Opportunity always surrounds us, but it’s not always readily evident. Merriam-Webster defines opportunity as a “favorable juncture of circumstances.” One of the abilities great entrepreneurs have is the ability spot these favorable junctures as they form and take advantage of them to create success.
While in Monaco for the 16th annual EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards I took the opportunity to sit down with finalist Marco van Zijverden, CEO of the Dutch Flower Group to talk about how he has been able to take advantage of one of those favorable junctures of circumstances to become the world’s largest flower trader.
Michael Woodward: What does opportunity mean to you?
Marco van Zijverden: Opportunity is a chance to expand and/or improve your business and strengthen your market position. I’m not sure you can learn it. I think it’s entrepreneurship. For me, to be honest, the most interesting part of going into the business was the entrepreneurship. The opportunity to set-up a company, grow a company, attract the right people… that gave me a lot of pleasure.
When I took over the business for my father I had the dream to be the market leader in the flower industry. At the time I came on the company wasn’t doing well and I think that has been my luck. That was my opportunity.
MW: What were the challenges when you started?
MvZ: There were quite a few people who were relatively expensive and they were not performing. Without firing them I was able to get them to leave as they saw they were no longer a part of the future I had in mind and the culture I was creating. Then I started to look internally for young good people who were giving our company the opportunity to grow, but were not being recognized.
MW: When it comes to your people what’s most important?
MvZ: I have a few talents and a few things that are absolutely not, but I think I do have the talent for attracting the right people. Of course you need a good strategy, but if you start with the right people and if you really treat them well, you will have success.
My goal is to give them (the employees of Dutch Flower Group) a colorful life and to treat them with respect. My aim is to create a structure where more people can share in the success. I want to give them the opportunity for growth and to develop themselves both personally and professionally. We have 30 companies and people can easily go from company to company to find the right opportunity.
MW: How do you continually stay tuned to spotting opportunities?
MvZ: Always question assumptions. I come from a conservative industry, so I have to really challenge my people to continually take chances and work to improve themselves. I don’t mind mistakes as long as it’s only once. As long as you learn from your mistakes you can continually improve yourself. I challenge my leaders to ask themselves three questions every day:
How can I do better for our people?
How can I do better for our clients?
How can I be more efficient?