Interviewing Elise Spaan

To describe Elise, there’s really only two things to mention: motivation and ambition. In addition to her studies at the VU University of Amsterdam, Singapore Management University and the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, she started working at Airoc when she was only 18. With her bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in information management, this is the ultimate place to put her knowledge into practice.

“I was looking for a challenge”

Elise couldn’t wait to start her working life and from an early age she already worked hard. “From the age of 13 I started delivering newspapers, selling berries door to door and babysitting,” she says with a smile. She has always been interested in entrepreneurship whilst she does not come from an entrepreneurial family at all. Elise: “I always wanted to follow along with companies, that was very interesting to me.”

Therefore her field of study was no surprise. She met Martin at the beginning of that study. “I wanted to work alongside my studies and noticed an advert for marketing manager,” Elise explains. A position for which she – admitting with a smile – hardly had qualifications for. “I was looking for a challenge. Actually, I only found positions for administrative assistant, but I wanted more.” Through daring, talent and drive, she drew Martin’s attention.

“We complement each other”

From that moment on it accelerated. In conversations – mostly in the car, because they drove 50,000 kilometers a year – Martin started sharing his experiences and Elise told him about her vision and knowledge on innovation. During every ride, after every pitch and every customer conversation, they grew more trust in each other and turned out to be a perfect duo.

“We complement each other,” Elise explains. “At first I didn’t know exactly what Martin was talking about, but he literally took me by the hand. I accompanied him to all the presentations and customer conversations. On the way back we then discussed how it went and what could be improved and that’s how we both grew.”

“We have no choice but to innovate ourselves”

The way Martin and Elise complement each other makes their collaboration so special. Martin with his tons of experience and Elise with her fresh perspective. “We learn from each other,” says Elise. “And that is exactly what we find important at Airoc. That’s what we really stand for. Not just us, but our entire team. As a company that stands for innovation, we have no choice but to innovate ourselves. You do it by joining forces and being open to feedback. From each other, from our team and from our customers.”

“Even on the way to Singapore I was on the phone with customers”

Elise’s drive ensures that when she puts her teeth in something, she doesn’t just let go. With heart and soul,day and night she is ready for the Airoc’s customers. In the beginning, she even did the help desk herself. “If students couldn’t log in, they would call me. I remember standing at the airport on my way to Singapore for my studies. Even then, I was on the phone with customers,” she says with a laugh. “We were able to improve so much with all the feedback, I got to know Airoc better and better and that’s worth a lot.”

“You can only innovate if you put yourself in your customer’s shoes”

With Airoc, her focus is on business development and innovation. This couldn’t be otherwise, because it also plays a major role for her personally. She has developed herself to become the co-founder and has gone through all facets of the company. Something you rarely see, but gives so much value. Elise: “I know all the details and all of the ins and outs. Airoc is really in my genes.”

Truly listening to customers is one of Airoc’s most important core values. Elise: “You can only innovate if you put yourself in the shoes of your customer.” This is key during a first meeting with a future customer. “After the first contact, we always strive to talk and meet as quickly as possible, preferably physically. In these conversations we always find a personal link which is very nice, because that way you are both relaxed and there is room for an open conversation. Often then also the need becomes clear. We listen carefully and try to understand what the customer is facing,” she explains.

“That flexibility is very important to us”

It is Elise’s expertise to translate the need of the customer into a solution that often goes beyond what is requested. “We look at the big picture to ensure a win-win in the long term. After such an initial meeting, we quickly come up with a proposal and action plan”, Elise continues.

Airoc’s commitment, flexibility and efficiency are often reflected in conversations with customers. It is a unique way of doing business where personal contact is very important. Similarly, the way of communication can differ for each customer.  “We keep communication lines short by responding via any suitable medium. That is a matter of feeling what’s most appropriate. Sometimes we use WhatsApp, then we call at certain times,” says Elise. “That flexibility is very important to us, it keeps the relationship cordial and creates a good start right away.”

“That’s worth its weight in gold!”

Elise and Martin find building lasting relationships important. With many of their customers, they also feel personally involved. Elise: “On my birthday I even receive apps from our first customer. That’s worth its weight in gold! and makes the collaboration fun and meaningful. Also the great thing is: you can see that effect in the numbers. All customers from the early days are still our customers.”

“It is our mission to expand Airoc internationally”

No matter how big Airoc has become in a short time, the basic values always remain the most important for Elise, Martin and the entire team. It is this unique foundation of Airoc on which we continue to build. Elise: “Moving on from education, our focus is increasingly spreading to the business world. It is now our mission to build a healthy company internationally by professionalizing and optimizing. We want as many people as possible to be part of our Airoc mission.”