comdivision group was founded in April 1996 with angel investment and several co-founders, including Yves Sandfort (now CEO). As early adopters, the company developed a content management platform "ISy.Net," to help companies and public services maintain their content on the web without programming skills. The first achievement was to bring over 400 public service organizations onto the web.
As comdivision evolved over the years, the management under Yves Sandfort identified new targets and the central business focus shifted to IT-Management and Outsourcing. In 2001, the most challenging year for the Internet economy, Yves Sandfort and Philip Kriener took a dramatic step to buy out the comdivision group, becoming the only shareholders. Yves Sandfort created an aggressive growth plan to grow the web business to over 10.000 customers while setting up an international professional services department. In 2007 Yves Sandfort became the majority shareholder by taking over the shares of Philip Kriener.
From its humble beginnings to celebrating the 25th Anniversary in 2021, comdivision has done many things to be proud of. comdivision group consists of five companies with four subsidiaries, able to service its global customer base with design, consulting, training, and troubleshooting around cloud technologies.
Here is an exclusive interview with the CEO, Yves Sandfort.
What motivated you to start comdivision? How did the idea appear?
I already started my first company in IT while still in school, but learned fast that I didn't want to "sell" hard-/software, but rather build solutions that are business relevant. My goal was to create a solution or service which is more relevant on a more global scale rather than the quick business.
What was your mission at the beginning of your business?
comdivision was initially founded to allow companies and public sector customers to operate and adjust web pages in a more dynamic way than static web pages allowed back then. All services were primarily provided as a subscription service hosted by the comdivision in our own data centers. Back then, it was something very new.
Parallelly, we designed all our data center technologies based on virtualization and cloud-like services, which created a secondary business driver: Architecting and Deploying software-defined data center technologies (again before the term was invented).
A split of the business and sale of the subscription-based business with over 15,000 customers allowed us to grow the services business to one of the most requested professional services organizations globally in the VMware space. Currently, we are one of less than five organizations globally holding all 7 Master Services Competency badges from VMware. Our customers are everywhere, from medium-sized corporations to global fortune 500 corporations and even some of the largest cloud providers who request our service.
What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?
Customer dedication and a nothing-is-impossible attitude. Telling my team and myself that something has never been done and is impossible sounds like an engagement for us. We don't focus on what vendors and others tell us. We aim at what's best for the customer, even if this might not be in comdivision's focus. In the long term, the customer relationship is more important.
When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.
Looking at 25 years of history with comdivision, I had the feeling we either can't top this anymore or can't survive these waves more. Let's take COVID, for example. Because we are a people and person business, I was a little skeptical but not worried. In the end, 2020 was by far the best year in our history. I am the lighthouse for my team, and I need to be the person winning the most challenging battle for my team, with my team. If something goes wrong, it's my fault. If we win, it's a team result. "Don't tell us it can't be done. It will only challenge us to prove you wrong!"
Employees are one of the most important players to succeed in business. What do you look for in an employee?
Dedicate yourself to serve our customers, do the impossible, and win for the team. Only a successful team can win. At the same time, I expect everyone to be willing to educate themselves constantly, challenge everything and every day. Don't take the status quo as given or best achievement.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
We are the first to focus on cutting-edge technologies, willing to invest early in new ways, and learn from mistakes, so our customers don't have to make them. Customers engage us because we know and have experience, not because we build a study group with them. Moreover, we eat our own dog food on every level. Whatever we preach is done in-house.
Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Address the issue, talk openly about it. This industry is too small, and you always have a high chance to meet again. Don't leave burned territory behind if in any way possible.
Accept you make mistakes. Talk about them. An error or failure is no issue as long as you learn from it.
Is there any resource or resources that helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?
My biggest mentor and influencer over the years has been Andre Boisvert, who I could turn to more than once for feedback on my plans. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are role models from a business perspective. They have not accepted the status-quo and made it their way against any expectation.
What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business? What do they need to know from the very beginning?
Do it as your heart says and not for the money. Understand what it means to be an Entrepreneur, as it also means to take personal risk actively. Understand what drives the business of your customer, not what drives their procurement. Find realistic role models to go after, ask them for mentorship, and you will be surprised how many are willing to.