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Hacking HR Episode 2 - Jasper Balkenhol, eBazaaris


team up hacking hr podcast featuring ceo of ebazaaris

In today's article, we have Jasper Balkenhol, Managing Director of eBazaaris, a leading E-Commerce Accelerator in Europe since 2016. 


With Jasper, we have discussed modern recruitment and how the German market is coping with the rising trends of new work. He shared valuable insights about the company’s working culture, recruitment solutions, and the steps they take to adapt to the modern working environment.


Table of Content




Introduction


- Could you tell us more about eBazaaris? What are the core services and mission of your company? 


eBazaaris is an e-commerce accelerator specializing in online marketplaces. We offer a full-service solution to brand manufacturers for marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Otto, and we help these manufacturers be successful in these markets in the long run. That's our target. 


On the one hand, we offer these classic services like creating content, advertising, or social commerce campaigns, but on the other side, we operate with our own sellers, and can even be a distributor or broker for our clients. 


We really set the value for a long-term relationship with our clients. 


- Could you share your journey with eBazaaris? 


I joined eBazaris in 2020 as an account manager. Since then I climbed the ladder, and I have been the managing director of eBazaaris since September 2022. 


I gained valuable marketplace insights even before eBazaaris working in a mattress start-up for 4 years. Now, I utilize these insights to help manufacturers succeed across multiple marketplaces. 


I've been focusing on Amazon for around seven years and the best thing about this company is that it never gets boring.


Management 


- What style do you have at eBazaaris? Are you an agile company or do you have any hierarchies?


We have a wide variety of cultures at eBazaaris and access to a big talent pool from multiple countries. These factors give us the advantage in finding the best people for our open positions. 


I truly believe hierarchies are needed. Of course, the company shouldn’t be boss-centric, but sometimes unpopular decisions need to be made and someone should take responsibility for that. 


So that's why you need certain hierarchies. But at eBazaaris we have really flat hierarchies and everything is outcome-orientated. 


- Do you work completely remotely or with a hybrid model? 


eBazaaris is a remote-first company. 


We have an office in Berlin, where I’m currently working from. I like the atmosphere, and that’s why I spend four or five days a week here. 


However, I definitely get the point that some people don't want to work from the office. Also, not everyone in our team lives in Berlin, so on-site arrangements wouldn’t work with us anyway. We have employees in Frankfurt, Leipzig, Amsterdam, Bosnia, and even in Tbilisi, Georgia. 


Reaching our goals is the most important, and that's why we cooperate on individual demands. Sometimes I work together with an intern in a certain field, and sometimes with a director in other departments.


- As you said eBazaaris is a remote-first company, and this leads us to our next question: do you know every member of your team in person? It’s known that eBazaaris has one of the strongest teams at Team Up.


I think in a remote-first company, that's a really tough question. At the moment, around 60 employees work at eBazaaris, and we already plan to have new hires for next year. So far I know every single person, even though we work in a hybrid model and many colleagues don't even live in Berlin. 


I visited Georgia a year ago, and I met all our team there. We have multiple events in Germany, where we invite all our colleagues from around Europe to join these events. Colleagues from Amsterdam, Leipzig, Frankfurt, or even from Bosnia, come to these events. I think it's really important to get the team together from time to time. 


What I find way more important than me meeting all these people is that the teams meet each other regularly because they're working together daily.


I'm really looking forward to our Christmas party, which will be in around three weeks and the whole team will get together again - I’m excited to meet everyone again this year.



remote team of eu company working from the office in georgia
Team of eBazaaris working from Georgia

- Could you share a hack for optimizing remote work style? 


I think in a hybrid work way communication gets even more and more important. You find a million books about that - communication is key, especially, when it comes to good working ways, so you have to find different channels to reach all people so that everyone gets the information. 


As a manager, you have to put more effort into communication. It's not like you're at the office and you can directly speak to your colleagues, you have to reach everyone while they're at different locations and using different forms of media.


To give you a concrete hack (we introduced it around a year ago) - I would say our famous Friday mail. Every week I'm collecting updates from all teams and sharing them with everyone, kind of in a Friday morning newsletter. 


We have a weekly tradition called "Everything Except for Amazon," where a random employee shares something personal. It's a mix of positive and negative news, filled with gifts, and not work-related topics. 


Every Friday, colleagues look forward to the updates, making it a fun and engaging way to connect and stay informed about what's happening in the company.


