Dream Big, Start Small To Achieve Unlimited Business Growth, with Andreas Wilhelmsson
Published DateAuthorDan Sullivan and Strategic Coach
Andreas Wilhelmsson started his first company when he was 17. As a young entrepreneur, he approached the largest supermarket chain in Sweden, where he lives, and asked what it would take to become their main supplier of produce. Now, at the age of 33, he grows healthy greens in a way that lets him provide sustainable food year-round. In this episode, Andreas shares what it’s taken to find his business success—including his growth mindset and his evolving entrepreneur motivation—and lessons he’s learned along the way.
Here's some of what you'll learn in this episode:
The two passions that led to Andreas’s current company.
His advice for anyone looking to embark on an entrepreneurial career path.
How a success streak can put an entrepreneur in danger.
Why Andreas joined The Strategic Coach® Program.
Why he’s taken himself out of the day-to-day management of his company.
Teenagers can’t even imagine a 25-year goal, but they can still dare to dream big.
Do something small every day that will get you closer to your big goal.
Don’t start with marketing. Start by going out and selling to the customer.
If you’re too stuck in your own mindset, you won’t dare to ask for help.
If you can’t figure out a solution, ask someone who’s done it before, and do what they did.
To fill challenging roles, you need to find people who enjoy those challenges.
If you challenge people, that can provide inspiration and energy.
Sharing your challenges is the way you grow.
The more time you take completely off work, the more you’re rejuvenated.
In general, people underestimate how much you get done when you’re doing the work you’re meant to do.
Dan Sullivan: Hi, this is Dan Sullivan. I'd like to welcome you to the Multiplier Mindset Podcast. It's a real pleasure today on Multiplier Mindset, and this is with Andreas Wilhelmsson. Andreas lives in Stockholm, in Sweden. I first met him in person. I was at Abundance 360, the collaborative conference that we have every year with Peter Diamandis. Andreas had to come over to California for that talk. If you wanted the perfect entrepreneur for Strategic Coach and you could get him in a vending machine, it would almost be like Andreas.
He's just got everything going for him. One of the things I just noticed is that he was a full-fledged entrepreneur when he was 18. And three points that really stuck out for me for what Andreas had to share. One was he started his business model for his present business by going out and finding the biggest possible check writer, which was the number one supermarket chain in Sweden. He said, "What does it take to be number one supplier to you?" At that point, his business considered of work that he was doing in a garage.
This is so refreshing to me because so many people come up with an idea and then they think about how they're going to impose the idea on the world. What he does, he went out and said, "Who writes checks for big new ideas?" And he says, "Now all I have to do is check all the boxes and I'll have my biggest check writer." And he does. People get this idea and then they want the world to accept their idea. He went out and said, "What will people write a big check for that matches up with what I want to do?" Which is the quick place to start all creativity and innovation.
The world of food is really transforming because health and fitness has become a very, very big topic. People know that there's a lot of food that you're getting in supermarkets and other places that it doesn't help you at all from a health standpoint. Every time you're eating this food, you're actually shortening your life. Andreas has gone right to the center of this, and he's just zeroed in on plants.
What he's finding, not only the plants that are available in Sweden and plants that are available, but he's done an inventory, and I don't know anyone else who's done this, but he's identified not just tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of plants in the world that have medicinal effects and nutrition effects that you wouldn't get in any particular place. The way he brings these to you is that he does all of his growing of plants indoors.
There's different names for this, but he can totally control the conditions under which plants are grown, and he can eliminate pesticides. He can eliminate any kind of chemical intervention, and he can get the right kind of sunlight and the effects of sunlight. It's actually artificial. And he can just produce and standardize high-quality nutritious food that's good for you. Now he's in 20% of the places where you buy fresh vegetables and fresh fruits in Sweden, and now he wants to go global.
Andreas Wilhelmsson: My name is Andreas, located in Sweden, and day to day, I grow Supernormal Greens because the normal way of growing is not good enough. Instead, we have taken the whole ecosystem and moved it indoors so we can provide sustainable food year round. I didn't have any passion for green, but I had a lot of passion for new technology, always had. I started my first company when I was 17. This was actually just in the beginning when I joined Coach. When I did join Coach, I actually didn't work on this.
