He is a man of learning on the job because, 'There are many wisdoms about entrepreneurship, but every day it's about focusing on your market, your customers and your business,' says Wilfred den Hartog, CEO of medical technology company Organ Assist. 'To do what it takes, I especially listen to the people involved in our business.'
Den Hartog is referring to the team behind Organ Assist, which - including management - now consists of eighteen professionals, but also to the (potential) customers in the global medical sector, the Supervisory Board and the partners with whom the company cooperates internationally. 'Regularly sparring with each other is essential to stay on course while moving flexibly along,' the CEO believes. 'Entrepreneurship is about dealing with the environment and constant change. How you translate that into opportunities for the company is a continuous process in which you keep learning and adjusting.'
Dose of realism
An important learning point in recent years for Den Hartog was that organizations need a healthy dose of realism in addition to ambitions. 'However great the potential of your company, not everything lies within your own circle of influence. It was tempting to get carried away by the value everyone saw in Organ Assist. But you can also be too eager and want too fast. Our expectations and goals turned out to be a bit too ambitious. At least, within the set time frame. They are still feasible, it just takes more time than first thought.
Tempering growth expectations was not an easy message for the CEO. 'That you didn't meet targets is not nice for anyone,' Den Hartog states. 'The shareholders were hoping for something different and, of course, so was the team. If it doesn't work out right away, that's a disappointment. The good thing was that this caused the passion to flare up even more, because Organ Assist employs enthusiastic people who want to be of significance. They consciously choose this work because we can contribute to health with our medical-technical products. That is the biggest motivation for wanting to be successful.
Doing business in the medical world has its own dynamics. Den Hartog: "The fact that we operate in a regulated market with our organ equipment works very clearly, because you simply have to comply with laws and regulations. Unfortunately, this regulation also makes you more dependent on the choices of third parties. Then doctors are enthusiastic, but hospital or even government approval is still needed. We discovered that waiting for the green light sometimes takes much longer than estimated. We now recognize this better and have also explained this to the shareholders. Fortunately they are not breathing down our necks, but are giving us the confidence to steadily build on our network and customer base.
Not doing everything yourself
In building that network, Organ Assist also learned another important lesson: you need partners to make international strides. 'Every time you enter somewhere new and in every country different things apply. You learn different lessons everywhere, which is why we discovered above all that you don't have to do everything yourself,' the CEO says. 'Local (medical) power is worth a lot. People who speak the language, who have knowledge of the bureaucratic processes and political sensitivities, and who also know where the decisions are made. We have started to invest a lot more in that, which means that doors now open a little faster and sales processes run more smoothly.'
That how you approach and organize things is at least as important as developing good organ pumps quickly became clear to Organ Assist. 'Innovation is at the core of our business, but that does not only apply to our technological products and knowledge. Innovation is just as essential in, for example, sales arrangements, production and logistics processes,' Den Hartog emphasizes. 'From partnerships to payment elements, from registrations to storage capacities: a lot has to be right to get things done. Yet there are always obstacles, which is why innovative thinking is so important. If something goes against us, the key is to see how it can be done.'
As CEO, Den Hartog develops by doing and sparring with those around him. 'What drives me is the passion within this company. The entire team contributes to Organ Assist's success and it is my job to ensure that everyone can do their job well. By reducing risks and removing obstacles as much as possible, but also by having a clear strategy. A strategy that is inspiring and recognizable for employees and clients as well as for shareholders. That is why my role is essentially about listening carefully to all parties. Naturally with the course and the frameworks always in the back of my mind, but with the openness to move with them where necessary.'
About Organ Assist
Organ Assist is already active throughout Europe and is thoroughly preparing to enter America. In addition, the company is focusing on a total package of products and services, investigating whether the technological platform is also suitable for other medical applications, such as cancer research.