Franziska Schaadt is an entrepreneur, international keynote speaker, and founder of the modern selling agency FRANSCHA.
She consults mainly tech companies and shows them how they can leverage B2B Social media to find new business opportunities by building a professional brand, sharing content, and identifying business decision-makers. Franziska empowers her clients in making long-term strategies to increase their social outreach, gain an online reputation and position themselves in their relevant industry as thought leaders. She has coached hundreds of sellers, marketers, consultants, IT professionals from around the globe in building sustainable relationships online and creating a sales pipeline. Her specialty is coaching C-level executives in professional branding and advising leaders to establish themselves as industry experts. She is also the host of the LinkedIn Livestream & Podcast “Room for Rawness” and is always on the lookout for interviewing impact-driven entrepreneurs and extraordinary leaders.
Franziska shares her knowledge either in interactive webinars, hands-on workshops, or inspiring keynote speeches for example at the UN Forum, the Enactus World Cup, Microsoft, Jabra, SAP, and Deloitte.
Franziska believes in integrating work and life. To maintain her high energy level, she practices and teaches yoga and meditation. Franziska is originally from Germany, studied International Business in Amsterdam and Cape Town and her current home base is Amsterdam. The now 27-year-old founded her first start-up at the age of 22.
Her entire team works from any location and shares her values of flexibility & independence of location. Her network ranges from India’s start-up industry over European small-to-medium businesses to American corporates.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Franziska Schaadt: I’ve asked myself from an early age the question “what is life really about” and went on a quest to find answers, first on the outside and more recently within myself. I was never intrigued to pursue a standard 9-5 job, following someone else’s commands and fitting in. My studies in International Business did set me up for my career as a management consultant for one of the big four. However, I’ve decided to take a risk and took matters into my own hands. Instead of following the career path that was set out for me, I created my own.
Every day I challenge the conventional definition of success and create my own personal definition of what it means. This is not set in stone and changes every year. However, what is consistent are my values. Important to live in integrity and being authentic by making choices aligned with my core values like freedom.
I’ve made it a rule to work 4 days a week, working smart instead of hard. I am now living and working on my own terms and standards. Every day I wake up asking myself “what are the experiences I want to create for myself? Whom do I want to grow into? What can I contribute to the world?” This is what motivates me to start working.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Franziska Schaadt: I always felt insecure about being a young woman in the mostly male-dominated tech industry. I was 22 when I founded my company. And mostly the only (young) woman in the room. My inner desire was to be heard, to be seen, and to be appreciated for who I am, despite my age or gender. That is why I joined a training education to become a professional speaker in a renowned academy in London. Its founder, Andy Harrington, also became my mentor. One day, when I felt frustrated for hearing once again “you could be the age of my daughter” I almost gave up my dream of becoming an international keynote speaker. Andy Harrington took me aside, gave me a pat on the shoulder, and said: “start before you are ready. Nobody feels truly ready to be on stage, to start your own business, or to be a parent. You should do it anyway and you’ll figure it out along the way. If you wait until you are ready, it’s too late.”
This advice stuck with me for the rest of my life. Whenever self-doubt creeps in or I feel like an imposter, I repeat it like a mantra “start before you are ready”.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Franziska Schaadt: Many entrepreneurs, including myself in the beginning stages, hold the belief “I must work hard to become successful” In fact, most of the industrial world was brought up to believe this.
But did you ever take a step back to reflect if this is actually true? Perhaps this is just a bullsh** rule implanted by society. Because it’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter. You can be productive in less time. Actually, if you take regular breaks, you will not only feel better but also produce better results. It all starts with you. When you change your own limiting beliefs, you start thinking different thoughts, which leads to making other choices and ending in greater results.
For example, I feel more fulfilled and get more done working 4 days a week. At the start of each year, I first decide how many holidays I plan on taking (mostly 10-12 weeks per year) before I plan on how much time I will spend on work.
You are in control. You choose how you set your priorities. Maybe it sounds counterintuitive to work less and be more successful. My team and I are living proof that it is possible and even more so I believe it should be a new way of working.
