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Five-minute interview: Erik Nicolai, Workspace 365

Another candidate answers the questions and reveals a little bit more about themselves and their role in the channel. This time, we chat to Workspace 365 founder Erik Nicolai

Morning, Erik, tell us what you do for a living.

I’m Erik Nicolai, and I am the founder of Workspace 365, a software company which originally started in the Netherlands. Our software helps employees become more productive by bringing all their relevant apps and information together in a single, adaptive digital workplace unique to them.

Why are you the right person for this job?

I have a background in product marketing, a critical component of success for a product-orientated company. I’m also a storyteller, which is a key skill for any CEO. I can help future partners and customers visualise our product’s benefits, simplify concepts and use readily understood, relatable metaphors.

What gets you up in the morning?

I’m a morning person, waking around six, refreshed and ready for a full day. The alarm never goes on snooze. I get up and I crack on because every day is a new opportunity to make a difference.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

My business partner Hans de Graaf. We have worked together for more than 17 years, 12 of which have been within Workspace 365. Our working partnership makes difficult decisions easier and provides support when we’re taking next steps.  

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

The best advice: “Hire the best people and allow them to surprise you rather than telling them what to do.” I’ve learned so much by getting out of the way and letting others shine.   

What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?

If you like constant change, jump right in. If you prefer a predictable and stable working life, don’t do it.

Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning digital transformation?

Sure. I think we have been in a state of digital transformation (oops!) since the introduction of the internet or even the PC. It’s not a one-off event you come to the end of, but a process. Like ageing, you can’t stop it and fighting it just exhausts you. Just make the most out of it without making it such a big deal.

What do the next five years hold for the channel?

With licensing becoming more and more transparent, it’s more important than ever before to be clear about your value proposition.

“The best advice: Hire the best people and allow them to surprise you rather than telling them what to do”

Erik Nicolai, Workspace 365

Compare it to a restaurant: anyone could buy the ingredients, but the whole experience – sitting down, the food coming out of the kitchen – makes the difference. The same applies to managed service providers (MSPs). Anyone can sell a licence, but it’s what you do with it that determines an MSP’s value.

What goal do you have to achieve before you die, and why?

I want people to remember that I helped them professionally and personally. If I can help foster in my colleagues and children the desire to help others become a better version of themselves, I’ll be happy.

What would be your Desert Island MP3s?

Alex Cruz, a DJ who creates hour-long podcasts of truly relaxing music. I’m sure they’d be perfect for a desert island – if I could get online to sign in to Soundcloud.

What temptation can you not resist?

Puff pastry, my big guilty pleasure. 

What was your first car and how does it compare with what you drive now?

My first car was a Peugeot 207. I now drive a Peugeot 5008, which is ideal for a family with three young kids.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with? Why, what did they do?

Jamie Oliver. It’s not that I don’t like him – I’m a big fan, but it would be so frustrating to be trapped, talking food but unable to access a kitchen.

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be and why?

A dolphin. Everyone loves you and you live in the place I love the most, the ocean!

And finally, a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla are getting ready for a no-holds-barred rumble. Who is your money on and why?

The silverback. He might not win, but he’ll face defeat with a straight back and a puffed chest.

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