I think this is a small hack. Everyone can just give it a try and see how it's going, I can only recommend doing it. 


- What's your management style like and how do you improve it on a daily basis? 


When you go to university or read books, there are so many management styles. But what I learned over the past is always just look at people and take what you like and just leave out what you dislike. There you will find your perfect management style. 


For me, if you would cut it down to three aspects :


  • Trust,

  • Ownership

  • The willingness to develop


I trust employees from day one but expect in return that they take ownership in their field. This actually gives them freedom, but it gives them responsibility as well, and actually, it helps them grow with their challenges. 


In addition to that, I'm always there to help them. If they have a question, I'm always happy to help. As long as our employees take responsibility and ownership, we are ready to help with deadlines or anything like that, they have our trust.


I'm not a big fan of micromanagement. In my point of view, micromanagement is the last stage before it's over because it hinders all personal and professional development, and I don't want to have this atmosphere here. 


I'm giving everyone this freedom to actually do what they are good at and help them grow too. However, they have to bring the motivation too. If you're not motivated to develop yourself and are willing to learn from your mistakes and looking for someone who always just tells you what to do, I'm probably not the right boss for you because I give everyone freedom. 


My main goal is not to be “needed” anymore, by making sure that everyone knows how to take ownership and make decisions on their own.


- As a startup managing director, how do you hack HR to compete with larger businesses within your industry? 


For me, the key is that every employee has an impact on the success of the company. That's definitely something that you probably don't have in a bigger corporation here. Whatever you are writing like a product text, or you're optimizing an ad, or you're even listing a product, it has an impact on our success, and everyone needs to know that. 


You're not like a small wheel in a big factory here. Actually, your work always has an impact, and everything helps us to develop or even just decrease our performance. So you really have to think about what you're doing. I tried to give everyone this bigger picture and see how they value this company. 


That's why, if someone's looking for a monotonous nine-to-five job, eBazaaris is probably the wrong place. It's not like we're not like one of these big consulting groups where you work 80 hours, but you still shouldn't be just sitting here and waiting till the day is over because we expect kind of performance from you, but you can actually change something, so you can actually bring value and you know that you have a good idea. 


You can change something here and your work has an impact. I think this is kind of one of the biggest differences compared to other jobs. We have a really high speed where we're extremely dynamic and we implement projects in four months where traditional companies probably would use twelve or even a month or even longer. 


So, we have a dynamic atmosphere here and you need to like that, but it helps you to develop yourself, and especially when you're at the beginning of your career, I think it's a really interesting place to be. 


Modern Recruitment


- What are HR trends that are currently on the rise in Germany? Are you following those trends? What advice would you give to other companies to prepare for this future of work happening now? 


I definitely see two major trends in the HR sector in Germany. First of all, remote work is a new norm, definitely for every company. It's essential in the long run to find a solution there. Just calling colleagues back to the office five days a week won't work anymore. 


On the other hand, you have to think about the cultural topic as well. Because in this remote setting, I think culture is even harder than it used to be before, and you really have to find your way there to motivate people and to actually make this place a little bit like home for everyone. 


It's not like you're sitting at home five days a week and next week you just change to another employer and you don't feel the difference. So you really need to attach the people to your company. This is something, a lesson a lot of companies have to learn now and have to find their way. This is one HR trend I'm seeing. 


The second one, it's definitely a perspective on work-life balance. The younger generation sets other priorities in life and looks for other aspects when looking for a job. It's not like I just want to earn a lot of money, but I want to have a lot of respect in the company. A lot of people are looking for a good work-life balance that is really important and that they have a meaningful job. 


You really have to show them how they impact their work, the bigger the results. That's why probably a lot of people don't like to go to big corporations anymore because they know that they don't have an impact, and they can't change anything. 


You have to keep in mind that work is not everything in life and I think it's definitely a fair point. I think there's way more important stuff in life than just work. However, work is an important part of life as well. I think you have to work together with this new generation and find a way to motivate them and a way to integrate them into your company.


- What's your key to success when it comes to recruitment? Now, when you are addressing the younger generation, do you have any strategies? What do you do, and how do you hack the recruitment process?


For me, the most essential part is if it's a cultural fit or not. It's like you can always train skills, but you can't train attitude. So, if someone has no motivation or disrespects you in some kind of way, he can be really good at what he's doing, but if he's not fitting into the culture it won't last very long and it's probably better to give a pass on this person. That is for me the most critical part.


