Roland Dürre
Sunday February 15th, 2015


Isn’t it Strange?
I get more and more enquiries. Would I like to support an enterprise a little bit in the role of business angel, mentor, counsellor or some such? This truly delights me.

Here are a few ideas of mine on the topic

Hier mit Klaus Hofeditz bei der Klausur von

Yours truly and Klaus Hofeditz during a closed session at the in January 2015 in Hamburg

I do not see myself as a business angel. Neither am I a counsellor or coach you can employ.

Yet I will gladly support my friends as a comrade who thinks and seeks. Preferably in homeopathic doses.
I want to have maximal success with as few sessions as possible. And I am happy if, perhaps, the constructive ideas will only come a few days (or weeks) after the event.

Working with the prudent protagonists of a young (or also older) enterprise, I am quite willing to find the important (and right) questions. Because that is what we need in order to find the suitable solutions and come up with prudent measures and activities.

Also, I will gladly support people in order to prevent them from wasting too much strength in the wrong direction, which would mean a loss of potential. And I also like helping people who belong together to find each other. Networking and building bridges!

I like working with nice teams. But not for a salary based on time slots. If, after a project has been finished, my “customers” get the impression that my assistance was helpful, it will make me happy to receive some sort of reward. In case of a significant gain, this reward might well be material and establish itself in the hideous form of Euros, Yankee-Dollars, Swiss Franken or Bitcoins against my invoice.

In other words: in the form of a value contract – as Gebhard Borck proposes (Gebhard is a good friend of mine and, among other things, author of the “Affenmärchen” and of a small book  titled “Your Price” on “Value Contracts“).

Trust is something I find a wonderful idea – this is how, in my imagination, value contracts will be feasible without actual contracts! And no matter how things might proceed, I will always benefit from what I learn.

In the future, I only wish to work with people I perceive as responsible/constructive  and representing the feeling of “together”.  Persons with courage who enjoy working for what they believe in. It is nice if mental concepts and inner beliefs, as well as the values of the team, fit. After all, I also want to enjoy what I am doing.

I appreciate the ideas of the common good economy . Incidentally, I would also like to emphasize that the common good and making a suitable profit do not contradict each other. On the contrary: the common good and a certain profit supplement each other superbly.

Apropos success
For me, success is an important factor. Consequently, I can and will only take up the role if I personally believe in the active persons and the result they wish to attain. If I am convinced that it will work, I will gladly make myself part of it.

And you should not overestimate my contribution. I, too, am only human. And success is something you cannot force. Consequently, I would like you to not come with great expectations.

Well, those are my ideas about how cooperation could be agreed upon.

🙂 You might almost take this to be my General Terms and Conditions.

(Translated by EG)

The picture is by Franziska Köppe (madiko), who took it on the Hamburg-Altona PM Camp closed session. Next to me, you find Klaus Hofeditz, who is now promoting the first international project management camp (PM-Camp) in Barcelona #PMCampBar. And I feel privileged to be godfather to #PMCampBar and thus to support Klaus. This is also a way

Roland Dürre
Saturday September 20th, 2014

Start up (10) – The Conciliatory Ending.

But, please, do not forget: not everybody must become an entrepreneur! There are lots of other ways towards happiness

If you wish to live your life in self-responsibility, it is not necessary for you to become an entrepreneur. Just like in “real life”, an entrepreneur, too, will be subjected to plenty of control from outside, perhaps only in a different form. Perhaps it is even harder to bear.

”Be willing and able to live your life in a self-responsible way” as an important definition of “living freedom” is quite possible in other ways, as well. All it means is to “do your own thing”, start exciting enterprises (not necessarily companies), or simply live your own life in a very intense and autonomous way. In other words: you want to make your life “your own project”.

It might be something as banal as starting your own family. In fact, I admire the decision of a woman to have a baby as true entrepreneurship. A life led in a very conscious way is already entrepreneurship at a huge scale. Developing your own opinion consciously is entrepreneurship…

Yet there are many more sensible things you can do that are entrepreneurial. It might be the support of an NGO or taking responsibility in all kinds of social systems – be it at the “Tafel” or in one of the often accused political parties. In fact, they are exactly the places where some good and autonomously emancipated-thinking persons would be badly needed.

