Some people require decades of experience before they can take on leadership roles, for others it is a natural fit. An example of the latter is Ismael Wrixen, Group CEO at FE International. A radical shift in his early career sent him down an entrepreneurial path, and now Insights Success proudly recognizes Ismael as one of our inspiring business leaders.
Below are the highlights from an interview we conducted with Ismael:
Give a brief overview of your background and your role in FE International.
I began my career at Citigroup where, for two and a half years, I worked on a brokerage team that brought IPOs to market. I felt hampered by the standard rate of career progression in the industry, and I felt that the long working hours would be better spent working for myself.
I teamed up with an old friend from university, Thomas Smale, whose burgeoning company was involved in brokering the sale of online businesses. Seeing the potential overlap with his business and my background, after some careful consideration, I joined the company as CEO, bringing new formality and structure to the business, as well as my corporate experience. I now oversee day-to-day operations at FE, splitting my time between our New York and London offices.
How do you diversify your organizations offerings to appeal to your target audience?
FE started out by catering to smaller online businesses, some only earning a few thousand dollars per year. FE’s Founder, Thomas, became adept at reinvigorating and selling these businesses and soon realized there was a whole market of larger online businesses requiring assistance. While FE’s services have shifted over the past decade, broadening out to help larger companies while better specializing in three core areas of online business; ecommerce, content and SaaS. The business has benefitted from catering to this wide range of clients. We have recently launched fund to provide even more options for people looking to invest in the online space.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every leader should possess.
Experience is first and foremost when it comes to leadership. There have been some great first-time entrepreneurs but the people who build large and successful companies are usually people who have good and relevant leadership experience prior to starting up. Leadership in a business context can be learned, or at least heavily improved. One’s character can have a major bearing on the effectiveness of the company, but if you have good experience, and you match yourself to the right business model and the right employees, leadership can be a natural fit. Experience always trumps any innate attributes.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that shaped your journey?
An important lesson for me was going into a traditional corporate job and seeing how the other half lives. While I learned a lot and there were aspects of the job I enjoyed, it was helpful to get an understanding of what I didn’t want to do before following a more entrepreneurial route. I pursue my current work more confidently as a result.
What were some of the challenges and roadblocks that you faced during the initial phase of your journey?
Our biggest problem was spreading the word about our services. We knew there was a large market out there, but how to get ourselves in front of people was our biggest hurdle. We had to become marketers, and overtime we worked out the most effective channels for generating leads and built out teams around them. It’s an area of the business we are proud of and continuously evolves.
Where does FE International see itself in the near future and how will you catalyze the change?
FE International sees itself as the premiere online business M&A Advisory and, as time goes on, we see ourselves cementing this reputation. There are new markets to enter and a wider audience to reach within the USA. We have started our first fund, where we hope to capitalize on our knowledge of the industry while creating new investment opportunities for our clients.
We have also opened a new location in San Francisco, and we aim to continue improving our service for the benefit of all online business owners and investors.
What’s your advice for emerging leaders?
Build the best team you possibly can and instill a problem-solving attitude. At our company one of our core values is to “find a way”. This means that only by pursuing new ways of solving problems, outside one’s usual working channels and experience, can you be at your most effective.