I had a friend of mine that had this side project that I just had entered that we then were just talking about, what should we do with this? And then basically half a year later, we saw so much potential. So then I decided to go full throttle with it and have been with it ever since. It's a passion for new technology combined with just loving the process of building companies that does good for the world. To go back to me as a teenager, I'm 33 now, so that's 15 years ago or so, I was so much computer geek you ever could imagine.
I was not just a developer and gamer, I love to take computers apart, reprogram the microprocessors, and then throw them back in. That was me. During that time, I just happened to walk past a sign which basically said, "Do you want to run your own company?" At that time, I just had made some money of doing what I love, which was computers at that time. I just figured maybe I could do this for more people. So then I just took contact and then I started.
Basically during high school as a side hustle and got hooked on it and during the process started to learn that I actually liked the process of talking to the customer and the more company-building process than the actual computer stuff itself. I was 17 when I started, but I had 15 employees when I was 21. It took off quickly, and that was a web agency. For young entrepreneurs, I have two advises, which I also have given to about 100 teenagers that I've been coaching throughout the years that are in the same phase I was seeing when I was 17.
It's applicable basically to any entrepreneur who want to start off, and it's basically, "Dream big, start small, have this amazing dream." I love, as Dan usually say as well, I will say, have a 25-year horizon. Well, in the beginning when you're a teenager, you can't even imagine a 25-year horizon. But still dare to dream big and just give yourself time for it. But then start small. Do something little every day and start today that gets you closer to that goal. That's the first one. The second one is, "It always starts with the customer."
It always starts with the check writer. Don't spend weeks, hours doing the perfect website, the perfect marketing. It's never going to work. Go out and sell something, and then you start the other stuff. I did the same thing when we launched this company. I mean, I went to the biggest grocery store chain in Sweden that has 50% of the market and just went out to them and said, "What does it take to become your main supplier of fruits and vegetables?" It's one of the biggest companies in Sweden, so of course, it's quite cute when a young entrepreneur goes up. And they ask, "What do you have?" "Well, kind of a garage. It kind of works." "Okay, what are your volumes?" "Ah, not that much, but what does it take?" You get the dialogue going. It's the same when you start and it's the same when you continue as well, always start with the customer. But of course, a big turning point for me was, so I had great success my first five years as an entrepreneur roughly, and then had two really terrible years. Also, destroyed the web agency that I built up, basically because I was so stuck in my own mindset, I didn't dare to ask for help.
That was 2013 was a tough year that I remember, because then it was both... When your whole career has always been, it's always growing, it's always more sales the next month than it will be the previous month, and you start to planning for that, you start to get used to that, you have no risk thinking at all, that's not a good position when you suddenly don't have a month with growth and you can't handle that. By that time, I had got so caught up in doing everything, I have nothing close to a Self-Managing Company.
I mean, I was in everything, every detail. When things on top of that started to go south, that was a terrible year. But looking back now, also one of the best years that I'm glad that I had because it's developed me as a person and pushed me even further into finding people who have done it before, asked them how they do it and do the same. That's one of the reason I joined Coach. That's one of the reasons I started to network with local entrepreneurs in the community and on that passionate search for finding good people.
Some of them are hard to get, so then you need to sit on the stage sometime and interview them in front of a audience, Simon Sinek for example, and just getting into, how do you do what you do? How do you become good at what you want to become good at? If I hadn't had those experience, that passion for finding out, don't reinvent the wheel, wouldn't have been that strong. If we look at what we do, the buzzword people use is vertical farming. I think that's a terrible name because it has nothing to do...
We do grow it vertically, but that's not the big thing. The big thing is that we have a controlled ecosystem. The name makes people think that it's all about growing thing as high as you possibly can. It's not about that. If we look at what we do today, we do bagged lettuce and we do that because the footprint on the environment is terrible for bagged lettuce, especially if you look in the Nordics where we are that import a lot of fruits and vegetable in general and bagged lettuce in particular.
