7 Questions with Hans Lagerweij
Name: Hans Lagerweij
Current title: President
Current organisation: Albatros Travel International
Hans holds an MBA from Erasmus University Rotterdam. In 2008, Hans combined his passion for adventure travel and his expertise in commercial management when he became Managing Director of Sawadee Reizen in Amsterdam. In 2010, Hans moved to Toronto and became president and CEO of Quark Expeditions, the leader in polar cruises. In 2015 Hans took over responsibility for all adventure brands within TUI Travel, a business that was sold in 2017. In 2018 Hans became CEO and President of boutique luxury cruise start-up Victory Cruise Lines, a business that was successfully sold in 2019. Currently Hans is president of the international businesses of Albatros Travel, including Albatros Expeditions, Albatros Arctic Circle, Albatros Africa and Adventure Marathons, while he is also a trustee of the Safer Tourism Foundation.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging was certainly this year with the COVID-19 crisis; laying off good hard-working and dedicated employees, and keeping the rest of the team motivated and passionate - because passion is what drives our business of delivering unique experiences
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
In the first 10 years of my career, I had several commercial roles in Packaged Consumer Goods before I switched industries and followed my passion for travelling. In 2008 I became a quite young Managing Director of a small adventure travel company in the Netherlands and had to immediately fight my first big crisis - the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Despite that, we grew "double-digit" and in 2010 I was asked to take over the leadership of Quark Expeditions, the market leader in polar cruises. The company was heavy loss-making as a result of the crisis. We turned this around into a successful, profitable organization, growing double digits, with industry-leading customer satisfaction scores. As from 2015, I started managing multiple companies, until the full business was sold. In 2018 I stepped into a privately-owned boutique cruise line start-up, a business that was successfully sold the year after.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I have breakfast and check some new/urgent emails, before going to the office. I like to either bike or run to the office, to start off the day with some sports. After showering at work, I start my day in the office. Usually, I start with back-to-back morning meetings (e.g. with our Asian offices). I try to keep my schedule empty after 2 pm for calls and emails, although I also schedule web meetings with customers and suppliers in North America.
Two times a week, I aim to join some runs organized by a running club after work, otherwise, I run or bike back home (yes I strongly believe in the importance of physical activity to relieve stress!).
I try to limit evening work to a maximum of an hour and keep weekends free. I like cooking or watching a movie to relax during the week and spend time with my partner.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Theoretically, it is nothing new or eye-opening, but this crazy year of 2021 it shows how important it is to maintain a long term vision while fighting the short term challenges. I believe we will come out of the crisis so strongly, as we have a large range of unique differentiated experiences lined-up for the next two years, with two beautiful brand new expedition cruise vessels joining our fleet in the next few years.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I will always remain a Stephen Covey fan. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a masterwork because it is in the end so practical. And easy to understand - maybe not always easy to do! It is also very empowering, as it shows everyone can demonstrate leadership in almost every situation. "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" is a key habit to learn when you do a lot of business with people from other cultures and countries.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
For me, the key aspects are (1) Giving Feedback (2) Receiving feedback - and doing (3) something with it, both with positive and "negative" feedback. Furthermore, I strongly believe in the developmental aspect of giving people new challenges, responsibilities, and experiences. People doing the same kind of work over and over again turn into robots. and Robots are not creative, passionate individuals.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Important is to be humble as a CEO and be open to learning also from the team that you manage and the people reporting to you. One of my best learning experiences was with Captain Peter Golikov of Quark Expeditions, possibly the most experienced polar captain the world ever had. I loved to listen to his stories, experiences, and views, and together go on business trips to for example Russia. Captain Petr, unfortunately, passed away last year, but he will always be in my mind