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For Yves Gijrath, founder and CEO of MASTERS HQ., 2020 is a year of change, innovation and creativity as a seasoned entrepreneur. A year with headwinds, but also a year with opportunities: from LXRY to Masters HQ. His motto: “roll up your sleeves and get on with it”. Who gave Yves the tools to get where he is now?

Why the switch from LXRY Media Group to MASTERS HQ?

“Over the past twenty years I have known three phases: Millionaire Fair, Masters or LXRY and now I am entering a new phase and that is a one hundred percent focus on MASTERS. The world has been mixed up in a short time. An era in which passion, craftsmanship, sustainability and ambition will determine the business calendar. For me, this period, call it the intelligent lockdown, was the perfect opportunity for a positive one Switch and that is why I changed the name of the company, the magazine and the stock exchange. Last year we had our best year ever, in all areas in the last seven years. Then why would you innovate? I innovate and change because we want to become even better and that takes courage. We have brainstormed in recent months until we got tired of it and the result is a swinging company with big ambitions. I find one of Cruijff's famous quotes applicable: 'if you change, they say you are crazy and if it turns out well, you are a genius'. I have always charted my own course, I have a lot of confidence and am looking forward to this new phase. Yes, I'm excited.”

What was your very first job?

“At the age of 12, together with my friend Laurent Schonker, I washed cars in Amstelveen and Buitenveldert. We went door to door in the neighborhood and earned our money that way. In my youth I had a whole bunch of part-time jobs. From bartender at Café Luxembourg on the Spui in Amsterdam, which at the time still belonged to catering magnate Jan Hoekstra, to accountant at my father's travel agency. In fact, I was always busy with part-time jobs and trying things out, entrepreneurship was an option from an early age and I loved being busy.

As a teenager I did not have a very concrete goal about what I wanted to do later, I did enjoy sports, but I was searching and simply did not find school fun and certainly not inspiring. Mathematics was my best subject, but Laurent and I felt that the math teacher did not explain it well. As a result, I often had arguments with this teacher and was often in the hallway. It was even a reason to switch schools. After I switched from high school to HAVO, I then went to HEAO and was 21 years old when I had the paper in my bag. Ready for life!”

So an early learner… and then?

“I had to take a break and started working as a sports teacher at Club Med in Tunisia. I gave football training, catamaran courses and karate lessons, among other things. I had the time of my life, but decided to return to Amsterdam after nine months and started working at a trading company in Best. After a number of years I wanted to start my own business and started a marketing office. Then I started publishing door-to-door newspapers. I often continued until the middle of the night when others were hanging out in the pub. Of course I also had fun and parties in my young life, but I often took deep responsibility to achieve something in life.” Photo: RJR Photography

How did you end up in your current job?

“In 2000 I launched Miljonair magazine, which, to my own surprise, became a huge success and many readers wondered how we came up with those cool contacts, products and visions. That is why the first Millionaire Fair was created in the Passenger Terminal in 2002. That was a wonderful journey with many international editions. In 2012, after many crises, I renamed Miljonair Fair to Masters of LXRY. It was time for chapter 2. This new approach worked out well: every year we had a better year with Masters of LXRY than the year before. The highlight was the 2019 edition. And now I am deeply convinced that we will take even greater steps with our focus on Masters. We also opted for a new website and an adjusted name for our exhibition. From Masters of LXRY to MASTERS EXPO. A small switch with even bigger ambitions. We strive to be a global player from our beloved Amsterdam.”

Who was your wheelbarrow in that?

“For me, wheelbarrows are a collection of people I have met throughout my life and career. So there is not just one wheelbarrow, it is all puzzle pieces that complete the puzzle. For me it has been a journey in life, involving my customers, business associates, but also the people I speak to and meet during my podcasts. They are an important part of this journeyI also believe that every child mirrors his or her parents and what I learned from my father is that you always have to fight in life. Whatever happens. You can only get further in life if you challenge yourself to the maximum. This mentality was instilled in me from an early age and I try to pass this attitude on to my own children. I think that is important, because I sometimes have the feeling that the current generation is lazy, because everything is possible. Many aspects of life are taken for granted and personal responsibility is forgotten. I don't feel like they are really fighting for the maximum anymore.”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“Develop, innovate and connect. There is never one word to define passion, I think. Passion for me also means that I want to be the best at what I do. In any case, that is the goal and will it succeed? You'll only know that if you try it out. In addition, winning with the company is also very important: for example by organizing the most beautiful fair in the world, making the best podcast and publishing the most beautiful magazine. I always do this together with the team, but ultimately people are responsible for themselves and choose whether they participate in the bigger story. Only then will it be possible to become and remain outstanding.

