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Jan Adriaanse on BNR podcast: 'Entrepreneurial success is always temporary'

Jan Adriaanse, Professor of Turnaround Management was a guest on the Ben Tiggelaar Podcast on Dutch BNR Nieuwsradio. What do you do if your company is in danger of collapse? How do you save your business (and yourself)?

Jan Adriaanse

As an entrepreneur, thinking about your business and change management should be a part of your standard workday and way of thinking, says Jan Adriaanse in the podcast (in Dutch). 'The world is changing fast, certainly now with Covid-19, and technology is changing too. If things are going well with your company, you should be aware: this is only temporary. Success is a hypothesis that will eventually be rejected. You must always realise that.'

There is always someone or something waiting to topple your business model, claims Adriaanse. 'This could be a small start-up company, but also an existing competitor or even a virus going around the world. You should always view yourself as being temporarily successful.  Many companies that eventually went bankrupt did not think in that way. You could even go as far as to say that failure is the standard. But what we see in the media, of course, are only success stories. There should be far more attention for the prevention of failure.'

Paranoid optimism

So what can you do as an entrepreneur to spot difficult times ahead? 'Companies are too focussed on figures. You also have to look at trends and developments. How do we respond to new players in our business sector? Of do we just believe it will all turn out fine? Do we allow start-ups a share of the market, or will they later wipe us off the map?'

Adriaanse believes that 'paranoid optimism' is the right attitude. 'I borrow the term from the CEO who saved Nokia from going under. In the late 1990s Nokia was the mobile phone company, but it ran into trouble with the rising success of Apple. Nokia eventually made an effective turnaround and sold its telephone division. The company reinvented itself. So if we are successful today, we always need to keep in mind that this is temporary. Hence: paranoid optimism. You can celebrate success, but always look over your shoulder.'

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