Life By Leadership | A Fireside Chat with Jozef Opdeweegh

A Fireside Chat with Jozef Opdeweegh

Jozef Opdeweegh is a remarkable businessman, entrepreneur, and author who has made a significant impact in retail and consumer goods industries. He has built a reputation as a highly successful and respected leader. In addition to his successful career, he is also the published author of “Fair Value”. The book chronicles his personal journey towards creating a fair business model that benefits the company, employees, and society at large. In this exclusive interview, we delve deeper into the insights shared by Jozef in his book and his thoughts on the current state of the business world. Get ready to be inspired by the vision of a man who has not only contributed to the world of business but has also made it his mission to make it fair.

In this interview, we delve into Jozef Opdeweegh’s background, his approach to leadership, and his insights on the current state of the business world. He shares his thoughts on the importance of fairness and transparency in business, his experiences as a CEO, and his advice for aspiring leaders.

Join us as we explore the fascinating life and career of Josef Opdeweegh. Lets jump right into it!

Can you tell us about your background and what led you to pursue your current career?

Jozef: I have a background in engineering, quantitative operational research, and business administration. I started my career in corporate banking, and in that position had the advantage of being a privileged witness of the companies I served in banking. Relatively early on in my banking career, I was offered the opportunity to join one of the companies whom we served as a banking client. I didn’t hesitate, jumped the fence, have been in business ever since and have never regretted it.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?

Jozef: In my first year as the managing director of the very first business I ran, which was an automotive supplier, we lost a big chunk of our business as a consequence of the currency crisis that hit the Middle and Far East in 1998. Those markets were our main export markets at that point in time, and I had to let go of around 800 of my colleagues, folks whom we had hired for a large automotive contract that had been awarded to us 12 months earlier. It was a very sad experience. Frantically, we (the management team) set out on a quest to find alternative, near adjacent business verticals for the business and we were very fortunate in the sense that we did land a big assembly contract for Volkswagen, as well as for Ford Motor Company. This allowed us to rehire the lion’s share of the folks we had to let go 12 months prior. I guess the moral of the story is that we did not allow a major uncontrollable event to threaten the going concern of the business but rather that we, through a combination of perseverance and, let’s be honest, good fortune, were able to continue to grow.

What are some of your proudest achievements, either professionally or personally?

Jozef: I think one of my biggest achievements is that I have been able, when faced with tremendous adversity in my personal life (an act of severe physical and emotional violence of which I was the victim), to fight back, to not allow what had happened to me to define me, to not lose my faith in people, to not be paralyzed by these events but rather to continue to create opportunities for my family, colleagues, customers and myself.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in your work?

Jozef: I love creating something from nothing. I think I much more suited to run a company that requires transformational work than to run a company that has modest ambitions. And while it may surprise you, companies with modest growth ambitions (“evolution rather than revolution”) do actually exist. Transitional work can include supercharging revenue growth, entering into new and different verticals, rightsizing the back-office support functions, expanding the business into new countries and territories, etc… Of course, the most transformational of tasks is starting a new business from scratch, which is also something I very much enjoy.

What are some common misconceptions people have about your industry, and how do you address them?

Jozef: I am involved in a number of different businesses and some of those indeed carry more of a stigma than others. One of the businesses I am involved is in the field of healthcare. It is not secret that the cost of healthcare in the US is very high, by far the highest in the world on a per capita basis actually, and still rapidly increasing. In the provision of healthcare, there are regrettably a small number of players who do not take integrity as seriously as they should which partially explains the healthcare cost differential with the rest of the industrialized world. I am however of the opinion that an unwavering focus on compliance and business integrity in everything we do, always wins the day, even if the short-term gains are sometimes hard to measure. To be an upstanding entrepreneur and citizen is always the right path, which will almost invariably lead to the highest level of personal balance and satisfaction.

Can you tell us about a project or initiative you’ve led that had a significant impact on your company or industry?

Jozef: I was asked to lead the carve-out of an important part of Caterpillar with the intent to build a separate, stand-alone business that focused on complex demand forecasting techniques rooted in sophisticated mathematical and statistical models. The team and I were able to complete the task on time and on budget, which was quite an achievement considering the fact that we did not have any back-office functions, no IT infrastructure and had to relocate thousands of people 1,000 miles south. Not only were we able to finish the carve-out successfully, the carved-out business grew at a much quicker pace after it was carved out than prior to the carve-out and it became the standard-bearer for complex demand forecasting techniques.

How do you prioritize and manage your time effectively, especially when dealing with a demanding workload?

Jozef: I have never thought that my workload was overwhelming. When I got my first CEO job, I was in my early thirties and yes, I was working all the time but really enjoyed what I was doing. I understood we had a lot of untapped opportunity available to us, and that we would be able to attract great people to allow us to entertain those opportunities. And that is exactly what happened: thanks to a wonderful team, that business became a global business, was financially very successful. And I was able to spend more time on strategic tasks and equally important, on ensuring I led a balanced life. I believe it is very important to always keep a clear head, and not allow yourself to feel overwhelmed. There is always a solution, and a methodical approach, combined with an unwavering dose of perseverance, will show the right path.

How do you ensure that you’re continuously improving and staying ahead of industry trends?

Jozef: The notion that a successful business is dependent on one individual, is truly nonsensical in my view. Not one single person knows everything, or even a lot. Teams build good businesses, and possess much greater combined knowledge, balance and wisdom. I am very grateful: I have always have been surrounded by great teams, by truly intelligent, value driven, creative and complementary individuals. And they have helped us stay ahead of the curve. Through continuous education, study, hard work, a focus on analytics and a general alertness that never rests, we have always been able to serve who matters well. And who matters, in sequence: first colleagues, then customers. If your serve your colleagues and customers well, the company will grow, and the creation of shareholder’s wealth will simply follow.

What advice do you have for aspiring professionals in your industry or field?

JozefBe open, open minded, respectful, creative and quick (in decision making). Don’t ever lose your patience or raise your voice but be kind, approachable and humble. Work always smart, and sometimes hard. Keep a low profile and stay ahead of your competition without them really knowing you do. And finally, may the best idea win: meritocracy wins the day!

What do you hope people will remember about your work and your legacy?

JozefI am not one bit concerned about my legacy. It is of no importance to me and I have never even thought about it. I hope people will remember me as kindhearted, respectful, trusting, inclusive and reasonably creative and intelligent. I hope that I will have created lasting business that will continue to provide for the families of my colleagues. And I hope I will have done everything in my capability to have been a good, patient father, a loving husband, and a good son.

In a world where profit and money-making are the driving forces behind business, Jozef Opdeweegh has a refreshing perspective on the importance of fairness. His journey towards creating a fair business model highlights how to balance profit and social responsibility for the greater good. This interview with Jozef will inspire you to approach business differently and consider its impact on society. Let us strive towards creating a fairer world, one decision at a time.

Keep a lookout for part 2! – We’re bringing Jozef back to talk to him a little less about business and a little more about his personal life.

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