I’m really excited about today’s interview with Madeleine Yoran and Sabine Zelm, founders of yuii business training. Founded in 2011, yuii business training stands for individual, creative and innovative training for companies, including in the areas of leadership, communication and presentation.
Coaching and training are offered very widely, were you never worried about being just another offering among many?
Honestly, no. We founded yuii business training in 2011 and closely observed and analyzed the training and coaching market beforehand. At that time, there was indeed a lack of offerings that addressed companies and their personnel development with – as one would say today – “agile” and creative methods. There was a lack of fresh wind. With our young and approachable online presence and offering, we set ourselves apart from our competitors right from the start, and that alone attracted a lot of attention. In fact, we were at the start at the right time with the right offer.
What is the advantage of the yuii principle that you developed and how does it differ from other training methods?
It may come as a surprise, but for a long time – and in some cases still today – training courses, i.e. advanced training by companies for their employees, were conducted in a very conventional and classic manner: In 1-2 days, participants received patent remedies in matters of leadership, communication or presentation from an “all-knowing lecturer”. We started from a completely different learning approach from the very beginning: The participants of our trainings have emotional experiences because we work with the ingenious methodology of so-called “applied improvisation”. Our participants laugh a lot, get angry (at themselves), sometimes feel insecure and get to know themselves in a whole new way – and they are guaranteed to leave their comfort zone. This is the only way for people to reach the “learning zone”, so that change is possible. All yuii trainers see themselves as facilitators who accompany people in their personal development and support them in recognizing new facets and strengths and bringing them into their daily work.
Who is the yuii principle for and why do you need it?
It is really thought and made for everyone. We do not target specific industries, nor do we target specific age groups. Only our “Young Leadership Camp” is aimed at managers who are still quite new to this position or who will soon be leading employees.
In the start-up scene, the establishment of a GbR by women is still quite rare. What factors played a decisive role in the joint founding for both of you?
We both agreed that we wanted to set up something of our own together. We were ready to invest both 100% energy and time into the project and of course we also wanted to create the appropriate legal framework by founding a GbR. We did that immediately with the launch of yuii business training.
How did friends and relatives react when you mentioned your desire to start a business and how did you deal with their reactions?
Our entire environment has reacted very positively. In the beginning, especially our circle of friends was quite involved, because we first tested most of the training formats extensively with them. Our parents also stayed “cool” even though we both had good jobs with secure incomes. This is often very important for parents ;). Funnily enough, our parents are very similar in one thing: they both always encouraged us in our goals and always trusted that we would already make the right decisions for ourselves and our lives. In 2011, we were absolutely convinced of our idea, but we were also quite pragmatic: a foundation is not something that has to last forever. In other words, we said from the beginning, “If it doesn’t work out, we’ll go back to our old jobs or start up again later.” But we were determined to try. Our motto at the time was “Just try it!”. We have kept this motto until today.
Do you both have specific (thematic) focuses or do your areas of expertise overlap in the context of your trainings?
We have many common favorite topics, such as leadership, communication and presentation. Madeleine is currently also responsible for the topic of “Productivity Boost” (time and self-management), while Sabine enjoys working in the areas of “Creativity” or “Women only” trainings especially for women.
When you think about the training and coaching you’ve done so far, what event or client issue has stuck out in your mind the most?
Phew, tough question! There were and are so many great trainings and very different customer engagements. We currently love our “Young Leadership Camp” because new and young leaders are usually totally on fire for their position and really want to make a difference. Working with our customers in this area gives us an incredible amount of pleasure and the feedback from the participants is an immense driver for us. We both also have particularly fond memories of a workshop day we designed for a well-known management consultancy. Four workshops in one day on the topic of “Innovation through improvisation”.
To be honest, we were a bit trembling at the beginning whether the ladies and gentlemen – many of them middle-aged and mostly wearing pantsuits – would really get involved with our improv games and exercises. In the end, it was a lot of fun and a great success. We are now doing such training more and more frequently precisely for industries that want more agility, flexibility and openness to new things. And we love the “Know Yourself” training that we developed for our long-standing client XING SE, among others: In two days, employees get to know themselves better: Their strengths and areas for development, personal motives and drivers – all in a comparison of self-image and external image with video feedback. Developing such concepts and executing them successfully is a very fulfilling job.
What would you recommend to women who have a strong desire to start a business but are still struggling with the implementation?
If the general conditions are right, i.e. the project can “fly” from a business perspective, if there is enough strength and passion to get through the tough times at the beginning, then we would clearly advise you to do it: Do it! Even if you were to fail, you would have learned so much that these learnings would probably not be worth the money. Anyone who is struggling should definitely seek support: We also had several founder coaches who were very helpful to us.
In the course of your joint self-employment, were there moments when you doubted or perhaps even wanted to give up the desire to be self-employed? How did you overcome such thoughts and fears?
That real moment that we wanted to give up? No, there really never was. Probably because in the beginning we were still freelancing in our old jobs and could make a good living that way. Nevertheless, the first two years were not “gentlemen’s years” and of course there were always times of frustration: we invested a lot of time and energy in yuii, but because we naturally lacked references in the beginning, the customer base built up really slowly. However, we had expected this and factored it in from the start. Today, we no longer have to make cold calls because we have great existing customers and are always getting new referrals. Of course, this is the best thing that could happen!
How important are networks and participation in networking events for you?
Our networks are immensely important to us. We have also benefited greatly from this and still rely on good, long-standing contacts today. However, both of us are not “business card collectors” at all and in fact not very keen on taking along every event in Berlin.
As coaches, do you actually take advantage of coaching or supervision yourself?
Absolutely. Supervision is part of it!
What would you consider your three biggest (professional) drivers?
- To create something of our own that we can both really stand behind,
- To have the freedom to work as we see fit and really want to
- the curiosity and ambition to reinvent ourselves again and again. yuii goes Future – we are very excited to see where we are in 2020!
What three tips would you give to other female founders who are still at the beginning of their startup and conceptualization?
Proof of concept: Consult your own network, get expert opinions and ask the question: Does my idea really have potential and can I really implement it (alone) or with the help of investors?
2. if question no. 1 is answered with “Yes”: Do it and try it out! Do not get discouraged! There are certainly fewer female founders because we women are more clearly focused on security than men. But why? There are no rational reasons for it.
3. have the right consultants. We have had coaches , strategy developers and financial experts on our side from the very beginning. The money invested was absolutely worth it.
Finally, a “question for the future”: What challenges would you like to face personally and professionally (together) in the next five years?
Like everywhere else, the question of digitalization and agility is booming in the training industry. We are currently working on adapting yuii and our portfolio even more precisely to these requirements, although we have always been quite “agile” through our impro methodology. And we are working on expanding our network. If you are a trainer or coach and would like to join the colorful yuii network, please feel free to contact us! Personally, Madeleine has been facing the beautiful challenge of balancing family and career for 2 years now (Madeleine has been a mom since 2016) and Sabine is currently hatching a plan on how exactly to create an “escape” from the much too gray Berlin winter. She calls it balancing a lot of sun and work.
Thank you for the great and insightful interview.
About the author
Kinga Bartczak berät, coacht und schreibt zu Female Empowerment, neuer Arbeitskultur, Organisationsentwicklung systemischen Coaching, und Personal Branding.
Zudem ist sie Geschäftsführerin der UnternehmerRebellen GmbH und Herausgeberin des FemalExperts Magazins.