In the #23 episode of “Helping B2B High Ticket Service Providers Grow – One Lesson at a Time”, Dancho talks with Marcus Köhnlein.
Marcus Köhnlein is the head of digital business at UNITED GRINDING Group, and co-founder and chairman of the Supervisory Board at Quarero AG.
Marcus has two sides:
- keen in the corporate world and
- flexible and fun in the start-up world.
As a co-founder of a platform that gives young people the chance of remote work and experience with top companies, he says that students are eager to learn, develop and grow.
“It’s fun and exciting to be involved in two entirely different worlds”, says Marcus.
Check out the platform here!
You can also listen to the podcast episode here:
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[00:00:07.500] – Dancho – Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of Helping B2B High Ticket Service Provider Grow – One Lesson at a Time. By now, I’m sure you know guys that I’m doing really hard time to find the right people that have the right story to share it with you. And since we’re recording this one, I actually found a guy. His name is Marcus Köhnlein. And ain’t no way I got the surname right, but he’s coming from Switzerland and he has a really interesting story to share. Marcus, welcome to the show.
[00:00:35.900] – Marcus – Thanks a lot. I’m very happy to be here today with you.
[00:00:40.410] – Dancho – Same as well, especially now because it’s so cloudy and foggy. I would rather sit in the office and do recordings rather than going out, which is much harder in the summer. But the topic that we wanted to discuss today with you, Marcus, is looking at the opportunities of how High Ticket Service Providers can grow or work in their business by tapping the market of interns and students. But before we get into it, I mean, Marcus, maybe you should spend a bit time just to give us a background on who you are and what you do so that the audience would know why they should listen to you.
[00:01:16.300] – Marcus – Yes, of course. Thank you. Who I am, I say always to the people I have two different directions. I’m working on the one hand side in the corporate world, so that means I’m leading the digital business of a machine production company, United Grinding Group. That’s my one side. And on the other side, I’m active in the startup world. And I’m running or started some years ago different startup projects with friends and with people I know. And it’s growing, and one of the most exciting ones is Quarero, what you already said. It’s a platform for students and for young people.
[00:02:01.640] – Dancho – Nice. We’re going to get into that into more details, but I’m genuinely curious, how do you balance the corporate versus startup life? I mean, we touched the topic a bit before this, where in corporate life it’s a decision making struggle, red tape and everything, while in startup, especially if it’s yours, everything is like, Let’s do it like this. Let’s do the lean approach. Let’s make a mistake and learn. So how did you actually manage to balance these two worlds?
[00:02:28.090] – Marcus – It’s really different worlds if you look at it. So it’s really, on the one hand side, as you say, it’s quite hierarchical world. It’s a quite structured, quite process oriented world. Also always high quality, low failure quotes in this world. And on the other side is very flexible, active, dynamic world. And of course, I need to balance both somehow. And it’s the exciting part for me also to be in both worlds. So to experience both worlds and learn from both worlds the big parts.
[00:03:07.640] – Dancho – Yeah. And at the end of the day, you can steal some ideas from the startup world and apply it into the corporate or just take some ideas from the corporate world, apply it into the startup. But even from a nature perspective, I mean, in the corporate, everything is jobs and responsibilities with a strong hierarchy. While in the startup is, we’re a startup. We need 20 people and we have five. So you have quite a lot multiple heads to balance there.
[00:03:32.300] – Marcus – Absolutely. And that’s also a big learning for me in the startup world. You do everything. You just do marketing on the one day, you do sales, you do technology, you program something, so extreme flexibility.
[00:03:46.870] – Dancho – Nice. How did Quarero start it, actually? What was the motivation behind it?
[00:03:52.800] – Marcus – Actually, it’s a group of friends that I started. It was the time when I worked in chemical industry. I was also the working and responsible for digital transformation. I met there a friend and he has studied a PhD at the ETH in Zurich. He thought always, yeah, the study is too theoretical. You do a lot of theories, you are very deep into these theories, but you don’t know how the real world is out there. And that was the beginning. And that’s how we started to discuss and think. And then some more friends came in. And so we decided, let’s start something and do something to help students to connect better to companies and to learn and to grow together.
