From our Success Stories, we’ve learned that failing is also part of the journey towards our goals. But haven’t we all been scared of failures at some point?
We talked about this with our Success Story of the month, where we also covered the new concept of role model and the need for unsuccessful stories.
Please, meet Pernille Sandberg Bech!
Who is Pernille Sandberg?
I am the Founder and CEO of Goodtalks, a network to connect people all around the world with the simple purpose of helping and fueling each other. I’ve always enjoyed working with different people and backgrounds, so I’m very passionate about what I’m doing.
I live in Copenhagen together with my husband and 3 kids, although I’ve also lived abroad for several years. I’ve always been a restless kind of person!
What memories do you have from your childhood?
After my parents got divorced, I moved in with my father at the age of 4. He was very into horse riding, so we lived in the countryside with all sorts of animals.
I remember I was very rebellious and bored during my teenage years. I even got expelled from my school with 75% of absence when I was 17. At that point, both my father and I decided that I should do something else with my life. So I moved to New York for a year to be a Senior in High School. And I absolutely loved the experience of living abroad and working with different cultures and backgrounds. It really broadened my perspective on the world.
Then I came back to Denmark and finished high school once and for all, and then decided to continue my adventure going abroad again. This time it was Brussels, where I originally planned to live for half a year to learn French, and I ended up staying for 5 years! To be honest, I was still in my rebelling stage back then, so mostly what I did was partying and hanging out with a lot of wrong people.
But then, when I was 25, I realized that I needed to pull myself together, so I moved together with my first husband back then to Denmark, where I started my Bachelor’s in Communication and Psychology.
After three years into my education, we decided to move to Croatia, where he is originally from. And there was where I discovered my passion for HR and decided to do my Master’s in HR and Leadership. I handed in my thesis just before giving birth to my first child. Perfect timing, some would say!
How has been your career path to get where you are now?
During my time studying, I worked for a travel alarm center in Copenhagen, and it was the most fantastic student job ever! The cases would range from lost suitcases to “I just woke up next to my husband who's dead in bed”, so every day we had the opportunity to do a humongous difference in somebody’s life. I really loved working in that area.
When I was done with my studies, I asked my boss for a job in the HR department, but they weren’t looking for anyone at the moment. A few months later, however, he called me saying: “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. I just replaced the whole HR department. It’s yours”.
Some years after that, that same boss asked me to join him in a start-up in Falck. We were literally four people in the company, working in a field outside Copenhagen. But a very fast-paced growing company. In four years we went from zero revenue to half a billion Danish kroner, and employing 400 people.
Some time later, I got an offer from Group Falck to be the HR Director for one of their business lines, where I stayed for around a year and a half as responsible for talent and leadership development in 42 countries and 40.000 employees. It might sound stupid, but the higher I grew up in the organization the more bored I got because I was so far away from the customers…
"The higher I grew up in the organization the more bored I got because I was so far away from the customers"
So when I was looking for my next job I wondered, what am I going to be doing now? And I actually just got awarded HR Director of the year, so it would have been very normal for me to just take on another HR job, but there was something inside of me.
Was that an inspiration to start your own company, Goodtalks?
Actually, back in my corporate career, I was the one woman with the 18 men in the Management meetings. And these guys were great, don’t get me wrong. But it got me thinking about what would be different if the business was more diverse. If I was not the only woman in the room.
I’ve always thought that something amazing happens when people really help people, when we really lift each other. So inspired by always being surrounded by super cool women, helping me and lifting me, I thought: “why don't we put together everybody that agrees that if we lift each other, we can actually make a difference?”.
And it’s funny, but it was my 13-year-old daughter that gave me the idea for Goodtalks. She told me that they had this hotline where kids are helping kids, and it just clicked! So I immediately started working on the idea, planning the shifts, creating the platform, etc.
So two and a half years ago, I called in my network of 43 women and I made this pre-launch of the Goodtalks platform and the idea behind it. Today, we are 2,5 thousand users. 2,5 thousand members who, selflessly, are making themselves available, who are stepping in to help each other.
I really believe that what we need as women are competences and courage. I’ve been in hundreds of events where there is a super cool woman speaking about her career, her accomplishments, her good grades… and I always went back home feeling that I didn’t fit with that role. So I thought, how about we listen to these super cool people also talking about their unglossy story?
"It's such a relief to hear other people feeling the same fears that we all have"
In the first event we did with Goodtalks, we were 23 people. In the last one before corona, we were 450. And in every event we’ve made, you will often have about a hundred people with tears running down their cheeks. There are no victims and nobody feels sorry for them. But it's such a relief to hear other people feeling the same fears that we all have.
That’s what we want to do with Goodtalks, to promote being human with all it entails - and that’s also our motto: Competences and courage to lead and be human. I really believe that's the future for leadership.
What would you say was the biggest mistake when you started with Goodtalks?
The biggest mistake was feeling like I wasn’t good enough. And part of why I'm doing this is to let everybody else know that they're good enough to accomplish whatever they want to.
So at the beginning of Goodtalks, my mistake was pulling my own “not feeling good enough” feeling into my business, thinking maybe it wasn't good enough either. So that led me to take in the wrong partners, letting them in without really choosing who should be part of it, and not making sure there was a right fit.
"My biggest mistake was feeling like I wasn’t good enough, and thinking that maybe my business wasn’t good enough either"
The same happened with my first two developers, I trusted them blindly because I thought they knew better. Because when they speak a language you don’t understand, you really don’t have the competences to find out what they are actually saying. So the two first versions of my platform were horrible. And it cost me a lot of money.
And what about the positive aspects of becoming an entrepreneur?
One of the amazing things that happened was the whole support from the Goodtalks community, to get so many people involved so fast. It has been so positive that people want to do something about it.
That's really amazing for me, that people from anywhere in the globe found each other on the platform, helped each other, and then maybe never talked again. But just this wanting to give something back, I think that's very energy given.
Moving to the present, what do you like the most about being the CEO of your own company?
Without a doubt, freedom. I encourage everybody who works full-time at Goodtalks to work a maximum of four days a week. So I don't work on Mondays. I might work on a Saturday or a Sunday, but in my mind, I'm always off every Monday because I freaking hate them. And I don’t believe that you need to work more than four days a week.
I also have this thing that I call “my Mondays”, where I actually get the best ideas and I develop the business the most. And I do that while I'm in my sweatpants, or doing laundry, or watching the Kardashians.
And another part of this freedom is that I decided to not have meetings before 10 am. And that's because before Goodtalks, I was always running around to be on time. So I want to have the freedom to not be at the office before 10. And that being said, it doesn't mean I don't work, but the freedom to plan my time is the greatest thing about being the boss.
If you had the chance, what advice would you give to yourself from 5 years ago?
Just to do it much earlier. I wish I had believed enough in myself, so I would have been an entrepreneur almost from day one. I’m not saying that my corporate experience hasn't helped me a lot, but I wish I had more belief in myself earlier. That way, I would have jumped out as an entrepreneur way earlier than at the age of 45.
"I wish I had believed enough in myself earlier"
And where will we find Pernille Sandberg Bech in 5 years?
In around 5 or 10 years, I see myself exiting Goodtalks and just being left with 10 or 15% of the business, and being on the board. I think somebody else much smarter than me needs to take over.
So I want to exit and I want to sit on a big boat in the Mediterranean. I'm really seeking the ultimate freedom. I wanna retire by the age of 50 if I can. That being said, I would never stop working. But I would like to have the ultimate freedom of totally deciding how I spend my time. Maybe I would like to be part of another business, but I wouldn't want to be the one doing it.
I think I will work until the day I die, but with 100% control over my time.