Just look at the greats, if you analyze them all, you will see that they are always the first in the office and even at night their lights are still on. They are willing to change themselves and torment themselves in the good sense of the word. You reach the top mainly by having great discipline. Day in day out."

Which great person would you still like to sit down with?

“Difficult question, there are many. I choose Barack Obama. This is because I have mixed feelings about him. He started off so positively and innovatively during his presidency, but it actually fizzled out. Then I think: finish it. Obama did not do this and because I believe in world leaders and connectors, I find that disappointing. I see him in magazines and on television on yachts and at glamor parties with celebrities, but that's not the real world. So I have a lot of questions for him out of pure interest, because... 'change, change, change' shouting is not enough for me. Then you really have to implement it. Rutte has my great appreciation for how he has held up so far in these challenging times.”

What has been the biggest learning moment in your career?

“There is never one big learning moment. It is always the sum of all the parts and I experience a learning moment every day. I mainly learn from situations and draw conclusions from them: 'how did I end up in this situation and how can I do this differently in the future?' I often come to the conclusion that saying 'no' is often better than saying 'yes'. In fact, saying 'no' is a great art.”

What have you learned as CEO during the corona period?

“I immediately saw that it was a major crisis. That is the advantage of a little experience, you immediately recognize the walking lines that will follow. For me, crisis equals change. Although we started with a medical crisis, this time it is so extensive that it turns into an economic crisis, after which you get a social crisis that will eventually partly culminate in a credit crisis. Then the political crisis will follow next spring. But my credo is above all: focus on your own improvement. You have influence on that.

The media loves to use the word 'crisis'. The image of the West is very much determined by the media. That's good and bad. What is good is that we talk to each other and tell each other a lot, so there is a certain form of transparency. But what is not good is that we allow ourselves to be influenced. You must always manage what you have influence over. Yes, we are sailing in the fog, but above all, trust yourself. I cannot manage things over which I have no influence and I therefore chart my own course. That's something I always do. The word 'crisis' also stands for change and I like change. Immediately after the first Corona shock, I thought about the relevant question: 'are there things I want to change within what I do have influence over?'. The answer to this question was immediately: 'yes, I want that'. It has led to a unique energy and wonderful new plans in our office.”

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

“If little Yves were sitting right in front of me, I would give him three pieces of advice: have a nest egg, have fun in your younger years and take risks. Dare to fall, you will get back up. Dare to be different. I can assure you that many founders, CEOs and owners like it when young people have courage and dare to be different.”

What's still on the bucket list?

“I have had an idea for my own book ready for a long time. Normally I am quite quick in making decisions, but this idea has been on the shelf for some time. The book fits much better in a MASTERS environment. That is why I have now finally decided to publish this book next year. Just assume one page turner with many anecdotes and especially many details of many of my experiences. I hope this is valuable for anyone who is engaged in entrepreneurship or thinking about this step. After my podcast series 'Entrepreneurship in times of corona' I received so many reactions and feedback and I especially noticed people's need to learn. With my book I want to convey things, including my experience, my pitfalls, my successes, my defeats and my vision.”

Have you been a wheelbarrow for someone?

“I really enjoy contributing to young, new leaders. The combination of people with a lot of experience and young talents means you can go very far together. But to be honest I think others should say that. It is not for me to say that I am (or have been) a wheelbarrow for someone. As long as they get further, it's fine. But first the focus is on December, then we would like to be the wheelbarrow for all those special MASTERS who roll up their sleeves with us. That's why we call it MASTERS EXPO. An exhibition of special entrepreneurship. Even when the wind is bad, we are all there together and try to make a nice contribution to BV Nederland. ”