|Jan De Jong interview for the CROWN
|By Nenad N. Bach |
People , Education , Companies , Business
Jan, you are a bright star on a Croatian horizone. Dobro nam došao
Jan De Jong, Dutch entrepreneur in Split, Croatia
Summary. Jan: "Instead of importing tomatoes from the Netherlands into Croatia, I strongly believe that we can build the required infrastructure in Croatia to turn this country into a food exporting nation again. But if we wish to compete with other countries, we need to have the best technology currently on the market. And that is exactly what we plan to build in Croatia through our company - CROP... I focus on putting everything in place to ensure we build value within our business - long term."
Jan, you are a bright star on a Croatian horizon. Dobro nam došao
1. You established yourself as a successful entrepreneur in Croatia. How do you measure your success in terms of Purpose vs Earnings?
When I was in my 20s, I was very focused on being financially successful. I wanted to build big companies, big revenues, big number of employees with big profits. I never built my business with the goal to sell it. I wanted to own it. Then, at age 31 I got an offer to sell my business, which I simply had to accept, and it made me realize something. The biggest earnings I could have as an entrepreneur is not by having profits, which were often fully re-invested back into the business to continue further growth.
The biggest earnings are to be made by creating true value in your business. To build companies that are so amazing, so beautiful, so relevant that one day - somebody else is prepared to pay top dollar to own what I had built over all these years.
That is why, in my current businesses I don't focus solely on maximizing profits. I focus on putting everything in place to ensure we build value within our business - long term. Being an entrepreneur for past 14 years, building a business from scratch is always giving me a great feeling, but it makes me even happier if through my entrepreneurial efforts I can deliver a positive impact on the country where my 4 children were born and where I have planned my future - Croatia. There is no metrics for measuring this other than feeling fulfilled at the end of the working day.
2. If making money was not an issue, what would you do with youe time since time is all we have?
I would be doing what I am doing today. Money is not the reason that we do what we do. Money is a result of what we do. I feel fortunate that I am in a position that I can choose what I want to do and I know that if I do it the right way, than there is money to be made with what I do.
3. You mentioned that the technology of growing the food in sunrooms (greenhouses) could make Croatia a world class food exporter. Knowing that industrialization of food production lowers the quality of food, how will you solve that problem. Fact is that tomatoes grown in sunrooms are not of great quality. Quantity vs Quality. Industry vs Artisanship?
I would have to disagree with the statement that tomatoes grown in greenhouses are not of great quality. We plan to grow great tomatoes in our high-tech greenhouses. Both my business partner, Jerko Trogrlic, and I agree upon the following: We only want to grow tomatoes of such quality that we would also give them to our own 7 children to eat.
And yes, instead of importing tomatoes from the Netherlands into Croatia, I strongly believe that we can build the required infrastructure in Croatia to turn this country into a food exporting nation again. But if we wish to compete with other countries, we need to have the best technology currently on the market. And that is exactly what we plan to build in Croatia through our company - CROP.
4. What were the best things COVID 19 tought us?
I would be the first one to say that I am not able to work from home. My wife and I have 4 children, so its always very dynamic at home. But Covid-19 taught me that I am perfectly able to work from home, that I am even more productive at home and that at the same time I can really enjoy spending more time with my family.
5. Name 3 things that you would change in Croatia if you had a magic wand.
Attitude, attitude & attitude. Why? Because with the right attitude we can change everything for the better, we can defeat any challenge and seize all opportunities.
6. When will you learn Croatian?
Govorim malo Hrvatski, i razumijem puno. Ali - the grammar is killing me. 7 padeži. When people talk to me about simplifying processes and bureaucracy in Croatia, perhaps we can also make an effort to simplify the Croatian grammar.
7. Do you secretly enjoy discomfort and uncertainty, because it pushes you to new challenges?
Over the years I have learned that I am most productive and creative when I enter unknown territory and when I put myself in uncomfortable situations. I don't enjoy being uncomfortable. What I enjoy is to turn uncomfortable situations into comfortable situations, because throughout that process I get to meet new people and learn new things, I get to discover new places and I have a chance to create something of value; and that is what makes me happy and gives me purpose.
7. Being that structural thinking is an ally of creativity, curious to hear how you personally
structure your day?
I am really a "family first" kind of guy. As a father of 4 kids and founder of several companies, my days are less structured than most people might think. Business and private are blending throughout the day and I always try not to work after 17.00 PM and I avoid working over the weekends. Evenings and weekends are reserved for family.
8. How does your family enjoy life in Croatia, is there an Expat scene, or an integral community when coming from outside in?
The expat community is rather small in Croatia and I am mostly engaging with locals. My wife and kids were all born in Croatia, so for them - this is simply their home country. But we enjoy being here, especially during spring and summer we reap the benefits of living in the Mediterranean.
9. Who are your influences?
Most inspiration I get simply from talking with people around me. By listening to what they are unhappy about and their concerns, I find inspiration and drive to improve things around me through my entrepreneurial efforts. Of course, I have my personal heroes, like Elon Musk & Simon Sinek.
10. In your opinion who is going to raise the salary bar in Croatia in order to retain local talent?
I believe that this will come from Croatian companies who actually deliver their products and services abroad. Companies that are focusing solely on the domestic market are having a hard time to increase the salary bar, but companies that are competing internationally have no other choice than to pay their stay in accordance with international standards.
11. Do you think World Peace is possible in your lifetime?
Even though I am an optimist, I believe the world is too greedy, for money and power, to have World Peace. Even when fighting a global pandemic, countries are pointing fingers at each other and care primarily about themselves. Wealth and power are not correctly distributed over people and countries. The ones who have it, want to keep it, the ones that don't have it want to obtain it. And this results in struggles and friction - often concluded with war. Perhaps the only way to get World Peace is for the World first to hit rock-bottom, where the only way to get out of trouble is by uniting the World with common goals and understanding.
12. Do you gaze at the stars regularly?