Mikkel Noe Westh is the CEO of Granyon. Mikkel is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Mikkel provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of Granyon. Mikkel Noe Westh joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team is delighted to have Mikkel join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview.
Mikkel, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions about leadership, and entrepreneurship.
1. Mikkel, please tell us about Granyon. What is the elevator pitch?
Granyon is the result of a road trip from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon(hence the name). At the time Jesper Fagerlund and I worked at one of Denmarks biggest digital agencies, and we discussed why big agencies nearly always are organized the way they do and how they focus on selling products, hours solutions. This big focus on selling hours often dictates factory-like organizations where customers get to far away from the people working for them. When asking clients they don’t say they buy hours or products, they purchase passionate people, that genuinely what to make a positive difference for their business or organization.
Granyon focus on shorten the processes and bringing great teams together to corporate about creating great customer experiences. We don’t measure hours; instead, we genuinely care about the project from start to end instead of just the end solution. All too often, agencies are neglecting building relationships. When hiring project managers, we search for people with experience from the service or hotel business because they know that everything during a design process is a part of the overall experience. We remove as many layers as possible between the client and the team working for them. That way, designers get a direct understanding of the people and organization they are designing the solutions for. So I guess in short you could say that Granyon is about meeting our customers without arrogant designer egos and instead meet new situations with curiosity to learn everything we can about a new challenge. We try to listen before we come up with suggestions, it might sound basic, but it is actually hard for creative people not to jumping directly to new ideas and suggestions. We have focused on building a methodology and culture around beeing humble to the organizations we help. – Took the elevator to the 80th floor 😉
2. What is the one thing that makes Granyon great?
We started Granyon to be an alternative to what we think often comes with large agencies. Having long, expensive processes and forcing customers into templates or specific technologies, all to feet the agency organization instead of starting to understand the client. Who are they? Who are their target group and what can we as designers do to connect those two, not only for a brief moment made from awareness marketing but lasting relationships based strong, trustworthy brands. So in short, what makes Granyon unique is that the people we employ are both skilled craftsmen but also humble and curious to create valuable, lasting brands. No matter how big or famous the brand, it all comes down to people.
A very tangible thing we do differently from many other agencies is that our designers work solely with hand-drawn sketches and online prototypes, no photoshop or PDF’s. And because both the client and the design team see the same result at all times, there is full transparency. The clients can at all times, watch the designers over the shoulder and guide us on the way. We have design expertise, and the customer knows their organization and their target group in that way, we become one team instead of the usual agency-customer relationship. And that is a thing we hear again and again is a new and valuable way of working.
3. Please tell us what is the key to being a great entrepreneur?
Dare to be true to your vision even when things look very difficult. Our second year was hard, and we really had to fight our way through, but we believed that there was room for a different kind of design agency, and luckily that proved to be true. Today we still follow the initial vision, and we are happy to see that our customers are delighted for the way we work and the solutions that come out of working as a team instead of the usual agency-client relationship. I think it is essential to stick to your vision but also be ready to change the route based on the feedback you get on the journey.
4. What is the best advice can you give to a young entrepreneur just starting out with a new venture?
Remember that you are building a brand. You might have a unique product, but you will easily be forgotten if the company your building don’t have a personality and a story. This is important for your customers to connect with your business but also to attract the best people. In the beginning, we nearly solely made employer branding, we focused on telling why Granyon was different to work at, not counting hours but concentrating on the experience our clients have instead. And by targeting employees, we also made it attractive to customers.
5. What is the one thing that you, as a person, want to be known for?
I don’t have the ambition to be known 😉 But I hope people see me as a positive and curious person with a mission to bring skilled, passionate people together to develop themselves and the brands we work within a positive direction.
6. When building a business, what is the one most important thing to keep in mind at all times?
In danger of sounding like a cliche, I think it’s about the people. As an agency, we sell people, not products. So without people and a clear culture, we are nothing. Daring to follow your gut feeling and take chances that not always seem like the most financial sane choice is important too. Some of the projects we did con amore proved to be the ones that gave us the most business in the long run and also the projects that made the teams the proudest because we made a difference.
7. When hiring employees, what is the one most important thing you look for?
Skills are the quickest thing to check off. What is harder is if the person will match the Granyon culture. To be sure new employees start on a three month trial period, and if everyone agrees that the new person fits the family we move on with a steady position. People on our team will be working directly with our clients. So everyone has to like communicating and working with people. Because we focus on the whole experience you get at Granyon and not only the final design, it is important that everyone understand that we deliver a service where the final solution is only a part of that.
8. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning?
I‘m fortunate to focus on developing the Granyon brand and work with awesome people on fantastic projects. 2019 has been a great year for Granyon. One day we have meetings about a Third Strike Campaign in Chicago, YMCA in Minneapolis, help building new online shop experiences for fashion brands like DAY Birger Et Mikkelsen or raise awareness around the UN world refugees at World Refugee Day.
9. What is the one thing that makes a great company?
Having a higher goal than earning money. The Why and Company Purpose was hyped a lot a few years ago but still, think that employees and customers are driven by more than money. To become a well-known brand, there needs to be a story and a goal connected to the company name. Ours is to bring design, marketing a communication down to a level where everyone can be a part of the discussion. We hate the usual agency lingo with three-letter abbreviations none understands. It’s often very simple. Our job is to create an emotional connection, a brand, and a target group. If the customer and the agency can get to a point where they share the same goal and work together to get there, we see that that is where the best solutions come to life.
10. What is the one thing that makes a great leader?
I was very inspired by the book The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom the book is about having a clearly defined goal that everyone in the organization knows and share. The leader’s role is to inspire people to reach the overall goal not to tell them how to get there. A great leader inspires people to reward people for being their best according to the company goal. In Denmark, we value a healthy work-life balance and Granyon is run by dads with families. I believe that especially for creative work that we get the most value form employees if they can have a full life next to their job.
Mikkel Noe Westh, thank you so much for participating in the DotCom Magazine Leader Roundtable Interview Series. We appreciate you participating in this important roundtable interview series, and helping our readers learn more about what it takes to build a great company and become a great leader. We wish you, your family, and of course Granyon, nothing but the best.