We started to do that, and we have hit the position now where we are able to have better products, so twice the shelf life, better taste, no pesticides. I mean, everything like that. Half the carbon footprint compared to all other bagged lettuces you can find in the shelf. And despite all this, having the exact same price as the competing traditionally grown imported lettuce, and that's when you become disruptive. We are disruptive on bagged lettuce now. We're rolling that out in Sweden.
You would find us in 20% of all stores in Sweden. We are rolling out in Sweden. We will start to roll out some more countries with bagged lettuce, and that sets the tone where the industry are now. We are one of the first, and there will come more, that are able to now say we are also price competitive. But vertical farming in general, or whatever you want to call it, still usually works with leafy greens, herbs, and so on. I think the really interesting thing is when you start to put in other kinds of plants.
I'm not just talking about bringing tomatoes or berries and things like that. I'm talking about growing plants that we don't grow today. If you look at the whole farmers all over the world, it doesn't matter if you use traditional methods, which is soil, or you have a greenhouse or you have a vertical farm, we play around with about 7,000 plants roughly. 7,000 plants in total. But if you check how many plants are out there, you will find more than 400,000 plants that we know of. Some of these have incredible benefits to them.
They have superpowers or Unique Abilities if you want to call them. For example, my co-founder is from Samoa. There you have a plant which you can go... If you cut your leg for some reason, you just go out into the forest or jungle, whatever you want to call it, pick this herb, rub it on your wound, and it will sterilize the wound and stop the bleeding. But it only grows there. And here in Sweden, for example, we have another type of blueberry compared to what you would find in other places of the world that can stabilize your glucose level.
You have these incredible plants, but they are super hard to grow because they grow in places of the world and you have some supplement companies that try to get them from the mountains of X, Y, and Z and put them together. We want to go after those plants, build a controlled environment that produce them at scale, at steady level where we enhance the properties that we're looking for. If you want a protein, for example, that you can eat, well, increase the amount of protein, or if you want this healing benefit, increase that benefit that you're looking for.
Put this factory next to someone who does product development of it. We, and I think the whole industry, will also be able to provide raw material for basically plant-based things that goes both into longevity and into food in general. But I'm not the scientist, but my co-founder are. I'm just the one who tells the world about the incredible stuff he does and we do here. I'm really good at bringing people on to start with. I'm the one that tells, here, this is the place we're going to go. Why can't we get there faster?
I need to recruit a certain type of person that likes to being challenged that way. We started to work with a company who are experts in building leadership teams for fast-growing companies. That's their expertise. They know how to put that together with the whole constellation. I remember the first... It's a couple of years ago, I had the first meeting with them, me and my co-founder. In the second meeting of meeting us, a potential customer, they tell me and my co-founder, and I was the CEO then, that, well, you are great leaders, but you're terrible managers.
You know that. I mean, we have no interest in following up. We have no interest in looking at all the risks. You need a team to be leveraging that to you so you hit the balance. We, myself as well as my co-founder, we challenge. I'm the challenger, can't this go faster, and they need to have a big argue with me. If they say no, I say, why not? This could go faster. This could go faster. You need to balance this with the team. I'm the one who challenge a lot and creates a lot of inspiration and energy in where we're going, and that usually helps also to bring people on to the journey.
If people then help me find the structure and the, okay, so then we need to do this day by day also, this is how we're going to check the list to make the operation work, well, then it's a good match. I think that's a short answer to my leadership style. What the Nordics in general and Strategic Coach as well have in common is transparency. If I sit in a panel or something in the vertical farming community, I'm usually radically more transparent about figures, numbers, where we are, issues we have that it's not just a fun story on stage than I see many others are.
I think that's a Nordic thing, not just a thing of us. And I see that in the Strategic Coach also. You are transparent. You talk about what's going good. You're proud of that, but you also share your challenges and that's the way you grow. I think that's a more common theme. How are things different? I would say it's not maybe the Nordics compared to the Strategic Coach community; it would rather be the entrepreneurial community compared to any other community.
But when I talk about Strategic Coach and the things we learn, a lot of entrepreneurs can't get their head around, and I was included in that, and I get surprised every time it worked despite I know it works now, that the more time you let yourself be free, the more Free Days you have, the more you just rejuvenate yourself, the more you get done, which is incredibly hard to get in the beginning.
