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Leading by Humans.
Leadership
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Leading by Humans.

As a successful founder, Andreas Leonhard could sit back and relax. But as soon as he does, new ideas inevitably pop up and the next project is close behind. With unbridled passion, the founder, partner and business angel of several companies is constantly pushing ahead with new plans – and bringing them to a successful conclusion. Be it the sale of his sales agency Quasar Communications, the founding of the sensation marketing agency Passion People, or the Social Media Academy, to name but a few.

We are so happy that Andreas took the time for a detailed interview with us on the premise of his new project, Scraegg. We of course wanted to know: How does he personally describe his success? Which leadership qualities and values are important to him? And inextricably linked: Andreas Leonhard – the private person. How does he create balance? And what is his »Plan B«?

Andreas, how would you describe yourself, based on what you do every day?

I am someone who likes to set projects in motion. That is my favorite thing to do. All of the companies in which I am currently active are either young, in the start-up phase or in constant development. I am constantly developing new ideas and business areas. I then like to think about how I can inspire people and how to make the idea a success.

Which role best describes what you do? Do you see yourself more as an entrepreneur, founder, inventor, initiator, mastermind, investor, artist, leader?

I think »doer« hits the nail on the head. I have various roles – sometimes I’m a partner, other times I’m in a managing director role with great responsibility in the operative business. There are also companies where I am involved as a business angel in an advisory capacity. This »doer mentality« is important in all areas.

What did you need in order to be where you are today?

Ever since my first small GbR, which I founded with friends at the age of 16/17, I have always plunged courageously into a project. When I have decided on something, then I believed in it. I had, in addition to courage, the patience to endure even lean periods. There were projects in my life that were on the brink of bankruptcy. But I was able to push things forward again because I believed in them. This mixture of courage and unconditional faith, I believe, are the most important entrepreneurial characteristics. Otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Where did your courage come from?

I think it’s innate (laughs). To be honest, I’ve never asked myself that question before. It’s always been there. Maybe it has to do with the healthy dose of self-confidence that I’ve always had. This has developed into a healthy mixture, so that if I believe in something, I can go through with it.

What inspired you to become a founder?

I have always been a very creative person. My first big company was an advertising agency. On the other hand, I have also developed as a person over the years. But creativity is a strong driving force, because it constantly gives me new ideas.

Has anyone ever told you that you wouldn’t make it? And how did you deal with it?

I have always been someone who visualizes his goals, even today. Of course, in every phase there were also doubters. For example, with the advertising agency, I heard concerns such as, »Maybe someday you’ll have 10 people and a handful of customers, but the market is so big and there are so many competitors, why should you suddenly become the one agency that manages to land the really big customers?« and so forth. Such voices are always present. That just comes with the territory.

I’m resistant. I of course listen to everything people have to say. I have also learned to take the valuable comments to heart and to consider whether there might be some point to them. Aside from the true pessimists, there are also constructive critics. The latter are very valuable. You have to be open enough, even if you still firmly believe in an idea. This gives me the chance to recognize a challenge in advance that I might not have thought of myself. You can quickly get tunnel vision.

The Social Media Akademie advertises training courses that have a lot to do with the Internet. What would you do if the Internet didn’t exist?

This is easy to answer. Before the breakthrough of the Internet in the 90s, I had a profession or company. It started out as an event agency, then promotional topics were added, and in the end, it was a holding company with several GmbHs and divisions. It was actually almost a full-service agency. Organizing events fascinates me to this day. There are many interfaces to the digital world today, but the whole thing worked wonderfully without the Internet. I could imagine going back to that point at any time.

What role does the Internet play for you as well as your professional career, the many start-ups you have founded and those you have yet to establish?

For me as a private person, the Internet is an extremely practical tool that makes everyday life more comfortable in many situations. For me professionally, it allowed me my exit from the advertising agency. I was able to walk right out the door at the time. That was unusual, but it worked. My brother-in-law took me to a community summit in Wiesbaden, where start-ups presented themselves. That was a real aha experience for me. Afterwards, I started to familiarize myself with this topic and thought about how I could create an interface between what I already bring from the marketing world and the possibilities of the Internet.

After selling the large agency, I founded the creative agency »Passion People«. We began there with social media consulting. That was very, very rudimentary. But we believed in the future of the idea and thought about how we could teach all of the new possibilities to the many customers who didn’t know much about it. It should be an off-the-shelf training product that makes companies fit for the challenge of the digital age. This was when the idea for the Social Media Akademie was born. The Social Media Akademie has also been very popular right from the start. We have been to conferences more often and met more and more people from the digital industry. This is how the initial conversations with start-ups came about, who asked me if I would like to join them as a business angel. My career would certainly not have gone this way without the Internet.

What criteria do you use to select friends, acquaintances, but more importantly, team colleagues and co-founders? What is important to you?

You don’t choose friends. Friendships develop, you get to know people and you either work with each other or you don’t. I feel really lucky that I have some really good people in my environment whom I can truly call friends. It’s different professionally. This often results in a selection situation when I hire an employee, we put together a founding team or something similar. I pay attention to certain values. Of course, I also look at whether someone has professional potential, but I only hire people who I feel would work with me on a personal level. This includes people whom I believe to be authentic, honest and loyal. One of my most important values is tolerance. That is what I want from the people around me. A tolerant lifestyle makes you more open and curious. You can learn a lot more in life. For me, this is reflected in the fact that I consciously give every person a chance, to learn from them, to find what is interesting about them. This is very difficult, and I don’t want to say that I always succeed in completely breaking away from external impressions and first appearances. That’s the same in private life. For me, tolerance also means letting others do as they see fit, even if I see things differently. I listen to what others have to say but also bring my point of view. This tolerance has already helped me a lot to broaden my horizon or to discover hidden potentials in people. Tolerance, openness, loyalty – that’s what I look for in the people I work with every day. This is very important in order to maintain a fun work environment.