We’re able to attain the things we want without losing ourselves to the grind.
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
Franziska Schaadt: Beginning of this year, I decided to take matters into my own hands and not let external circumstances like a pandemic decide how I feel about myself or decide over the course of my company.
I started working with Jord Cuiper, a Specialist in the Psychology of Leadership & Self-Actualization, who helped me to create more space within myself to think, to be creative, and to do nothing. For example, having a day without any plans, playtime meaning just forgetting the time just like when you were a child.
Having such a go-getter mentality and living a high-paced life, I needed to learn how to do less and be more. One of the first exercises he gave me was to identify 3-5 things and activities in my life that I can stop doing. Instead of constantly adding more, I challenged myself to do less.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Franziska Schaadt: I lead from a place of wholeness and abundance. Some may call it feminine leadership. To give you an example, I hire for strengths and based on a clear definition of what we are looking for. I hire for future potential: Can the candidate grow beyond their past experience,
Is the candidate ready for a leadership role, and can the candidate evolve with us? We hire for culture and train for skill. A cultural fit is mandatory for us, so everyone agrees on the values that we live by.
We look for talents that want to be part of our journey, who have an entrepreneurial mindset, and understand what it means to build a plane while flying it. Together as a team, we aim for the moon and newbies become full team members from the very beginning. In a structured onboarding process, new colleagues are welcomed, and everyone is open to connecting, reaching out, and happy to help.
You don’t work at/for/with FRANSCHA, you gotta live FRANSCHA.
The mindset of FRANSCHA revolves around your personal development. Changing the way we think, work, live, and form relationships. It’s not just work – It’s a lifestyle. We do have amazing, inspiring people, with that special spark in our team.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Franziska Schaadt: People buy from people. People want to work with people.
A founder’s personal brand is the essence of the company. Around it are the organizational values that align with the founder’s personal brand. The WHY is always more credible and trustworthy than just stating the WHAT or the HOW.
Your personal brand is the most powerful tool you have to tell your stories. We all know: stories sell, content tells.
To be a credible thought leader, a visionary, or pioneer, you need to be able to convince others, make them do the seemingly impossible, and take them with you on your journey, For me personally, my personal brand is the vehicle behind my company’s values to make my team trust in our vision, bind our clients to our mission and achieve an overall level of success.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Franziska Schaadt: I am following Adam Grant’s suggestion to strive for the opposite of what many leaders are doing: strong values and weak opinions instead of strong opinions and weak values. ‘integrity depends on being consistent in our principles. Progress depends on being flexible in our policies.’
I always knew deep down what my values were but depending on the #environment I was in, I didn’t dare to embody them. I stopped doing. I started being. I prioritized my inner freedom which brought back my power, my feminine energy. Feminine essence for me is flow. It is fullness. It is radiance and it is life force itself. It is an instinctual wild nature that all women possess. It is the unexplainable knowing. It is chaos and wilderness.
Like the ocean, it is vast, it fills empty spaces, it purifies darkness, it is home to a diversity of life. Like the waves, it’s in a constant dance with itself and goes up and down all the time. I slowed down. I am receptive, present, and allowing life to unfold. Wholeness. And ladies, please don’t ever underestimate the value of your softer side.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Franziska Schaadt: I first came across inspirational quotes like “Find something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” at the age of 18.
I put myself under a lot of pressure to find my PURPOSE in life. I wanted to make a true IMPACT on the world. I was only halfway through my international business studies, but I already knew that a corporate job as a consultant wouldn’t give me the sense of fulfillment these quotes promised. And to be honest, I did believe that work would never feel like work if you love what you do. I had such a naive, romanticized idea in my head how working should feel like. Little did I know. Probably, I was one of the millions of people who got tricked and believed it’s possible to have a job that’s all sunshine and glitter.