[00:04:47.430] – Dancho – Nice. And I was genuinely curious because even at BizzBee, interns is something that when we started, when I was a solo-preneur, a one man show, the first step that we do when I started BizzBee is actually take four interns and I was the lead consultant and having four people to learn with. They proved to be a good people, which eventually we hired them. Now when I saw the platform, the Quarero, that you’re actually enabling this but on an international level, it got me curious. Can you tell me a bit more on how it works and how companies can use it?
[00:05:24.160] – Marcus – Yeah, of course. What we do is we connect companies and students. As a company, you have some problems, some challenges. So that can be something, I need a new marketing video, I need to write something for my web page, or I need some programming stuff, so I need a Python program or whatever, or also very special things like I need a chemical analysis. And you can put that into that platform and then we match you with the perfect student. We search in our pool of students and in universities which student fits for you that you can work together and solve your problem.
[00:06:11.790] – Dancho – Are there a lot of students in the database? Because if you’re doing a matching, you need quite a big pool.
[00:06:17.980] – Marcus – Yeah. We have in the database at the moment, we are still growing. It’s around 600, 700. But we have also connections to a lot of universities where we also can bring in specialist students if you say, I need exactly this person for my project.
[00:06:34.750] – Dancho – Got it. In my head is when you say, I need a marketing person or a salesperson, there’s going to be a lot. But then when you say, I need a neuroscience or something more sophisticated, there will be one, maybe.
[00:06:49.042] – Marcus – Yes, yes.
[00:06:49.870] – Dancho – How do you actually balance that? Because marketing and sales, I think, or even sometimes it’s mondial task. I need virtual assistant or someone that needs to go toward WordPress and go over 500 blogs. And I was like, That’s going to take me three days of my life. How can I do it, but not me doing it? So in this case, how can your platform find the right people that would do the job?
[00:07:17.980] – Marcus – Yeah. So you have the opportunity to put in just your project. You say, I need a person for three days who does this work on my WordPress site, and then people can apply. That’s the one way. Or you just search for a student, you have also search function, and then you match and search by yourself. So it’s like you want to do it best. And what you say is true. We have a lot of projects which are very yeah, let’s say repetitive and also a little bit boring work you don’t want to do as a business owner or as an experienced person. And on the other side, we have also a lot of innovation things like bringing a new mindset in of the next generation. So how to use the next generation for your business and these kind of things we have often. And sometimes also very exciting. I love that we connect also different countries with each other. So you have a student group which sits in Asia, Africa, Europe, who works together on your bigger project. We also had that already, and that’s very exciting.
[00:08:30.430] – Dancho – Nice. I actually haven’t thought of that because in my head, a student is an inexperienced person that wants to learn. And on the other hand, you need to provide them with direction and tasks. But when you’re tapping the new millennials or the new population, it’s good to have young and fresh people in the team in order to get better perspective, even if it’s from multiple countries. The value on the other hand, for the companies, looks like delegating some of the work, especially for high ticket service providers, delegating some of the work to other people in order to save you more time so you can focus on what really matters in your business. But on the student side, what’s the benefit or the value?
[00:09:12.180] – Marcus – The students are very interested in getting experience. That’s a big point for them. Having a nice company on their CV or having worked internationally remote, that’s a big value for them. On the other side, they get some money, so they earn a little bit to finance their study.
[00:09:29.960] – Dancho – To pay the task, it’s not like free activities. Companies need to pay for it.
[00:09:35.750] – Marcus – Yes. Companies pay for it and normally based on the task. You discuss with your student what you want to pay and you agree on a price and then you just pay the student. And we have also payment system integrated. So you pay via the platform, you have a chat system, you chat with the students, you can exchange documents. So that’s all the surrounding services. We take care of the taxes and all the stuff internationally that works. And so we take over this overhead in the end.
[00:10:10.090] – Dancho – Yeah. And the more I’m listening to you, Marcus, it sounds a bit like the Upwork, the freelancing platform where you can go in and hire freelancers. So how did you differentiate from… And it’s not just Upwork. I mean, there is People Per Hour, there is Guru, there is freelancer.com, but they are really more focused on freelancers. And how are you able to differentiate from them?
