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How To Positively Contribute To The World: An Interview with Johanna Mager

We talk to Johanna Mager about her work helping companies grow and her goal of contributing positively to the world.

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9 minutes

    By Tiffany

    Tiffany studied Language and Economics, and now likes to write about business topics and conduct interviews with interesting people. She spends her free time looking after her plants and with her dog.

    Johanna Mager was aware of how many companies fail at growing. That is why she founded, helping businesses from the sustainable consumer goods sector enter the German market. What is more, she also decided to co-found The Next Normal to continue her commitment to sustainability and positive impact. Her main goal is to contribute positively to the world, and today Mailbutler has the chance to discover how she achieves it!

    Hi Johanna, nice to meet you! It is a great pleasure to have this interview with you. You founded in 2017 to help companies in the B2C sector enter the German market. Could you explain a little bit what services you offer?

    Yes, I am happy to do so. With we focus on impact-driven companies, those that want to make the world a better place. Entering new markets is not an easy task. According to data still today 80% of all market entries fail. Shocking, right? We want to make sure that this does not happen to “the good companies”.

    Understanding the market very well before entering and having people on the ground is a prerequisite for a successful market entry. That´s where we come in. Our tagline is “Your Feet on the Ground” and that is what we are. We get our “feet dirty” and make sure we turn the market inside out so that our customers know exactly what to focus on and where to allocate resources in the best possible way.

    Once we understood the market and know what we need to do, we also support with executive tasks like sales, marketing, content management and co. In a nutshell: Everything you need to become successful in a new market.

    It sounds really interesting! Why did you decide to focus on the German market? Why is Germany a good and attractive market for businesses to enter?

    One of the reasons is that I am German myself. I live in the Netherlands now and moved here when I was 19. When I got my very first job here I realized that my biggest USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is that I am German and “know the market”. I chose to make it my profession and really get to know the market, since “being from Germany” is definitely not the same as knowing it.

    It seems like everyone wants to expand their business to Germany. It is a big market with a lot of inhabitants (i.e. potential customers) and regarding sustainability they are just a little bit further than the Netherlands, for example. For customers from the UK it is the same, establishing a base on the mainland is a great advantage.

    And once you made it in Germany, you can be sure to make it in the rest of Europe as well. The “Made in Germany” label also counts for “succeeded in Germany” as it is a damn difficult market to enter. 

    You are absolutely right! Could you give us some tips on how to better establish a company in the German market?

    • Tip 1: Understand your customer! This of course is also valid in other countries, but even more important in Germany as it is a highly decentralized country. The just above 80 million inhabitants are certainly not the same and regional differences are real. 

    • Tip 2: Do not forget the competition. Many companies think that their market entry goes unnoticed by the competition or that they will not react. In many cases the opposite is true.

    • Tip 3: Everything takes longer in Germany. Make sure to take that into consideration for your forecast planning. You can say that sales cycles are double as long as from other European countries. If you can make it through that then you are set up for success. 

    • Tip 4: Use an outside view. Most mistakes happen because we are overly optimistic about what can go right. Make sure to uncover potential blind spots, also think into the directions of “what could go wrong”, but also do not forget white spots. There might be opportunities in a new market that are different to your home market that you have not thought about. 

    Very helpful tips, thanks! In addition, you focus on sustainable consumer goods sector. Have you always been passionate about sustainability?

    Yes and No. I think I was brought up quite conscious about nature and our planet but it was not high on my agenda. For me it all started with the documentary True Cost about the disaster that happened at the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh a few years ago.

    The more I learned about the issues in the fashion industry, the more I learned about the general issues that are happening right now and contribute to climate disruption. I knew that I had to do something about it and that I have the luxury to choose what I want to do. So I chose to contribute my career and personal life to a sustainable future

    Is that the reason why you consider yourself an eco-positive entrepreneur?

    At first, I was overwhelmed by what is happening and that you had to let go of so many things. Less clothes, less meat, less flying… everything was less. But how much less can one person do, right? So, I thought I need to contribute positively and add to the good system instead of just doing less of the bad system, if that makes sense. Doing more instead of doing less is why I consider myself eco-positive instead of just eco-neutral or carbon-neutral, which is probably the more common term.

    And how would you say that a company could improve its sustainability?

    It certainly depends on the industry but thinking consciously about everything you do is a great start. Do you really need to fly to that meeting or can you have a video call? And consider where to book your hotel rooms, too. We use, which is a convenient way to book your hotels at a low cost, lower carbon emissions and at the same time for a better system. Covid19 showed that more is possible than we thought. 