Basically, it is always about taking responsibility. Consequently, I consider the school crossing guard just as much an entrepreneur as the retired manager who accompanies a dying person on his final journey in the hospice.

Writing a blog or being part of an internet community is a form of courageous entrepreneurship. Just as being part of a barcamp is also already entrepreneurship on a small scale.

And this is where, of course, I warmly recommend the PM-Camp – the next one will take place in Dornbirn between November 20th and 22nd, 2014!!!
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday September 18th, 2014

Start-up (9) – Making Use of the Wisdom of the Masses?

I would like to encourage start-ups to open up, but at the same time I would like to warn against small-mindedness and insular thinking. So here is what I would like to say:

Diversity beats simple-mindedness!

Be careful not to become isolated, because it is quite easy to go down a wrong path following an idea and then turn dogmatic idealist. And then you can easily earn the reputation of being a nutcase.

Be open!

Establish a founders’ blog and twitter about your enterprise! Share your experience with many. In return, you will receive lots of precious knowledge and a whole treasure of experiences.

Put trust before secrecy!

Mostly, your ideas will not be all that unique. There are many out there who have similar ideas and would like to share their knowledge with you.

No patents!

It is better to lay open your discoveries early on. Then others cannot have them patented and many potential enemies will no longer be interested. In fact, patents will often cause you a lot of trouble and when all is said and done they do not really help, because the powerful will ignore them, anyway.


Might well be the best way to get hold of some money (and important insight).


Legally, you do not always have to be an incorporated company or a limited liability company. There are other models, too, which can be quite goal-oriented.

Common Welfare

Start early thinking about whether your product might answer to the requirements of a Common Welfare Business . If it does, you might gain sympathizers and comrades-in-arms.

It is all about understanding the future. That is a difficult task, and it is easier if you combine forces.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday September 13th, 2014

Start Up (8) – Learning About the Market!

If you start in a market you do not know anything about, you must have really strong reasons. Especially if you selected a market where many contestants have already established their positions or if the market is generally perceived as basically dead.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what many founders do. Sometimes the reason is probably their inexperience and because they do not know how complex such a market is. Perhaps they also do it because they want to emulate famous idols, like Steve Jobs. He shattered the market of classic mobile phones with his i-phone.

At the time, the “other Steve” (Mr. Ballmer of Microsoft) provocatively said something cynical that did not at all sound so very unreasonable to me: “What does Apple want with a device on the cell-phone market that does not even have keys and with which you cannot even call someone?”. Well, Steve Jobs simply ignored this and was proved correct.

I think this is not the common business rule. In fact, it is a rather special case. Consequently, if you are a “normal founder”, you should take a really close look at the market. It is just too daring to start on a market you, as a young university graduate, cannot really know. You should at least know it a little bit.

This means you have to learn and work towards understanding your target market. Regardless of all enthusiasm and euphoria, you usually cannot be a success unless you learned the market in your target segment and understand its workings. There is no other way of being able to judge if your own idea actually has a chance of survival. More often than not, it is still rather unfinished and, like a rock in the river as it makes its way down the stream, receives its final polish before it will become one or several nice round pebbles.

The best solution when it comes to “learning about the market” is trying it yourself! But this will cost time and energy. There can be setbacks and disappointments, all of which you will have to be able to tolerate.

Learning, too, is expensive and costs energy! You can often learn more comfortably “sponsored by others”, for instance as an employee. And unfortunately, the proverb about “learning years not being master years” is also true when you found a company and learn a market.

Consequently, my recommendation to founders of a start-up enterprise might be
“Spend some time as employees in your target area. And when the moment comes and you feel you have learned enough, get under way!”

In retrospective, I must say that I, too, did exactly this. I learned all the technology and competence about projects at Siemens – and I learned how to do business at Softlab.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday September 6th, 2014

Start Up (7) – Business Decisions – Betting on the Future!?

