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Successful Croatian Businessman Shares Advice With Harvard Students

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Emil Tedeschi was ranked the third wealthiest Croat on the 2015 Forbes Croatian Rich List with an estimated net worth of over 200 million euros…

The founder and major owner of food, nutrition and distribution company Atlantic Group, owner of the popular Cedevita brand, was this week giving advice to budding entrepreneurs at the world’s leading business school – Harvard in America.

“It is not easy to admit that there is someone smarter, but that is a characteristic of a real businessman. Atlantic Group today is worth much more because I had the courage to hire people who are better than me, people who are smarter and braver. If I did not do that, the company I lead would remain stuck somewhere in the last century”, Tedeschi, who runs the now multi-national company, told Harvard Business School students.

As daily Jutarnji list reports, it was Tedeschi’s first ever lecture at the prestigious school. He was invited to speak after the school used a takeover by his company as a case study earlier this year.

“It has been 24 years since the establishment of Atlantic Group. Those were difficult times (1991), it was the time of devaluation and hyperinflation, a time when you as an entrepreneur needed a special meeting just to set up a meeting with the bank,” Tedeschi said, before continuing.

“We were really brave when we started, distributing Wrigley’s chewing gum, it was a bizarre article in a country that was at war. Who would like chewing gum at a time like that? People need fuel, ammunition, water, bread … But at the same time it was our advantage as it something that was not strategically important for the country or for the competition. And we succeeded. Croatia became the third country in the world for chewing gum consumption”, he reflected, before talking about the major success of acquiring Cedevita in 2001.

Tedeschi emphasised that acquisitions, which Altantic Group have made over 30 of since 2001, are very challenging and that seven out of ten takeover attempts fail. He then shared a story about the companies takeover of German company Multipower from US company Weider Nutrition.

“When we took over Multipower, I convened a meeting with all the employees because I talk with all people who work in the company. The reaction I encountered was, you can not call employees in production and employees in the offices at the joint meeting! I asked why? They told me because in our company we have separate meetings. That was 2007. I did not give up on that idea and we had a meeting for the first time in 30 years where everyone attended.”

Tedeschi believes that to achieve something in business it is necessary to get out of your comfort zone.
“I often ask my managers, the smartest people in the company, how long do you spend in front of a blank piece of paper of screen? 5, 10 minutes or zero – because your overloaded with emails. That will not help you advance, or create something new. Business people must be like artists in front of a blank piece of paper or a musician before a new song,” he said.

Tedeschi has spoken at a number of top universities around the world, including Duke University, NYU, University of Michigan, Stanford University and the London School of Business.

Tedeschi, who talks without any power point or slide presentation, says he donates his speaking fee, around 3,000 euros, to charity.

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