That if you already are an entrepreneur, so you have the characteristics of you won't end up on the couch, but you really are someone who want to change the world and you're ready to work hard for it, if you are that type of person, the best advice you can give someone is just take a day off. And that's very hard to grasp. I think it took me one or two years in Coach before I really started to get that and really started to get that what happens when you truly work with what you're really good at, your Unique Abilities that you can enhance and all of that things.
It's not so much the Nordics compared to the Strategic Coach, but rather what Strategic Coach bring to the entrepreneurial mindsets of the world. If you just look at the company we have today, one of the best investments of time and money that I've done in the last two years is to upgrade my leadership team, including moving myself out as CEO, as leader of the leadership team. My Unique Ability is to envision and inspire. It's two things. The envision part is basically grab a double espresso, sit alone on a coffee shop and think, strategize, map out, this is how we should do it.
I love that. That's my former computer geek/programmer mind or world. Then I love to take that idea or any other idea that I've heard that someone else had thought through and just make people go on board on that, inspire. That can be on stage in a group setting like a workshop or a leadership team meeting or on stage. Those are two things for me. I've noticed that maybe if we're back four years ago, I did maybe 10% of that, maximum. Today, I'm about doing 80%-plus of those activities.
Especially the first thing, taking time to just envision where you want to go. I actually are scheduling coffee shop time, not just when I go to a workshop, but actually in the day-to-day. And that actually works. That actually make you think in a new way because that's what I'm good at. That's what I love doing. I think in general, people underestimate how much you get done when you truly work with what we are meant to do. And that was not clear four years ago what that was. If you would've asked me four years ago, I wouldn't tell you, "Envision and inspire."
I would've tell you, "I don't know. I like to solve things. I sometimes like to be on stage." "So, what are your Unique Abilities?" "I don't know." It takes some time, even if it maybe sounds obvious to people around you usually what your Unique Ability are. But it takes time before it really sinks in and becomes clear on how does your schedule look to enhance that and what kind of people do you need around you to be able to work with that.
But in general, The Entrepreneurial Time System gives you focus so you don't mess around with too many thoughts at the same time, and that way of working really works great for me. And also taking Free Days off with clear rules, that's no work for 24 hours. That thing alone led me to coming back to a passion of mine, which is dancing. I mean, I'm dancing more now than I did five years ago. I'm still not back to what I did 10-plus years ago when I was actively doing a lot of dancing, but still doing much more dance now.
I love that. That would've not come back to me naturally otherwise. It's never in balance. People should get that word out of the picture. I mean, it's not like, "Oh, now we hit the balance point. Now everything is aligned." I mean, you still need to go back and focus on it all the time. You're still like, "Okay, so how do I need to increase time on my Unique Ability? How do I increase the quality of my Free Days?" If you haven't heard these words before, as said, just check out Strategic Coach Entrepreneurial System and you will get it.
It's a neverending work, a neverending story, but you always become better. I see it as a cycle. You become a little bit better one quarter, and then you let it rest for a couple of quarters, and you go back to it and increase it even more and keep doing that. I did listen to a lot of podcasts with Dan even before I joined Strategic Coach and was at a workshop in London, a test workshop when Dan was there. What I appreciate with Dan is his whole just mindset of summing up. You start to think about your thinking really.
When we had a workshop in London recently together with them and just when you share your experience from the exercise you just did, and he helps you to say, "Don't tell me what's your answer; tell me what you thought when you look at your answer." Just keep leveling that up. I love that. It really, really helps everybody that gets to dip their finger in Strategic Coach, I think, and that's thanks to Dan.
Dan Sullivan: The one thing that really struck me is he realized that he's the visionary leader. He has removed himself from the day-to-day management of the company, and his job is to see the future, articulate the future, and give people purpose to grow a bigger future for his company, and I think that's the role of the entrepreneur. Babs and I have certainly done this in our company, and it's part and parcel.
It's the basic operating system of what everybody learns in Strategic Coach with The Self-Managing Company. I just find Andreas incredibly inspiring about who he is and the world he's creating and where it's going in the future.