“Dear Jan,

I largely agree with your analysis of so-called “entrepreneurs”, but I am not positive about the speed of change. This week I read that CEOs of listed companies in the Netherlands are earning more than a year ago, while the unemployment rate is rising. I consider most CEOs to be sham entrepreneurs, i.e. their personal risk of losing money is limited. They do not invest their own money and do not run any additional risk if the company fails. In addition, they often receive (a lot of) money when fired.

This sustained development leads to a widening gap between the workforce and its directors. If this gap is too big and the circumstances of the workforce permanently deteriorate, this will eventually lead to social unrest, with all its consequences. It seems that current Western democracies have no answers to this problem. There is no flexibility and there is often too little attention paid to what is really important.

Fortunately, I see a positive drive to move forward without the perverse incentive of considering personal wealth as the highest possible goal, especially among young people and young entrepreneurs. Ultimately, I believe this new generation will move society in the right direction. After the bankruptcy or forced nationalization of several banks in different countries (Lehman Brothers, Fortis/ABNAMRO, SNS, banks in Cyprus and Iceland, banks in the UK) and many bankruptcies in the construction sector the bubble will gradually deflate. This is a good thing, because we have been living in an era of unparalleled opulence. This is problematic for those directly involved, but we have to be realistic, it has just been too easy.

The new type of CEO will, therefore, not only need leadership qualities to choose the right direction. He will also have to ensure that his company is flexible enough to move quickly when faced with clients going bankrupt in different sectors and he will have to be ready to move the company, even to another country as the situation demands.

Finally, I see some positive changes at financial institutions: the Bank of America, based on payment data, now checks the energy payments of similar clients to see if they can service these clients with this data proactively. The message is finally getting through. Change, innovate, find other areas to achieve growth – in countries such as the US, China, India and Turkey and with regard to other products and areas.

The real entrepreneurs will be recognized by their flexible attitude and ability to change quickly. This will be the real challenge

Jan Stam”

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