"It's not always the best that wins"

Daniel Mühlbach started the journey with Footway six years ago. Now the whole of Europe is at his door and I meet a CEO with a vision that encompasses simplicity, unorthodox ideas and unyielding stubbornness. Join us for a chat among the shoeboxes.

We sit down in one of the rooms at the Footway headquarters. He takes the easy-chair and I sit on the couch. In front of us is a TV and a pile of DVDs. One of the three core values, "fun", echoes in my head. Another value: "the customer" comes into focus pretty quickly. I am therefore slightly surprised when Daniel talks about his fear of them. 

Simplicity is our strength

– I'm fascinated by customers. In a scared way. I mean that I always want it to be as good as possible. That’s where e-commerce really comes into its own. With a few simple innovations, you can make it that much better for many people.

It comes up several times during our chat. Simplicity. Whenever it is mentioned, his eyes light up and he leans forward eagerly.

– I have a need for simplicity. I’m dyslexic and sometimes have trouble remembering things, which has meant that I always need things around me to be simple. This has become a strength – to make everything as simple as possible. Other people who have good memories think that it’s a given thing that you remember everything, but everyone is different.

It sounds like a given thing to make everything as simple as possible. Doesn’t everyone do that?

– It’s very easy to make it difficult. You have to boil things down to the basics to do a really good job, and you have to behave well towards your customers. And then you always have to be consistent to get anywhere – it’s no good changing your strategy all the time. Failure is often a case of not putting enough effort into things.

Inspire each other

Simplicity has been one of the challenges for the first five years. Has Footway turned out how you thought it would five years ago?

– Yes, you could say that. We are a bit bigger than I thought. The important thing in the beginning was to go through the various stages: first sell one pair of shoes, then become profitable, then avoid being taken over.
And what is your goal now?

– The vision is for Footway to be the best place for shoes. Not just for buying shoes, but also for talking about shoes and inspiring each other.

The time is well chosen. A lot is happening within e-commerce and Daniel is convinced that the customers' impact on the market is increasing more and more.

– The power is with the consumers. Recommendations from one consumer to another are of the most value, and now the system has made it possible for consumers to communicate with each other in a new way.

Never giving up

I’m curious. Talking about long-term goals is easy for someone who has a number of years of experience. I ask whether he thought the same when he was younger.

– It’s hard to have perspective at that time. The view is different. Now I think that five years isn’t very much at all. I try to bring everyone along with that. Many people fail because of a short-term perspective. I’m a gymnastics instructor in my free time and I teach self-confidence and continuity – to handle setbacks without giving up. It’s not the best that wins; it’s the one who doesn’t give up.

Starting from scratch with Footway after your successes with Lensway is proof of invincible stubbornness.

– I never think ”it won’t work”; it will just take a different form. I like to have crazily big goals in front of me, but the way to achieve them shouldn’t be planned in too much detail. You have to navigate the whole time.

He leans back in the large easy-chair and crosses one leg over the other.

– You have to reflect on what you’re going through. Of course not all days at work can be fun, but in our case this is just the start of a real journey. You often hear ”Wow Footway is so cool” – and what I think is that, well, it WILL be cool.
This is where it all starts.

Text: Alexander Åberg
Photo: Kristofer Samuelson

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