    Where do you buy your office supplies, what choices do you make on a daily basis and are there things that can be done differently? Engaging employees in this process often increases their motivation and productivity

    Also, it might make sense to reconsider the “profit-only” model where it is the ultimate goal to maximise shareholder value. Can resources be allocated differently and for a good cause, rather than trying to cut as many costs as possible just so that a happy few remain happy? 

    I think all of them are really helpful tips that companies should definitely take into account. Additionally, one of your goals is called “the positive triple bottom line”. What is the meaning of it?

    It means that you are equally strong at the three P´s, meaning People, Planet and Profit. Often success is only measured by looking at profits, then the people are considered and then, if there is still room also the impact on the planet is considered.

    We think it should be the other way around. Make sure people are taken care of, that we do not have inequality or social injustice. Involve them and give them a purpose, too. Then the planet, do not cause unnecessary harm just to increase profits. Think about your choices, cheaper is not always the best solution looking at the long term.

    We believe that if you take care of the people and the planet, profits will come to you, no matter what. So, a positive triple bottom line is when you achieved that goal. 

    Interesting! You are also the co-founder of The Next Normal, a community of people who are committed to sustainability and positive impact. What are the main tasks you have there?

    The Next Normal really is a side hustle for us. Before the Big C we organized monthly “Sustainaborrels”. Borrels is the Dutch word for Get together. The goal of these borrels is to connect like-minded people in a positive environment. As I mentioned earlier, doing less is not the solution, so we wanted to create an inspirational environment where people can come together and think of ways to create the next normal together. To contribute more and in a positive way.

    The community is around 350 members now and we are still astonished by the many connections that have risen over the past two years. I founded The Next Normal with two other women and we divide the tasks equally. I personally love organizing events and hosting them, so that what comes naturally to me and what I take care of usually, but in reality we do everything together. 

    And do you find it sometimes difficult to manage two organizations?

    I think it was about one year ago that we decided to turn The Next Normal into a business and quickly we realized that running two organizations is indeed quite a challenge. All three of us are entrepreneurs and we are all running our own companies.

    We also don´t do with less, so we have high demands for ourselves. We had 1000 ideas of what we can do with The Next Normal, from organizing workshops to develop a whole strategy around how to turn the business into something profitable… but then we decided to just stick to the borrels for now. But, we hope that this will change as soon as we can pick up life as usual again. Because these 1000 ideas I mentioned, they are definitely still there.

    I hope you could do that! Could you give some tips on how to become a powerful entrepreneurial woman to those women that, like you, want to start a business?

    It is quite a cliche but one of the best tips that I received was to “just go and do it”. If you feel like there is something you need to do, do not wait around until the idea is 100% perfect, because it never will be. When I started I had so many ideas, in the meantime I did not pursue any of them and I would not have been able to think of what I am doing now. Often it really helps to “just do” in order to find that true calling. And still, I am not sure if this is what I will do for the rest of my life and at the same time that´s the beauty of it. 

    Another helpful thing is to start lean and mean. Do not think of logo´s, websites and all that boogie stuff before you do not have a client or customer. Try to get some traction for what you have in mind so to then develop the brand around it. You will only learn about your target market once you are in it. That´s really hard to do from a theoretical standpoint.

    Last but not least: Don´t try to be a man! Use your female super powers to your advantage. Women are different than men and can be so much more successful if they know how to leverage that, instead of hiding it. Be cute AND smart, everyone will be blown away! 

    That’s very true! And has Mailbutler boosted your email communication?

    Of course. I really like the feature that you can design different signatures. I use the Apple Mail tool on my laptop and I find it quite hard to design a fancy signature there. With Mailbutler it was just a click on a button. And still use the Apple Mail. That´s a big advantage.

    In general I like that it is really a plugin instead of yet another platform. Scheduling emails is handy and also that you can collaborate with your team in a way more efficient manner is helpful. Other than that, really it is just details. I like that you see the logos or photos of the mailers because it makes “scanning your inbox” a lot easier. 

    So all in all I would say that Mailbutler is a time saver for sure

    Recommended reading: Use Cases of Email Read Receipts

    Wow! I am so happy to hear that. I’m glad that you enjoy Mailbutler the way you do. Hope you continue doing so. And that’s everything! It has been a pleasure talking to you today! It was very interesting.

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