Last week our leadership team at Sanoma Learning and the local team in Den Bosch thanked Jacques Eijkens for having been a great CEO and founding father of the company. It was truly touching to hear the personal stories and feel the respect and trust that Jacques had built up with the team.
It was about five years ago that I met Jacques for the first time. He was looking to recruit someone for the Learning team to help them to develop the business further. I remember coming back from the discussions with him, Barend de Graaff (CFO) and Mark Marseille (CHRO) thinking that it would be great to work in that team with that boss on that assignment. And also wondering what they feed the people in the South of Holland that makes them so tall 🙂 (answer: lots of cheese sandwiches and milk).
So I joined the company soon after and experienced Jacques as an excellent boss! There are three things that I’ve especially appreciated about working with him and think these things have contributed to the success of our Learning business today:
1. Great coach. Jacques has been a great coach to both the team and the individuals in the team. His feedback to me has been consistently true and insightful and always comes from the perspective of helping me to do my best for Learning. He respects your strengths and challenges you to develop yourself further in a very natural and motivating way. You know he wants you to be your best.
2. Customer first. Probably borne out of his marketing background, putting the customer at the centre of our thinking has always been front-of-mind and tip-of-tongue for Jacques. We win or lose in the market depending on how well we serve our customers. Especially in a corporate setting it’s of critical importance that we never lose sight of that.
3. Feeling for essence. I have always respected Jacques’ feeling for essence. Our business is getting increasingly complex and Jacques has been a good guide in finding the way on our journey. Focus on the things that really matter.
It’s about 9 months ago now since I heard Jacques was intending to step aside. My first thought was that this would be a big shock to the people at Sanoma Learning: he has done an excellent job and is loved by the people in the organization. My second thought was that I share his passion for learning and can bring new skills that can help us on the next step of our journey to the digital future. I was keen to lead Sanoma Learning – although it will not be easy to succeed such a big man!
I’d like to thank Jacques for his trust and support. And for having been a great leader, a true professional, and for all the fun we have had on the journey so far!
Nice post John.
Hope all well?
Sent from my iPad
A great post John, thank you. Indeed, Jacques is, and has always been an exceptional figure of the publishing business. His deep understanding of far too complex situations proved to be a real help in difficult times. He had a divine talent to build a familial yet demanding atmosphere, to set up a cutting-edge corporation from scratch, to drive the company from a traditional, paper-based publishing house into a market- and customer-oriented venture and to organise a local initiative into a leading multinational and multicultural, European brand.
His style of facing new challenges will have a lasting impact on the business. Even if NTK, the Hungarian branch has become the prey of internal political gambling and had to take part of Sanoma, it was a rare opportunity to enter the Sanoma family, to work on common projects and to learn a vast amount of management and business techniques.
Jacques was an ideal boss: never humiliating, never forcing his ideas, but always attentive, listening to the local needs, initiative, and inspiring. He managed to restructure NTK from a haunted, out-of-date institution into a vital, modern and competitive force. With his guidance, NTK has become part of Europe, which, recalling those pre- and post-Sanoma years, seems to be a fairy tale come true.
May I wish him all the best.