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March 9, 2022,

Rockaway Insider with Antonín Kočí, director of Euromedia Group

Rockaway Insider with Antonín Kočí, director of Euromedia Group

When you step into Antonín Kočí’s office, the first thing you notice is the intoxicating aroma of books, which are piled up on his desk and all his shelves. It’s no wonder – in the life of the head of the Euromedia Group publishing house, books of course play an important role, not only as a product, but above all as a matter of the heart and a source of wisdom and teaching. Here’s another inspiring interview brought to you by today’s Rockaway Insider newsletter.

One learns from one’s mistakes. What mistake taught you the most, and what, specifically?
When I started working for this publishing house, I was under the impression that my skills were sufficient to influence people, who would then “switch” from what they considered important to what I did. I tried that, and of course in most cases it didn’t work. But when you publish books, you can often bring something new and interesting, it’s a matter of agenda-setting. Through established editions you discover new worlds or new authors for people. That’s nice. But it was important for me to realize that every book has its audience, which then dictates its form, price, and overall appearance. That’s an ongoing learning process, because audiences also change over time. Every book is a separate project, so I look upon it as an eternal case of trial and error. But I hope that the errors are decreasing.

What inspiring book influenced you most, and should we read it?
For me, these are the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Personally, I have a bit of a contemptuous attitude with regard to esoteric texts, but there are things that have a broader context and work – and the Four Agreements have given me a lot. They are also available as audio books – Jaroslav Dušek has done a great job reading them – also as a stage performance, which is a great experience. For me in my daily life and activities, two of his principles suffice. Firstly: “Don’t take anything personally”, without which we wouldn’t be able to operate here, because we reach decisions through debates, in large groups, and everyone has some sort of opinion. Taking the fact that someone didn’t understand my intent and everyone rejects something I spent so much time and effort to come up with, would be the end. And the second principle that’s worked for me and that I use daily: to work so that I feel that I’ve done all I can do for something, and then it’s up to others to decide whether I’ve succeeded or not.

Which work-related decision got you where you are today?
First I took in English at the Faculty of Arts, and as a result I had the feeling that I know something about literature and history, but I was also interested in the use of language. That’s why I started taking journalism and media studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences, because I was interested in interpersonal relationships and communication as such. I then added things to my studies that enriched me while moving me forward. While studying journalism one of my subjects was History of Publishing, taught by associate professor Jan Halada. At the end of the semester he said: “How would you like to try working for a publisher? I’ve got two openings here.” One was for the Book Club, and I asked: “Which publisher is bigger?” “Book Club.” “OK, I’ll go there.” And I’ve been here ever since then, just with a ten-year pause during which I gained experience elsewhere.

Which of your skills do you work on because you consider it to be the most important in the future?
The need to delegate. As our business expands, you can no longer attend to everything in detail, and have to delegate. That’s why I’ve got a deputy who helps me with lots of things, I place my full trust in the people responsible for audio books, we have a network of editors-in-chief who have their responsibilities… We work as a team, it’s the only way.

How can you keep your wits about you when the company is having a crisis?
From this perspective, the last two years have been completely typical. You could see how various companies dealt with the situation. Many publishers stepped back and said: “Since there’s a crisis, we’ll save on books, we’ll reduce the number of titles we publish and wait for the crisis to pass and bookstores to reopen.” But we’re a big company, pushing along a big pile of publications. We decided that postponing their publication by, say, a half year wouldn’t be good. I play sports, and when an obstacle appears I’m used to taking it as a challenge that energizes me, not as something that I should be afraid of. And the next time I’ll know that I was able to hurdle it and that another will likely appear, one that’s a bit higher, and I’m enticed to try hurdling that one too. That’s why I think that as a company we handled Covid in exemplary fashion.

What do you consider to be the Euromedia Group’s biggest success in recent years, and why?
We successfully navigated tough Covid times while remaining a team of people who likes books, is happy when a book arrives, we like to hold it in our hands and smell its aroma. And even though we realize that we operate in a business environment, books aren’t just about money, after all. And my greatest joy is that’s how the people around me think.

What was your best investment in life?
That’s easy, my wife and children. They’re an emotional investment that’s paying off many times over.


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