Chairman and Co-Founder, Jon Olafsson, Speaks with MyBiz.ru

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Jon Olafsson - perhaps the most brilliant serial entrepreneur "old school" of Iceland. He began to do business at the age of 14 years, having plunged in the music industry, two years later became a producer of musical groups. In 1975 he opened a record store in Reykjavik Skifan and soon founded the company of the same name record (almost repeating the story of Richard Branson, with whom he is often compared).

Over time Skifan become the largest distributor of music in the local market with a share of 85%. This meteoric rise even more impressive when you consider how low was the start: the parents of Jon were poor (it is worth mentioning that his mother was born in the dugout), and from childhood he desperately wanted to change the fate.

In 1999 Olafson combined their assets in media conglomerate Northern Lights Communications. Interests Jon went far beyond the recording and distribution  of plates and covers television, radio, cinema, print media and video games. In 2003, our hero made ​​a large-scale sale of their companies, intending to end his career. But a year later, John returned to the business, and not just back, and led a start in an entirely new field - production of bottled water.

To do this, he did not plan to. Company Icelandic Glacial (the name translates as "Icelandic Glacial") was originally a joint project of the son of Jon and some investors from Saudi Arabia, who have decided to invest in a company for the production of water in Iceland. Jon claims that the Saudis "threw" his son, abandoning the deal at the last moment, and Olafson Jr.  forced to become the owner of an unprofitable enterprise.Assessing the scale of the disaster, the Pope came to the rescue of his son. And, unlike Branson, who in his time with the pump started and failed miserably Virgin Cola project, Icelandic businessman veteran did not capitulate under the pressure of transnational «monsters» Coca-Cola and of PepsiCo, and was able to "gnaw" their piece of the market .


What is your business?

Business - it's my passion. Everything I do, I do because I feel passion for this occupation. And so in all: hobbies, personal life and business. If I decided to act, then I put everything on the line. That is why it is so important to me was to make the company successful Icelandic Glacial, it was one of the toughest tests of my life, and many people said that I'm not too tough. Probably, if I knew beforehand that I would do, I would not have got involved in this project. But now, if someone has to do something impossible, my friends recommend me as a person, for which there is no impossible tasks.

What prompted you to do business at such a young age?

My love for music led me to start a career in the music industry - this is the first. And second - I was born into a very poor family and wanted to change it, and it became a driving force. By ak One morning I said to myself: "Well, I'll show them", and then repeated every morning: "I'll show them, I will."

As you cranked his first deal?

When I was 14, I wanted to go to the disco with my friends, but such events were allowed only 16 years, and this discrimination was offensive, so I decided to organize a disco itself.

I called the manager of the club and said that the group's performance and organize myself doing events advertising - just need the room. He agreed. After I had arranged by telephone with the group, saying that I have a space and advertising. When they agreed, I went to the paper and agreed to defer payment for advertising. When all the participants of this action met with "live", my partners were confused: "We agreed with Jon Olafson, where is he?" I admitted that it was me. They looked around the 14-year old boy, indignant: "What the hell ?! We are fucked. " To which I replied: "Calm down, guys, if performance will take place, I'll pay for your work."

I had serious competitors, but I also had their own understanding of how to conduct business.  And it helped me get ahead. If you do not they focus on your business, then you start to monitor someone and repeating his actions. I did not copy your competitors, and when they tried to copy me, I was able to put them on the wrong track.

What was the most difficult during your career?

I often competed with monopoly or state-owned companies. And this is hardly a fair fight: at your opponent endless financial resources, and you should always make money with their own hands and look for additional sources of funding.

How did you manage to create competitive products and services in many different market segments?

I am a follower of marketing, I am able to talk with the client language which he understands, and it helped me to win the competition.  When you compete with such multinational companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Danone, Nestle, you have to come up with something great. because if you actually manage to crank out something big, huge budgets these international companies will not be able to stop you on the path to success. We are talking about building a relationship with the buyer. Buyers will decide whether we like the product or not they. And getting involved in this adventure, I refuse to understand what level of my competitors, but instead I focus on its brand. to help the buyer to decide in favor of your product, despite the huge advertising budgets of international companies. Generally, when you got involved in this game, it is better to forget who your competitors are, so as not to be frightened.

Which of your marketing campaigns you consider the most successful?

We in the United States a strong marketing team, and the entire 2016 was very successful for us. We started this r od with the fact that, together with the singer Cher rendered  assistance to residents of the city of Flint, Michigan, where the river was seriously polluted. The problem with water quality in the river existed  for many years, but lead pollution has aggravated this problem so that the country's president declared the situation an emergency, and it started to publicize  on television and on the radio. And when Cher decided to purchase their own money bottled water for city residents, and we free shipped the same amount of water as she bought (just turned around  180 thousand liter bottles -. .. Ed ), this event was also featured in many media .

Also this year, we provided water first concert  Rolling Stones in Cuba. The water is provided to all: the group members, employees and visitors to the concert stage. It was the first delivery of foreign water to Cuba for several decades.

Now we spend large budgets for promotion, increasing them by comparison with previous years, and the result is noticeable. In the markets of some countries, sales have doubled, in other countries - by 30-50%.

The action in Flint - is not the only one of its kind, your company regularly supplies water to those places where there have been accidents and disasters. In this case you have expensive water, a premium product.Perhaps you could find a more economical and effective way to help?

Our sources for the year carried out in two times more water than the global consumption of bottled water.When you have so much water, it is necessary to share it with those who need it is critical. Business business, but when it comes to emergencies, can not remain on the sidelines. From the first day we help people when disasters happen: we have supplied water to New Orleans to Texas after the floods in Haiti, where we have sent the water for millions of dollars.

How do you feel about the fact that you are often compared to Branson?

I admire Richard Branson, but personally not familiar with it. At one time I worked with one of his companies, Virgin Records, and sold them to the plate in Iceland. I do not mind being called "the Icelandic Branson." This is much better than if I had been called "the Icelandic Rupert Murdoch."

In principle, it is no wonder we have with him like biographies: music, radio, television, entertainment, investment in diverse projects ... I participated in the management of one of the local airlines in Iceland. We are different in that it is in those years he developed globally, and I'm local.

I know that Icelandic Glacial water was supplied to the Russian market, but now because of the war the sanctions the Russian market was closed for many Western European suppliers. As reflected in your authorization?

On sanctions, we had no problems. Problems arose due to the fact that the devaluation of the Russian currency, and our partners went bankrupt in Russia. Now we are negotiating with new partners, and we hope to return to the market this year.

What is your advice to Russian entrepreneurs who are trying to survive the current crisis?

During the crisis, it is important to understand what level of development you are. If you are a young company, it is necessary to lay low and try to ride out the crisis. If you have a big company, you can use this time to take market share from competitors, who flew out of business.

Regarding Russia: when such a situation, all the focus on the local production, which is what happened. And I would have done the same, would not even have thought about overseas expansion, until the crisis passes.

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