[00:10:31.750] – Marcus – Yeah. So we are totally focused on students. And the other value, perhaps also big differentiator is that companies are interested to hire these students in the future. They work with students over some months, sometimes half a year, even longer, and give them different tasks. In the end, they can decide and say, oh, this was a great work together. This person fits to us, to our culture, to our ideas. Then they hire these persons. So you get, in the end, your perfect employee and not only your work done.
[00:11:14.360] – Dancho – Yeah, we do similar marketing in BizzBee as well. We get the interns for three months. It’s a paid internship, full time. Then from 2 3, if we see that there is a connection, it’s not what they know because we don’t have high expectations of knowledge. We’re actually more checking the learning curve because we don’t care what they know. If they can learn fast, they can learn anything. And of course, if they have the right mindset, we actually keep them into the company. And I was just curious, Marcus, of how is it going nowadays during the post COVID with the students? Because BizzBee is having some struggles now organizing with the students. And just to give you a very quick story, we had an internship call three weeks ago and we said, okay, in these seven years, we had quite a lot of internship cycles, two or three per year. And it was funny that now students that spent four years in COVID studying online, not going to universities and not socializing or networking, now they’re entering the workforce in the work market. And it was a really weird experience because you can see as they’re talking to you, they’re trying to Google something up to find the right response, and they are reading it and trying to tell you something that was never seen before in my career because, yes, people go to universities and then socialize and then they learn a bit and they network and stuff. And now they actually got stuck, unfortunately, four years learning from home without going to university. So how is the student market evolving or changing now with the post COVID?
[00:12:47.290] – Marcus – Yeah, we see also their changes. As you say, a lot of it is online in the meantime, so a lot works online. And with socializing with people is so important. And that’s why we also see this international socializing, this international network we have built helps also the people. So for example, if you work with people in Africa, in South Africa, for example, they learn also something about your culture, about your ideas. They grow with that. And that helps them also in this area of socializing because you have calls together. You don’t just write each other, you also meet. So that means mainly online. But some companies also take the students and bring them to their location.
[00:13:39.770] – Dancho – Nice. That’s a really next step into building the relationship to the next level. Can you give us some idea of what tasks companies or usually CEOs or high ticket service providers can outsource? Delegate now to students because outsourcing is you get an expert and you just pay. With students is you give them the opportunity to learn while you’re getting the work done. Maybe if you have some ranges on pricing, how much unestimated task would cost just to get the idea of how it works.
[00:14:17.780] – Marcus – In the end, all repetitive work is the one part we have what we discussed already. So typing things, also making lists, doing.
[00:14:30.610] – Dancho – Various things. Transcription on videos and recordings and the podcast which are currently being recorded.
[00:14:36.550] – Marcus – Absolutely. All these things, students are perfect for that. But let me tell you a little bit more about these exciting things. One of the very exciting projects for me was a group of students, international group of students, we connected. It was in India, it was in Northern Africa, it was in Europe. The customer wanted to have a picture recognition system, so AI, artificial intelligence. And what we did, we helped with managing the students. And this group of students built then really a picture recognition system for this customer that worked. And of course, that’s then a bigger project that took some months and that takes some time to organize. You need to manage it, you need to take care of that. But in the end, very exciting that a group of young, not practically experienced people, so just at the university, people could do that together. And that’s also very, very exciting to see how people work internationally together. So with different cultures coming together, sometimes it crashes a bit. And then they start to work and it’s going forward.
[00:16:01.410] – Dancho – That’s really nice actually. Not just looking at repetitive tasks, but also delegating a more complex problem that the students will face. The learning curve is much bigger there in the markets. It’s not just like, But I need someone to do social media posting for me. But it’s giving them a problem that they can solve rather than just a task. I had just one more question, which I was genuinely curious because you’re targeting students. As students, eventually are no longer students. At some point, they’re students, students, students, and then they get a job. How do you actually sort that out? They move out from the platform or ideally, as students, they work with a company, the company like them, they get hired and they move the way, continuing directly, or they just find a local job and then they evolve from students into juniors, midiors and hopefully seniors in their field?
