Ep200: Simon de Raadt – Success in Small Business Comes from a Clear Structure

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Guest profile

With a background in Business Economics, IT, and Logistics, Simon de Raadt has been living in Asia since 2011. He is now Managing Partner of MAiNS International, Co-Founder of DigiDutch, and investor in Cross-Border solutions.

He helps companies understand the whole supply chain, from beginning to end, so that they can add more value in that supply chain.

The starting point of his entrepreneurial success in China has been building an outbound mail solution for one of his customers from scratch. This led him into various businesses related to inbound trading.


“Be more flexible and accepting of whatever comes on the way. It might not go as planned. But you know, that’s part of the journey.”

Simon de Raadt


Worst investment ever

His heart has always been in China

Simon had always dreamt of living and working in China. While still working a corporate job, he went to China, and the country completely stole his heart. While on holiday, he decided to look for a job. He was fortunate to get one in no time.

Becoming a small business owner in a foreign country

In just six months, Simon found himself jobless. The company he was working for closed down. He knew he was meant to stay in China, so he put on a brave face and started job hunting again.

Simon tapped into his networks, and soon enough, he got introduced to someone at  MAiNS International, where he went on to become a co-founder.

Starting from scratch

When Simon joined MAiNS International, the existing business was all gone. It was now just him and his Chinese partner, and they had to start from scratch. Given that it was just the two of them, Simon and his partner ignored lots of business frameworks and just focused on growing their business.

Hiring people the old school way

In about a year or so, Simon’s business had taken ground and was recruiting people, and suddenly the company had 12 people. While the growth was good, Simon and his partner were hiring all these people, not because there were positions to be filled as there were no existing jobs. Jobs were created and filled based on opportunity. They had no structured way of recruitment.

In came the chaos

With no formal work structures, chaos hit the company. People were working independently with no clear vision. Everyone was on their own little island, and this started affecting the business. While everyone was hard at work, running in different directions was hurting the business’s bottom line.

Most of Simon’s best employees left the company as they no longer saw the company’s vision. This was a huge blow on Simon as these were people he had fought for to get them to work for him, he’d groomed them and worked hard to get them excited.

Simon realized that his worst investment was not investing in proper business structures. Without structures, his people couldn’t work as a team, and in the process, they lost the company’s vision and confidence in the success of the company.

Lessons learned

Define your company roles

Even if it’s just you, when starting your own business, define all the roles that you might have in your company, and then assign these roles to a person. In doing so, you get clearer on where you want to go and what every person’s task and responsibilities are without creating any confusion.

Put structures in place first

For successful operations management, put structures in place. Once you create your structure, let the people grow within the structure. Let your team develop themselves and give them freedom within the structure. But if there are no boundaries to that freedom, things will get out of hand.

Apply knowledge from books in real life

You can read a textbook, but to be able to learn, you must experience it yourself. Books have a lot of wisdom in it. But reading a book is one thing, and applying it is another.

Andrew’s takeaways

Get your people to work together as a team

You can take some of the best people and put them together, but without some concerted effort to get them to work together towards a common goal, you’re never going to achieve much.

Let’s say you get good people that are sincere, smart, hardworking, and know their part. But if they don’t see how their part interacts with the rest of the organization, then they will never create something great.

Build confidence

Ultimately, people agree to work for you, because they’re confident in you and your vision. But if you fail to communicate your vision clearly, they won’t be able to work together and will eventually lose confidence. Once confidence is lost, all is lost.

Actionable advice

Take your time and define the structure of your small business. Think about what roles you need to be able to be successful.

Do you need a finance person? Do you need an HR person? Do you need customer service or operations? What kind of operations?

Come up with the task because the task belongs to the role and the responsibility that comes with it. So have a role and responsibility matrix. That will help you to clarify what it is that that person needs to be doing.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Simon’s goal is to create a healthy morning routine because if he doesn’t take care of himself, he cannot take care of others. He’s been so obsessed with what happened within the company that he neglected himself and his health.

Parting words


“Stay safe and be prepared because we don’t know what’s gonna come tomorrow.”

Simon de Raadt


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Further reading mentioned

About the author, Andrew

Dr. Andrew Stotz, CFA is the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research, a company that provides institutional and high net worth investors with ready-to-invest stock portfolios that aim to beat the benchmark through superior stock selection.

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