ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Jean-Francois van Boxmeer: Nurturing competent and loyal people
Jean-Francois van Boxmeer believes that the talent quotient is not everything in a company’s success. It’s about loyalty and competence.
“It’s not brain power but people’s competence and their dedication, as these people know what they are doing and they do their best,” said the 52-year-old Heineken N.V. executive board chairman and CEO in an interview during his recent visit to Jakarta.
Van Boxmeer attended the 40th anniversary of Heineken’s Tangerang brewery and also the inauguration ceremony of the new upgraded Tangerang brewery, where premium beer Heineken and local brand Bir Bintang are produced.
Dutch brewing company Heineken International operates in over 70 countries, including in Muslim countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Apart from the international Heineken brand, the company also produces local brands through its subsidiaries. Bir Bintang is produced by its subsidiary, publicly listed PT Multi Bintang Indonesia Tbk, which is one of more than 200 local brands across the globe under Heineken International’s management.
The Belgium said that people working at Heineken are highly motivated because, apart from loving what they do, they have access to international mobility. Qualified people have opportunities to work in different regions around the world, especially in countries where Heineken operates.
With Heineken expanding into Asia, the company has opened its doors to people from Asian countries to work for Heineken overseas.
“Ask younger people to move. You will find that the younger they are, the easier it is [to move to work overseas]. That’s what we’re trying to do. We put the young Indonesians eager to take an adventure overseas into [Heineken’s] system. That way, they’ll grow and become qualified and competent,” he said.
“We cover those processes and they go at a natural speed as we have to find people that are prepared to move even though mobility is from time to time limited by family criteria. An employer should respect that. We cannot impose or force people [to move and work overseas].”
Introduced in 1864, Heineken has enjoyed a good reputation worldwide, leaving many wondering how its strong global brand has been well maintained
“We have to keep it lively. A brand is like a person, it has to live and a brand wants to have a life that people like to see, have and share,” he said.
He added maintaining a strong, global brand involved constant work to maintain the quality people expected, which entailed huge investment.
“The packaging is also important.”
This also means the importance of making constant adjustments, especially with respect to communicating the brand, given the new ways people now communicate via social media.
“Classic advertising has been decreasing but advertising that allows for two-way communication, such as through Facebook, Internet, Twitter and YouTube, has been increasing,” he said.
“How you dialogue the brand is very important. The brand you build at the end of the day is like a person with a reputation, a personality you like.”
Operating an alcohol beverage business in different countries, including Muslim majority countries like Indonesia, is a challenge that requires a cautious approach. However, van Boxmeer knows well the secret to operating in the country successfully.
“Most of the time, our business is quite regulated and licensed. It’s important to operate within the borders of legislation and culture. You have to do what is correct and appropriate in a country where you operate,” he said.
“We have developed a way of understanding and honoring what the boundaries are and we should respect them.”
Van Boxmeer’s first contact with brewery world started when he took part in an internship with the brewery at Stella’s Avon, where his love of the beverage industry was growing, and he decided to apply for a job upon the completion of his studies.
He applied for jobs in several companies, including Heineken.
“I chose Heineken because it is an international company, which attracted me so much. But I had no idea that I would become a CEO.
“There’d been a lot of hard work and I suppose a bit of luck,” he said, adding the position was only temporary.
Following eight years in leading Heineken International, van Boxmeer felt that both he himself and the company had evolved, which also meant a challenge for his role as CEO.
“You get wise and more tolerant,” he said, laughing.
Operationally, he said he was no longer involved in managing people like he did eight years ago. “I delegate more than I did in the past and now I pay much attention to people who drive the business and training.”
He emphasized the importance of training and selecting people, saying that the better people a company had, the less problems it had to deal with.
“So we always have to be very focused on how we can a make better business in a more profitable way and if we do that, we’ll create wealth,” he said. “The wealth is not only for our shareholders but also for many, many stakeholders. And that’s what I want to do - make a little contribution to us and to humanity.”
He said a leader should not only be able to set clear business objectives but also “spend time how you want to reach [those objectives], including creating new things to make better companies in the future.”
For van Boxmeer, making a decision or taking a big step was part of the whole process of a company’s operations. As he acknowledged, he was never alone in taking such steps, such as the purchase of a company that he considered a “phenomenal moment” as it required approval from the board of directors.
Even though it was a joint decision, he felt as a CEO, it was complicated when having to close 46 breweries in 10 years due to a shrinking market as a result of a shrinking population. “You don’t do this with pleasure, even if it is rational,” he said.
Van Boxmeer is upbeat about the future of Asia, especially the growing Southeast Asia region that already offers a huge market. With Europe posing a shrinking population, there is a massive shift in the market from the West to the East, he said.
“The future is bright in Southeast Asia because you have a very young and dynamic population,” he said.
Scheduled visits to Heineken’s subsidiaries in different countries is part of van Boxmeer’s job.
He has visited Indonesia three times but he acknowledged he did not know the country well.
“I’ve only stayed in hotels and at the airport.”
Jean-Francois van Boxmeer
Place/Date of Birth: Elsene, Belgium,
Sept. 12, 1961
Holds position of chairman of the executive board, Heineken N.V. , The Netherlands from 2005 to present. Previously, he worked as member of executive board Heineken N.V., The Netherlands (2001 – 2005); general manager of Heineken Italia, Italia (2000 – 2001); vice president and general manger, Grupa Zywiek S.A., Poland (1999-2000); president and general manager, Zywiec S.A, Poland (1996 – 1999); general manager, Heineken Bralima, DRC (1993-1996); sales and marketing manager, Heineken Bralima, DRC (1990-1993); sales and marketing manager, Heineken Bralirwa, Rwanda (1987-1990) and traineeship in the Netherlands in production, sales, and administration areas; assignment in Cameroon, Heineken Nederlands, The Netherlands (1984-1987).
Master Degree of Economics at Facultes Universitaires Notre Dome de la Paix .S.J., Namur.Belgium (1984).
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