Well – if you are perfectly honest, you must admit that business decisions, in particular, are always betting on the future!

After all: all decisions have a factor of uncertainty. And they must be relevant. This is the very definition of a decision. Consequently, every business decision, including the founding of an enterprise, is a bet. Basically, the founder of an enterprise bets on how his development will be judged on a huge market.

True entrepreneurs will bet with their own money. They put their own work, their own capital and their own knowledge into the scale. Once in a while, they will also bet for their existence – and occasionally they lose the bet.

For managers who have been employed (such as the directors of DAX enterprises), it is a bit easier – they bet with other people’s money. This might well work – as long as they remain “upright merchants”. Except that is what they forget too often. Would you like me to give you a few names?

Why don’t we start a brain game and bet on a beautiful business: soccer? Who is going to be German Champion in 2014/2015. We will probably win if we say FC Bayern.

Now let us make it harder. Let us bet on what the statistics will say at the end of the season. Or maybe the results of individual match days, the goal shooters, how the actual matches will be played…

🙂 And I bet that almost all bets will be wrong.

Now you will protest: stop, because we spectators cannot do anything about it. Whereas an entrepreneur can influence procedures and shape his company.

OK, so let us do the same betting again. Now you are no longer just spectators, but players. Imagine you as a team of founders are both the players and coaches of a league team. And I will leave it simple: You will only have to bet on your own matches, that is: those where your own players are active. Well, that should work, shouldn’t it? Except…?

How much influence do you actually have – both in life and in soccer? Can you really influence the bets and along with them the decisions? As you can see, this stupid betting on the future is all but a guarantee for success.

Consequently, here is what I recommend:

If you are a start-up, don’t start with the very big bets. Instead, start small. As I always repeat: totally agile. In this way, you will develop a chain of small “dynamic bets” and will always just bet on the next step ahead.

Now you might reply: but there are the huge successes we get to read about every day. Did not someone bet well there?

Actually: one will always bet correctly. He is the winner.

Like in the SpVgg Unterhaching “VIP Lounge”. I have been watching the lottery there for years. The guests, and I gladly count myself one of them, bet on the results of the day.
And although there are nowhere near as many participants as probably with the FC Bayern, I remember only once that the betting contest had no winner. That was years ago in the second league – and at the time the SpVgg won 7:0 against Saarbrücken. Yet, the poor Hachingers still had to leave the league at the end of the season.

As I said: one will always be the winner. And “The winner takes it all”. But how many play and how many win!?

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday August 16th, 2014

Entrepreneur’s Diary #100 – “Recruitment“

How to find the right kinds of people – and why recruitment is an anti-phrase!

In my last “entrepreneur’s diary” article, I recommended that you should think negatively and list all the measures with which you could best destroy your own enterprise. Of course, what I meant was not criminal activities or mercantile stupidity, but “entrepreneurial” activities.

For service providers such as InterFace, I found the following answers:

  • You want to employ the wrong kinds of people.
  • You want to introduce as many rules and processes as possible.
  • You want to see to it that the enterprise is mainly concerned about itself.

The last two items are clear. Being concerned mainly with itself will prevent you from concentrating on the business, the employees and the customers. All these many rules and processes will demotivate people and lead to being even more concerned with yourself. This is truly a danger, because every system, almost by definition, tends to be concerned with itself to a huge extend.

In this article, I want to describe how you can find the right kinds of people for your enterprise. There are a few basic rules.

  • “Hire character, train the skill!“

This is a very simple sentence, yet it is the one central statement. The important thing is that the candidate fits the enterprise and has potential. You will easily get all else in order.
  • Never employ anyone through head-hunters!

