Jaap Aardse: A Dutchman in Prague
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Jaap Aardse (65), the former CEO of Philips ČR, is one of the entrepreneurial elite who arrived in the ’90s to do business in a country that for many years had been untouched by market economics. After retiring and parting ways with Philips, this native Hollander became a private entrepreneur, and for 11 years he has considered Prague his home.
Photo: luminum – d.raub & l.šavrdová
DURING HIS 36-YEAR career with Royal Philips Electronics Aardse traveled all over the world – he worked in the UK, Canada, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Indonesia. It seemed that nothing could surprise him, but in 1994, when he accepted an offer to establish a Philips branch in the Czech Republic, he experienced culture shock. “It was a pioneering period. The phone generally didn’t work, people were frightened, they didn’t know English, and everything was problematic,” says Aardse, recalling the difficult beginning with a smile. “The people were the biggest problem, but they are always also the greatest asset. They didn’t have the business spirit of, say, the Chinese, so education and support of their skills was paramount.” Aardse’s efforts bore fruit – during the six years when he ran Philips ČR the firm was always in the black. Revenues rose from a so-so EUR 22 million to EUR 132 million, and the local management’s professionalism gradually improved, meeting the strictest international criteria.
Five years ago Aardse retired, but he didn’t ease up on his work load. He founded Ardsco, s.r.o., a consulting firm focusing on business consulting, coaching, and organizational matters. Ardsco’s clients include managers at various levels who acquire knowledge and leadership that allows them to find their places even in international competition. “I’m enormously proud of these people. I really enjoy watching as they become more professional and how they change,” says Aardse, who also loves changes in his personal life. For example, he has recently begun horseback riding. “I ride in the countryside where there isn’t even a mobile phone signal. It’s paradise,” he says. He also plays golf, attends concerts and exhibitions with his wife, Leny, a painter and sculptor, and reads books in his apartment in the Klárov section of Prague, from which he has an amazing view of Prague Castle, the seat of the president, and Straka’s Academy, which houses the government.