Once upon a time Mergim Cahani came to Rockaway’s offices in Prague’s Kavčí hory neighbourhood, and left after about an hour, having made a deal with CEO Jakub Havrlant and investment partner Dušan Zábrodský…
As Jakub Havrlant’s right-hand man, director of finance and operations Jaromír Švihovský has been part of the Rockaway team since the very beginning, and hence has witnessed all important events that occurred while it was being built. He best balances his demanding dual position with sports, and the thing he appreciates most about Rockaway is its team, which in his words is “full of interesting people capable of pulling together in the most demanding situations.”
What key thing has 2020 taught you?
Above all, the past year reminded me how important it is to depend not only on yourself, but also on those closest to you and your immediate co-workers. In a year when everything turned topsy-turvy overnight, pulling together turned out to be very important. Luckily at Rockaway we found out that our team is one hundred percent ready for a crisis of such proportions. When needed, we were all capable of coming together, gritting out teeth, and trusting each other, which I appreciate very much. As for me, I also realized the importance of building relationships continually – so that they’re as durable as possible. That’s because crises come repeatedly and in various forms. And it’s critical moments that will show how strong the roots of the relationships we value are.
What is the number-one rule that you follow at all costs in your business?
I’m of the opinion that no rule can be applied to all situations. In business, there are many variables: the type of business, who my partner is, what management is like, how relationships with external partners are configured, with financial institutions, and so on. From my own experience, it pays off to above all be consistent, but not at the price of loss of flexibility. In 2020, such an approach allowed us to correctly evaluate which business to develop more, where on the contrary we should reduce our activities, whether we should focus on another segment, and so on.
One learns from one’s mistakes. What mistake taught you the most, and what, specifically?
The biggest mistake is to make the same or similar mistake again. Nevertheless, there are mistakes I encounter repeatedly. One of them is mutual misunderstanding and things that are “lost in translation”. At the same time, in business it’s not just about misunderstandings between two people, but within entire groups of people, which can cause great problems. All it takes is an insufficiently clear explanation and people take off in the wrong direction or get “stuck” on a certain problem. The result can then be completely different than intended. Solving a problem like that then takes lots of energy and effort on both sides. The key to avoiding such situations is to regularly check information and emphasize mutual feedback at various levels of the company.
What is your most important piece of advice for new entrepreneurs and start-uppers?
A key prerequisite for success is to work on a product or service that you find interesting, that you understand, that makes sense to you, and above all that you like. Occasionally, a new entrepreneur in our sector starts doing business primarily for one reason – to obtain money from investors. This is immediately obvious from the approach to the company and its management. On the other hand, it must be said that mere enthusiasm and a great idea with potential to make life better for people in some area is not enough. No successful start-up can do without a sensible business model with basic economic logic. I believe that the presence of both is an important element setting apart those who have the potential to achieve true success and those who don’t.
What do you consider the greatest benefit of your business for society?
As one of Rockaway’s original members, I remember our beginnings very well. We built everything from scratch and with a big vision. Despite all pitfalls and risks, we managed to build a successful investment group with a broad portfolio of companies that does big things, has interesting relationships, and especially a promising team of capable people. We’re succeeding in creating a productive environment because all our activities are based on what we’re interested in and where we see opportunity. That’s why I believe that our biggest contribution is creating motivation for those who often hesitate in business. When someone looks at our story from the outside, they can say: “It can be done.”
What question are you asked most often, and how do you answer?
We’ll need funding for… The answers differ depending on the given situation, nevertheless frequent answers are something like: How much and when? Who approved it? Does it agree with the budget? It’s not in the CF plan. How have you thought it out where do you intend to get the money for it? Do you have documentation for it? What will you do with it? Basically, the standard reactions when someone wants you to send money.
What life-hack helps you most in your work?
The only life hack I’ve stuck to my entire life is sport. That’s because I’ve been running since I’ve been little, and try to do it several times a week. It’s a great way to relax, and not only that. If you’re dealing with some sort of problem that you need to think through thoroughly, running is the ideal thing.
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