“I always want to be out in front”

Jesper With-Fogstrup, Comparethemarket.com

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People don’t like you when you’re bringing change. At one organisation, where we were building a new venture and people worried it would kill the core business, I joked that I should just buy personalised voodoo dolls from China with my face on for them to stick pins into. It was hard.
 
You have to be very transparent when you want to make change happen. People will always worry about how they will be impacted. From the outset, most people presume change is negative, so be open about what you’re trying to achieve. Give people facts they can hang on to.
 
I went to a Steiner school for first few years of my life and when I was nine, I still couldn’t read and write. That was a real setback when I came into a mainstream school – I felt like the stupid kid. I knew I had to change quickly so I learned to read and write over one summer vacation. That feeling of being so behind means that now I always want to be out in front.

I’m industry agnostic but I prefer working in digital businesses. Sometimes it’s actually better not to know a business very well to spot opportunities that others wouldn't. Ultimately, I just want to build products or businesses where people say, ‘I really enjoyed that’ or would recommend it to friends.
 
I’m not a changemaker in my personal life. I like to go new places but I don’t change my partner or my family. I’ve lived in my house for 12 years. That stability offsets the change I create elsewhere, and helps me to be disruptive in my professional life.
 
Maybe I’m getting old but I’m increasingly getting to the point where I need there to be a bigger purpose to my work. How do we make this world a better, more fulfilling, easier place to live? How do we break down silos of discrimination and allow people to be their authentic self? This interests me.
 
Change is not exciting on its own; it’s the opportunity to make something better that I like. It’s very dangerous to make change for change’s sake. You need to do it to generate value.

 

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