For Jan Jírovec, good relationships, humility, and respect to one’s colleagues as well as one’s “opponents” are alpha and omega – which is why it’s logical that as an investment partner at Rockaway Capital, he…
As the head of German on-line supermarket Bringmeister, which Rockaway Capital acquired at the start of the year, he is teaching Germans to buy groceries over the internet (and he’s succeeding: this year Bringmeister has set a revenue target of over EUR 100 million!), and he’ll teach you, among other things, how to enjoy life even without hacking it.
What key thing has 2020 taught you?
I was amazed when during the pandemic I watched how adaptable individuals and companies were. That’s not experience that is valuable just for us, people from the business world, but it must have been a learning experience for politicians, too: that when the future is at stake, people are capable of adapting. Governments all over the world introduced various restrictions and lots of businesses quickly adapted to this. Cafés were transformed into testing centres, educational and fitness courses went on-line, and employees started working from home en masse. I’m not saying it went smoothly for Bringmeister, but we stood fast and came out of this crisis with record numbers. We’ll see how much of all of this will stick around in life, but the experience that it’s possible to do things completely differently while still being successful will certainly remain with us.
What is the number-one rule that you follow at all costs in your business?
Above all else, you should maintain your integrity, and support and protect the integrity of every individual in your company. What do I mean by this? Be honest and have strong moral principles. On a practical level, that means that you should be someone people consider reliable and trustworthy. If you ask someone to work all night or the whole weekend on something important, things will be a lot easier for you if you have the reputation of someone who will do the same without hesitation. Or if you make a bad decision, don’t try to wriggle out of it, admit your mistake and allow others to learn from it along with you. That’s why it’s important to stand by your personal convictions, act according to them toward everyone else, to not hide behind your mistakes, and to reward honesty. Then your personal integrity will become a foundation for trust that you build with your partners, employees, and customers.
One learns from one’s mistakes. What mistake taught you the most, and what, specifically?
I can’t think of a specific mistake that would have more meaning for me than others, but that of course doesn’t mean that I haven’t made my fair share of bad decisions. My advice is more general: Any decision that isn’t based on clear numbers will be a bad one. By this I don’t want to say that you should fall victim to analysis paralysis and in the end be unable to decide for any option, but in my view checking the numbers beforehand is absolutely key. You can make a decision without proper data and numbers, and perhaps you will even succeed, but you have to accept the fact that it has more to do with gambling than with responsible business.
What is your most important piece of advice for new entrepreneurs and start-uppers?
Oscar Wilde once said that the best thing you can do with good advice is to pass it on. That’s also the only thing you can do with it, because it’s never useful to you. But I admit that the situation where you’re actively looking for advice is different. I myself never had a start-up, but I know lots of people from the world of start-ups, and from what’s I’ve seen I can say that it’s good to build and take advantage of a network of experienced and important people. It’s nice to believe in yourself and that you can manage everything without anyone else’s help. But when you do accept help, it will be much simpler.
What do you consider the greatest benefit of your business for society?
Thanks to us you can use the time you would otherwise spend shopping for groceries on other activities that bring your life value. That’s the most important thing. At a time when we’re all under time pressure and stress, who wouldn’t want to spend several extra days in the year doing something they really like to do while receiving healthy and fresh groceries? The only thing you need to do is make sure you invest these extra hours wisely.
What question are you asked most often, and how do you answer?
That’s simple: When will Bringmeister expand to include more towns? Given that our business model is turning a profit on the operating level, this leads to the unavoidable conclusion that we should expand to additional regions. Our advantage is that in Rockaway Capital we’ve found a partner who understands us and knows how to address the risk structure of our business, and who supports our growth.
What life hack helps you most in your work?
I’ve always wondered why someone would need to hack their life. My understanding of it is that it’s about solving “first world problems”, like for example brushing your teeth in the shower to make up for the time you’ve wasted on social networks. Well, I’ve got no answer for that. I see life as an unpredictable journey that you should enjoy along with its everyday wobbles and falls. All you need to do is concentrate on what’s really important. Spend time with people you like. Do what you like doing. Live and eat healthily. Be humble and grateful. And if you do all this, I don’t know what you’d need to hack.
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