Based on that belief, I started my own business because I was sure loving what I do would be easier if I’m my own boss. After four years of being my own boss and running a profitable business, I can promise that “do what you love and you’ll never have to work” is a big fat lie. You might enjoy what you’re doing, but if you have ambitious goals, even your dream business will require actual work. Find something you can’t stop doing because you LOVE it. I’m one of the few people who genuinely love what they do for a living. I fell in love again with my company after escaping from my own prison. And guess what? Despite the joy and freedom I experience in my job, I sometimes need to get my ass up and do stuff that’s not fun or interesting. I need to invoice clients, manage LinkedIn groups and get rid of spammers, deal with technical difficulties, reply to support emails, etc. I don’t enjoy any of these tasks, but I go to bed feeling fulfilled and grateful every single night.
Doing something you love is not about not doing annoying work. It’s about a sense of fulfillment despite the difficulties you face. Even the most enjoyable and fun job or business will feel like a job at times. And that’s fine. The problem is that we’re being told that’s not how it’s supposed to be and that we should be feeling joyful and passionate 100% of the time. Stop thinking that you need to love what you do to have a great life.
Allow yourself to do things you hate so you can discover what’s truly important and fulfilling.
You don’t need to love every minute of your working day to live a fulfilled life. You need to be dedicated to a mission and purpose that’s bigger than yourself.
What’s your favorite “leadership” quote and how has it affected the way you implement your leadership style?
Franziska Schaadt: A few days ago, I was interviewed about the topic of leadership. How do I think leadership has changed? What trends will evolve in the future? That got me thinking.
I believe it was 2 years ago when I spoke at Deloitte about leadership. Honestly, I felt out of place. What was I gonna tell the partners and the EMEA leadership team about leadership?! I found it odd to be even invited back then being 24 years old (warning: massive imposter syndrome alert).
Over time, I feel more comfortable talking about leadership. Why? Because I’ve changed what leadership means to me. It’s no longer about the number of people who follow you or how well others execute your orders or how authoritative you seem. Instead, it’s about how well you lead yourself, how much good people do in your absence, and if your “giving” leadership style shares value and fosters community.
In my NLP Master, I learned „to lead, you need to follow“ which basically means don’t persuade others using your position, authority, words but instead pace them. It means “going along” with another person, at their pace, until they are ready to change.
Don’t even think about short-cutting this process then you’ll be resisted. There are no resistant people, only inflexible communicators – resistance is a sign of insufficient pacing.
I observe this a lot in my 1-1 coaching sessions with CEOs who initially come to me for advice on their personal brand and positioning. We dive deeper into career coaching, asking big questions like „what is my life really about?“. When they embrace their essence, the next challenge is how to convey this discovery to their employees, investors, and stakeholders. Their leadership style totally changes. They describe it as „in the beginning, it’s like wearing too big shoes for the first time. It’s like they don’t fit but somehow you start walking and you grow into them.“
In a nutshell, I came to conclude that my leadership style is just an expression of who I am. Some may call it „servant“, others „authentic”, and a few „feminine“. I can relate to how labeling it helps others to understand but I believe experiencing it makes a lasting difference.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Franziska Schaadt: We are a purpose-built, digital, boutique agency and a completely remote team with a strong tribe feeling: being connected, caring for one another while bringing out the best of FRANSCHA and each other.
In our team, we are not measured by our tasks, seniority, or position, but by our strengths, talents, and values. Tasks are not assigned to you but rather picked up on a basis on where you want to establish your expertise.
We come to work as “OURSELVES”.
This may sound obvious, but we do not separate professional and private life. At FRANSCHA, we’ve created a workplace where we can be ourselves. We do not separate between being colleagues and friends but rather we see ourselves as one big family – where “colleagues” are your friends and siblings.
Our “Wild Wednesday’s” and “Wake-up calls” are opportunities to connect privately, catching up on each other’s lives, and bond as friends. During the LOVE WEEK, we actively injected love for one week in our team. During this week every team member has a secret valentine for whom we prepare little appreciations and surprises. By doing so everyone has something to look forward to and gets motivated and feels appreciated by the team. The idea behind that week – initiated originally by Mindvalley – is to show and share love and kindness and strengthen the company culture.
