Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare. - Angela Duckworth, Grit
Ingunn Bjøru is one of the most inspiring women I know. Almost 3 years ago, she and Barbro Fagerbakk took a leap of faith and founded inbound marketing agency, Inbound Norway. Starting with their duo, they grew the agency to approximately 15 employees with Ingunn at the helm as CEO. They then scouted and joined forces with three agencies, Katalysator in Denmark, Zeeland Family in Finland, and Doidea in Sweden, to form Avidly Agency in 2018. In 2019, the Avidly family expanded to the DACH region with the addition of NetPress GmbH to the roster. Avidly was recently named HubSpot’s Global Partner of the Year 2019 and an Elite HubSpot Solutions Partner, one of only 6 in the world. Avidly help its clients achieve and exceed growth goals with Hubspot.
Prior to becoming the COO of Avidly, Ingunn served as the Country Manager of the Norwegian office. She held this role in tandem with the COO role before transitioning to focus primarily on the COO role. Before co-founding Inbound Norway, she worked as a freelance consultant at tobecontinuedcontent and as the CEO and IMC Manager at Inbound Group. Ingunn was a Digital Marketing Consultant at Idium and a Project Manager at Findexa Forlag, She also worked as a Marketing and Project Assistant and Translator at Fountain Partnership and as an Advertising Sales Marketer and Marketing Intern at Archant.
Ingunn graduated with honors from the University of East Anglia with a Bachelor of Arts in Society, Media, and Culture. While studying at university, she took classes in French and was on the handball team. She likes the quote above because it shows that creating success and growth requires more from you than just being passionate or excited about something. It won't always be easy, but when it goes well, it is beyond worth it.
What does a typical day as a Founder, CEO, and then COO look like?
There is never a typical day. As a person who always plans ahead, it is perhaps strange that I love this job that is full of surprises.
When we first founded what is now the Norwegian office of Avidly (formerly Inbound Norway), the days consisted of anything from assembling furniture, executing customer projects, reporting on our financials, or pacing the floor of our office hoping we would survive another month.
Today, as the COO of Avidly’s international venture, there is less project execution for clients. I luckily still get to stay in touch with our clients so I can keep my finger on the pulse of what they need to succeed. More of my days are spent on video calls with team members across our five countries, helping them get connected to the right people internally, keeping progress, reporting to your management team, and in general communicating. Maintaining a smooth flow of information is perhaps my most significant task to help others succeed.
What are you passionate about? (In your work, personal life, or other)
I am passionate about chasing the same feeling both in and out of work: growth, whether it is learning something new, being challenged, or figuring out something that seemed impossible. I am also passionate about helping others grow. I have been truly lucky to work with some awesome people, and to even have the slightest role in assisting them get to the next level (whatever that means for them) is something I am really passionate about.
Outside of work, I love to workout, and best if it is so challenging that my brain has to switch off work and focus while I am doing it. Here, I also appreciate learning new things. But I have always loved being active. It might even match my passion for eating ice cream.
What do you find most challenging about being a Founder, CEO, and then COO?
With offices in five countries, I do find it challenging to not be present in all the offices more than perhaps every other month to every quarter. Seeing the team face-to-face is essential. Luckily I work with excellent country managers and team leads that/who have strong connections with their team. That way, I can keep somewhat of a relationship, even when far away. As mentioned, I also talk to team members in every country nearly every day on video.
What do you find most enriching about being a Founder, CEO, and then COO?
We are back to the growth element again. I don’t think I could have learned more, been so challenged and grown faster than in the combination of roles I have had the past four years. I also love helping others grow. If I can be of assistance to anyone else taking the next step in their career, I am here!
How did you find yourself in your current career?
When I was younger, I had completely different career plans: firefighter, conflict journalist, and other perhaps more temporary ideas. But I have always been intrigued by starting something myself.
Meeting Barbro Fagerbakk (co-founder) was a stroke of luck, and I think we were the perfect match when it came to starting something new.
When faced with big life choices, I have made my best ones when I have said “yes” before worrying too much. There is plenty of time for that later. So when Barbro asked “should we start our own agency?”, “yes” came quickly. And when asked to take on the challenge as COO, I said yes before even really considering what that meant.
There are so many things to worry about, and I worry a lot. However, you will never grow if you say “no” every time something scary comes along. You can always figure things out after.
Co-founders, Barbro Fagerbakk and Ingunn Bjøru
Words of advice for anyone who wants to pursue this career?
You need a good bit of grit. I think motivation is such a fleeting concept and not something I have depended on a lot in my career. Of course, it is lovely to be motivated, but there is no hiding that being a founder, and now a COO, can bring tough days and tough decisions. A decent dose of grit will carry you through.
Thanks for reading!