Head-hunters will almost always deliver someone who actually will not be compatible with you. You are looking for exactly those people who want to live self-responsible and who come to you because they think your enterprise is a great thing, aren’t you? Experienced entrepreneurs will also tell you that the people they got “through head-hunters” usually only stay with you for a short time. After two years, they are mostly working elsewhere. And head-hunters will cost a lot of money. You will always end up in the low 5-digit EURO range. Just imagine, for instance, how many master theses written by first-class students you could have supported for the 15,000 € a head-hunter’s support with finding a new employee would cost you.
  • Do not write job discriptions!
    They will only attract head-hunters and many unwelcome would-be employees. The more differentiated you write your job description, the worse, because then the applicants will match their curricula vitae better with what you described as wanted. Also, they will be better prepared to meet the requirements you stated. This will increase the danger that the applicant will prepare (too) well for the interview and you will fall victim to his strategy. Many non-qualified persons got their jobs in this way, later not living up to the necessary standards.
  • No advertising!

Even in former times, the job adverts in the big newspaper were more a matter of image than of looking for applicants. Consequently, you should never advertise anywhere. Neither in the old media, nor on the internet. The good workers will certainly not come via “Stepstone”. The only exception is the enterprise homepage. This is where you can advertise that you are looking to employ. But be concise and limit yourself to a few catch phrases. Like the short posters pinned to the gates in olden times.
  • Follow recommendations!

    The best future employees are those you already know or those recommended to you by people you really trust. Experience says the same: just do some research on how people first came to work for a “good enterprise”. You will certainly find out that it was not through head-hunters or adverts. Instead, they will have come recommended, be it by other colleagues, customers, or partners. Or else they came directly, because they saw the enterprise and liked what they saw.
  • Even if you have the smallest doubt: say “NO”!
    Follow your intuition! If your guts say “no”, then you should also say “no”. The sector is a small one, there is lots of competence around. If your enterprise is a good one, the “right” persons will come, anyway. Otherwise, it is about time that you see to it that yours becomes a “good” enterprise. You can only manage to do that if you hire exclusively the rights persons.


Only let persons become part of the enterprise you enjoy being accompanied by when visiting a customer and if you can then proudly tell said customers: may I introduce to you Mrs. or Mr. “Smith/Miller/Jones/…” and I am truly glad to have him/her with us. And only hire persons you like and enjoy meeting!

(Translated by EG)


For more articles from my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Friday August 15th, 2014

Start-up (1) – Failure

As during many summers before, I am currently camping at Porto Ageranos. The campground is situated on the Peloponnesus, on the middle finger, about 10 kilometres south of Gythio, shortly before the mild climate of Mani. From our tent, you have only 10 metres to go before you reach the ocean. The first night was truly great. And since we know the region quite well, we have been feeling really at home from the outset!

I take advantage of the time I spand at this place for relaxing, contemplation and, not least, for making plans. And, of course, I also do a lot of swimming and bike-riding, I eat well and simply spend quality time with my beloved family and friends. And, naturally, I also write some articles (for the IF Blog).
This time around, my main topic is start ups.

I know many people. With some of them, I am good friends. Among them are also quite a few young colleagues. It seems to me that I am actually doing quite well when it comes to getting along with the young generation.

A few years ago, I started getting interested in the foundation of new enterprises. For instance, I am constantly asked to sit in the jury for a business plan contest. As a mentor, I counsel persons and enterprises, sometimes intensely, sometimes sporadically. Consequently, I know a little about what is going on.
Most of the teams I know and acompany are truly great teams. They are industrious and creative and they try to lead their lives independently and to build up an enterprise, investing the utmost personal enthusiasm on many levels based on an exciting idea.

And then they fail.

Some of them fail at the very outset, others as soon as promotion programs, such as EXIST are over, or else after the first financing. More often than not, the period of suffering will continue for some time. Once in a while, they find an “emergency exit”. And only very few of them will be a success – and those mostly in a totally different way than they had originally planned.

Most of those who fail leave behind a huge amount of strength and also money. The only consolation for them is that they learned a lot, in other words: they “failed successfully”. Yet this is not much of a consolation, is it? After all, if they had taken up an alternative life line, for instance through a good job with a medium-sized company, they could probably have learned a lot more for their personal future.