Is that what you would call team spirit?

That’s part of it. At some point you will get a feeling for whether the others carry the same spirit within them, that is, this open, tolerant culture. They’ve been in my company since the beginning. There were flat hierarchies. As a boss, I never had my own office, and I still don’t. No secretary either. I take care of my own appointments. This brings me much closer to my environment. I’ve always had an open-door policy. Anyone can come to me at any time with an idea or criticism. The concerns of my employees are very important to me.

If you choose people with spirit, you can bring mutual support and a sense of community to a whole company. There are also the lone warriors who are perhaps better professionally than a competitor and may bring 10 more customers with them, but they don’t have this spirit. Such a person would not be good for the culture in the company. I’ve already let go so-called high potentials because I realized that they just didn’t fit. Of course, my personality has taken me to where I am today. But so have the people I’ve worked with. An enterprise can only become good if the right selection of people came together. Outstanding teams have been formed to support this great corporate culture. And that is the basis for doing an outstanding job. This builds on each other.

What would you do if you were no longer a founder or managing director?

There is a list that I have been updating for many, many years. Every once in a while, I get to check something off. It has listed, for example, »write a book«. Either a thriller, or a non-fiction or reference book on the topic of spirit. It would be called »Leading by Humans« or »Leading by People«. Then there are things listed such as »learn to play drums«, »learn Spanish« and much more. One of my bigger projects is to put down roots in Ibiza at some point.

What would you do if you were no longer a founder or managing director?

There is a list that I have been updating for many, many years. Every once in a while, I get to check something off. It has listed, for example, »write a book«. Either a thriller, or a non-fiction or reference book on the topic of spirit. It would be called »Leading by Humans« or »Leading by People«. Then there are things listed such as »learn to play drums«, »learn Spanish« and much more. One of my bigger projects is to put down roots in Ibiza at some point.

What significance does Ibiza have for you? Why does this island fascinate you?

Let me give you a brief overview of how I came to Ibiza. I think I’ve visited once a year for almost 25 years, if not longer. Because I like electronic music so much, a few friends and I decided to go there and check it out. I was immediately drawn to the party scene. The more I went, the more I met versatile people who work and live there regularly or who have been visiting there much longer than I have. The amazing thing about Ibiza is that you have no classes between all these different backgrounds. When you’re there, everyone is instantly friends. On Ibiza, these unnatural boundaries disappear completely, and its own energy is created.

How does it feel to be a founder, to always tackle new things and work with such different personalities?

It takes 5-7 years for you as a founder to be in good water and to know where the journey is heading. During this time, I sometimes feel like a little child, full of curiosity and excitement. I can hardly wait to reach the next milestones or meet exciting people. This is one of the main reasons why I enjoy it so much.

Is there such a thing as a »best moment« when it comes to starting a company? Can you describe it?

A moment that I always eagerly look forward to in the founding phase and where I am also impatient and extremely happy, is the step from the concept and development phase to the live performance of the product.

Can you switch off completely?

I’ve always been very good at this, even in stressful phases. When I come home in the evening, I leave everything at the front door. Of course, having a great family helps. I have always been a person who can accept situations very well. When I’m under a lot of stress, there’s nothing I can really do to change anything. So why should I keep carrying it around with me? This works very well in the evening and even when we have vacations.

When do you know when you’ve had enough?

I try a lot to listen to my body and have never been anyone who has really suffered from temporary stress. I’m not going to let that happen either. I am very organized and try to make my daily work very efficient.

About Andreas Leonhard.

At 15, it was already clear to Andreas Leonhard that he would later pursue a creative career. He wrote scripts and wanted to do advertising as a copywriter better than there had been so far. As entrepreneurship has a long tradition in his family, it was clear to him early on that he wanted to set up his own business. This started with the foundation of a GbR to organize techno raves, including its own security company. He deliberately kept his studies short in order to get into the field early on. He quickly saw that he could do things differently and better when it came to events and promotions and founded the agency Quasar Communications, which soon became one of the largest and most successful below-the-line agencies. He created projects for the MTV European Music Awards, Adidas and Aral. However, the offer he received to sell Quasar Communications was too good to refuse – his first exit.

To give his creativity free rein, he founded Passion People in 2007, an agency that exclusively implements extraordinary ideas in the areas of events, guerilla marketing, promotion and social media for clients such as Audi and Rammstein. Since many companies were still afraid of social media in 2010, Andreas founded the Social Media Akademie that year, the first professional training program in this field. The second successful exit in Andreas’s career took place in 2016. With Scraegg, he finally entered the food industry as a co-founder, and with meisterklasse.de, he adapts the American idea of masterclass for the German-speaking area. What also drives Andreas is the passing on of his entrepreneurial spirit and know-how, which is particularly strongly influenced by an open working atmosphere – just like with us. In this way, he became co-founder of other companies such as Sones, echofy, Sensorberg or icgood.