So rather than writing ‘I have these grades’, it’s better to say ‘I worked on this project, it took this long, I achieved this'”, Mellish said.

5. Hit the ground running

Mellish called this “plug and play”, where you show you will slot right into the company and get going with the role.

“When employers are reading your CV, they want to know what you can do on day one of the job. Sell your ability to solve someone’s problem. You need to give the impression you can add value straight away.

“In Denmark the average length of time in a job is two and a half years, because you can take your pension when you move, so employers don’t want someone they need to spend time training,” Mellish told The Local.

READ ALSO: Five tips for writing an effective Danish CV

6. Teamwork

“Group work is very important in Denmark, more than individual achievements. So talk about your teamwork and how you worked with a group to produce a good business result. It shouldn’t be ‘me, me, me’ – that’s a turn off,” Mellish said.

7. LinkedIn

“People in Denmark love LinkedIn so you need a fabulous LinkedIn profile with a good picture. Before anyone calls you for an interview they’ll have looked at your LinkedIn profile.

“In your profile, include the storytelling, explaining the projects you’ve worked on. If your job involves a uniform, I recommend wearing it in your LinkedIn photo so people get that impression of you right away. Your background photo should also be work-related, not rainbows or puppies. Use it to tell the story of who you are,” Mellish advised.

8. Unsolicited application

This is when you approach a company or department you would like to work for, without a job being advertised. The Danish term for it is uopfordret ansøgning. 

“Many people make contact on LinkedIn and ask to meet for a coffee, where they chat and rather than pitch for a job, they ask if the person knows anyone looking for someone like them. Danish employers welcome this and many people are hired this way,” Mellish said.

Another way to network is to join a union, Mellish advised. They often have career events but can also help read your contract when you get a job offer, or help with any problems in the workplace. 

9. Ring the recruiter

The phone number of the hiring manager will often be in the job advert. Mellish advised finding a quiet place to ring them from and spending ten to fifteen minutes asking some good business questions.

“This also helps you work out if you might want to work for this person,” Mellish said.

“Send your CV within 24 hours of the phone call and mention you spoke to them in your application,” she added.

10. Patience

“On average it can take six months to find a job in Denmark. If it’s under this, you’re lucky. If it takes a year, it’s not you, it just takes a long time because employers are looking for someone to fit into their team.

“I wrote 100 letters, I got ten responses, three interviews and one job which I had for eight years,” Mellish told The Local.

“Danish employers are not always good at getting back to you. If you don’t hear anything, just keep applying for other jobs. If you sent an application on June 1st, you could send a follow-up email on June 15th, then you’ll have to leave it and move on,” she advised. 

Kay Xander Mellish’s book ‘How to Work in Denmark’ offers both job-searching advice and tips on how to succeed in the Danish workplace.