As I see it, this is a gigantic waste of capital, creativity and industriousness (“waste” in the sense of Kaizen). Also, the frustration and disappointment many of the young persons concerned suffer is painful. And I often think that this frequent failure might have been avoidable in many cases.

Because the mass-failures are easily explained. Mostly, the founders work just like the expertise of a past epoch tells them to. And this pattern never really worked very well. Today, it generally does not pan out at all. How are the success patterns of yesterday supposed to work in the world of tomorrow, anyway?
And the very few exceptions – incidentally, they are all due to the accumulation of particularly lucky circumstances – only prove this rule.

Why is failure normal?

The answer is simple: for instance, big concerns, too, constantly try to throw new products onto the market. These concerns have everything you need for a new product idea: capital in masses, a well-known brand, excellent marketing, strong marketing organizations, world-wide access to the markets, great engineers and providers, and much more. And above all: they know their market, because more often than not they have been “learning” and “working towards it” for decades.

And still their new product inventions often fail. If they are lucky, as few as 10 % of such new inventions will become more or less a success on the market. Make your criteria for the definition of “success” a little stricter, and you get an even lower number.

Except how is a young team that has none of these things supposed to compete? Just with their young light-heartedness and creativity? This is nonsense!

One conclusion might be that young founders will only have a real chance on totally new markets. That would mean young founders should shirk (almost) all business ideas around existing technologies and solutions. The current development seems to justify this argument. Well, perhaps I can give a first tentative piece of advice to start-ups:

Be careful if you wish to enter into markets where others already have their standing.

To be sure, great concerns with their organization and processes are their own stumbling block when it comes to creative topics. Their success has the negative side that they will always think in old patterns. They know this and consequently look for innovation outside their own walls. The foundation of “acceleration“ departments and their looking for cooperation with start-ups is their way out of it. After all, this is also the latest idea of “UnternehmerTUM” of Munich Technical University. The same is true for the new first mayor of our state capital Munich, Mr. Reiter.

The magic word “cooperation between concerns and start-ups”, however, will not work, either. Firstly, the old enterprises intensely live the rejection from outside as in: “not invented here“. I witnessed this quite frequently and also made the experience myself in strategic cooperation with big firms – more than once. And I could also name quite a few examples where the results of XXX acceleration or XXX invest failed.

But the “old methods”, too, are only successful in few exceptional cases. Let me exemplify this with almost all “tax-saving models”. For many years now, we have witnessed this not only in sectors such as “film”, “realty”, “shipping”, or “alternative energy”. The huge losses suffered by investors in projects around railway and canal building are also good examples.

Mostly, their failure was not because they fell victim to fraud or untrustworthy businessmen. To be sure, those also happened. But mostly the reason was that the underlying business models and plans were just wrong. Regardless of the fact that they had been made by experts in a “professional” way. Experts who really knew their markets. And regardless of having been controlled critically by other experts, for instance in banking. Mind you, those banking experts were really serious, because, after all, they had a share. Here, too, I could write about very personal experiences: in one case, the Sparkasse München, which I hold in high esteem, lost a few million Euros – in my own case, we are, luckily, only talking something in the middle five-digit range.

But if even projects written by experts and validated by many other experts do not work, how can you then expect a young team of founders without any experience and knowledge of the market to steer their enterprise successfully into a non-predictable future?

Seen under this light, founding a new company is basically a hopeless or at least very courageous adventure. An adventure no sane person should by any rights let himself be drawn into.

However, I think that it is possible to improve the chance of success for a start-up from what feels like 1 : 100 to something that perhaps even comes close to 1 : 1 (success versus failure ratio)..

I know that this is a rather courageous announcement of mine. Consequently, I plan to use my two weeks on a campground at the southernmost end of the Peloponnesus on Mani for writing a few articles about “start-ups” here in my IF Blog. This is both for the start-ups I myself counsel and all others.

RMD (Translated by EG)


I will start with my own experiences as a young entrepreneur in the next instalment. As I see it, you can already learn quite a bit from it.