12 March 2020
A couple of months ago, Simon Verzijl joined SparkOptimus as our very first CEO. Now that he had some time to settle in, it’s time for a check-in.
After completing his studies in Mechanical Engineering at the TU Delft, Simon worked for Accenture for 9 years. In 2000, he started his own company to help businesses manage email and web-based communications. In 2001, he sold this company to HCN and continued to work there for 6 years, first as Managing Director and later as CEO of HCN. After HCN was acquired by Unamic in 2008, Simon led the integration of the two entities as the CEO of Unamic/HCN. This company was acquired by Xerox in 2011, where Simon led and grew the European BPO business for 3 years, which involved acquisitions in Italy, Germany and the UK. Simon was appointed EVP of Xerox’s largest business unit in 2014; a global role managing 47k employees in more than 100 locations. Three years later, Conduent was formed as a divestiture from Xerox, and Simon became its COO Europe.
After a global role managing 47k employees in more than 100 locations, why did you decide to go back to a company of 100+ employees?
I wanted to be close to the business and the people who do the ground work. Also, in a company of SparkOptimus’s size, the impact of what you do is immediately visible.
With your extensive experience, there were probably many companies fighting to have you. Why did you choose SparkOptimus?
SparkOptimus has an excellent reputation in the market and is highly respected. Its employees are proud of what they do, the impact they’re making. I thought it would be amazing to be part of all that.
Besides being much smaller in size, what are the biggest differences between SparkOptimus and your previous company?
The biggest change is that my previous company operated in an entirely different industry. Furthermore, it was publicly traded and headquartered in the US. In contrast, SparkOptimus is a privately owned digital consultancy, headquartered in Amsterdam. The latter was a nice bonus, as I live in the Netherlands.
You’re the first CEO at SparkOptimus. What are your main responsibilities?
Given SparkOptimus’s tremendous growth, structure is becoming increasingly important. Furthermore, to continue this steep growth curve, we need to build a platform for growth with clearly structured processes and discipline. At this size, things need to be clearer and better organised than you could get away with in a small company. I’m responsible for further professionalising our operations – this will enable SparkOptimus to scale up even more. One of the things I like about SparkOptimus is that there’s so much ambition to take the next steps.
What do you think makes SparkOptimus unique?
I appreciate the constant commitment of the employees tremendously – whether it’s to clients, each other or things that are going on within the company. I’ve never seen this anywhere else. This culture is unique. In a way it’s very informal and casual, but at the same time there’s no compromise on quality. Quality is always paramount, I think that’s very powerful.
Suppose you were still in one of your previous roles and needed a digital strategy consultant. Why would you choose SparkOptimus over one of our competitors?
I would definitely choose Spark, because they understand very quickly what the issues and challenges are and what needs to be done. And they’ll do whatever it takes to come up with a solution that will meet or exceed my expectations. They won’t stop until I am satisfied.
Our recruiter says that when an applicant walks in, she can often immediately tell whether they’re a Sparkie. Now that you’ve met us all, what do you think makes someone a Sparkie?
I think you’re a Sparkie when you take real ownership. You never let your team down, you’re informal but you don’t compromise when it comes to results and your own behaviour. You’re only satisfied when you believe things really can’t get any better. Yet, all the while, you remain humble and willing to learn.