[00:16:55.150] – Marcus – Very good question. We also thought, let’s move them out in the end and say, okay, they are finished, so move them out of the platform. But what actually happened was, and that was also very exciting to see, they got a job. But on the other side, they still worked with their clients from the platform because they noticed, Oh, it’s the client’s value. We like to work with these persons. We have perhaps not the potential at the moment to hire the person, but we still want to continue. So we said, okay, then we keep them on the platform, what we do at the moment, and they can still work with each other.
[00:17:39.120] – Dancho – Many times it’s not a full time activity. Maybe I need two hours per week or two hours per day, which can actually be done after work.
[00:17:47.080] – Marcus – Yes, absolutely. And you said before about pricing. I want to say something also about that. So very different in the end. It depends on the countries, of course, and on your negotiations. And if you look at, compare in some countries that cost of living is very low. So also, if you pay not too much as a company, it’s already a lot of money for the students. And we had really students who said, Really? Wow, I’ve never earned so much in my life. And when I work professionally, I will not earn that much because it really depends then on the countries. And that’s where some students could really earn a lot of money. But for, let’s say, western companies, it was nothing.
[00:18:37.230] – Dancho – Yeah. No, I completely agree, Marcus, perfectly said. Now I’m just thinking in my head as a high ticket service providers, how companies can give it a try? Is there a trial or a small project that they can do, get their fingers into the water just to see whether it’s a hybrid model or a remote student helping them out could actually work? Is it a big effort for us to give it a try, or it’s a pretty simple post a job, look at a few applicants, a few students, and then just see who is the best fit for you?
[00:19:13.520] – Marcus – Yeah, you can just log in, register, start directly, put something in if you want. We have also a customer care service, so persons who take care of you as a company and they consult you, they help you, they also guide you, and they also help you finding the perfect student when you say, Okay, I have not a perfect found on the platform. So they connect you then and bring the perfect student in for you. So quite easy and direct everything.
[00:19:45.300] – Dancho – Got it. I was just curious, as a platform, is there a monthly fee that companies need to pay or we can just connect, plug it in, give it a try, even a simple task that is just like, I don’t know. I don’t want to talk numbers, but some small money to put it, try to see what value you’re going to get. And of course, the end goal is to figure out how they can find a way to save time. Because as I said, when it comes to high ticket service providers, consultants, or marketing agencies, or even IT companies, if a business owner can save five hours per week by using the platform, that is worth a lot. At least for me, that is worth even too much that I can see here. So the goal would be that instead of… There was a very nice methodology there that looked at all the activities that you’re doing in your daily or weekly schedule, and then simply Pareto law. The 20 % of the activities are actually bringing the 80 % of the value. And as a business owner, you should focus on those 20 % while the rest of the activities should be either delegated or outsourced or even having employees internally.
[00:20:54.590] – Dancho – And we said about the COVID that it affected the students, but also it quite a lot affected the companies as well, Marcus, in regards to how we see now remote workers and international workers. BizzBee before COVID, we had offices here in Skopje. We bought some really nice buildings for 30 plus employees. And then COVID hit and then we had to go home and then people didn’t want to come back. They’re like, I need to change two busses and why should I come to an office where I’m more productive from home? So as a business owner, we also are now starting to appreciate the remote work, the international work. I have a problem, as you said, a challenge or a problem that needs to be solved. And whether it’s going to be solved next door or in the office or from students from different parts of the world, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it can at some different angle from a different perspective.
[00:21:49.030] – Marcus – Yeah. No, that’s what we also see. This mindset has changed. The topic is solving the problems and getting rid of the problems. That’s the interesting part. And not I have to sit at a certain place and do it there. So it can be from everywhere. Of course, if you need a lab for your chemist, then you can do it everywhere. But there are a lot of things which can be done on any place of the world. So that’s also what we experience. Companies are, I think that COVID changed a lot this mindset, and that’s why companies are more open now to really do that.
