Business awards are an excellent way to show recognition to the hard-working and innovative leaders of successful companies. Trends, a Belgium business magazine, and Kanaal Z, present every year a Manager of the Year Award to the most outstanding CEOs. This year, we're thrilled to announce how Barco's CEO, Jan De Witte, has been selected as one of the 10 final nominees! We sat down with Jan one sunny morning at Barco's headquarters in Kortrijk and asked him a couple of questions about this nomination, thoughts about Barco's past, and ambitious future plans.
1. What does it mean for you to be selected as one of the top 10 nominees for the Trends Manager of the Year award?
First off, it's great to get the visibility, but this is an award for the entire Barco, not me individually. I feel a tremendous sense of pride. What we did in the last three years was very transformational – on all levels. Steering the company through changes becomes easier when a team looks and pulls in the same direction and with the same motivation. The numbers show it, and our customers also see a positive change. Gratitude is also a key feeling after this nomination. We all grow through our experiences, and I can only be so thankful for everyone who helped me. In the end, you can only become as big as the people who have supported you. I have to admit there is also a certain pressure to evolve and become even better. This milestone is only the beginning of a new chapter in our book, and there are many more chapters to follow.
2. In your opinion, what was the reason you got nominated?
The Barco transformation has been visible to our colleagues and stakeholders – from partners, investors, customers, media, etc. and as a leader of Barco, it's normal to be under the spotlight. I believe a good manager has to be solid on their feet 24/7 and always be prepared for the unforseen. If you have a wide range of experience and gain enough mileage, you are ready to face everyday challenges, whether small or big.
3. Considering the number of obligations and responsibilities, how do you de-stress?
I like doing things that completely take over my mind because being a CEO means a constant worry and need to know what’s happening and how it can affect our business. I enjoy riding a motorbike, scuba diving, and gardening – these activities give me a necessary distraction.
4. Can you provide an example of the best practices you learned at your previous work and you apply now at Barco?
One of the things I learned at McKinsey is that everything is about the team effort. The team delivers a project, not an individual. I like constructive conflict, and I encourage my team to share and defend their opinion. At Barco, we try to create an environment where everybody can operate at their best, use their full energy, make the right decisions, and be ready to pivot. Another example, when I worked for GE, I worked closely with Jack Welch for a while, and I learned how to keep the basics of business simple:keep your business agile, focus on solving a problem for your customer, and create a good team that can deliver sharp and intelligent execution – taking it from powerpoint to proofpoint.
5. What is your prediction for a global economy in the near future?
The future will be global; companies in all continents will compete on a global level equally, but only companies that play well on all levels will thrive. China used to be a synonym for low cost and low innovation. Still, today, the situation has changed – China is still fairly low-cost, but has become high in innovation, and that makes the global market even more competitive. Today you need to be efficient AND innovative. My job is to know what performance we need to deliver, what strategic choices and operational tools we need to master to meet customer demands. Customers are changing too – they want end-to-end solutions that are simple and productive. Today people expect products that are aligned with their values and with sustainable production processes. We should never be afraid of putting the bar higher. Just like athletes, we need to adapt and keep pushing our boundaries.
6. What would be your advice to new leaders?
Don't be afraid of change! I'm pleased that throughout my career, I had many jobs and different roles. Change is good because you keep learning. Learning and stretching your mind is crucial to groom yourself into a leader that can guide an organization that is innovative and successful.