About how we actually hack it: I would say our application process has three steps. The first step is a phone call with me, or mostly it's with me or one of my colleagues. 


In the second step, you get a case study where you can see if the skill set is fitting or not, or even if our task is actually what the applicant is looking for. 


Then, we have a video call or an actual meeting in person with the department where the person is going to work and see if they fit in there.


I’m convinced that you can train skills, but you should always hire for attitude.



remote team of eu company visiting the office in georgia
Georgian team members of eBazaaris

Work Culture


- What would you tell us about the work culture? Do you think it has become more important in recent years compared to past years after remote work? 


Yes, definitely. I think it's a shift in generations where you see a big difference in a focus or in what people are seeking in life. 


Coming from a working-class family, I understand the value of hard work. My grandfather used to say that work isn't meant to be fun. However, for me, having the opportunity to choose my profession is a blessing. 


Unlike my mom and grandparents, who had to follow family traditions, being a first-generation professional allows me to seek a career that aligns with my strengths and passions. It's a significant shift in the approach to work-life balance that I find truly remarkable.


People are not happy to work 80 hours a week anymore. People don't want to go to these big consulting firms where you have to work about 80 hours, not at home. There’s a change. Money can't buy you happiness and people value time more than money. 


I find this trend very good. You have to combine financial and social benefits, as money is a crucial factor, while a good balance is something the new work world is asking for - especially for the new generation.


- Do you have any ways to support work-life balance for your employees at eBazaaris? 


I try to support the work-life balance as much as possible. Employees should be able to take the day off and not work too many hours if it's not 100% necessary. I'm not sending any Slack messages at the weekend or in the evening or when they're on vacation. People really need to take their free time and have a rest. 


That's really important because if they're working full time, they get stressed out easily. It's not good for me nor for the person, and nor even for the company.


On a bigger scale, we increased the minimum days of vacation this year by three. At eBazaaris, everyone gets three more days of vacation each year, which helps them to take days off and get their work-life balance a little bit more into place. 


At the end of the day, work is a marathon, it's not a sprint - as my last boss said. You have to look for the long run. Therefore, you have to be consistent, and that is important with work-life balance.


- Since your team is working in a hybrid model, how do you maintain and build a team spirit? Are there any events or gatherings you organize online or offline? 


I think that is a big challenge a lot of remote companies and hybrid companies are facing, and we try to make events at the locations for everyone. For example, in Berlin, we have meetings from time to time, and we have some events where we invite everyone. We pay for their hotel, their flight, or a train ticket here to get them all together. 


At the Christmas party, everyone's getting here and it’s never a basic pizza party or anything similar - every time we come together, we do the eBazaaris Olympics. I divide the whole team into smaller teams and then I think about 15 competitions where they have to fight for a prize. 


The winning team usually enjoys an extra day of vacation with some games. It's a blast with fun and crazy competitions, creating memorable moments.

Our special event is the Sunny Winter project. For the past two years, we've booked a house in sunny locations, like Gran Canaria this year. The whole team is invited for four weeks in March, with everyone covering their flight costs. It's flexible — you can join for the entire duration or just a couple of days. It's a fantastic time for the team to come together, not just for work, but also to share leisure moments.


We're already gearing up for our 2024 project, exploring locations. Having been to Portugal and Spain in the past, we're excited to see where we'll end up next year.

I would definitely say this is one of the highlights everyone's looking for and talking about for a whole year. 


Everyone can join for any duration, whether it’s two days, two weeks, or four weeks, as it suits them due to a different background. Some people have kids, and they can't stay for four weeks. Some people just finished university and they can stay a bit longer.


We're trying to bring all the needs together and find somewhere everyone can work.


About eBazaaris:


eBazaaris is the leading German e-commerce accelerator for European brand manufacturers from all sectors, which offers customized 360-degree solutions to help brands grow quickly, securely, and easily on e-commerce marketplaces in Europe.


Check out more at https://www.ebazaaris.com/


About Team Up:


Team Up is a German-Georgian venture that connects top talents from the Caucasus region to interesting European companies. The business specializes in Operations, HR, Tech, Sales, Marketing, and Design roles, building remote teams fast, flexible, fair transparent, and compliant with GDPR. 


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