Rockaway Insider with Jan Hanuš, CEO MALL Group: If you don’t have enthusiastic, energetic people around you, you won’t be able to do a thing
Jan Hanuš loves adrenaline and major challenges – that’s why in his professional life he’s often been in charge of companies that needed major changes, and in his private life he loves wild downhill bike riding. Now he’s at the helm of the e-commerce MALL Group, where he became CEO in January of this year.
What key thing has 2020 taught you?
That even in normal times, challenging yourself a bit is worthwhile, because it can bring lots of good results. Thanks to the pandemic, I’m even more convinced that the best ideas always come along when you’re outside your comfort zone. It was amazing to see how people around me succeeded in getting their bearings in the new situation and think up things that had hitherto never occurred to them. And how quickly they thought them up – things that had formerly taken a half-year, could suddenly be done is six weeks. On a personal level, I started to have more appreciation for things I’d taken for granted, and reminded myself that it’s good to take a humble approach to life and not act as if everything were automatic. And I also realized that the winning tactic is to stay calm and avoid panic. I saw a lot of people around me who were panicking, and it wasn’t good.
What is the number-one rule that you follow at all costs in your business?
People first. You simply have to focus on people. If you don’t have enthusiastic, energetic people around you, you won’t be able to do a thing, no matter what you do. It all starts with the hiring process, when I mainly look at each applicant’s energy and values, which for me are at least 80 percent of the equation. But you can’t always build a team completely according to your expectations, so what I’ve found works is to move those who aren’t working out as I’d expected somewhere else, give them different responsibilities or tasks, because usually they’re then able to spread their wings and behave completely differently. It really works – I don’t fire people for making mistakes, but I do say goodbye due to poor values. And I must say that I haven’t had to say goodbye to that many people during my career.
One learns from one’s mistakes. What mistake taught you the most, and what, specifically?
Letting someone else appoint someone to an important position in the team. That’s the biggest mistake I’ve made. It’s happened to me twice, each time with catastrophic results. Since then, it’s something I’ve watched out for.
What is your most important piece of advice for new entrepreneurs and start-uppers?
Don’t wait for perfection; put your product on the market even if it’s not perfect, but be flexible and improve your product continuously. Because I know a lot of start-ups that are extremely successful, yet in the beginning had a completely different focus and different business model – and they succeeded because they were capable of change. So the key thing is iteration, and then also a reality check. You often create a start-up around some market expectations that in the end are irrelevant because they’re motivated only by some subjective idea you have. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to change it.
What do you consider the greatest benefit of your business for society?
Simply put, I like the fact that we bring the whole world to our customer’s door, so to speak. Thanks to our huge product range and abilities, you can buy goods from the comfort of your home from the farthest reaches of Europe just as easily as stepping out to do some shopping a couple of streets over. This is the model we’re aiming for, and which is already partially working. So yes – like every e-commerce service, we make life simpler for people, but we also make it more varied.
What question are you asked most often, and how do you answer?
There are two such questions. Firstly: Where do I get my energy? I always find this question comical, because on the contrary, I always say to myself that the difference between what I do and what I could do is still huge, from my perspective.
And the second: Why do people follow me, even when I’m inviting them to hell? When I look in the mirror, I laugh at that question just like I do at the first one, but it’s probably because since I was little I’ve been led to have a natural respect for people around me. People feel that I listen to them, respect them, and value them. And that’s something that will convince anyone that they’re following the right leader, one with whom they don’t have to be afraid to spread their wings and fly.
What life hack helps you most in your work?
That’s easy. When things come to a head, I switch off, there’s no other way to manage stress and a hectic programme. In my case, it’s downhill biking, which involves a lot of jumping and flying through the air. It’s refreshing. It’s really the best sport I’ve ever done, and I’ve tried a lot of them. This one is interesting in that when you approach a jump you can’t see past it, but you still have to build up enough speed, because if you don’t it’s bad and you’ll fall. It’s an ideal way to clear your head. I try to get out on my bike at least twice a week, and during trying times even three times. It really works.
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