[00:22:29.770] – Dancho – Marcus, what are the future plans on Quarero where do you see this platform headed in 2023, hopefully 2024?
[00:22:39.560] – Marcus – We have at the moment a redesign. A new design comes in the next months. So that’s quite a lot of work at the moment for us to change that. So it’s content and of course, also the whole technology. And on the other side, we have some exciting parts to come. So we work with an university on… Let’s say that way, we have now the hard facts of the students. So that means what you study, what you are experienced in, and so on. And now we combine it with the soft facts. So that means your drive, all these soft factors of a person, the personality, and all these things. And there we work with a student, build a test, which we will integrate also. And then it’s the idea to even fit the students better to your company because you have a company culture, you have a certain way you work. And we believe by matching your company culture with the soft factors and the hard factors of the students, we will make the match better. That’s a very exciting part we work at the moment on. And we have a… also student working there for us on this topic and cooperate with university. So we believe that could be a next step on, let’s say, this match making, making this match even more value.
[00:24:13.940] – Dancho – True. Maybe you’re not make it as a thing that swipe left, swipe right. But I really like the idea that, yes, you have physical data like age, gender and stuff, but then you have the personality test where sometimes I’ve seen quite a lot of companies like, Okay, we need from IDisk test a C type that’s going to be this, this, and this. Even on the job interview, I need you to do the disk test on personalities so I can figure out what type you are as a personality. So then I would know how to manage you. I would know how to position myself toward you, how you accept that. And you’re trying to develop a new personality test rather than using the existing because there are too many to count tests.
[00:25:00.730] – Marcus – Yeah, exactly. And we saw we can figure out something by ourselves with corporations there. Of course, it’s some work also, but it’s also very exciting to see how that’s going forward with a new test in this direction.
[00:25:18.360] – Dancho – Nice. Marcus, I’m really fascinated by this because I’m a believer. I built BizzBee on top of internship programs and finding students that could help us. I found it like a two way value for the students an opportunity to learn, for companies opportunity to handpick their future employees, not to delegate transcription or something. But actually working two, three months with someone will tell you whether someone is a good fit. And of course, sometimes you need to hire an experienced employee. But in most cases, you start with the interns and then you grow them into even a managerial position. Now at Bizzbee, we have three managers that started as interns in BizzBee. And through the years, they actually raise up to the occasion. You give them more responsibilities, they handle it. You give them more. Even the COO of BizzBee started as an intern in BizzBee. When I saw Quarero, I just thought that’s actually a good tool or a good platform that we should share it with our High Ticket Service Providers because it could help them. It could help them in growing their business. It could help them better managing their business. But most importantly, it could help them find the next best employee for their businesses. Where can people find you? I see we’re finishing with time. So how can people find you, Marcus, or how they can find about Quarero?
[00:26:38.430] – Marcus – Yeah. So I’m active on LinkedIn. So if you want to connect with me, just connect on LinkedIn. Of course, quarero.com is our web page. You just can try it for free. You test it, you can play with it. So just get started.
[00:26:56.620] – Dancho – Nice. What we’re going to do is, just below the video, we’re going to put your LinkedIn profile and the website so people just can scroll it. But Marcus, I think that we’re finishing with this episode. I really wanted to thank you for taking your time off and then talking about the topic because I find it really useful. I will be the first one that’s going to subscribe on the platform.
[00:27:20.520] – Marcus – Okay, amazing.
[00:27:21.420] – Dancho – We have always opportunities to grow our team. At the end of the day, yes, there are different platforms with different value proposition. And you have a nice niche where you’re looking at students as a workforce that are upcoming. Whether we have a brand new idea for TikTok, in that case, we definitely need students because I cannot ask my marketing team about TikTok, but those are just an example that could really be useful. So thank you again, Marcus, for coming to the show.
[00:27:51.880] – Marcus – Thank you so much. It was really fun and really great to talk with you.
[00:27:56.200] – Dancho – Yeah, I appreciate it. And for all the listeners out there, we’re going to keep looking for some good lessons for you. And in the meantime, go to quarero.com, check out the platform and try to see what value it can give to your business.