During a networking-event I, Peter Brouwer, CEO of Betapress, was asked to do an interview with another great entrepreneur and vice versa.
The setup would be, as it were, a double-interview. Consequently it wouldn't take long for me to be teamed up with Gerard Cok, and now, a couple of months later, I have the honors to meet him in person and I rapidly lapse into the role of journalist.
It never came to that double-interview, since this man had more than enough to tell, and soon it became obvious that we share a common passion.
My first question was inevitably the grand opening-question, but I wanted to know who I had sitting in front of me. Gerard Cok, yes, but who is that man really? A majestic Gentleman with nicely combed back hair introduces himself. Immediately he debarks informing me about his career and quickly I see that the man sitting in front of me is a genuine entrepreneur. Via Real Estate he ended up in the erotic branch. It started with buying a couple of stores, expanded towards the acquisition of some wholesalers and ended up with PABO. Of course this didn't happen overnight, it is linked to a long story on which i get elaborately and wholeheartedly briefed.
My curiosity about his business side is hard to suppress, but i know that I have to get to his passion, and after a few questions I end up at 'Sailing'. Yes, sailing is one of his passions, he thinks. It's absolutely a delight to feel the freedom on the waters.' But when he really looks deep into his heart, Gerard knows that enterprising is another true passion of his, and soon we are talking further about 'his business and his way of' working.
So actually his work is his passion. Great! Let's continue a bit further down that lane, I think to myself. Gerard's passion is surely enterprising but more definitely the preciseness he establishes in doing so. If you do something, better do it good. Buying a shop and consequently waiting for customers to come is by definition sheer nonsense. Further on Gerard describes the shifty image that shops like 'Christine le Duc' had. 'We had to work immensely hard to lever the image of those shops. The whole erotic industry had a shifty image anyway, which is a pity, since most of the enterprises that operate within the erotic brach are very trustful'.
'I always tried my best to avoid shifty publicity and a bad image.' When I look at Gerard's Office I think he succeeded pretty well in doing so. Lot's of other companies could follow this example.
Let's get back to the sailing. What is actually the comparison between sailing and entrepreneurship? Gerard starts smiling with this question. Being a descent man he replies that it is all about foreseeing. Enterprising is foreseeing, and actually so is sailing. You start by verifying which equipment you will need on your trip, you check the weather report and provide the sufficient and able manpower. This is similar to what you do in enterprising, and if you finally have prepared everything to the last detail, then there is that 'rush'.
'The intensity that you experience with this, that is what I would call a true passion' I can but confirm this feeling. I also take great pleasure in my work and everything that has to do with it. The interviews has clearly put me to think, and also I can confirm that it is my passion to work. Sounds dull, but Gerard and I know that it works on a totally different level.
Gerard continues enthusiastically. 'But I also enjoy myself a lot within the real estate market, Also here the prescient look and a careful approach counts.
Furthermore it is of great importance to gather people around you whom you can trust. Eastern Europe for instance I find very pleasant to do business in. If you consider how things were there 10 years ago, and how everything is today, you can't but notice a enormous progression. In addition to this you get to deal with totally different procedures and it feels great being able to implement your way of working there. These locals often have the skills, but lack in financial reach. To be able to give young people a chance this way, is great. And also in the Netherlands I like to putt through this approach. Somebody who invests a great deal of time and shows potential, this I will vouch for!
The burning question what Gerard would do if it didn't have anything to do with real estate or erotica, makes him frown… Het first thing he says is that he will never have an empty diary. But suppose that the miracle happens, he would still do something work related. Although he wouldn't consider it as being work. Gerard would go visit houses and buildings to which he is currently not getting to.
As a final question I am very curious about what Gerard would do if it had nothing to do with erotica or real estate. Even here he answers quickly and surprising. He would focus on the agricultural sector. I can't suppress being amazed. Throughout the interview all answers where ones I could emphasize with, but a farmer's life is the last thing I would suit for him. Luckily, it only takes a breath and Gerard starts explaining that he wouldn't start wearing peasant clothes and working the land with the wheelbarrow. Off course he is not talking about a conventional farm, but it would be interesting to by this way start delivering alternative fuels. In the short run it wouldn't yield much, but according to him, you need to see everything in the longer term. Ah, Also here foresight rules.
After talking an hour and a half I made an important conclusion: Gerard Cok is a calm man who chooses his words carefully, knows exactly what he wants to say, and has a clear goal in mind. He motivates people and has a sweet-spot for Eastern Europe. And his passion: That is Enterprising, and by this I mean Entrepreneurship in any form whatsoever. His passion for Business made his biggest hobby possible: Sailing.