Work is not a transaction for us. It is not an exchange of time for money. Instead, it’s an experience: we make learning & personal growth our agenda items at FRANSCHA. We use the term “work” loosely. At FRANSCHA work is fun, motivating, and a blend of our private lives and working lives. Our work is more like a journey where colleagues are friends that guide us.
We grow daily. Our mentors accompany us on our journey. In our “Talent Talks” with our founder, we work out a roadmap for our journey on how the company and the team can help each team member to realize their dreams and aspirations by taking our strengths, interests, and talents into account.
We value flexibility, independence, and freedom.
In other words, we make the most out of it by living and working location-independent. That means we are free to organize our working hours to complete any tasks on time. Our team members are based in Portugal, Scotland, Germany, and the Netherlands – we embrace diversity and individual personalities. Once a year we include a workcation into our schedules, to chase the sun and work but also recharge together and grow more together as a team. In 2020, we spent two weeks in Croatia sailing, working, and enjoying holidays together. During our workcations, we get to know each other better, see how everyone works, learn from each other, and create our most creative ideas and visions.
We have full confidence in each other and in each other’s work. When you pick up a task, it is a given that we believe in your capability to work independently. We value self-leadership, and everyone can individually organize their tasks and fulfill them from anywhere while always asking and receiving feedback. That way we can all learn from each other while we create accountability with clear deadlines and commitment between each other.
We nurture a culture of innovation and feedback supported by flat hierarchies. You can ALWAYS ask questions to EVERYONE. In our “Throwback Thursday” meetings, the whole team comes together to reflect on the past months and share our highlights, lessons learned, failures, pain points, and formulate action steps to take. It is important for us to have an open failure culture. This means individuals can make mistakes, but we will always solve them together – we analyze what went wrong, find ways to improve our processes, and learn from our failures. At the end of a business year, we reflect on what happened to embrace our successes and learnings, so we can further grow and improve in the following months and years.
We are action takers and change-makers. If there is a great idea, we love going from the core idea to the implementation within days or weeks. We always try to apply lean thinking, which means we develop a Minimum Viable Product, test it, gather feedback, and improve it. Our decision cycles are short, and our communication is transparent and fast.
Another valuable item in our daily life is our meeting culture: We always have a check-in, so everyone can arrive at the meeting. During the meeting, everyone is invited to actively participate, and we embrace an environment of co-creation. Everyone is heard and seen as equal sparring partners, which allows us to define concrete action steps, which leads to great outcomes after our meetings.
We like to share our knowledge. We want to share our experience and knowledge with other people. For example, how teams can work remotely 100% of the time. How to lead teams whose members have never met in real life, how to rethink old working models and give way to new ones.
We like to share from the heart. Be it in internal workshops, in which we advance each other as a team, in which we learn from each other, try out new things together, or in groups presenting promising innovations to the team. In doing so, we sometimes involve partners, family, or friends of our team members who, for example, have been able to learn small hacks or even fantastic innovations at their work or in their lives and pass on their knowledge to us. We love to learn and grow.
At FRANSCHA we live “Abundance Mindset” (as opposed to “Scarcity Mindset”), following the motto “The more you give, the more you get back.” We love to share our knowledge with others, as this brings us joy and contributes to making everyone better off. We believe that the pie is big enough for everyone. We open our network, we share our resources like wo(man) power, skills, and knowledge. Through blog articles, social media updates, live streams, and podcasts, we are more than happy to share our knowledge with our community.
But we also want to have a profound, positive impact on others and know the importance of being and having a mentor. If you have a person who is already where you want to be, a mentee can save time with the wisdom and guidance of a mentor because they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, use them as a resonance room, and get to the GOAL faster. Therefore, we all have mentors, but at the same time, we are mentors to other people who would like to get to the point we have already gotten to.
We want to continue to develop every day. We don’t stick to the boundaries of our job roles, coaching curriculum, and pre-written texts – we are moving forward.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Franziska Schaadt for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Franziska Schaadt or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.