Just Eat Takeaway.com: using a scale-up mindset from the start
JustEat Takeaway is a leading global online food delivery marketplace operating in 24 countries. If you’ve ordered a take-out meal – and who hasn’t in these COVID-19 times – chances are you’ve already done business with them. The company has scaled up fast in recent years. RSM’s Justin Jansen and Tom Mom spoke with Brent Wissink, CFO of Just Eat Takeaway.com and who has been involved since 2011, to find out why the company’s approach has been so successful.
Brent joined Just Eat Takeaway.com as COO in 2011. He led the integration of Lieferando.de and Pyszne.pl before becoming CFO of Just Eat Takeaway.com in 2014.
Prior to this, he was CFO of a fastgrowing technology business (NedStat) and worked in venture capital (ABN AMRO, Mees Pierson). Brent graduated in 1992 from the Erasmus University Rotterdam in Econometrics.
RSM "Our research shows that many scale-ups lose momentum as their complexity increases. This means that fast scale-up companies need to find a way to grow while preventing chaos. What methods do you think work best?"
Brent "Leadership and communication are both very important in a fast-growing environment, especially when it comes to maintaining an entrepreneurial culture. It can be hard to stay flexible and light on your feet. You must continuously communicate what you are doing and what direction the company is going in."
“…we have stayed flexible to make sure we have the capacity to develop or adapt new products and address new situations.”
Brent Wissink, CFO, Just Eat Takeaway.com
This can be difficult, particularly if you grow through M&A. People from the legacy company and the acquired companies could become demotivated if they see the new organisation moving in a different direction which they do not recognise. To ensure that these two groups remain aligned, it is important they understand why certain decisions are being taken and what is driving certain decisions. Continuous communication about this plays a large role in determining the new organisation’s culture and whether you can keep people committed to the strategy going forward." RSM
We have found that scale-up companies often lose sight of their entrepreneurial vision. The successful ones have best practices in place across their different functions, teams and locations. As you move your strategy forward, what kinds of activities maintain your entrepreneurial mindset? Brent
We have tried to keep top management entrepreneurial by
continuously looking for and evaluating new opportunities, and jumping on them if they prove to be interesting. And we have stayed flexible to make sure we have the capacity to develop or adapt new products and address new situations. If you do that and show some success, people will recognise that you have an entrepreneurial culture. At the same time, you should provide middle management with decision-making autonomy. You don’t want situations in which people wait for direction from top management while you expect them to resolve problems themselves.
Our approach is this: we don’t want our managers to simply flag issues that arise and then wait for guidance from above. Instead, we expect our local managers to resolve their own issues without too much interference from senior management. In other words, we expect our staff to determine their own destiny within their own micro-environment.
“If I look at presentations of our business model of 10 years ago, the business drivers haven’t materially changed.”
Brent Wissink, CFO, Just Eat Takeaway.com
"We see many scale-up companies whose staff become frustrated by the changes around them. You have been with the company a long time, and you know how the organisation works. In a company that has grown to over 15,000 people after the Grubhub transaction, this must be helpful for employees."
"It is always important that a company is led by people who know in detail the products and processes. Our managers aren’t generic. They know our products, and they understand how to link our business models – or areas such as budgets and logistics networks – to the industry drivers. We know our processes and we use that knowledge when we talk about a new product feature or development, when we talk to customer services staff, and so on. We are also all relatively closely involved in the execution side of things in terms of what is required to get things done. Our staff know that we are close to the business, that we understand the issues, and that we know the development process. This helps to motivate staff too, when they see that they don’t work in a culture in which management determines strategy and they simply execute."
"As an RSM alumnus who is now a business leader, what do you feel is missing in a university context? What is important to teach students in terms of both knowledge and capabilities?" Brent
"Keeping an open and two-way relationship with universities is really important. RSM is currently supporting our leadership with masterclasses. We reciprocate by providing information about activities that are happening in our company that you can embed in your curricula. I am always happy to come speak, and I know that more than 900 bachelor students are currently working on a Just Eat Takeaway.com case study.
You could say that university taught me how to set priorities, how to decide what to focus on,
and how to provide the right information without losing sight of the big picture. That is very helpful as companies apply their own skills to make things happen.
Universities are also good at teaching students why certain business models exist – their fundamental drivers. As a business leader it is vital to really understand the drivers of a business inside and out. For us, it’s not just about ‘basket value’. When we really looked at our situation and what drives growth, we realised we had to focus on new customers, churn and order frequency. If I look at presentations of our business model of 10 years ago, the business drivers haven’t materially changed.
On the other hand, when I joined Just Eat Takeaway.com, I moved from the corporate world to a small SME company that was active in a few countries. I then built on my
university education and experience by emphasising flexibility. For instance, I could have invested in a large accountancy system at the start. But my priority was to grow. I knew the number of orders and average order value, so I could calculate basic revenue. I also knew my biggest costs: marketing, technology, salaries and housing, so I knew my EBITDA. And I knew my cash balance, which ultimately gave me an indication of the cash flow. So despite it not having all the detailed financial information, we were reporting accurately about the results. Of course, we grew to a more substantial size and there came a requirement to have a detailed financial and reporting system, at which point we immediately decided to invest in such a system. This adaptability around the different parts of an organisation is key.
“In a fast-growing environment – and certainly in a company with a growth strategy based on acquisitions – it is crucial to align people and processes constantly”
Brent Wissink, CFO, Just Eat Takeaway.com
"In that light, how important is the ability to implement resource pooling? Is it necessary for top management to use expertise from one area – such as marketing or technology – to strengthen another area?" Brent
"It is very important for a company like ours, and we have used this approach from the start. We try not to reinvent the wheel every time. Instead, we build processes that can be reused, which makes our business model scalable. We constantly try to use what we have learned as we move forward. This means shifting processes between countries such as the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, and so on. It also means re-using our know-how from HR to technology to new products to remain scalable while we accelerate growth and development.
But companies should be aware that there can be roadblocks. For instance, our company has grown so fast that we now have four or five platforms. And of course, the ‘not invented here syndrome’ can make it easy for people to assume that their platform’s features are the best. So you have to make sure everybody stays open to new ideas. In a fast-growing environment – and certainly in a company with a growth strategy based on acquisitions – it is crucial to align people and processes constantly. It all comes back to the idea of an entrepreneurial mindset. We are an online food delivery company. It’s not rocket science. Although technology has changed, and new business models have been introduced in the last five years, the basics drivers are still the same. Our task is to understand our drivers, processes and people, while remaining flexible and scalable into the future."
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